1. What is a story from your life or from the history of your congregation that has had an impact on you? What stories from the past are important to pass on to future generations? What is the best way to share these stories so that they are not forgotten?
The Mennonite church is at a unique time in history. Currently, women lead three of the four major institutions of higher learning serving the church in Canada.
The ability to see clearly is an important sense to us as Christians and as Mennonites: our theology, The Anabaptist Vision; our music, “Be Thou My Vision”; our scripture, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Mennonite education at its best gives our church a special kind of seeing—akin to high definition or 3D. I call that hindsight, foresight and insight.
1. What motivates you to give? Where did you learn to be generous? When you give to the church or to other charities, how much of it is carefully planned and how much of it is free-spirited? Is it important to you to analyze charities and to carefully plan your giving?
Giving is about much more than money. What we do with our time, talent and treasure all matter to God. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21,
1. Mennonite schools had been designed to keep students separate from the “modernizing secular world” while Conrad Grebel College was deliberately set within a large public university. What are the advantages and challenges of this approach? How has the Mennonite Church changed as it has participated more closely with the world since the 1960s?
In 1963, Milton Good, the first board chair of Conrad Grebel College, looked out across Laurel Creek at the College building site.
Susan Schultz Huxman stands in front of the atrium and the residential wing of Conrad Grebel University College.
The Conrad Grebel College Board of Governors from 1964 (from left): J. Winfield Fretz, Earle Snyder, David Bergey, Mahlon Leis, Hugo Harms, Jacob Fransen, Orland Gingerich, Harvey Taves, Milton Good, Henry H. Epp, Roy G. Snyder, Douglas Millar, John Snyder, Norman High, John Sawatsky, Kenneth Bender (not in photo: Elven Shantz, Ernest J. Swalm).
The leaders of the Church colleges on the University of Waterloo campus met together in 1965 (from left): J. Winfield Fretz, Alan McLachlin (St. Paul’s), Sister M. Leon (Notre Dame), A. Wyn Rees (Renison), Father John R. Finn (St. Jerome’s)
An innovative experiment in higher education
By Susan Schultz Huxman
President, Conrad Grebel University College
In 2009, when Dave and Margaret Penner first went to work among Low German-speaking Mennonites in Mexico, they encountered a “vacuum.”
1. How has your church changed since the 1960s and ’70s? Have there been major changes in the church structures and programs? Do congregational leaders feel hopeful or anxious about the future? Are the structures and programs sustainable or does it feel as though it is time for a major shake-up?
There is a changing reality in many Mennonite churches today. Like other denominations, Mennonite congregations have long lost the gravitational pull they had in the early and mid-1900s, when community life revolved around church activities.
The other morning, after dreaming to the tune of the constant patter of rain on the tin roof of my house, I woke early to enjoy a morning stroll through the mountains of northern Guatemala. After an hour or so of watching the mystical dance of clouds caressing the valleys and peaks of the green hills, I began to notice that my right foot was soaking wet.
1. What have been your experiences of suffering, either personally or by people around you? What are the biggest challenges of dealing with long-term suffering? Have you seen someone’s identity or personality change as a result of suffering? How have relationships been affected?
- Allow yourself to be open and vulnerable. People who suffer live with difficult questions. It is good to discuss them.
It’s hard to imagine a force powerful enough to keep an academic from his books, a father from playing with his children, a husband from attending to the wife he loves.
1. How big is the problem of poverty in your community? What local initiatives have tried to reduce poverty? Have they been successful? What circumstances lead to high levels of poverty? Do you have a sense of hope that the problems of poverty can be overcome?
"The poor will be with you always.” That is the message that seems to have been so frequently taken away from the gospel when we talk about poverty. That’s not a very encouraging message to someone who has been tasked with coming up with a way to end it.
1. How important is the Bible in your life? Do you think the church has lost its commitment to the Bible? Is your church presently wrestling with any passages of Scripture? Which ones have you wrestled with in the past? Are there passages that the church simply ignores?
After being called the Son of God at his baptism, Jesus was challenged by the devil, underscoring the connection between this identity and action: “If you are the Son of God . . . .”
Pinch the skin on the back of your hand, then release it and watch it fall. Your skin gradually slides back into place. Constantly healing and being recreated, our skin both protects us and offers us the sense of touch through which we experience the world.
The sustainable approach to economic development in Ethiopia by Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) was recognized recently by Julian Fantino, Canada’s minister for international cooperation.
As the notorious persecutor Saul of Tarsus was transformed by God’s grace and is now remembered as the “apostle to the gentiles,” so Bogale Kebede, charged and imprisoned for murder, was transformed by God’s grace to become Christ’s apostle to the Kaffa.
1. What powerful stories have you heard in your congregation? Who did the telling? What was the setting? What made the story powerful? How did it influence the teller or the listeners? Was it important that the teller was physically present and not recorded on a video clip?
Reading the Bible for ethics calls for a new approach to community. Above all else, it calls for the centrality of storytelling: storytelling at the centre of the community, between community members and between communities.
1. Who in your congregation takes a leadership role in interpreting the Bible? How do they acquire that role? What happens if anyone challenges their interpretation? Who has been most influential in the development of your personal understanding of the Bible?
Reading the Bible for ethics is an act of power. Reading the Bible for ethics is about using the language and images of the Bible to transform ourselves and those around us. It is not the power called control or force.