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‘New’ Mennonite congregations face same issues decades later

Quan

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada saw the inauguration of English-only churches across the country. These were often difficult transitions, as those left behind in the “mother” congregations felt that the new congregations were leaving behind something of the faith as they left behind language and culture.



Changing the language of worship a test of love

Faith Mennonite Church, Leamington, Ont., grew out of a painful split from Leamington United Mennonite Church in the late 1950s over whether to continue holding services in German or switch to English. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Archives of Ontario, The Canadian Mennonite Collection)

Altona Mennonite Church, Man., began meeting in 1962 as an English-language congregation following a split from Altona Bergthaler Mennonite Church. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Archives of Ontario, The Canadian Mennonite Collection)

Faith Mennonite Church, Leamington, Ont., is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but its memories are tinged with sorrow as the new congregation grew out of a painful church split.

For discussion

1. What has been your congregation’s experience with divorce? Does the church respond differently to divorce than it did in the 1970s? Has divorce lost its stigma? Are those who are divorced still discouraged from taking positions of leadership in the church?



For discussion

1. What percentage of the adults in your congregation attended a church school at some level? Do you agree that fewer young people are choosing Mennonite schools today? What is the major deterrent? Should congregations provide tuition assistance to encourage students to attend Mennonite schools? Does yours?



Creative connections

Like many pastors, Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, who co-pastors First Mennonite Church in Edmonton with her husband Tim, enjoys creating space for creative gifts to flourish. “It’s totally selfish. I love working with people like that,” she says in a telephone interview. Her enthusiasm is evident in her voice.

Art with a mission

Sashira Gafic: Day 1. Acrylic on Canvas. This is the first of a series of seven pieces inspired by Genesis 1:1-5.

From Saint John Brebeuf School

Painting by adult EAL student depicting the murder of her husband. The artist broke into song as she painted and was joined by others. Soon, singing became weeping as they mourned together.

From West Kildonan Collegiate

Ray Dirks, curator of the MHC Gallery, stands behind Muslim artist Isam Aboud (left) and Hindu artist Manju Lodha (right). Photo courtesy of Ray Dirks.

While some creative arts like prose and hymnody have been accepted as natural forms of expression and worship in Mennonite churches, visual arts are often viewed with less certainty. For painters, sculptors and other artists who craft for the eye, this can be disheartening.

Aiming at evil: Bin Laden's death an occasion for soul searching

Huebner: "Not helpful to understand the situation in terms of 'good guys and bad guys.'"

On the surface, the story is simple and satisfying: The good guys got bin Laden. Justice has been done. The fight against the forces of evil will continue.

This is the underlying plot that western leaders have used to speak about the U.S. strike on Osama bin Laden. But some religious leaders warn against over-simplifying the script.

‘The ministry of war’

While the church may try to keep conflicts from becoming ‘messy and public,’ that doesn’t mean they aren’t messy and private.

Pastor Epp (a pseudonym), finding himself in conflict with his church board, became increasingly depressed. Sharing his emotional ill health with the board, they arrived at a compromise about the number of times he should preach. Or so he thought.

For discussion

1. What aid agencies do the people of your congregation support? Do Mennonites in Canada see Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as primary or just one of many agencies? How strong is the connection between MCC and the people in the pew? Does your congregation distinguish between the work of your provincial organization and the national or international parts of MCC?

What has made MCC work well?

I grew up with the admonition, “self-praise stinks,” a phrase best expressed in the Pennsylvania-German dialect. During my years as executive secretary of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) from 1985-96, I was reluctant to be too overtly enthusiastic about this well-regarded service ministry. I also believe in the imperative of personal and organizational self-criticism.

Without Love, We’re Dead

Keynote speaker Sue Johnson: “We are designed to live in community and in close relationships.”

MRI imaging of the brain shows that interpersonal relationships have a measurable impact on brain activity: James Coan.

It is good for us to live in community. It is exhausting for us to live in isolation from each other: Early

“We have cracked the code of love,” announced Sue Johnson, EdD, author of Hold Me Tight to 1,200 people attending “Conversations on Attachment – Integrating the Science of Love and Spirituality,” a three-day conference held Mar. 31-Apr. 2 at Eastern Mennonite University.

Blanket exercise plums the depth of injustice to aboriginals

Hilda Epp, holds a blanket symbolizing the exposure to new diseases (small pox, tuberculosis, measles) that arrived with the European settlers on Turtle Island—an aboriginal term for North America—as Diane Tiessen looks on. On the far left is Denise Bartel and on the far right is Eve Klassen. (Photo by Dick Benner)

Early relationships between European settlers and aboriginals were characterized by cooperation and interdependence, John Bartel, a farmer from Drake, Sask., and a member of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s Ministries Commission, told a crowd of 75 huddled on 12 blankets representing Turtle Island—an aboriginal term for Nort

For discussion

1. How was your spirituality formed as you grew up? In what ways has Mennonite spirituality been changing?

2. Do you feel that you encounter God through your current spiritual practice? How important is it for our congregations to work at renewing spirituality? Is this best done individually or as communities? How can we best work at renewal?

We don’t need to be more Anabaptist

Ray Martin, left, and Scott Brubacher-Zehr, centre, listen to a presentation by Arnold Snyder, retiring Conrad Grebel University College history of theology professor, on the history of Anabaptist-Mennonite spiritual formation beliefs and practices.

Over thirty pastors and lay people gathered earlier this year to hear Arnold Snyder, retiring Conrad Grebel University College professor of history, give two two-hour long lectures on Anabaptist-Mennonite spiritual formation in a historical perspective.

A way of life

However difficult this book is to read, Dawn Ruth Nelson has done the church a significant service in her study. Her effort to both diagnose the malaise in North American Mennonite spirituality and propose remedial measures suffers from a poor choice of title and could have benefited from tighter editing.

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