As this issue goes to press, much of Canada is still practising measures to hold COVID-19 at bay. Fatigue has set in; we’re tired of thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it. Yet some things still must be said:
God did not cause this pandemic
As the effects of COVID-19 grow, I am observing a variety of emotional reactions in myself and others. COVID-19 touches everyone’s life. If it isn’t personal illness or loss, we contend with separation, loneliness, deep uncertainty, inconvenient grocery shopping and accessing services that used to be readily available. Children are at home, incomes are at risk.
Although our world is facing the challenge of COVID-19, I am so glad for the parts of life that remain unchanged. Every day brings press conferences with appalling numbers of the losses we endure, talk of restrictions and life that seems like it’s in a state of flux. Yet, peanut butter, Netflix, and, of course, the Revised Common Lectionary remain.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank had its beginnings in 1975 as the Mennonite Central Committee Food Bank. In November 1982, representatives of 10 Christian denominations met to discuss plans for an inter-church foodgrains bank. Among those at the meeting, pictured left to right facing the camera, were Frank H. Epp, J.M. Klassen and C. Wilbert Loewen.
In late January, Eric Harder died at age 74. He was my friend.
I became acquainted with Eric 25 years ago, when I moved to Prince Albert to begin my ministry work. Both he and Velma were strong presences in the church. They offered leadership and encouragement in all the ways that a new pastor desperately needs.
We were in the midst of the Christian season of Lent as I wrote this. Shortly after Lent ended and Easter came, Muslims began the season of Ramadan. The month-long period of daily fasting launched on April 23. The couple of years I have observed the season of Ramadan have been of stunning benefit for my Christian faith.
I’m really not sure what to pray or how to feel these days. I’ve become a strange blend of anxious and relaxed, concerned and content, grateful and restless, ambitious and listless.
Graduation for Columbia Bible College’s class of 2020 looked a little different this year. Rather than proudly walking across the stage in cap and gown to receive their diplomas, the graduates took part in a virtual online commencement ceremony on April 18. The college had dismissed classes earlier in the year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Leah Reesor-Keller, the incoming MC Eastern Canada executive minister, is pictured at her computer while participating in the regional church’s annual gathering, this year via Zoom. (Photo by Luke Reesor-Keller)
Delegates to the MC Eastern Canada annual gathering voted electronically on motions presented as poll questions in the meeting held on April 25, through Zoom, a videoconferencing application. After the voting was completed, results were immediately available onscreen. (Photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)
“We are one body in Christ . . . even when scattered. We are members of one another. We can still encourage and pray for and learn from each other.”
Terry Stefaniuk, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s moderator, welcomes delegates and guests to the regional church’s 2020 annual delegate sessions. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)
After a year spent exploring the theme, “Deepening our walk with each other,” Mennonite Church Saskatchewan continued, inadvertently, to ponder what this means during its annual delegate sessions (ADS).
When COVID-19 forced the postponement of the regional church’s annual general meeting, slated for mid-March, planners scheduled a virtual meeting, via Zoom, for April 25.
COVID-19 has permeated the collective psyche. And although kids may not be watching The National or spending their coveted screen time on the Health Canada webpage, COVID-19 is on their minds. I asked several parents to ask their kids—aged 5 to 13—about the new reality. Below are some of their responses, verbatim.
The home windows of Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, who started the #whiteoutMB movement with Karen Schellenberg. (Photo by Moses Falco)
Tracy Enns, Carman Mennonite Church, joined in by decorating the windows of her workplace with hearts. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schellenberg)
Over the past two years, thousands of Manitobans have gathered in the streets of Winnipeg to cheer on the Winnipeg Jets in the hockey playoffs. Many were hoping to don their all-white outfits and join these “whiteout parties” again this spring, but the novel coronavirus prevented that.
Many people have given their time to volunteering, but few have a record of volunteering for the same organization for 46 years. Margie Steingart has that distinction. She has volunteered for the Christian Benefit Thrift Shop in St. Catharines, Ont., since it opened in January 1974, making her, at the age of 93, the oldest volunteer there.
According to Lule Begashaw, psychotherapist and team lead at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the mental-health team is seeing a big increase in requests for help since the COVID-19 outbreak. She says that “newcomers are a vulnerable population that has definitely been overlooked.”
Andrew Ardell is a friendly person who smiles readily and is thoughtful in his conversation. He cares deeply about the people he serves and is aware of how much he gains from the relationships he has made through his work with the Communitas Supportive Care Society. This positive perspective is borne out of years of service experience around the world and here at home.
Health work first brought Mennonites to Taiwan in 1948 through Mennonite Central Committee’s relief work, but there was also local interest in starting a church. The Mennonite presence in Taiwan today—the Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan—has its roots in both health and church planting.