Volume 25 Issue 4

A hymn by any other number

Apart from communities in the eastern United States, where the song was previously known, Mary Oyer and her committee colleagues had presumed the song would appeal primarily to church choirs looking for a challenge. (Photo by Merrill Miller)

Some urged the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee that produced the new Voices Together hymnal to correct the 1992 treatment by assigning the song its ‘rightful place’ between 605 and 607. (Photo by Merrill Miller)

When hymnologist Mary Oyer travelled from Uganda to Oregon to attend the 1969 Mennonite Church general assembly, she was surely filled with anticipation. She arrived in the second week of August to attend the dedication of a new denominational worship book, The Mennonite Hymnal (1969), which the General Conference Mennonite Church would also use.

Gary Snider

(Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

In 1984, a local reporter interviews Gary Snider, dressed in clothes his grandfather wore when he arrived as an immigrant from the Soviet Union 60 years before. Three hundred people took part in this commemorative walk, retracing the route of a group of 1924 Mennonite immigrants from a railway siding in Uptown Waterloo, Ont., to Erb Street Mennonite Church.

‘Our framing story’

(Image by Reuben Juarez/Unsplash)

The Jan. 10 bulletin at Tiefengrund Mennonite Church included the following church family news: “Ed Olfert has officially retired and is now living the good life! In other news, Ed was taken to hospital on Wednesday and was subsequently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and now has to alter his diet and take pills/insert needles for the rest of his retirement. . . .”

Living in the middle

(Photo by Luke van Zyl/Unsplash)

Life is full of spectrums, and I often struggle to find my place on them.

Some spectrums, like the light spectrum from infrared through the visible colours to ultraviolet, although fascinating, aren’t highly controversial. Other spectrums, like our political or theological views, can harbour very passionate and divisive lines.

Picturing her calling

Superb Mennonite Church, near Kerrobert, Sask., where Lois Siemens’ ministry began. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Her peers in ministry surround Lois Siemens at her ordination in 2011. Pictured behind Siemens, from left to right: Patrick Preheim, Claire Ewert Fisher, Garth Ewert Fisher, Pauline Steinmann and Jerry Buhler. (Photo courtesy of Lois Siemens)

Friends and family surround Lois Siemens at her ordination in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Lois Siemens)

"Finding surprises along the way: friendship, questions, allies, teachers, beauty, resources, answers to prayer, places to live, financial resources, extra jobs." (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Witnessing transformation in others and myself. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

“Times of waiting and stillness . . . and times to take off and go!” On the 10th anniversary of her pastoral ordination on Jan. 9, Lois Siemens went for a walk by the South Saskatchewan River and began taking photographs. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

"Thankful for the times I received support." (Photo by Lois Siemens)

There were celebrations of death and life. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Always looking for signs of hope. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Lois Siemens’s ordination Scripture verse, Psalm 86:12. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

What she really wanted was a party, but pandemic realities prompted Lois Siemens to find another creative way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her ordination.

‘We had a huge spike’

A meal at Grovenland Farm near Lanigan, Sask. (Photo courtesy of Grovenland)

Bacon and sausage from Grovenland Farm near Lanigan, Sask. (Photo courtesy of Grovenland)

When COVID-19 struck last March, farmers who sell food directly to customers saw a rush on their products.

“It seemed like people were just googling farms to go right to the source,” said Sarah Martin-Mills of Growing Hope Farm in Cambridge, Ont.

“We had a huge spike,” said Ben Martens Bartel of Grovenland Farm near Lanigan, Sask.

Living in the moment (during COVID-19)

The current Mennonite Voluntary Service Adventure unit hikes in Waterton Park for the first time, together with some of the members of Lethbridge Mennonite Church. Pictured from left to right: volunteers Maj-Britt Becker, Sven Kobel, Evelyn Bechtold, Hanna Schacher, Johannes Roesch and Noah Sommer. (Photo by Elaine Klassen)

Even in the midst of a pandemic, six young adults from Germany and France chose to continue with their plans to serve with Mennonite Voluntary Service Adventure in Lethbridge. They arrived last fall, and one more youth was to join them at the end of January after quarantining for two weeks.

‘A marathon of uncertainty’

A forest class at Willowgrove. (Photo by Willowgrove)

A Harvest Fest wagon ride at Willowgrove. (Photo by Willowgrove)

Young Willowgrove visitors with a ‘pumpkin person.’ (Photo by Willowgrove)

If you pivot enough times, it becomes dancing. And over this past year, Willowgrove found that, despite its Mennonite roots, it has taken to dancing quite naturally.

Johnny Wideman, Willowgrove’s executive director, only took the helm this past February, having just three weeks in the office before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Grief and loss

Thinking of our remarkable trees, never in my 14 years at Squeah have we had such losses to life and limb—trees, that is. Buildings damaged, activities crushed and some truly magnificent softwood giants have fallen. (Photo by Tim Larson)

(Photo by Tim Larson)

In the late hours of a wintry night, a cold wind blew hard up the valley. It howled from an unusual direction, bending tree and limb. Under the unaccustomed pressure, seemingly sturdy trees gave way to the unyielding force, grasping desperately to the earth as their mass was moved inexorably to the ground.

Keeping the excitement of camping alive

Campers enjoy a bonfire at Camp Elim. (Camp Elim photo)

Last year marked Camp Elim’s 75th anniversary, but it was a challenging year for us. Our plans for running camp as normal were quickly thwarted with the looming pandemic. By mid-May, it became apparent that we would not be able to operate our camper program due to government restrictions forcing the closure of overnight summer-camp programs across Saskatchewan.

A chance to try new ideas

Hidden Acres 2020 summer staff cabin, pictured from left to right: Chris Pot, Brittany Ratelband, Cassie Zehr, Julia Lantz, and Sam Bielby, (hanging upside down). (Photo by Chris Pot)

The Hidden Acres 2020 summer staff team at the pond; pictured from left to right: Cassie Zehr, Julia Lantz, Brittany Ratelband and Sam Bielby. (Photo by Chris Pot)

A group of 2019 Hidden Acres summer staff take a hike. (Photo by Aaron Lantz)

As I reflect on a year of “being camp” during COVID-19, I hear Psalm 32: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

‘Love thy neighbour’

Youth Farm Bible Camp’s corn maze theme last year was ‘Love thy neighbour,’ honouring its neighbour, the Mennonite Nursing Home, and its dedicated staff. (Photo by Mark Wurtz)

Last April, Youth Farm Bible Camp created a seven-metre snowman and sign to bless the Mennonite Nursing Home staff as they drove by. (Photo by Mark Wurtz)

Innovation, creativity and pivoting were key strengths that non-profit organizations used in 2020, especially if their main revenue streams involved gathering people together in large groups.

Two-week music camp being planned

Ontario Mennonite Music Campers participate in daily master classes with their instrument of choice, as part of two action-packed weeks of music, games, faith, concerts and friendship, in 2018. (2018 Ontario Mennonite Music Camp photo)

Ontario Mennonite Music Camp (OMMC) is a two-week camp hosted at Conrad Grebel University College, offering teenagers aged 12 to 16 an opportunity to explore both music and faith.

Silver Lake marks 60th anniversary in 2021

2020 Silver Lake Mennonite Camp Camp@Home T-shirt logo. (Silver Lake Mennonite Camp photo)

First day of Camp@Home Zoom events in 2020 for Silver Lake Mennonite Camp participants. (Silver Lake Mennonite Camp screenshot)

Sunlight-splashed trees at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp. (Photo by Jennie Wiebe)

Camp can make such a difference in the life of a camper, even over Zoom. That was the great discovery of the summer of 2020. We were very happy to see so many faces in this online experience!

Camping with a purpose

Jemma Cotrone is dressed as RBG for a costume dance party at Fraser Lake Camp. (Photo by Karie Cotrone)

Last year, Fraser Lake Camp’s cabins, which magically turn groups of kids into little families each summer, went empty. There were no echoes of rambunctious camp songs to rattle across the lake. No one reached the top of the climbing wall to the cheers of their counsellors and fellow campers below.

Many hands make the work doable

Volunteers carry out building supplies on Shekinah’s Ravine Trail. (Shekinah Retreat Centre photo)

At Shekinah we struggle to sit still. When we decided to shut our doors in March 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it not only felt foreign, it also felt wrong. It is much easier to work harder to try to solve a problem than it is to wait, watch and be still. What we have found as a staff is that slowing down and letting go has opened up new opportunities. 

Churches helping camps helping churches

Springstein congregants join others to help place sand bags at Camp Assiniboia during the flooding of 2011. (Photo courtesy of David Hogue)

After a week of non-stop activities soundtracked by endless cheering and screaming kids, you might think the staff of Camp Koinonia would sleep in. Instead, every Sunday morning they put on their Birkenstocks and cleanest clothes and head to Whitewater Mennonite Church in nearby Boissevain.


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