Volume 25 Issue 4
The annual congregational meeting is moving along with the usual reports and updates. Then it’s time to discuss next year’s budget. Seeing the dollar amount the congregation will forward to the regional church, a well-intentioned member stands up to ask the question: What are they doing with our money anyway?
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)
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.
My first season of a church in an intentional pastoral transition process was as an associate pastor with my home church in Surrey, B.C.
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.
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. . . .”
I like Lent. I wonder how many Mennonites practise this season in the church calendar. And if so, what they do.
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.
The two most influential attempts at Mennonite self-definition in the 20th century were Harold Bender’s Anabaptist Vision and John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus. Both legacies have come under scrutiny, with Yoder’s more pointed due to the abuse he levelled personally.
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)
“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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After last year’s cancellation of summer camp due to the pandemic, staff at Mennonite Church B.C.’s Camp Squeah are hopeful that a regular camping season can resume in summer 2021.
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.
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)
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.”
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.