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Churches stay connected with seniors

An outdoor church service at St. Catharines United Mennonite Church. (Photo by Randy Klaassen)

Daffodils were delivered in April to Vineland United Mennonite Church families. (Photo by Louise Wideman)

As the pandemic continues, all in- person church programs have been cancelled and new ways of staying connected have been established. Sunday School and youth events have gone online. Committee meetings are on Zoom. Sunday morning worship services are accessed in various ways.

Mennonite Heritage Village adapts through pandemic

Photos by Jerry Grajewski, Grajewski Fotograph, Inc.
The Chortitz Housebarn is one of the Mennonite Heritage Village’s signature heritage buildings. It will undergo a major restoration this summer, for which the MHV is currently raising funds. Its goal is 50 percent of the renovation costs—just over $22,000.

Photo courtesy of Mennonite Heritage Village
This newly constructed pergola and the Dirk Willems statue will make up the new Peace Exhibit, along with the Dirk Willems Peace Gardens and pond that are being developed this summer. When it is complete, this area of the MVH grounds will feature interpretation about the Mennonite theology of peace, contemplative places for visitors to sit and rest away from the bustle of the main street in the village and more trails for walking.

The new Mennonites at War exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Village is currently scheduled to open on July 10 (subject to public health restrictions in place at that time) and will run until Nov. 14. It will be available to view in-person and in a 360-degree virtual tour.

The new Mennonites at War exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Village is currently scheduled to open on July 10 (subject to public health restrictions in place at that time) and will run until Nov. 14. It will be available to view in-person and in a 360-degree virtual tour.

The new Mennonites at War exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Village is currently scheduled to open on July 10 (subject to public health restrictions in place at that time) and will run until Nov. 14. It will be available to view in-person and in a 360-degree virtual tour.

Although the Mennonite Heritage Village (MVH) may look like it’s frozen in time, it has adapted impressively to the challenges of the 2020s.

Taking delight in creation

Curtis Wiens, standing centre, envisions a community gathering at Shekinah year round, to worship outdoors and delight in the beauty of God’s creation. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Participants sing together at the beginning of their worship time during forest church, held at Shekinah Retreat Centre recently. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Why does God rest after creating the world? According to Curtis Wiens, it isn’t because God is tired and needs a break.

Relief sale and auction adapt to pandemic restrictions

This restored Allis-Chalmers D14 tractor was the top-selling non-quilt item at the recent online relief sale. (Photo by John Reimer)

This feature quilt, sold by auction virtually for $8,300, was the top-selling item at the 2021 New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale. (Photo by Ken Ogasawara)

People who purchased “NHMRS-in-a-Box” received commemorative mugs, a fresh pie and fresh coffee from a local company, as a way to recreate part of the relief sale experience. (Photo by Ken Ogasawara)

Supporters of the Relief Sale were encouraged to buy part of the experience in a box. The boxes, containing commemorative mugs, a fresh pie and fresh coffee, sold out in a few days. (Photo by Sheryl Bruggeling)

These kits were given out to sponsors as part of the Run for Relief-Run it Your Way event. (Photo by Justin Armitage)

Jim Brown, top right, and Roy Lichti paraded through Tavistock, Ont., gathering donations for MCC, as their way of participating in the Run for Relief-Run it Your Way event. At $2,500, Lichti promised to cut off his ponytail, and at $3,000 Brown agreed to dye his beard. (MCC Ontario Facebook page)

Erma Bauman, age 92, has made more quilts and blankets for MCC than she can remember. She joined others from her church in a parade through Tavistock as part of the Run for Relief-Run it Your Way event that collected funds for MCC. (MCC Ontario Facebook page)

The New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale (NHMRS) that raises funds for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) had to adapt and innovate once again, as pandemic restrictions in Ontario prohibited large gatherings for the second year in a row.

Book explores divergent views on food, farming

Will Braun, who wrote one of the articles in Germinating Conversations, is pictured with his son Matoli on their farm south of Morden, Man. (Photo courtesy of Will Braun)

Germinating Conversations: Stories from a Rural-Urban Dialogue on Food, Faith, Farming and the Land

Will Braun, who wrote one of the articles in Germinating Conversations, is pictured with his son Matoli on their farm south of Morden, Man. (Photo courtesy of Will Braun)

Since 2012, the “Germinating Conversations” initiative has brought together small farmers, bigger farmers and urban folks who care about food.

Pandemic forces couples to reassess wedding plans

Despite the pandemic, Samih Saltah and Katherine Kandalaft managed to plan a special wedding in 2020. (Photo courtesy of the bridal couple)

A masked videographer captures the wedding ceremony of Katherine Kandalaft and Samih Saltah last Oct. 12, reflecting the new reality during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of the bridal couple)

With their parents as witnesses, Raymond and Stephanie are united in marriage by Pastor Tim Kuepfer at Chinatown Peace Church on March 28. (Photo courtesy of the bridal couple)

Newlyweds Maxwell and Nicole (Redekop) Stow celebrate outside their wedding venue on April 10. (Photo courtesy of the bridal couple)

The bride and groom may have hoped for a traditional church wedding with an entourage of attendants, surrounded by all their friends and extended family, followed by a fabulous catered wedding dinner. What they ended up with might have been a scaled-down gathering of fewer than a dozen people and a simple backyard meal with everyone wearing masks, or even a drive-by, no-contact reception.

The growing phenomenon of cohabitation

Irma Fast Dueck, associate professor of practical theology at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, gave three workshops on cohabitation in May at the invitation of Springridge Mennonite Church. (Photo courtesy of Irma Fast Dueck)

“What questions does cohabitation raise for you?” asked Irma Fast Dueck at a Portable CMU event hosted by Springridge Mennonite Church in Pincher Creek, Alta., in May.

The gospel is a seed buried within the church

Fanosie Legesse, middle row, left, was guest speaker during one of Peace Mennonite Church’s midweek Bible studies. Also pictured, from left to right, top row: Florence Driedger, Donna Schulz and Otto Driedger; middle row: Peter and Margaret Peters, and Peichen Gu; and bottom row: Eve and Rich White, Yao Che and Dario Hernandez. Zahara Alli and Eugene Laramee joined the meeting after this screenshot was taken. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

Peace Mennonite Church gathers for Bible study every Tuesday evening. Since the pandemic began, the Regina-based house church has been meeting via Zoom, enabling members who no longer live in Regina to also attend.

Fair trade under the mask

Jane Nigh, manager of Villages Port Colborne, Ont., wears a jacket and scarf from Ark Imports and earrings from Ten Thousand Villages. (Photo by Travis-James Haycock)

Unmasked, Jane Nigh, manager of Villages Port Colborne, Ont., wears a jacket and scarf from Ark Imports and earrings from Ten Thousand Villages. (Photo by Travis-James Haycock)

Although most of the Ten Thousand Villages (TTV) stores closed in Canada in the spring of 2020 when the TTV Canada entity ceased to exist, seven stores decided to stay open and continue to offer fair-trade products.

Soup, biscuits, laughter and verse

Many participants at the MC B.C. Women’s Day on May 1 enjoyed a lunch of soup and biscuits, prepared together as guided online by Chef Dez. (Photo by Jane Grunau)

Women of Mennonite Church B.C. couldn’t meet in person for the annual B.C. Women’s Day on May 1, but they could still see each other’s faces, enjoy fellowship and eat the same lunch.

This year’s event was held on Zoom, with 67 participants from 12 cities in B.C. tuning in along with some from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New York and California.

Ecological grief

Pictured clockwise from top left, moderator Kari Miller and panellists Zoe Matties, Josiah Neufeld, Marta Bunnett Wiebe and Bob Haverluck took part in “Ecological grief and exploring hope,” a virtual panel discussion, on April 28. (Screenshot by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

A million plant and animal species are nearing extinction, the global climate is dramatically shifting and sea levels are rising—the earth is in crisis and many people are overwhelmed with ecological grief.

‘Staging change’

Calvin Peterson as Jay, right, and Lindsey Middleton as Addi, perform a scene from Unmute.

Calvin Peterson as Jay, left, and Lindsey Middleton as Addi, perform a scene from the play Unmute.

The Unmute poster designed by Ali Carroll.

Twenty-six times since November, audiences have had the opportunity to participate in changing the story of gender-based violence. That is how many times Theatre of the Beat, a Canadian touring theatre company, has staged Unmute: The Impact of a Pandemic on Gender Based Violence, a forum theatre piece performed entirely through the video-conferencing platform, Zoom.

Planting a church in a pandemic

Josh and Cindy Wallace’s tiny house church, normally consisting of four households, meets via Zoom each Sunday afternoon. Pictured on screen, clockwise from top left, are: Josh and Cindy Wallace, Taylor Summach and Mark Bigland-Pritchard. (Photo by Taylor Summach)

The ideal time for planting a church is likely not the middle of a pandemic, but Josh and Cindy Wallace have discovered that it can be done.

“We sort of left everything behind on the premise of a house church,” says Cindy.

Who needs denominations?

Gerald Gerbrandt, president emeritus and professor emeritus of Bible at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, was this year’s speaker at MC Alberta’s Faith studies event in April. (Photo by Esther Gerbrandt)

Many churches today are distancing themselves from denominational labels like “Mennonite,” to appear more inclusive. Renaming churches “The River,” “The Mosaic,” or “Hope City” is one way of communicating this. Others embrace the name “Mennonite” because they want to celebrate their distinctiveness. Both see their decision as part of their witness.

Mennonites in Myanmar facing desperate situation

Jehu Lian, a Mennonite pastor, and his wife, Ma Bawi, show solidarity with the people suffering repression in Myanmar. The three-finger salute—adapted from the Hunger Games film—has become a common symbol of freedom, defiance and solidarity in Myanmar and among pro-democracy movements elsewhere in Southeast Asia. (Photo courtesy of Jehu Lian and Ma Bawi)

Amid mass protests, lethal military response and UN warnings of Myanmar becoming a “new Syria,” one Mennonite source in the country said, “We are in darkness, full of fear and with no hope for the future.”

Canadian Mennonite has agreed not to use the source’s name due to the threat to those who speak critically of the military.

Why not a letter?

Jaxon Gin, a children’s ministry member of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, is pictured with a stained-glass cross he made. (Photo by Grace Ho)

“Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

What does biblical togetherness look like during a pandemic?

MC Eastern Canada looks to where God is calling the church

Craig Frere takes in MC Eastern Canada’s spring gathering from his backyard. This was the second year the annual event was held online due to pandemic restrictions. (Photo courtesy of Craig Frere)

Leah Reesor-Keller, MC Eastern Canada’s executive minister, shares the kimchi-making process from her kitchen. The hands-on project got a little messy. (Photo by Leah-Ressor-Keller)

Muriel Bechtel takes in MC Eastern Canada’s spring gathering from her dining-room table. (Photo courtesy of Muriel Bechtel)

Norm Dyck, MC Eastern Canada’s mission minister, top left, welcomes new congregations and their pastors: Rheau Jean-Claude and Marjory Brutus of Ma Destinée, in Montréal, bottom right; and Fitsum Debesay and Habte Araya from Hiyaw Amalak ( Living God) Evangelical Church in Ottawa, bottom left and top right, respectively. (Screenshot courtesy of MC Eastern Canada)

Norm Dyck, MC Eastern Canada’s mission minister, top left, welcomes new congregations and their pastors: Rheau Jean-Claude and Marjory Brutus of Ma Destinée, in Montréal, bottom right; and Fitsum Debesay and Habte Araya from Hiyaw Amalak ( Living God) Evangelical Church in Ottawa, bottom left and top right, respectively. (Screenshot courtesy of MC Eastern Canada)

Pablo Kim Sun preps ingredients for kimchi as he explores how the traditional Korean dish is a good metaphor for the church. The cooking demonstration was part of MC Eastern Canada’s annual Spring Gathering, held virtually April 23 and 24. Participants were invited to follow Kim Sun’s cooking demonstration in their own kitchens. (Screenshot courtesy of MC Eastern Canada)

Paul Brubacher measures ingredients for making kimchi as part of MC Eastern Canada’s annual Spring Gathering, held virtually on April 23 and 24. (Photo by Marilyn Brubacher)

How is the church like kimchi? At Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s spring gathering, held virtually on April 23 and 24, many of the more than 250 in attendance tried making the traditional Korean dish while following Pablo Kim Sun’s demonstration from his kitchen in Toronto.

Zoar Mennonite closes after 111 years

Liz Baerwald estimates that Zoar Mennonite women and men donated more than 5,900 comforters to Mennonite Central Committee since 1962. In the foreground, Liz and husband Greg knot a quilt together, while, in the background, Erna Funk, left, and Pastor Andrea Enns-Gooding work on another. (Photo by Anna Penz)

Following a service of release and blessing, Zoar Mennonite congregants visit together in the church foyer. (Photo by Anna Penz)

Pastor Andrea Enns-Gooding baptizes Annika Neufeldt on April 4, a week before Zoar Mennonite Church’s final worship service. (Photo by Anna Penz)

Zoar Mennonite congregants, pictured from left, Corinne Scheetz, Ruth Ratzlaff, Tina Wiebe, Greg Baerwald, Louella Friesen and Don Friesen, share memories in the church’s fellowship hall during a service of release and blessing held on March 25. (Photo by Anna Penz)

Zoar Mennonite Church gathers for a group photograph following its closing worship service on April 11. (Photo by Erica Baerwald)

“It was not a sudden oh-my-goodness-what-are-we-going-to-do conver­sation,” says Liz Baerwald of her church’s decision to close. As she sees it, the conversation began more than a decade ago.

Hanley Mennonite closes after nearly 100 years

The building that has served Hanley (Sask.) Mennonite Church since 1956. (Photo courtesy of MC Saskatchewan website)

At a church picnic in 1987, Ron Froese, left, steadies the boat as Nancy Martens, Joanne Patkau, Heather Peters, Lisa Martens and Nathan Froese paddle. (Hanley Mennonite Church photo)

Henry Peters, left, Hanley Mennonite Church’s pastor, stands with Margaret Ewen Peters and Gary Peters at their installation as lay ministers in 1989. (Hanley Mennonite Church photo)

The Hanley Mennonite Church congregation in 1992. (Hanley Mennonite Church photo)

The Hanley Mennonite Church choir in the 1990s. (Hanley Mennonite Church photo)

Steve Kroeger reads a story at Hanley Mennonite Church in 2019; listening, from left to right, are children Leena Robins, Callista Robins, Sophia Robins and Ayden Robins. In the background is Joy Kroeger. (Photo by Gary Peters)

“I understand this as part of the life cycle of the church,” says Gary Peters. “We’ve been in the process of aging, now we’re in the process of dying.”

Greetings and gifts on Good Friday

Byron Wiebe welcomes people to the Crossroads Community Church drive-through event on Easter weekend. (Photo by Cory Buettner)

Daniel Visser, a member of Crossroads Community Church, accepts donations to the food bank as part of the congregation’s Easter weekend drive-through. (Photo by Cory Buettner)

Members of Chilliwack’s Crossroads Community Church found a creative way on Easter weekend to both introduce its new pastor in person and to celebrate Easter with the community.

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