Following the news coverage leading up to the 2016 American election, I wondered if there was a place for hope in an atmosphere of division and fear. In the days leading up to the election, my friend Will and I travelled from the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. area to Washington D.C., on a pilgrimage of sorts.
You may have seen traditionally dressed Mennonites at farmers’ markets or on TV, but you may not know that these are only a segment of the Mennonite population in Canada. There are several varieties of Mennonite and Amish groups in Canada, and—although they all share the same roots—each group practises its faith in unique ways.
In 2016 popular online stories on the Canadian Mennonite website dealt with gender identity, cohabitation, church institutions, and Mennonite history. Readers wanted to know about the growth of Old Order Mennonites communities in Ontario and the question of Mennonite historical involvement with Aryan ideology.
Frieda Woelk, who lives in a seniors apartment in Leamington, Ont., put together a “Special Cookbook for my Children, Grandchildren, Family and Friends,” with editions in 1994, 1995, 2005 and 2011. She had one copy left at the end of 2016, which she shared with Canadian Mennonite. It is full of delightful hand-written notes that she added to subsequent editions over the years.
Millions of people will never pick up a book or magazine about Mennonites or enter any Mennonite church. But they will drop in anonymously to the Third Way website (thirdway.com) to get a quick glimpse of what Mennonites are about. The website averages more than one thousand hits a day, nearing a third of a million annually.
I want to be excited about church.
I do not attend regional or national assemblies, but I care deeply about the broader church. I would rather hang out with my boys than attend a meeting to discuss a wordy Future Directions report, but I would clear my schedule to sit in a circle with others to share our passions about church.
Twenty-five years ago, Michel Monette was selling encyclopaedias door to door seven days a week. One of his fellow salesmen, a Mennonite Brethren man, would take Sundays off to go to a local evangelical church and would do the same Wednesday evenings for Bible study. On Halloween Eve 1991 in Rouyn-Noranda, Monette said to the man, “If you’re such a good salesman, sell me on your God.”