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Life on the geographic fringes of MC Canada

Nordheim Mennonite Church in the village of Winnipegosis, Man., is a four-hour drive northwest of Winnipeg.

Mennonite Church Canada is characterized by various geographic concentrations of churches, some thicker than others. But a few congregations exist far from any other MC Canada sisters and brothers. What is church like in the farther flung reaches of our denomination? What do congregations do to stay connected? What are the advantages of remoteness?

‘A fantastic model at Springridge’

A 2019 Lenten service at Springridge Mennonite Church in Pincher Creek, Alta. Plants were grown at the front of the sanctuary and then compared to how congregants nurtured God-like growth in their own hearts and lives. Pastoral leader Tany Warkentin is pictured at right. (Photo by Del Willms)

Hugo Neufeld, left, a guest speaker from Trinity Mennonite Church in DeWinton, Alta., invites a variety of people from Springridge Mennonite to the front, representing the rich diversity of God's people in the Pincher Creek congregation. (Photo by Del Willms)

A small rural church had a 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) pastor. Now its pastor has retired and it decides to hire a 0.3 FTE pastor. Is this realistic? How will the new pastor spend her time?

In January 2019, Springridge Mennonite Church in Pincher Creek approached Tany Warkentin, a long-time member, and asked her if she would be willing to serve as its part-time pastor. 

Homeless find shelter in MCC building

Frigid, snowy days don’t occur often in B.C.’s Fraser Valley but, when they do, some homeless seniors have at least one warm place to spend the night. MCC B.C.’s Material Aid warehouse provides temporary sleeping space for street people, operated by a local ministry. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

By day, the material aid warehouse at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C.’s headquarters is used to store and process items such as school kits and blankets to be shipped overseas. But, in the colder fall and winter months, by night the space is converted into an extreme weather shelter hosting the city’s most vulnerable.

Three congregations leave MC Eastern Canada

The sign in front of Calvary Church in Ayr, Ont., hints at the significant shift taking place as the church merges with Calvary Pentecostal Assembly of nearby Cambridge. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

In September 2019, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada reported: “We announce with great sadness that River of Life, Calvary Church Ayr (Mennonite), and Milverton Mennonite Fellowship [all in Ontario] have left the MC Eastern Canada family.

Listening to those who have left

'He recently left a Mennonite Church Canada congregation that professes open-mindedness and inclusivity. I wanted to know why.' (Image by Arek Socha/Pixabay)

A Mennonite elder once told me, “We need to listen to people who leave the church.”

John Reimer (a pseudonym) is one such person. A soft-spoken grandpa, he recently left a Mennonite Church Canada congregation that professes open-mindedness and inclusivity. I wanted to know why.

Winnipeg church welcomes its neighbours

Home Street Mennonite Church is located in the heart of Winnipeg’s inner city. (Home Street Mennonite Church website photo)

A star blanket, sewn by an Indigenous women's collective in Winnipeg, hangs in the Coffee and Conversation space at Home Street Mennonite Church. It symbolizes the congregation’s commitment to be treaty people and strive for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. (Photo by Esther Epp-Tiessen)

Every Sunday morning at Home Street Mennonite Church, two ushers hand out bulletins and seat guests for the worship service. But an hour earlier, a group of “Third Ushers” is already busy, welcoming in the church’s inner-city neighbours.

St. Jacobs Mennonite stages 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

Imogine (Tina Cressman), Gladys (Lucy Derksen) and Ralph Herdman (Zach Cressman) react with surprise and confusion when they hear the Christmas story for the first time. (Photo by Heather Weber)

Charlie Bradley, played by Jaren Klassen, insists that he doesn’t want to be in the church Christmas pageant directed by his mother, in the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church production of ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,’ based on the story by Barbara Robinson. (Photo by Heather Weber)

Bob (Scott Morton Ninomiya), Charlie (Jaren Klassen) and Beth Bradley (Julia Schroeder Kipfer) discuss how the annual Christmas pageant is the same every year. (Photo by Heather Weber)

Grace Bradley (Melinda Metzger), left, who gets stuck directing the Christmas pageant full of the rough and tumble Herdman kids, reads the Christmas story to the Herdmans, who have never heard it before. Imogine (Tina Cressman), who plays Mary; Gladys (Lucy Derksen), who plays the angel of the Lord; and Ralph (Zach Cressman), who plays Joseph, react with ideas of their own about how the story ought to go. (Photo by Heather Weber)

From left to right, Imogine (Tina Cressman), Gladys (Lucy Derksen) and Ralph Herdman (Zach Cressman) catch the true meaning of Christmas as they play the roles of Mary, the angel of the Lord, and Joseph in the church Christmas pageant. (Photo by Heather Weber)

Some 80 people from all ages were part of staging The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at St. Jacobs (Ont.) Mennonite Church on Dec. 21 and 22. The 1950s era story tells how the rough and tumble Herdman kids end up with all the main roles in the annual Christmas pageant, much to the chagrin of the regular congregants.

Everything is under the authority of Christ

Harjo Suyitno designed the ‘Cosmic Christ’ cross artwork at Jepara GITJ church in Indonesian gunungan style. (Photo by Karla Braun)

“This wood carving expresses the mission and vision of the church,” (Photo by Karla Braun)

Gunungan is a figure from traditional Indonesian theatre that represents the world. The leaf-shaped art is used frequently around the country, including at the Mennonite church in seaside Jepara.

Life in a remote B.C. congregation

The Friday Night drop-in for kids has been popular with community kids in Black Creek. (Photo by Gerry Binnema)

The United Mennonite Church building in Black Creek is used for a community food bank. (Photo by Gerry Binnema)

Gerry Binnema was invited to share news about United Mennonite Church, the con­gregation he pastors in Black Creek, B.C. Here is his creative and tongue-in-cheek response.

‘Re-learning to swim in baptismal waters’

Irma Fast Dueck presented on baptism to more than 40 pastors and lay leaders at Mennonite Church Manitoba’s Leadership Day in November. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

We are witnessing the first time in history when many young people in Mennonite Church Canada congregations are actively participating in the church but are choosing not to be baptized. Why is that? Irma Fast Dueck, associate professor of practical theology at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), is researching exactly that question.

Getting into the Christmas spirit across Canada

The Menno Simons Christian School Junior-high band, conducted by Christina Carpenter, performs at a seniors lunch at Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary on Nov. 28. (Photo by Mackenzie Miller)

In keeping with the season, Canadian Mennonite has wrapped up four Christmas events—from Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia—into one package for your festive reading.

 

Gleaners host Christmas open house to thank supporters

Dylan Ricci Adams is pictured with a load of carrots on their way to the washing machine. (Photo by Zach Charbonneau)

Todd Stahl shovels diced carrots into the auger that will deliver them to the Gleaners’ gigantic dehydrator. (Photo by Zach Charbonneau)

Todd Stahl is pictured in the Gleaners’ warehouse. Each skid has 42,000 meals on it, and the whole room currently holds 800,000 servings. (Photo by Zach Charbonneau)

The work of farmers is difficult. They have to work with the land to bring about a decent crop in order to make a living. And even though they may successfully bring hundreds of hectares to fruition, there’s no guarantee that all of that crop can go to market.

175 years by faith

Three generations of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church share a readers theatre called ‘175 Years by Faith’ during a worship service celebrating its 175th anniversary. Pictured from left to right: Jonah Willms, Doris Kramer and Micah Jarvis sit on a bench from the 1851 meetinghouse at the church’s original location in the unmarked hamlet of Three Bridges. (Photo by Marcia Shantz)

A display celebrating 175 years of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church shows a key to the first meetinghouse, the first English songbook, and a baptism pitcher. (Photo courtesy of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church)

In 1844, just under a half-hectare of land near the east bank of the Conestoga River was purchased from John Brubacher for the sum of five shillings.

‘A bigger impact in the neighbourhood’

People in Montreal experiencing homelessness have access to 30 mattresses at Care Montreal, an outreach program of Hochma Mennonite Church. (YouTube photo)

In October, Care Montreal opened seven nights a week as a licensed shelter after completing extensive renovations. Now volunteers at the shelter, housed at Hochma, a Mennonite Church Eastern Canada congregation, provide supper in the basement at 6 p.m.

Money for missions

Baked goods sell quickly at St. Catharines United Mennonite Church’s annual Mennonite Food and Craft Bazaar. (Photo by Maria H. Klassen)

In 1989, a group of women from St. Catharines United Mennonite Church decided to sell their crafts and baking to raise money for missions. This “making and baking” was something the women did well, and their efforts became known as the Mennonite Food and Craft Bazaar.

Adapting to changing volunteer realities

Volunteer Jim Wiebe, left, visited with Eugene from 1996 to 2011. Eugene continues to see Jim since his release. He says, ‘It was good to be in P2P. It helped open my eyes to my surroundings and who I was. By watching and learning from my visitor, I realized life is more fun if you can control your urges.’ (Photo courtesy of Heather Driedger)

Dale von Bieker is a P2P volunteer from Nipawin, Sask., where he is a member of the United Church. He wrote this poem a few years ago for an inmate he was visiting. (Photo courtesy of Heather Driedger)

“This is how I am a Christian,” says Heather Driedger of her work with Parkland Restorative Justice. As executive director of the non-profit organization, Driedger provides programs for inmates at the Prince Albert penitentiary.

 

Churches partner to help residents in recovery

Board chair Garry Janzen, right, gives thanks for 10 years of ministry at Place of Refuge in Vancouver. A building project earlier this year enabled the construction of the Place of Refuge Resource Centre on the property, for office space and counselling. (Place of Refuge photo by Jeff Borden)

Twenty years ago, two men attending Vancouver’s Sherbrooke Mennonite Church desperately needed a safe place to live so they could find their way out of the world of addiction.

Girls Club meets monthly because ‘God is fun!’

Members of the Holyrood Mennonite Girls Club stop to get their photo taken on their way to a sand sculpture competition this summer. Pictured from left to right: Helena Chokpelleh, Venissa Tumbay and Tarnisha Snogba. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

The Holyrood Mennonite Church Girls Club learns to make traditional food (spätzle) from Mennonite Voluntary Service members. Pictured from left to right: Venissa Tumbay, Marie Bickensdoerfer, Malin Huber, Nina Schulze and Tarnisha Snogba. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Sue Taniguchi, left, helps members of the Holyrood Mennonite Church Girls Club make origami birds and an airplane. Pictured from Tanigughi’s left: Helena Chokpelleh, Venissa Tumbay, and Marie Bickensdoerfer, an MVS-Edmonton member. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Tarnisha Snogba proudly holds up her talking crow she made at Girls Club. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

The Holyrood Mennonite Girls Club goes to a farm and corn maze in October. Pictured from left to right: Venissa Tumbay, Tarnisha Snogba and Helena Chokpelleh. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

The Holyrood Mennonite Girl’s Club goes to the home of Carol Lint, a member of Holyrood Mennonite Church, to make pizzas together and Valentine’s gift bags in February. Pictured from left to right: Tarnisha Snogba, Denise Tumbay and Venissa Tumbay. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

In 2001, Holyrood Mennonite Church sponsored four men who were living in a refugee camp in Ghana with their families due to a 14-year civil war in Liberia. Over time, the number of Liberian families in the church has grown.

At present, almost all the children in the church are West African, including four teenage girls, all from Liberia.

Called to care for the Earth

Edwin Sittler, an Old Order Mennonite, watches as a machine he designed turns a windrow of compost. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

Noa Baergen, right, and Julie Moyer Suderman, a youth-mentor pair at First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., have decided to take action by starting a congregational Climate Action Working Group. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

Edwin Sittler, right, shows Glenn Brubacher, a member of First Mennonite Church’s Climate Action Working Group, a handful of quality compost. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

“A lot of people are talking about it. Not a lot of people are taking action,” according to Noa Baergen. So when it comes to the climate crisis, this 16-year-old is determined to act. 

Understanding the impact of Agent Orange

This image, from the War Relics Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, shows the devastating effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese countryside. (Photos courtesy of Garth and Claire Ewert Fisher)

Garth and Claire Ewert Fisher travelled with MCC British Columbia executive director Wayne Bremner to Vietnam, where they were met with MCC Vietnam staff and volunteers. Pictured, from left to right: Nikolai Mazharenko, MCC Vietnam co-director; Beth Kvernen, MCC volunteer; Eva Mazharenko, MCC Vietnam co-director; Ba Vinh, Vietnamese reference group; Co Mai, MCC Vietnam staff; Wayne Bremner; Ba Bai, Vietnamese reference group; Claire Ewert Fisher; Josh Kvernen, MCC volunteer; and Garth Ewert Fisher.

Garth Ewert Fisher sits with a Vietnamese man during a home visit.

Children who are impacted by Agent Orange receive physical and occupational therapy at a rehabilitation centre supported by MCC.

Decades after American military forces used Agent Orange to further their efforts in the Vietnam War, this deadly chemical continues to impact the lives of Vietnamese people.

Niagara Christian Gleaners repurpose food

Dehydrated fruit packages sit on the shelves of the South Porcupine (Ont.) Food Bank. (Photo by Peter Davis)

Fruit comes out of the Niagara Christian Gleaners’ food chopper. (Photo by Maria H. Klassen)

Chopped fruit sits on trays ready for the dehydrator. (Photo by Maria H. Klassen)

Boxes in the warehouse are ready for shipping. (Photo by Maria H. Klassen)

The Niagara Network Hub of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) recently toured the Niagara Christian Gleaners facility in Smithville. The new non-profit organization aims to divert nearly 3,200 kilograms of produce each day from the local landfill by chopping, dehydrating, packaging and shipping fruits and vegetables to areas where the food is needed.

Fun and fundraising at goods and services auction

Ministries in Vietnam benefited from the November goods and services auction at Langley (B.C.) Mennonite Fellowship. One of those ministries includes a new church plant in the neighbourhood of a music store owner in Saigon, second from left, who is returning to the Mennonite church after the lifting of persecution. The lifting of the persecution is mostly due to Nhien Pham, second from right, who built connections with the local authorities and helped them to change their attitude towards the Mennonite church. At left is MC. B.C. executive minister Garry Janzen, and at right is Pastor Hong, president of Evangelical Mennonite Church Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Garry Janzen)

Raising funds for missionary or international purposes has been a tradition among local congregations for decades. That tradition has carried on at Langley Mennonite Fellowship, a congregation of some 100 participants, most recently on Nov. 16.

Event explores Jews, Mennonites and the Holocaust​​​​​​​

Wally and Millie Kroeker of River East (MB) Church talk to presenter Aileen Friesen, right, at ‘ Jews, Mennonites and the Holocaust,’ a public presentation at the Asper Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg on Nov. 5. (Photo by John Longhurst)

About 80 years ago, Jews and Mennonites lived peacefully together in the Ukrainian city of Khortitsa. Then the Nazis came, and everything changed.

In 1941, before the invasion, Khortitsa had about 2,000 Mennonites and 402 Jews out of a population of about 14,000. A year or so later, the Jews were all gone, killed by the Nazis.

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