Rockway community fosters safe and healthy learning spaces

‘Austin’ stands ready to filter the air in a classroom at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, Kitchener, Ont., and keep it circulating. Rockway supporters donated enough funds to purchase all the ‘Austins’ the school needs for September. (Rockway Mennonite Collegiate photo)

In April, prior to Ontario schools returning to online learning, two Rockway Mennonite Collegiate families set out to make the learning spaces in the school safer for students. They introduced “Austin,” a HEPA-air-filtration system that improves air circulation and quality in indoor spaces.

Mennonite organizations look to help with B.C. forest fires

A July 1 satellite image of the forest fire that destroyed much of the village of Lytton, B.C., this summer. (Antti Lipponen image / Creative Commons Licence (

When the village of Lytton, B.C,. was nearly destroyed by wildfires in mid-August, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C. was among those that moved to help. This is one of more than 260 fires in the province this summer that have burned 650,000 hectares, with hot temperatures, dry conditions and high winds exacerbating the situation.

Gutter cleaning fundraiser for Wi-Fi boosters

Florence Irasubiza of the Democratic Republic of Congo, left, and Helena Chokpelleh, a Liberian who attends Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton, clean gutters as a fundraiser to buy Wi-Fi boosters for low-income newcomer families. Community connector Emmanuel Mbonimpa is in front of the ladder. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Helena Chokpelleh of Holyrood Mennonite Church, left, and Goanar Tut of South Sudanese Mennonite Church, hold up the certificates they received in July 2021 after completing the Civic Engagement by Newcomer Youth program at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. Tut’s dog is named “Scottie.” (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Two Mennonite high school students from African countries were interviewed and accepted into the Civic Engagement by Newcomer Youth program last fall through the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. One of the requirements for the participants is to identify a problem or issue in the community they care about and come up with a plan to address that issue in some way.

Staying strong

Dear to the hearts of congregants at Hamilton (Ont.) Mennonite Church over the past year of the pandemic are two prayer books used for the weekly midday prayers, the children’s prayer boxes and a bookshelf quilt. (Photo by Alissa Bender)

At a time when many churches are dealing with declining numbers in their pews, Hamilton (Ont.) Mennonite Church has grown. Membership in 1965 was 28; before the pandemic attendances averaged about 70 each Sunday; then, in 2020, attendance more than doubled.

Plaque honours Mennonite maids of Vancouver

Young Mennonite women served as domestics to help their families repay debt. (Photo courtesy of Ruth Derksen Siemens)

Mennonite women pose in front of the Mary Martha Home. (Photo courtesy of Ruth Derksen Siemens)

A group of young women from the earliest Mennonite Brethren Girls’ Home (Bethel Home). (Photo courtesy of Ruth Derksen Siemens)

Women enjoying some music at the General Conference Girls’ Home (Mary Martha Home)(Photo courtesy of Ruth Derksen Siemens)

Wearing stiff, uncomfortable uniforms was expected of the Mennonite girls and women who worked as house maids in Vancouver from the 1930s to the ’60s. (Mennonite Historical Society of B.C. photo)

A new plaque honours the young Mennonite women who worked as domestic help in Vancouver in the mid-20th century.

An initiative of The Places That Matter, this is No. 89 of 125 commemorations erected by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation plaque project, launched in 2011 with a grant from the Government of Canada’s Celebrate Vancouver 125.

Renewing life on the stage

Henry Schroeder, chair of the Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre board, began acting with the troupe in 1974. ‘Our productions these days are much more modest efforts, but the creative energy and the love of theatre are still there,” he says. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

The Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre cast on the set of Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) presented in 1979 at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, which, at that time, seated more than 1,600 people. On opening night, the box office had to put up the SRO (sold right out) sign. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

‘Our productions these days are much more modest efforts, but the creative energy and the love of theatre are still there,” says Henry Schroeder, chair of the Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre board. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Catherine Enns, right, acts in Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre’s production of Hamlet, presented in 1984 at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre. It was a full-length production, performed all in German. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Mennonites are sometimes associated with their four-part harmony rather than their acting, but one group has been making a name for Mennonites in the theatre for decades. Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre, a not-for-profit amateur community theatre company, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022.

Springridge Mennonite considers the birds of the Bible

American robin (Photo by Asher Warkentin)

Pigeon (Photo by Asher Warkentin)

American avocet (Photo by Asher Warkentin)

Black-capped chickadee (Photo by Asher Warkentin)

Great horned owl (Photo by Asher Warkentin)

Pelican with broken wing photo, taken in Frank Lake, Alta. (Photo by Lois Everett)

Pelican, taken in Frank Lake, Alta. (Photo by Lois Everett)

Who knew that ostriches are mentioned multiple times in the Bible? Job 39:13 says: “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, though they cannot compare with the wings and the feathers of the stork.”

An Indigenous woman’s journey and advice to Mennonites

Tree Bird stands with her youngest son, Morrison, at the memorial service held by Osler Mennonite Church in response to the findings of unmarked graves at residential school sites. (Photo by Susan Braun)

She was born Danielle Dubois and placed in foster care at age three. She stayed in five different foster homes until, shortly before her fifth birthday, the Loewen family adopted her and gave her a new name.

Now known as Theresa Loewen, she grew up on a farm west of Saskatoon and says she “was immersed in the Mennonite world.”

Congregation holds memorial service for graves at residential school sites

Osler Mennonite Church gathers in the local cemetery on Canada Day for a memorial service in honour of children who died at Indian Residential Schools. (Photo by Susan Braun)

Osler Mennonite Church congregants gathered on Canada Day, July 1, in the local cemetery next door, to sing some hymns, share their sorrow and pray together. But it wasn’t one of their own they were grieving. The congregation met instead to grieve in solidarity with its Indigenous neighbours on the finding of unmarked graves at Indian Residential School sites.

Summer camping returns to Squeah

With a modified program, B.C.’s Camp Squeah is welcoming campers again this summer. (Photo courtesy of Camp Squeah)

Camp Squeah is open for business this summer, although in a modified format. (Photo courtesy of Camp Squeah)

After a too-quiet 2020, when summer camps were cancelled due to the pandemic, Camp Squeah of Hope, B.C., is once again a place to hear the sounds of children’s laughter and families gathering this summer.

Bake sale, borscht and bouncy castles

Crowds will be back for the 2021 Festival for World Relief sponsored by MCC B.C., to be held on Sept. 17 and 18. (Photo courtesy of MCC B.C.)

Vereniki remains a popular food choice for those attending the annual MCC B.C. Festival for World Relief, to be held on Sept. 17 and 18. (Photo courtesy of MCC B.C.)

A September tradition in British Columbia is returning with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C. Festival for World Relief, scheduled in Abbotsford on Sept. 17 and 18.

MDS Canada, MCC complete office renovation project in Timmins

MDS Canada volunteers Joe Bless and Nic Hamm of Vineland United Mennonite Church, and Dave Brubacher of Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, with the special mitts given them by the MCC Indigenous Neighbours program as a token of thanks for their work on the MCC office in Timmins, Ont. (Photo by Lyndsay Mollins Koene)

In light of the news about the unmarked graves of children at former residential schools in B.C., Saskatchewan and other parts of the country, the work of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Indigenous Neighbours office in Timmins, Ont., took on new resonance for volunteers.

Toronto church podcast offers a ‘call to rest’


A proposal made by Toronto United Mennonite Church’s worship committee has evolved into a new podcast project called “TUMC On Air.”

Hosts Peter Haresnape and Michele Rizoli, the church’s pastors, explore new ways of conducting church solely through audio. The podcast encourages congregational members to disengage their eyes and focus on listening.

Former Mennonite church building vandalized

The former meeting place of Horse Lake Mennonite Church had some unwelcome visitors on the evening of June 21. Vandals threw rocks and bricks and broke every window of the historic site. (Photo courtesy of Patty Neufeld)

Every window in the former Horse Lake Mennonite Church building was broken when vandals threw bricks and rocks through them, both from the inside and the outside. (Photo courtesy of Patty Neufeld)

Shards of broken glass litter window sills and floors in the former Horse Lake Mennonite Church building. (Photo courtesy of Patty Neufeld)

“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘We might as well burn it down.’” says Patty Neufeld, of the former Horse Lake Mennonite Church building. “It was really depressing.”

The church building was vandalized sometime during the evening of June 21. Though nothing appears to have been stolen, every window in the 111-year-old building was broken.

B.C. churches welcome in-person gatherings

Crossroads Community Church, which meets at Cottonwood Cinemas in Chilliwack, B.C., began resuming unlimited in-person services on July 4, one of many B.C. congregations anticipating a summer of return to normalcy. (Photo courtesy of Crossroads Community Church)

Following the recent move to Stage 3 of the provincial Covid Restart Plan, some Mennonite Church B.C. congregations are gladly worshipping in person once again.

Ribbon cutting celebrates capital project’s success

Food Services Manager Cheri Otterbein cuts the ribbon in Grebel’s new kitchen on June 29. (Conrad Grebel photo)

After two years of construction, a pandemic, and a decade of dreaming and planning, Conrad Grebel University College’s new kitchen and renovated dining room are complete. More than a thousand donors contributed more than $4.2-million to the Fill the Table capital campaign to make it happen.

Velo Renovation reimagines construction in the climate-crisis era

The Velo Renovation collective cycles year round as the primary mode of transportation for themselves and their supplies. (Photo courtesy of Velo Renovation)

Janelle Wride, left, and Maraleigh Short are part of the Velo Renovation team. They are also both alumni of Canadian Mennonite University. (Photo courtesy of Velo Renovation)

If you see someone cycling in Winnipeg, toting behind them stacks of lumber, buckets of paint or even a ladder, it’s probably a member of Velo Renovation. They are used to the double takes they get at supply stores.

‘I didn’t know that was going on’

Some residents of Bethany Manor chose to write on their feathers. This one reads: ‘Jesus loves the little children of the world.’ (Photo by Angela Schmiemann)

Angela Schmiemann created this timeline depicting the history of Indian Residential Schools as part of an interactive display at Bethany Manor, a seniors residence in Saskatoon. (Photo by Angela Schmiemann)

Books about residential schools borrowed from the local public library added to the display and enhanced the seniors’ learning experience. (Photo by Angela Schmiemann)

Residents were invited to wear an orange ribbon in support of Indigenous families and communities who lost children to the residential school system. (Photo by Angela Schmiemann)

Angela Schmiemann decorated Bethany Manor’s seasonal tree with paper eagle feathers that had been coloured by residents. (Photo by Angela Schmiemann)

Detail of some of the feathers coloured by residents of Bethany Manor in honour of Indigenous families whose children died at residential schools across Canada. (Photo by Angela Schmiemann)

What do a handful of library books, a white Christmas tree and coloured paper feathers have in common? They were all part of an interactive educational response to the injustice of Indian Residential Schools.

Memorial created from unearthed Mennonite gravestones in Ukraine

Two Mennonite gravestones were pieced back together and restored for the memorial. (Photo by Max Shtatsky)

The Mennonite memorial will feature 15 of the 120-plus headstones that were recovered from the foundation of an old barn. (Photo by Max Shtatsky)

Local Ukrainians made the memorial possible through their hard work transporting and installing the Mennonite headstones. (Photo by Max Shtatsky)

The memorial is pictured being set up in preparation for its dedication on June 24. (Photo by Max Shtatsky)

Two years ago, a Ukrainian researcher began excavating the foundation of a dilapidated brick barn in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. Using shovels and picks, he began to unearth the rubble. Then he started to notice the German inscriptions on the broken stones. These turned out to be Mennonite gravestones.

After the pandemic, churches look to move forward

The Flourishing Congregations Institute’s Joel Thiessen, holding the microphone speaks at a May 2019 seminar at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., on the vital role families have in influencing faith. (2019 Canadian Mennonite file photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

Congregations will resume some sort of gathering after the major concerns about COVID-19 are minimized and regulations are relaxed. Talk of getting “back to normal” is common. What will the new normal look like?

Book study group explores healthy masculinity

Clockwise from bottom, Don Neufeld, the editor of Peaceful at Heart; David Blow, Mennonite Central Committee program associate, top left; and Rod Friesen, an MCC restorative justice program coordinator, plan their agenda for week four of the online book club they facilitate dealing with healthy masculinity. (Screenshot by Rod Friesen)

For years Don Neufeld dreamed about providing a space where men could explore healthy masculinity from an Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective. During the month of June he co-facilitated an online book study for a diverse group of men, using a resource he co-edited with Steve Thomas, called Peaceful at Heart: Anabaptist Reflections on Healthy Masculinity.

Men weave plastic milk bags into sleeping mats

Stanley Cook set up a frame on the dining room table in his condo so he could keep weaving mats out of plastic bags when pandemic restrictions limited access to the weaving room at Wilmot Mennonite Church in New Hamburg, Ont. (Photo by Verda Cook)

It takes 250 plastic milk bags to make a one-metre-x-two-metre washable, waterproof sleeping mat. And it takes hours of volunteer work to flatten, cut, loop and weave strips of the bags together.

A group of men from Wilmot Mennonite Church has been doing this work for years, sending the finished mats to Christian Aid Ministries in Moorefield, Ont., to be distributed mostly overseas.

Small size makes Mennonite school adaptable in COVID-19 reality

A community highlight of the year came with a Taskmaster event. The students were told to dress in school colours, and they entered the festive auditorium to discover that classes had been cancelled and the whole day was filled with unique challenges. (Photo courtesy of UMEI)

UMEI's future music teacher, Erin Armstrong is the founder and director of Music Moves Kids and Abridged Opera, conductor of the Windsor Community Choir, music director of Leamington United Church, and a regular performer/collaborator with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. (Photo courtesy of Erin Armstrong)

Last year was supposed to be full of celebrations for the 75th anniversary of UMEI Christian High School (formerly United Mennonite Educational Institute). Instead, the pandemic shut things down right after the first big event, a coffee house of music and drama by staff and alumni of the small Mennonite school.


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