When my family moved to Canada, I was amazed to learn that the Canadian Broadcasting Company ran a reality show featuring—of all things!—books. Each year, the Canada Reads program selects five books it encourages Canadians to read, with each title being championed by a public personality.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Psa. 24:1) a congregation declares in its worship service.
Doris Gascho, pictured in March 2020, was a mentor, pastor and the first woman to serve as conference minister of the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Ontario. 'As we celebrate the leaders who have gone before us, let’s keep finding ways to invite and encourage the gifts of all,' Virginia A. Hostetler writers. (Photo by Janet Bauman)
On March 8, 2021, International Women’s Day, I attended the celebration of life for Doris Gascho, who had died a week before, after many years of serving the church. Doris was a pastor in the mid-80s and early 90s and was the first woman to serve as conference minister of the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Ontario, from 1994 to 1999.
The March 15, 2020, entry in our household calendar reads: “We started COVID-19 social distancing today.”
It’s been one year since the worldwide community began confronting the reality of the latest coronavirus. In the past twelve months, this pandemic has brought confusion, fear, anger, illness, death and more. No need for details—you know what I’m talking about.
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?
Canadians are struggling with the heaviness of this winter. The prospect of several more months with physical gathering restrictions is as depressing as the grey skies of southern Ontario in February. As a society, we have started to squabble, point fingers and shift blame.
Whether you call it Sunday school, faith formation or Christian education, one aspect of a congregation’s life together is how we nurture faith in people of all ages. Last spring, with the coming of the COVID-19 restrictions, many churches saw drastic changes in their faith education programs.
Professionals in the field of journalism have sometimes called their news content the “first draft of history.” News reporting pulls together facts—who, what, where, when, why, how—capturing an event, a moment in time. Sometimes the reporting is accompanied by analysis, sometimes by opinion. But the news gathering, and its dissemination, generally happens in a relatively short time period.
The carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” paints a Christmas card picture of the ancient town of the Nativity: sparkling stars lighting quiet streets, a Holy Baby resting in a manger as the townspeople sleep, unaware. That idyllic view was replaced by a fuller perspective when my family moved to Israel in 1996.
As Christmas approaches, many of us are thinking about gifts. The beautifully wrapped packages under the Christmas tree, of course. Also other types of gifts—the kind that we can receive and give at any time of the year. The gifts that require more than a click on a website or a trip to the mall.
Throughout this year, readers may have noticed a regular item appearing in the print version of this magazine: historical photos and vignettes highlighting aspects of 100 years of ministry by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). If you are a saver of old magazines, you might want to pull them out and glance through the Et Cetera section of each issue.
A flurry of online comments on a recent sexual misconduct story, an email from a reader despairing of having meaningful dialogue through letters to the magazine, and my congregation’s first online business meeting—these got me pondering how we, in the church community, struggle to have good conversations.
“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate asked Jesus two thousand years ago. Today, as we read the newspaper, watch YouTube and TV news, listen to the radio, and scroll through social media, we confront that same question. In this time of pandemic, social upheaval and political strife, the distinction between truth and falsehood seems especially nebulous.
Recently the worldwide number of souls lost to the COVID-19 virus surpassed 1 million. Visualizing that large number of lives cut short touches one’s own soul. We, the living, mourn and seek to understand.
Halloween is a few weeks away, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to watch some horror movies to get into the spirit.
Jon Lebold seals a Mennonite Central Committee relief kit with the help of his son, Jed Lebold. 'Mennonite agencies like MCC and others have found ways to serve people in critical need for a century,' Tobi Thiessen writes. 'They do it with little glitz but a lot of substance.' (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/MCCpeace)
While public conversation swirled in July over the details of WE Charity’s speaker fees and all-expenses-paid trips for donors, my church was having a sermon series on Mennonite Central Committee’s 100 years of service in the name Christ.
The last time my church sang together was March 8, the second Sunday in Lent. Since then, my singing has consisted of one backyard, physically distant, “Happy Birthday” and my lone voice following the congregation’s pre-recorded music on the screen.
Setsuko Nakamura was 13 years old in 1945, the day American forces dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where she lived.
It is now month five for Canadian communities struggling with the COVID-19 crisis. In this time, we’ve heard many pronouncements by health authorities on what members of the public should and should not do to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus. As it spreads, health experts continue to research and learn, experiment and make recommendations.
When the conversation is lagging in social situations, one of my favourite questions to ask is, “What are you reading?” This inquiry often leads to an interesting interchange of ideas and suggestions.
Today, I’ll turn the table and tell you about some things that I’ve been reading. And watching. And listening to. Here are a few things on my content buffet:
Since the middle of March, when church buildings closed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, I’ve been visiting many churches. Not in person, of course, but on the internet. Each week I click on the link to a worship service that a Mennonite congregation, or group of congregations, has prepared to share with members of our denomination.
At the end of May and into June, as news outlets reported on demonstrations in cities across North America, we witnessed something more powerful than tear gas hanging in the air.
Mother’s Day is past, and Pentecost and Father’s Day are still ahead. In this in-between time, I’ve been considering the ways in which we describe God. Humans long to know, to understand and to name God. But how can mortal imaginations grasp the Eternal One?
As this issue goes to press, much of Canada is still practising measures to hold COVID-19 at bay. Fatigue has set in; we’re tired of thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it. Yet some things still must be said:
God did not cause this pandemic
More than a month into physical distancing in Canada, and the church seems to be flourishing. Does it seem that way to you?