Living in pandemic times, we have realized how important it is to stay connected with each other, as friends, in our own neighbourhoods and as church communities. We need contact with real people, and we’ve found ways for in-person connecting to happen safely.
As the year 2021 winds down, this slightly distracted editor is trying to wrangle disparate ideas into a cohesive whole. What I offer here instead is a sort of patchwork quilt of thoughts, resembling the traditional coverlets created from fabric of varied colours, sizes and textures.
Claiming the story
Recently, I found myself hungering for grace. With the world still entrenched in this pandemic, we witness the complexities around public safety, the angry words, the strained relationships, the exhaustion, and the challenges to everyone’s mental well-being. Is there any good news?
The Earth is in trouble. As I write, international leaders, scientists and activists are meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, a forum discussing actions the worldwide community must take to address the ongoing effects of climate change, effects that threaten every creature on our planet.
Mennonites are in the news. Since late September, various articles in the secular press have brought attention to Mennonites living in Canada.
I’ve been pondering the learning experiences of Jesus’ disciples as told in the Gospels. Jesus’ vision of God’s reign was so different from the reality they were used to, and they were curious. There was something about this Teacher that invited them to walk alongside him, to learn more.
Traditionally, Mennonite churches have recognized the special times of the church year: Christmas (along with the season of Advent and Epiphany) and Easter (with the season of Lent and the Day of Pentecost). Then there’s the time in between—what is labelled “ordinary time” in the church calendar. The season begins with the Sunday after Pentecost; in 2021 that was May 30.
Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi—pictured in 2016, when she was living in Chiang Mai, Thailand and serving as MCC area director for Southeast Asia—holds her original copy of 'More-with-Less.' She has been using the cookbook wherever she has lived in the world ever since it was released in 1976. (MCC photo by Dan Jantzi)
A reader of this magazine thinks we have got our name backwards. He thinks the name should be Mennonite Canadian. “You are Canadian,” he says emphatically. “You think you are different from other Canadians because you call yourselves Mennonite, but you are not.” The man raises an interesting question. In what ways are we Mennonites different from other Canadians?
A rant is taking shape in your brain, anger is seething in your gut, your finger is poised over the “post” button. What could possibly go wrong? One option is to step away from your device, take a deep breath, and think “reconciliation.”
The COVID-19 coronavirus will be with us for a while; that’s what the health experts are saying. What does this mean for our churches and communities?
This past year, I followed a honey gatherer up Macedonian hills, watched a recording session with a legendary jazz singer, witnessed the political turmoil within Denmark’s parliament, and traveled throughout Canada to the strains of Handel’s music. All these adventures happened while I lounged on the living room sofa.
Over the years, I’ve learned that every grand enterprise depends on a certain amount of work behind the scenes, those unglamorous tasks that sustain the public vision but don’t get noticed very often. Paying the bills, maintaining the calendar, wiping the kitchen cupboards, watering the plants, taking out the garbage, changing the toilet paper rolls. . . .
Are you finding it hard to smile these days? So much heaviness weighs down on the world. In the face of all that is wrong around us, we strive to be responsible citizens, kind people and faithful followers of Jesus. But sometimes it’s hard to find much good news.
The unmarked graves of several hundred Indigenous children. A deliberate act of violence against a Muslim family out for a stroll. In recent weeks, new reports have again shown how entire groups of people suffered because of their ethnicity or beliefs.
What do city dwellers and farmers have in common? They are all eaters! And, in the Mennonite community, another important characteristic is their shared faith. Yet, despite those commonalities, country and city folk sometimes bring different points of view to the question of how our food is grown.
At the end of a video conferencing call, have you found yourself waving energetically at the screen? It might seem strange to make a goodbye gesture toward a computer, but something tells us that it’s not right to simply make those faces disappear by clicking a button labeled “Leave meeting.”
To the Anabaptist Mennonites and Brethren in Christ around the globe:
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant disruption, pain and loss.
We mourn with those who have lost loved ones and grieve the loss of livelihood for others.
We long to gather freely again, to share a meal, and worship without constraints, because this is who we are: a beloved community.
How can helpful, respectful conversation happen in the church? Who can speak? What are they allowed to say? How can words cause harm? These questions emerge from time to time in response to content in this magazine.
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.