Digital connections

(Screenshot from Christmas at CMU 2021 video)

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.

December patchwork

A Nativity scene from Bethlehem. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

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

The feast of grace

Babette, portrayed by Stéphane Audran, prepares the titular meal in the 1987 film, ‘Babette’s Feast.’

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?

A new call for MC Canada

Steve Heinrichs, Will Braun, Jennifer deGroot, Mona Neufeld and Doug Klassen stand outside Mennonite Church Canada during a meeting related to the 7 Calls to Action for Mennonite Church Canada grassroots effort. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/7callstoclimateaction)

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.

On the road toward wisdom

(Photo by Patrick Fore/Unsplash)

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.

Ordinary time

(Photo by Aron Visuals/Unsplash)

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.

Values that set us apart

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?

Peace on the screen

“What if we took the Sermon on the Mount seriously in our digital environments?” asks author Douglas S. Bursch. (Photo courtesy of Lyncconf Games, lyncconf.com)

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.”

Onscreen adventures

Still from the documentary Honeyland, directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov. (Photo courtesy of NEON)

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.

Behind the scenes

(pixabay.com photo by Willi Hiedelbeck)

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. . . .


“Recently, I’ve been on the lookout for things that make me smile, not to run away from the heavy realities but to help keep things in perspective.” (flickr.com photo by david_mt)

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.

Precious lives

(Photo by Oleg Laptev/Unsplash)

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.

Growers and eaters

(Photo by Thomas Gamstaetter/Unsplash)

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.

Hellos and goodbyes

(Photo by Chris Montgomery/Unsplash)

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.”

Caring for our family

A patient receives the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Steven Cornfield/Unsplash)

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.

The gifts of all

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.

Celebrating the good

(Photo by Filip Bunkens/Unsplash)

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.

Hope in a bleak midwinter

'Where do we find hope in this bleak midwinter?' (Image by Jörg Vieli/Pixabay)

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.

Learning together, apart

(Photo by Dylan Ferreira/Unsplash)

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. 


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