On a soft spring day, I looked out my window to see the neighbour’s mature crab tree in full bloom. Its tall, fully rounded shape was blanketed in a carpet of pink-lilac blossoms. Unbidden, a thought emerged, “I want to be like that when I’m old.” Years later, I can still recall the beautiful, magnificent tree and the visual it offered of aging well.
“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. . . . The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip” (Genesis 32:24-25, 31).
In the spring of 1948, First Mennonite Church in Greendale, B.C., was inundated with water. Dikes had been built along the rivers some 50 years earlier, but they had suffered from neglect. During the winter of 1947 and early 1948, a lot of snow built up, and the late spring and fast melt triggered a sudden rise in run-off.
In 1980, Grantham Mennonite Brethren Church in St. Catharines, Ont., sponsored me to come to Canada. I had been living in a refugee camp in Nongkhai, Thailand, for a year after fleeing Laos due to communism and civil war. When I arrived in Canada, the Mennonite Church warmly welcomed me, although I did not speak English very well.
A camera captures the moment on July 19, 1924, when Mennonite immigrants from Russia met their “Swiss” Mennonite cousins in Ontario. The so-called Swiss Mennonites were the first Mennonites to immigrate to Canada, beginning in the late 1700s. They were followed by the Amish, who arrived directly from Europe, beginning in the 1820s.
The word “saviour” doesn’t often come up in conversation. Could it be that we are not in need of saving? Perhaps we face no imminent danger. Or perhaps there is nothing in recent history that reminds us of rescue, liberation, redemption or salvation. Maybe we can save ourselves through our own devices.
“I wonder where my wrapping paper is,” my mother mused. “I know I’m not supposed to go to the attic, but I did. Maybe it’s up there.” (The attic is a garage loft, accessible by a pull-down ladder.) I was the only witness to my mother’s “confession” as we sat together in her home; at the time, I had been savouring a sweet little dish of ice cream.
There once was a congregation called Peach Blossom Community Church. It was approaching the end of the year with a significant financial shortfall, needing $60,000 to meet its annual budget. The finance committee jumped into action. Bulletin inserts used graphs and charts to illustrate the shortfall. Weekly announcements encouraged people to give generously to avoid a deficit.
This is a photo of Mennonite writer Katie Funk Wiebe and her family driving to church circa 1940. Katie’s father, Jacob J. Funk, took the picture in front of Eigenheim Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan. Pictured from left to right: Jakie, Katie, mother Anna with her Sunday hat, Frieda, Annie and Susie. The Eigenheim church began services in 1892 and formally organized in 1894.
When I was a kid, I took great pride in taking the dimes that I earned from my paper route and placing them in the dime cards that we received from our denominational mission agency to support overseas mission. Mom took notice of my interest and told me more than once that she was praying that I would be a missionary.
Just before midnight on Dec. 29, with our little ones nestled snug in their beds, the earth shook. While earthquakes happen all the time—there were more than 40 in Canada in the past 30 days—this was the first we really felt while living in British Columbia. Our house popped as if one mighty gust had blown against the back of our house. It was confusing and unsettling.
I’ve written before about not driving to church and what this might mean for how we worship: planning a longer bike ride or walk each Sunday morning, trying out the church in our neighbourhood (even if it’s not Mennonite!). These are good ideas. But it’s time to go farther, which is why, this month, my family and I are getting ready to go car-free(er).
Climate is back on the global agenda, but still not squarely on the Mennonite agenda. Following a period of major global attention that peaked around 2007—with heads of state, celebrities and filmmakers backing the cause—the climate struggle bottomed out at the 2009 Copenhagen conference, which was clouded with pessimism and excuses. Now, the pendulum of public concern has swung back.
Do you enjoy the TV show Star Trek? If so, thank Allan Kroeker, who directed 39 episodes between 1996 and 2005. Kroeker continues to direct and this year is working on two projects. Kroeker began producing for Mennonite Brethren Communications in 1976, Mennonite Central Committee, and MBMSI. Kroeker grew up in Winnipeg, Man., and credits his grandfather A.A.
About a week after New Year’s Day 2014, my friend Keith asked me what resolutions I’d made. Keith is an insightful, non-conformist “Red Letter Christian” in his mid twenties. I looked at him suspiciously, assuming he’d look down on this mainstream practice. Most non-conformists I know roll their eyes at the passé ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions. He couldn’t be serious.