Being still together

March 11, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 6
Elsie Wiebe with Kathy Giesbrecht | Mennonite Women Manitoba
<p>The Mennonite Women Manitoba working group is composed of Evelyn Friesen, left, Kathy Giesbrecht, Elsie Wiebe, Ruth Epp and Jolanda Friesen. Missing was Mary Anne Arndt.</p>

There is so much to be done. Extra demands at home and at work. More time with the family. Keeping up with an exercise program. Planning the next holiday. Time out with friends. Involvement in our children’s school and extra-curricular activities, and many more. The demands of life draw us into a myriad of activities demanding our time and energy.

As women, we often tend to take on more than we are able to give and gradually our energies ebb away, so we become anxious, unable to set clear boundaries.  We need to recognize that all our “busyness” is not always fruitful. The busyness keeps us going when maybe we should be still, in order to evaluate and to hear. To be still and listen to what God is directing us to is difficult for us because it may cause our life to be turned around.

The awareness of the “busyness” prompted Mennonite Women Manitoba to address the realities women live with and how we might walk with one another and with other women in the wider church. With that in mind, last fall we hosted two regional conversation circles, in rural and urban settings, to which we invited women who are leaders in their churches and communities. Lynda Loewen, marriage and family therapist at Recovery of Hope, provided input on the theme of “Rythmn of our lives” and led the discussions.  

Afterwards, in an interview with Kathy Giesbrecht, associate director of leadership ministries for Mennonite Church Manitoba, Loewen commented that she was “struck by how informed and interested participants were in the concept of the rhythm of our lives, and how much thinking and working they had already done to create more balanced and sane lives. Everyone recognized that busyness could easily overtake them.”

She also noted “that there are broader forces at play, which work against sane lifestyles, against calm and time for conversation. There are now so many more options available to us. One force at work among us is the professionalization of everything; we over-program our children so that they can learn skills from outside professionals. Gone are the days when we considered a well-rounded child one who could skate, swim and read.”

Loewen concluded with a challenge, emphasizing that the “church is uniquely positioned to respond to this pressing need.  We have an ancient history of being counter-cultural. We have beliefs and practices which call us to live differently. Women in the church can stand in solidarity and affirm choices that make for a gentle and sane way of life.”

Koinonia Ladies Group still going strong after 47 years

By Jolanda Friesen

Ask any of the 22 members of Koinonia Ladies Group in Altona whether they are too busy to attend Koinonia every first and third Monday of the month and they would answer, “Definitely not.”

This is where we continue to be inspired by the applicable lessons in the study guides produced annually by Mennonite Women U.S.A. and MW Canada. This is where we walk with each other in every stage of life. This is where we continue to be challenged, each year bringing its own set of experiences both good and bad. This is where we deepen caring in our lives.

Koinonia continues to be an arm of the church. We incorporate shut-in visitations, a work-night at the local Mennonite Central Committee store, and a singing/visiting night including dessert at our seniors home.

Last September, the social committee planned a kick-off retreat. No need to pack a suitcase, participants came to Altona Bergthaler Mennonite Church and stayed for seven hours. With a glass of homemade apple juice in hand, members mingled and perused the 12 worship centres that introduced the 12 lessons in Practicing Presence by Terri J. Plank Brenneman.

Kathy Giesbrecht presented an overview of the study guide, and Marilyn Houser Hamm of Altona introduced us to many of the songs suggested with the lessons. We enjoyed lively singing, a lovely catered dinner and a wonderful warm apple platz for dessert. We left feeling inspired and excited, ready for new challenges and ready to practise presence.

Jolanda Friesen is a founding member of the Koinonia Women’s Group. She lives in Altona, and attends Seeds of Life Community Church there.

The Mennonite Women Manitoba working group is composed of Evelyn Friesen, left, Kathy Giesbrecht, Elsie Wiebe, Ruth Epp and Jolanda Friesen. Missing was Mary Anne Arndt.

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