Farewell to a ‘budding activist’

September 21, 2016 | Editorial | Volume 20 Issue 19

We will miss her and her passion for justice as a young mother trying to make sense of the complexities of our world in the 21st century. Katie Doke Sawatzky wrote her last New Order Voice column in our September 12 issue as she embarks on full-time studies in journalism.

She brought an important voice to our readers, telling us of her struggles as a “budding activist” in many a protest against this or that injustice, applying her faith courageously in very specific ways, but always finding her anchor in her faith community. She honoured her elders while at the same time pushing the edges in her witness.

She always considered her congregation to be her baseline. “The church is a non-commercial space; it welcomes an unrestrained Spirit in worship and it draws inspiration from a Galilean who undermined empire. It’s the perfect place for social-justice initiatives to be born,” she wrote recently.

Her honesty and candor endeared her to us in many ways. She was not afraid to make herself vulnerable, to be self-effacing in bringing home a point, to call her friends and neighbours to action over words, all the while humbly acknowledging that she, herself, hasn’t done all she can to bring about the change for which she was calling.

She was “us” in so many ways. Her reflections on life sometimes made us uncomfortable, other times annoyed, but most often inspired—the duty of a columnist. They are asked to question our assumptions, challenge convention and lead us to deeper understandings. They are asked to stretch us.

Katie did that well and we thank her for it. It will be hard to replace her. We are taking some time for that process.

A new food column

Meanwhile, we are taking up the suggestion of one of our readers, Marguerite Jack, of Calgary, who in a recent letter suggested a food column, a “place where we share the fruits of God’s good creation from coast to coast.” She was inspired by keynote speaker Safwat Marzouk at Assembly 2016 who told us how important food was to the “covenant.”

This will be more than sharing of recipes. Goodness knows, we have a plethora of resources for creating good Mennonite cuisine, starting with the historic and best-selling Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma (Showalter) Eby. Add to that the wildly successful Fix it and Forget It by Phyllis Pellman Good, not to mention Doris Longacre’s More-with-Less and the subsequent Extending the Table. Mennonite Girls Can Cook was not to be outdone by its counterpart Mennonite Men Can Cook, Too, by Willard Roth (2015 by Good Books).

Rather we need stories about food, forming a narrative of how food binds us together at a time when there is so much that can pull us apart. This is how Marzouk puts it: “Telling these stories not only preserves them, but also gives us a real opportunity to walk into each other’s lives in a deep and meaningful way.

“Sharing meals is a significant aspect of the covenant. Moses and the 70 elders ate before God in Exodus 24 following the establishment of the covenant; Isaac and Abimelech ate together as part of their peace treaty; Jesus ate and drank with his disciples when he established the new covenant (Luke 22).” Sharing meals gives opportunity for deep encounters with one another—a foundational way to achieve a new “interculturalism.”

Our goal, then, for this new column will be to make the food story central to the content—its history, its ecclesial context, the way in which the persons engaged found common cause and a deep sense of being “members of one another.” The cause for the event will be as important as the particulars on your plate.

To that end we will feature the story in print and place the recipe online. This gives the food event context while providing opportunity for sharing what we have found to be tasty as well as healthy. We want to make clear that this is more about sharing food “stories” than about sharing recipes. Good photos will also be a part of this presentation—not only of the food on a plate but of the gathering around which the food was shared.

It’s as Marzouk further asserts: “Food helps us navigate through our covenantal relations in the church.”

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