Ed Janzen, retiring chaplain of Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., liked to provide students with the chance to engage their faith with real-life experiences.
During his 23 years as chaplain, he led many summer canoe trips and service opportunities with Mennonite Disaster Service.
On July 2, he led a bike tour for a dozen students through the Yatton, Glen Allen and Wallenstein areas of southwestern Ontario, some of the land that was once called “The Queen’s Bush,” to explore some of the remaining evidence of Black settler history and the story of how Mennonites eventually took over those farms.
The group followed a map and guide provided by Tim Epp, an associate professor of sociology at Redeemer University, Ancaster, Ont., who has done research on how Mennonite settlers acquired land previously settled by Black pioneers.
Janzen shared background research and archival photographs with the students, and arranged to meet with a local Mennonite school teacher, Amsey Martin, at the Yatton schoolhouse. He invited students to write short reflections about the importance of place and spirituality in knowing their life histories.
Janzen sees these kinds of learning opportunities as ways to “collaborate toward justice” and learn to “live as polite guests in a land that was not ours.” He wants to explore this story further with Black researchers who are reclaiming and restoring the history of their communities.
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in Eastern Canada? Send it to Janet Bauman at email@example.com.
Ed Janzen, left, Grebel’s retiring chaplain, recently led a group of students on a learning tour in Wellington County, Ont., exploring sites from early Black settlements in the area, including this cemetery. The cycling tour was part of his commitment to making learning real. (Photo by Adrien Neufeld)