Hope in a bleak midwinter


January 27, 2021 | Editorial | Volume 25 Issue 3
Tobi Thiessen | Publisher
'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.

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in December buoyed our spirits as much as Christmas lights did. We knew it would be months before we all got a turn to be inoculated but it is hard to be patient. Now there is nothing festive to warm our hearts and there seems to be more bad news than good. Where do we find hope in this bleak midwinter?

Hope and optimism are not the same thing, but of course we look on the bright side of a situation to help get through dark days. The pandemic forced us to try new ways of being a church and community. To enable online worship, we embraced new technologies and learned new skills. Our communities, sorely challenged to minister to the most isolated among us, have tried new ways of reaching out. We have tested both the potential and the limitations of online worship and virtual community. We will bring the benefit of this experience into church when in-person gatherings resume. 

The arrival of the new hymnal Voices Together brightens this winter as well. The music collection is something exciting and new to explore that is rooted in our centuries-old tradition of singing together. It gives us hope that we will meet together again one day. When we do, we will rejoice and sing praises to God for the chance to do what we once took for granted.

We generate some hope for ourselves by thinking about what church will be like when we gather in person again. This is hope as an act of imagination that makes a tough present situation more bearable. It is the same type of hope that we take by lighting candles at Advent and remembering God’s promise that the Messiah will deliver us from oppression. It is a quiet, meditative kind of hope we seize when the challenges of the day are too great for any one person to resolve.

To hope is to envision an outcome in which life is better in some way. In some instances, the hope allows us to withstand the present situation despite our inability to change it. In other cases, we create hope when we act within our own sphere of influence to make life better for someone else. 

We are, after all, the hands and feet of God on this journey towards liberation from oppression. Resolving the pandemic is something beyond our capacity, but we can still take action to improve life at a very local level. 

In this issue, Donna Schulz writes about one such effort initiated by the Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon. Joanne De Jong writes about the pastor of Edmonton’s Oromo Mennonite church teaching anger-management skills to Ethiopian youth. There are other examples in every issue of this magazine. 

It is a bleak midwinter but the days are getting longer. Some of our most at-risk citizens have already been vaccinated. We can find physically distant ways to help bring God’s hope to others in this hurting world. Amazingly, these acts of goodwill towards others will kindle and strengthen hope within ourselves. 

Print and digital issues will continue

In 2021, Canadian Mennonite will again publish 22 regular issues plus four digital-only ones. As a subscriber, you can have a print issue mailed and a digital copy emailed to up to two email addresses in the same household. To add digital delivery to your subscription, email Lisa Jacky at office@canadianmennonite.org.

Select articles from a digital-only issue are printed in the next print issue to ensure that print-only readers get a sampling.

Read more editorials:
Learning together, apart
First draft
Under the sparkling stars
Gifts received, gifts given
One hundred years

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

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