Many people, one church

Congregations meet for joint peace service

November 6, 2019 | News | Volume 23 Issue 21
Henry Neufeld | Special to Canadian Mennonite
Scripture is read in five languages at Peace Church on 52nd on Nov. 10. (Photo by Sue Kim)

On Peace Sunday, Nov. 10, five metro Vancouver Mennonite Church British Columbia congregations gathered for a service of unity with a focus on peace. They met at Peace Church on 52nd, formerly known as First United Mennonite.

In welcoming worshippers, Pastor Lydia Cruttwell of Peace Church on 52nd said: “This means that this service will have some parts that are familiar and some that are new . . . and that is a good thing. It is good for us to . . . discover how we are similar and how we are different, and to be reminded that we are all united in one body by Christ, the Prince of Peace.”

A new feature for some was the interactive discussion time following the sermon. Led by Rosie Perera, it’s a regular part of services at Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship, allowing worshippers to respond to the sermon and to comment on aspects of the message that impacted them.

The service, led by Chan Yang from Point Grey, featured Cruttwell as the morning’s speaker and a choir from several congregations. With a rich representation of multilingual groups, Scriptures were read in English, Spanish, German, Korean and Cantonese.

“Hearing the Scripture read again and again allows me to take a moment to meditate on it, or perhaps it is the languages themselves, the reminder that the kingdom of God embraces every tribe, tongue, nation and people,” said Cruttwell.

Using Micah 6:8—“What does the Lord require but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”—as her text, Cruttwell asked, “Is there peace?” She noted that the cessation of violence is only a first step. “We cannot experience wholeness if we are suspicious or fearful of our neighbours,” she said. “Micah offers oracles of judgement and also of hope.”

In Micah’s day, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. “This got Micah mad,” she said. “Shalom includes the presence of justice and wholeness.” The situation is unchanged today, she said, explaining that Canadians benefit from the temporary labour of migrants who can’t stay in Canada, that Canadians are killing God’s creation and thousands die of opioid overdoses, elderly Canadians are being scammed, and people have to work multiple jobs to pay rent and provide food.

“We are called to do justice, to defend the oppressed, to lift up the powerless, to make choices that help those in need,” Cruttwell said, adding, “We are called to be people whose lives are marked by mercy and compassion towards friend and family, and strangers and enemies.”

Believers need to follow the high calling of steadfast love, she said. “We are called to work for peace now. It will be a struggle, but with Christ we can do it.” Her prayer was that Christians not settle for an absence of violence.

In responding, appreciation was expressed for the sermon, and it was pointed out that war veterans often hate war the most.

Reaction to the service was positive. “It’s important to recognize the different perspectives in Vancouver churches,” said a congregant. Another said, “I loved this. It brought back memories of when this church was this full every Sunday.” 

The idea for the joint service came from Point Grey’s Janice Kreider at a regular church leaders meeting. The intent was to celebrate and worship together, to strengthen relationships between congregations and to promote the Anabaptist commitment to peace. An inter-church committee from Chinatown Peace Church, Sherbrooke Mennonite Church, Peace Mennonite Church, Point Grey and Peace Church on 52nd planned the event.

Working together is not new for these congregations, though, as they jointly operate a refugee food bank based at Sherbrooke Mennonite. Some of the offering went to support Mennonite Church Canada workers in the Philippines. 

Scripture is read in five languages at Peace Church on 52nd on Nov. 10. (Photo by Sue Kim)

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