Over the past two years, thousands of Manitobans have gathered in the streets of Winnipeg to cheer on the Winnipeg Jets in the hockey playoffs. Many were hoping to don their all-white outfits and join these “whiteout parties” again this spring, but the novel coronavirus prevented that.
Instead, a new kind of “whiteout party” has spread across the province. On April 3, two Winnipeg pastors—Karen Schellenberg, interim pastor of Charleswood Mennonite; and Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite—started the #whiteoutMB movement.
It encourages people to show support for essential-service workers by decorating their homes and yards with white, putting white hearts and messages of encouragement in their windows, and posting pictures of their displays on social media with the hashtag.
The idea for #whiteoutMB came after Schellenberg dreamed about it. At the same time, she says, “I started to realize that this uncomfortable feeling I was feeling in relation to the pandemic certainly is grief.”
The movement is an effort to combat her feelings of grief and helplessness, and do something tangible to support frontline workers from her home. Falco responded enthusiastically to her call for help. Their actions received considerable media attention from CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press, among others.
“I’ve heard feedback from health-care people, saying things like, ‘I got in my car after work, and it had been a really tough day, and I looked up and I saw hearts in the window,’ and that brought them to tears,” Schellenberg says.
Paper hearts have spread throughout southern Manitoba too. Tracy Enns decorated the windows of her workplace, BSI Insurance Brokers Ltd. in Carman, after she saw Schellenberg’s social-media posts.
“I thought it was a great idea,” says Enns, who attends Carman Mennonite Church. “I feel like, when we’re in times of turmoil or crisis, one of the most important things that we can do is come together and support each other. I thought this was probably one of the most obvious and easiest ways to do that.” She chose her office because it’s directly on the main highway that goes through town.
“I don’t know what I expected people would think,” Schellenberg says. “For me, I think it was just the ability to do something, and then invite others to do the same, and see what happens. And isn’t that what the goodness of God is all about anyways—just throw it out there and see where it goes.”
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The home windows of Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, who started the #whiteoutMB movement with Karen Schellenberg. (Photo by Moses Falco)
Tracy Enns, Carman Mennonite Church, joined in by decorating the windows of her workplace with hearts. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schellenberg)