Traditionally, Mennonite churches have recognized the special times of the church year: Christmas (along with the season of Advent and Epiphany) and Easter (with the season of Lent and the Day of Pentecost). Then there’s the time in between—what is labelled “ordinary time” in the church calendar. The season begins with the Sunday after Pentecost; in 2021 that was May 30. It ends when Advent begins, at the end of November.
The term, “ordinary” here has to do with “ordinals” for the counting the Sundays between the two great Christian celebrations. But in another sense, if could also refer to the daily-ness, the routine of living as Jesus-followers when there’s nothing special to celebrate.
During ordinary time, we may have settled into the patterns that keep things going at an even keel. Or, for some, this has been a time of distraction, with the end of one school year and beginning of another, along with gardening, vacations, and more. This year’s in-between time has also included the challenges of a world in pandemic mode. We have struggled with illness and its prevention, with uncertainties and arguments over facts.
Some of us find that the portions of scripture suggested by the Revised Common Lectionary help us pay attention to things of the Spirit, amidst the distractions and the boredom of everyday life. These passages connect us to millions of Christians around the world and they anchor us in the church’s historical patterns of worship. Reading and praying with the Bible, we remember that God is present in all time—both the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Right now, a few themes emerge amidst the ordinary:
Reconciliation. This year, the Canadian government designated Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a time to learn about the past injustices of the indigenous residential schools and to take action toward more respect and equity. Some in the Mennonite community are asking how to better tell the story of their European ancestors, as it relates to the original inhabitants of this land. See, for example, “A more inclusive story.”
In this season, our prayers can guide us to see the consequences of past actions and to imagine ways to practice reconciliation in our own communities.
Creation care. The world is in a climate crisis, something that concerns all who love God’s creation. September 1 through October 4, the World Council of Churches celebrates its annual Season of Creation, calling Christians to pray and work for a healthy planet. On the back cover of this issue, you’ll see examples of Mennonites calling attention to earth-despoiling practices.
This is a season for prayer, as representatives of many nations will gather for the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, to be held Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, in Glasgow, Scotland. We pray for fruitful dialogue and concrete actions as the world’s nations live out their resolutions to care for the Earth.
Witness. This year Mennonite Church Canada is inviting congregations to celebrate International Witness Sunday, on Oct. 24. This is a time to recognize the ways in which our church’s people and financial resources are helping to spread God’s healing and hope around the world. It’s also an invitation to take part in that ministry. You can find more information here: canadianmennonite.org/iwsunday.
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, we express gratitude for all of God’s faithful witnesses, whether on the other side of the world or in our own backyards. We offer thanks for God’s many good gifts and for the way in which we can share them with others.
In this ordinary time, when some of us experience life as ho-hum and others find ourselves—like Jesus’ friend Martha—distracted by many things, we are invited to discern God at work around us. We pray the words that Jesus taught: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And we heed Christ’s invitation to follow him—in the ordinariness of life.
I’m pleased to welcome Christen Kong to the Canadian Mennonite team, with the assignment to report from Toronto and surrounding areas. She attends Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church and is enrolled in a masters’ program in social work. Christen was selected as the official MC Canada delegate for the Mennonite World Conference Global Youth Summit to be held next year in Indonesia. See one of her articles here. We look forward to reading more.