A very big community of not-very-close friends
Re: “Weak ties matter,” Sept. 27, page 11.
It’s been a long time since I have been impacted by a column like Arli Klassen’s. I don’t think I have ever heard someone draw out the value of the church being a very big community of not-very-close friends.
To note that some people find this community in sports, book clubs, pubs, coffeeshops and lunchrooms—and we Jesus-followers find it in church—and to say that our local congregation is full of “weak ties,” relationships with people who provide the faith grounding we need, while belonging to a nearby world outside of ourselves, is brilliant!
I have all of these relationships: from my condo community and my drop-in hockey friends, to my congregation. I just think that to affirm the goodness of these relationships for the well-being of our world is one of the most refreshing things I have heard in a long time.
— Garry Janzen (online comment)
‘Real-life needs’ should be a regional church priority
“God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.”
This is a great vision held by us as members of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.
While it does not explicitly express some of the suggestions offered at MC Eastern Canada’s Courageous Imagination gathering on Oct. 27, I find that most of those suggestions are implied in this statement.
I caution against making major changes to a statement that is finding a home in other parts of the globe, and with which we need to identify more fully.
We spent an hour-and-a-half at the gathering word-crafting various options, but barely any time talking about how to implement our existing mission statement, along with those added ideals.
I wish that addressing real-life needs would have been a priority in these meetings. We always require each other’s help in living like Jesus.
One current need relates to how the COVID-19 pandemic is straining relationships within our congregations, as sincere Christians are holding conflicting views. I am concerned about the unkind remarks being made about those with whom we disagree.
Is the wording of our pandemic protocol harshly exclusionary? What is the appropriateness of church leaders acting as spokespersons for government policies that have been changing, and are sometimes inconsistent with other existing policies? The information offered is often incomplete.
We must heed the mistakes of church leaders who were/are being flattered or misled under authoritarian and democratic governments.
Jesus prayed that our mutual love would be recognized by observers as coming from God.
— Ivan Unger, Cambridge, Ont.
The writer attends Wanner Mennonite Church, Cambridge.
‘Never too late to love your neighbour’
Re: “No religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine: MC Canada” letter, Oct. 25, page 7.
Heartfelt thanks to the executive ministers of Mennonite Church Canada and its five regional churches for their clear stance in support of COVID-19 vaccines.
Many Mennonites in my circles have been vaccinated. They have not followed or promoted misinformation. They have not tried to pressure their doctors to give them medical or religious exemptions. As encouraged by our MC Canada executive ministers, they have followed the commandment to love their neighbour.
My guess is that by now there are some protesters who are having second thoughts about getting vaccinated. It would be hard not to if you are reading or watching the news.
To them I say: “Don’t let your pride get in the way of changing your mind. It is never too late to love your neighbour.”
— Deberah Dueckman Shears, Vancouver
The writer attends Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship in Vancouver.
Jesus: ‘What the Jews were waiting and longing for’
Re: “Advent and idolatry” feature, Nov. 8, page 4.
Perhaps author Chris K. Huebner could consider the perspectives of the first Christmas by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan before making some speculations on the meaning of Advent. In The First Christmas, these two top Jesus scholars join forces to show how history has biased our reading of the nativity story as it appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. They say it is important to pay attention to the matrix of the first-century-AD empire thinking and the clash it produced with Torah-observant Jews in Palestine at that time.
At the time of Jesus, there was a human being, Caesar the Augustus (the one to be worshipped), on the scene. The imperial theology was inscribed in their architecture and coins. The Roman Empire’s theology of “good tidings” of peace was proclaimed throughout the empire in support of Caesar. The imperial vision was “peace through conquest and domination.”
The vision of Jesus, however, is religion with nonviolence because God is nonviolent. David wrote, in Psalm 20, not to trust in horse and chariot. The Jews of the Old Testament certainly didn’t always get it right, but there are passages that clearly state challenging versions of the peaceable kingdom through distributive justice, restorative justice and self-emptying love that results in peace, not peace through conquest or domination.
A new vision is actually presented by Isaiah (chapters 40-50) and Zechariah (chapters 9-14). Bible scholars show that within the old epic, a new dimension of thought with very different values was emerging and this had universal appeal. The sacred story of the Jews now saw love as the primary nature of God, saw social justice as the goal of God.
The birth stories of Jesus declare the “good tidings of peace” of the nonviolent, revolutionary Jesus. That is what the Jews were waiting and longing for.
— Peter H. Peters, Winnipeg
‘We might learn something’
Re: “Two calls to vaccination” letters, Nov. 8, page 7.
I respectfully disagree with the ideas expressed in the first letter.
I want to be perfectly clear here, I am not an anti-vaxxer. My wife and I have been fully vaccinated and have tried to adhere to the guidelines and safety protocols put out by our government in Alberta. I must admit, we have “broken” a few of the rules along the way but were extremely careful when doing so. We have not had COVID-19, nor have any of our close contacts or cohorts.
I believe the comparison of the unvaccinated to carrying a lethal weapon is unfair. I have had a number of conversations with unvaccinated people and have actually learned a great deal from what they have to say.
The people I spoke with are intelligent, conscientious and often more informed than those who are vaccinated. The statement that “by being unvacci-nated, we are in danger of infecting others and potentially causing them to die,” is true; however, even vaccinated people can get COVID-19, and although the result of getting it is often less severe, there is no evidence to suggest that vaccinated people cannot carry and transmit the disease.
The Government of Alberta website states: “Evidence is clear: Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community by making it more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person.”
Nowhere does it explicitly state that vaccinated people do not transmit the virus to others. They are mainly protecting themselves and our health-care system by being vaccinated.
I believe that a better Mennonite/Christian response to the unvaccinated would be: “Let’s talk about this, agree to disagree, and try to understand and respect the other person’s point of view and reasons for not being vaccinated.”
We might learn something.
— Henry Bergen, Calgary
Retiring correspondent thanked by regional church
Re: “Seeing God in the lives of others,” Nov. 8, page 17.
On behalf of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, thank you to Donna Schulz for her eight years of service as “our” correspondent for Canadian Mennonite. We’ve appreciated the ways she shared the Saskatchewan Mennonite story to the broader CM audience and how she pointed to the work of God in our midst. We have appreciated her presence at our events and are grateful that she accepted this call in her life. May Christ’s peace be with Donna, and her family, in her next endeavour.
— Ryan Siemens, Saskatoon
The writer is executive minister of MC Saskatchewan.