During this past year, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan has focused on the theme of “Deepening our walk with Christ,” in the hope of increasing our openness to encounters with God’s presence in our lives. This theme grew out of an awareness that, if we desire to live well in this day of great turmoil and uncertainty, we need to come back to the One who calms the storm and brings us peace.
Aug. 15 marked the end of my three-month sabbatical and my return to the office at Mennonite Church Manitoba. Time took on a special meaning during this leave as I took the opportunity to live into the prairie experience afforded to me by our little farm: raising chickens, gardening, repairing dilapidated buildings and building new ones, caring for grandchildren and golfing.
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, students, staff and faculty at Conrad Grebel University College took a deep breath and sang together, first in unison, and then in several different parts to build a new melody. The piece called “We All Sing” was written by Karen Sunabacka, a Grebel prof, and commissioned for the College’s 2018-19 integration initiative.
A peculiar thing happened to me last Sunday while I was on holidays. I felt a strong desire to attend a church service. Curious, to say the least. You see, by the time summer arrives, I’m usually churched out. As a pastor, church is not only my work life but a significant part of my personal and social life, too.
Cooking for one or two people can be a challenge, but Betty Ann Martin found that taking Food Fit courses at the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford, Ont., expanded her food repertoire. She learned that roasted vegetables are delicious and that sweet potatoes are very versatile—and they don’t need added sugar.
Breakfast should be interesting, not boring! Betty Ann Martin expanded her food repertoire and gained new ideas for breakfast menus through her involvement with the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford, Ont. See more of her story here.
Terri Lynn and Thomas Friesen are the founders of the Vine and Table intentional community. (Photo courtesy of Terri Lynn Friesen)
Located in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighbourhood, the Vine and Table can accommodate 10 residents. (Photo courtesy of Terri Lynn Friesen)
Eating delicious, healthy food is central to life at the Vine and Table. (Photo courtesy of Terri Lynn Friesen)
When Thomas and Terri Lynn Friesen met, Terri Lynn was a guest at the Burrow, an intentional community Thomas was living in with eight other young adults.
This coming September, a few weeks before the couple’s second wedding anniversary, they will embark on a new adventure together: opening their Saskatoon home to form an intentional community called the Vine and Table.
For many years the church provided me with a place where I felt like I belonged.
Last fall when Erin Froese and her household received the gift of many large squash they had trouble using it all up. They made a couple large pots of Butternut bisque and invited their neighbours to join them for a winter soup night.
Members of Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon go for a hike together along the South Saskatchewan River during one of the congregation’s Unplugged weekends. (Photo courtesy of Wildwood Mennonite Church)
Members of Wildwood Mennonite Church prepare to make pizzas for supper during one of their congregation’s Unplugged weekends. (Photo courtesy of Wildwood Mennonite Church)
Open space to enjoy a conversation or sit and work on a puzzle is an important feature of Wildwood Mennonite Church’s Unplugged weekends. (Photo courtesy of Wildwood Mennonite Church)
In this age of hectic schedules, electronic device dependency and human isolation, how can a church provide meaning, purpose and belonging? Saskatoon’s Wildwood Mennonite Church may have found an answer to this perplexing question.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the wider Mennonite church these past few weeks, as there have been discussions about the future of Mennonite Church Canada at the gatherings of each of the regional churches.
I’ll be honest right from the beginning: when it comes to music in worship, I’m a hymn-person. Always have been. Especially as a youth, when everyone assumed that because of my age I must be a fan of praise-and-worship music! It’s one of the things that I love about worshipping in a Mennonite congregation: the sense of echoing the faith of those who have gone before us in Christian history, the evocative, poetic theologies of several verses of carefully crafted lyrics, and, of course, the rich, four-part harmonies, blending many distinct voices into a communal act of praise.
I wrote this story two years ago, and since then another suicide has occurred and been mourned, in a neighbouring community. That man I did know. To remember both of these men who left behind wives, children, even grandchildren, today I publish it. Let’s learn how to handle mental illness in the church in a way that embraces rather than isolates.
It is with a heavy heart that I write today, and even now I debated sharing this. I do so because I believe that the story I am about to share is one with a lesson that we, the Mennonite church, need to learn.
The Italian Alps, near the Agape Ecumenical Center in Prali, Italy. (Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe)
I have spent the last week in the beautiful Alps of Italy, at the Agape Ecumenical Center, gathering with an international community to delve into interreligious dialogue. I am the only Canadian and the only Mennonite. But considering how often this happens when I travel abroad, I have stopped being surprised by this.
Sometimes I think the church struggles with the tension between its individual members and its task of being a communal body. In a socio-economic context such as ours, where individual choice is paramount, different branches of the Christian church have tried to address this tension in different ways.
Within the more evangelical traditions, the tendency is to make faith as specific to individuals as possible: it’s about Jesus as my personal saviour who died for me and a “brand” of Christianity that’s tailor-made for my individual lifestyle and needs.
A 17th-century Dutch church. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Earlier this month, I was one of many who gathered in the new Marpeck Commons building at Canadian Mennonite University to hear from a panel of “young adults” on their age group and the church.  Judging by the size of the audience (they had to go get extra chairs!), and a feature article on a similar topic in the Feb. 16, 2015 issue of Canadian Mennonite,  this is an issue that many churches are currently profoundly concerned and anxious about.
When I shared the story of my attack, I got a wide variety of responses from my friends, family, and co-workers. It is difficult to know what to say to people after things like this happen, so I was grateful whenever someone attempted to talk about it with me or to give me advice.
We Shall Remain is the title of a documentary series by PBS. We watched a few of the episodes while living in Virginia, where we heard very little of indigenous people, culture, or history. Whenever we asked about it, people we talked to said, "oh yeah, there used to be lots of indigenous people in this area" and would point to the main highways running through as ancient trade routes and the name of the valley "Shenandoah" as an indigenous name.
At a seminar on cooperative organizations in Saskatchewan, Harold Chapman, a 93-year-old professor, historian, and writer, told us the history from the inside of his involvement in cooperative organizations as a consultant. He talked about values and principles at the heart of this organizational model, and the challenge that it evolved in response to.
We sat in a large circle in the lounge, some sitting straight with legs crossed, others stretched out on the carpeted floor. One by one we passed the "talking piece" and we invited to say a few words about the experience of the last few weeks.
It took two weeks and some intense times together, but by the second "cultural night" of NARPI (Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute), groups were no longer isolated by country or regional cultures. A Mongolian and Japanese team did a dance, Korean and Japanese women led a song, and Chinese and Mongolian participants were the emcees. Yet the richness of each person's identity was clearly present.