COVID-19

COVID-19 global response fund helps more Global South churches

The Mennonite church in Venezuela celebrates Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. (Mennonite World Conference photo)

“I have seen entire families in the garbage dumps looking to quench their hunger. I have also watched with sadness as they return the elderly from the hospitals because there are no possibilities to attend them, nor medicines to supply them,” said Erwin Francisco Mirabal González, a Mennonite pastor in Venezuela.

Low German community in southwestern Ontario experiences persecution

Members of Low German-speaking Mennonite communities in southwestern Ontario have experienced public discrimination recently because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in their population. Incidents include negative online comments, cancelled playdates with children in the Low German community, and aggressive verbal attacks at the grocery store. 

Antifragile church

(Photo by Andrew Seaman/Unsplash)

The past few months have awakened us to our fragility as individuals, communities and nation states. We’ve observed the fragility of our health-care system, food-supply chain, economies, global trade, international relations, institutional accountability. It seems that everything in our world is fragile, including ourselves. 

Marking end-of-life rituals during the pandemic

An outdoor, physically distant, drive-by visitation was held in the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church parking lot for a senior member of the congregation who died this summer. (Photo by Mark Diller Harder)

Amid the restrictions of COVID-19, pastors and families are still finding creative and meaningful ways to mark, grieve and ritualize the deaths of loved ones. But no two funerals are the same, and there are added stressors, frustrations and disappointments. 

Church seeks to boost ‘helping fund’ for people affected by pandemic

Fiona Brown, Leamington United Mennonite Church’s treasurer, and Hugo Tiessen, finance committee chair, have launched an initiative to boost the church’s Oak Street Helps Fund by $50,000 in light of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Linda Tiessen)

Windsor-Essex County in southwestern Ontario has drawn a plethora of attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to ongoing outbreaks and high occurrences of infections in specific sectors, the virus is still taking quite a toll in the region, despite the efforts of many.

Prayer ‘keeps us going’

Hotel staff wear protective equipment to distribute lunches to hospital workers in quarantine. (Photo by Tris Suyitno)

As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mennonite community in Kudus, Central Java, Indonesia, joins hands and works with the local government to mitigate the risk and manage the spread of cases in the city of more than 800,000 residents.

COVID-19 outbreak in Bolivian colonies

Boys in a store on the Pinondi Colony in Bolivia in 2018. The first reported COVID-19 death on a Mennonite colony in Bolivia happened at Pinondi, when Isaak Wiebe, aged 45, died on June 5. (Die Mennonitische Post photo)

Although precise data does not exist, Die Mennonitische Post reports numerous presumed COVID-19-related deaths on several Mennonite colonies in Bolivia. Kennert Giesbrecht, the Post’s editor, who is highly regarded among colony Mennonites in Latin America, is in regular contact with people on many colonies. 

Keeping the arts alive during the pandemic

Cedric Martin, artistic producer and actor for Theatre of the Beat, records his part in Yellow Bellies the Audio Drama in his closet. (Photo courtesy of Theatre of the Beat)

Johnny Wideman, playwright, actor and co-founder of Theatre of the Beat, records his part in Yellow Bellies the Audio Drama from his home. (Photo courtesy of Theatre of the Beat)

The cast of Yellow Bellies the Audio Drama records altogether through a Zoom call. Pictured from left to right, top row: actor Johnny Wideman, actor Cedric Martin and musician Joe McLellan; and bottom row: actor Kimberlee Walker and director Sukhpreet Sangha. (Photo courtesy of Theatre of the Beat)

The historical photo, left, that inspired the visual, right, for Yellow Bellies, the original play produced as live theatre and now as an audio drama by Theatre of the Beat. (Photo courtesy of Theatre of the Beat)

A promotional poster for Yellow Bellies the Audio Drama. (Photo courtesy of Theatre of the Beat)

Cedric Martin, artistic producer of Theatre of the Beat, knows that live theatre “will be one of the last gatherings to be allowed again” as businesses reopen in the shadow of COVID-19. That reality forced the staff of the Canadian touring company to get creative.

 

Churches cautiously resume worship together

Members of Sherbrooke Mennonite in Vancouver met for an outdoor worship service on July 5. They followed provincial protocols by encouraging masks and discouraging strong singing, and with worship leaders behind plexiglass. The parking lot location allowed sensitive members to stay in cars. (Photo by Garry Janzen)

With most churches remaining closed four months into the pandemic, some in Mennonite Church British Columbia are finding innovative ways to worship together—with limitations.

On July 5, members of Sherbrooke Mennonite Church in Vancouver held an outdoor service in the church parking lot, their first physical gathering since March.

A COVID-19 commandment

'For the majority of Jesus’ followers today, wearing a mask is an order we can follow.' (Image by Christo Anestev/Pixabay)

It is now month five for Canadian communities struggling with the COVID-19 crisis. In this time, we’ve heard many pronouncements by health authorities on what members of the public should and should not do to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus. As it spreads, health experts continue to research and learn, experiment and make recommendations.

MWC holds online prayer hour on Pentecost

A screen grab of the Mennonite World Conference’s online prayer hour Pentecost service.

“There is lockdown and physical distancing, but even so, we can meet in prayer,” said Hanna Soren, a member of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Deacons Commission, who offered a prayer at the close of the organization’s first online prayer meeting on May 31. “From different countries, we can come together and pray together in this way.

Chilliwack church organizing virtual VBS

CHILLIWACK, B.C.—Children at Crossroads Community Church may not be able to attend Vacation Bible School this summer, but they can still have a VBS experience, as the congregation is hosting a virtual VBS program—“Sharing the story of Christ”—from July 20 to 24. “This program is aimed at kids in preschool to Grade 5, but is open to anyone who's interested,” say organizers.

Reading, watching, listening: A buffet

Here are some things on my content buffet. (Photo courtesy of freepik.com/elchinjavadov)

When the conversation is lagging in social situations, one of my favourite questions to ask is, “What are you reading?” This inquiry often leads to an interesting interchange of ideas and suggestions. 

Today, I’ll turn the table and tell you about some things that I’ve been reading. And watching. And listening to. Here are a few things on my content buffet:

Coins count, and so do bottles

Rosthern (Sask.) Mennonite Church members meet in Brian and Delilah Roth’s farm shop to sort and crush bottles donated through their bottle drive. Pictured from left are Brenda Isaak, Brooklyn Isaak, Denise Epp, Jeanette Hanson, Todd Hanson, Lloyd Schmidt and Cheryl Schmidt. (Photo by Delilah Roth)

Four pick-up trucks laden with bottles and other refundable items prepare to leave the Roth farm for the recycling depot in Rosthern, Sask. (Photo by Delilah Roth)

Brenda Isaak, Ashtyn Isaak and Larry Epp carry bags of bottles to the recycling depot in Rosthern, Sask. (Photo by Delilah Roth)

Every Saturday in May, Rosthern Mennonite Church members drove the streets of Rosthern, picking up bottles and other refundable beverage containers.

Embracing disequilibrium

Claire Ewert Fisher, interim pastor of Rosthern Mennonite Church, speaks during MC Saskatchewan’s virtual town-hall meeting, “Dreaming church beyond pandemic.” (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

Sharon Schultz maintains that the quality that should characterize the church of the future is hope. Speaking during a local power outage, her words seemed to offer a light in the darkness during MC Saskatchewan’s virtual town-hall meeting, “Dreaming church beyond pandemic.” (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

“We have to embrace the disequilibrium we feel right now and let it teach us what it needs to teach us,” said Claire Ewert Fisher, interim pastor of Rosthern Mennonite Church, speaking at Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s virtual town hall event, “Dreaming church beyond pandemic.”

I am my brother’s keeper

“The way of Jesus sounds very much like embracing a social contract. He is called ‘the Man for others.’ Early Christians were known by how they loved one another.” (Pixabay photo by Caniceus)

Many years ago now—I’m getting a bit long in the tooth—I took what I thought would be a bird course in my second year at what was then known as Waterloo College. It turned out to be anything but, and I remember more from that course than from any other in my seven years of university education. It was a course on political philosophy.

Why I’m not in a hurry to reopen church doors

(Image by seth0s/Pixabay)

Not long ago a group of churches and church leaders across the province signed a letter asking Ontario premier Doug Ford to allow churches to reopen at the beginning of the month of June. I did not sign the letter.

Despite the way some church leaders have tried to frame this issue, the restrictions we’ve been facing are not a matter of religious freedom. People of faith are not being unfairly targeted because of their religious beliefs or practices any more than are those who would like to go to the gym or watch a pro basketball game.

Life together online

'I’ve been visiting many churches. Not in person, of course, but on the internet.'

Since the middle of March, when church buildings closed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, I’ve been visiting many churches. Not in person, of course, but on the internet. Each week I click on the link to a worship service that a Mennonite congregation, or group of congregations, has prepared to share with members of our denomination.

Legacy of the last great epidemic

A Mennonite quartet sings for polio patient Ted Braun, in an iron lung at the King George Hospital in Winnipeg in the mid-1950s. Ted watches the singers in the mirror positioned above his head. (Photo courtesy of Henry John Epp)

An iron lung, the iconic image of the polio epidemic of the 1950s, at the Riverview Heritage Museum in Winnipeg. (Photo by Will Braun)

Dave Penner recalls playing in the ditch with his brother in the summer of 1952. He was 5, his brother Henry was three years older. The freshly dug ditch on the expanded Highway 3 next to their yard near Morden, Man., had filled after a rain storm and Dave remembers having a grand time in the water with his brother. 

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