COVID-19

MC Canada calls for prayer for Ethiopia and Eritrea

Mennonite Church Eastern Canada staffers Fanosie Legesse (left) and Norm Dyck, pictured last year by the sign in front of the Meserete Kristos Church in Mekelle. Mekelle is the capital city of the Tigray region, which is at the centre of the war in Ethiopia. (Photos courtesy of Mennonite Church Canada)

Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) held a nationwide fasting and prayer for peace on Nov. 16.

‘How can I keep from singing?’

Grade 10 music students at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ont., take to drumming outside on the back field of their school in order to explore music in a different way while pandemic protocols prohibit them from singing or playing wind instruments inside the classroom. (Photos by Leanne Lobe)

Grade 10 music students at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ont., take to drumming outside on the back field of their school in order to explore music in a different way while pandemic protocols prohibit them from singing or playing wind instruments inside the classroom. (Photos by Leanne Lobe)

Eric Dettweiler, standing left, a music teacher at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ont., leads his Grade 10 music class in an outdoor drumming exercise.

Eric Dettweiler’s Grade 10 music class at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener began the school year drumming every day for the first few weeks, often outdoors. Now the 11 students drum a couple of times a week. It is a safe way to conduct a music class while maintaining physical distance in the reality of pandemic protocols.

Pandemic offers new opportunities for students

Online classes have changed the way the master of theological program operates at Conrad Grebel University College. With the rise in enrolment and interest in the program, there may be lasting online opportunities, according to program director Jeremy Bergen. (Photo by Christin Hume/Unsplash)

The pandemic this year has turned the master of theological study (MTS) program’s teaching model on its head.

Anabaptist health network responds to COVID-19

CPN promoter Rosneka Mulalyah, right, hands over a hand-washing station to Paul Karuiki and Mike Musyoki in Mathare 3B community, Kenya. (Centre for Peace and Nationhood photo)

A care group volunteer uses the hand-washing stations provided by CPN in Mathare, Kenya. (Centre for Peace and Nationhood photo)

“We are bound together as a community not only through this global pandemic, but through our faith,” says Rick Stiffney, steering committee member of the Global Anabaptist Health Network.

The global network held its first webinar on Sept. 16, which was attended by two dozen Anabaptist-related health professionals from Asia, Africa, North America and the Caribbean.

Take care

We can and should seek self-care in these uncertain times. (Photo by Miguel Perales/Unsplash)

Recently the worldwide number of souls lost to the COVID-19 virus surpassed 1 million. Visualizing that large number of lives cut short touches one’s own soul. We, the living, mourn and seek to understand. 

Communion and community during COVID-19

Pastor Craig Neufeld and deacon Debbie Baergen are ready to serve communion in a “covid friendly” way at Edmonton’s First Mennonite Church, Sept. 27, 2020. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Tim Wiebe-Neufeld, executive minister of Mennonite Church Alberta, receives communion from deacon Debbie Baergen at Edmonton First Mennonite. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Tim Wiebe-Neufeld, executive minister of Mennonite Church Alberta, adds a leaf, signifying a commitment to a spiritual practice, to the E3 tree visual at Edmonton First Mennonite Church. Beginning in 2020, MCA congregations are committing themselves to a 3 year action plan for renewal, Encountering, Embracing, and Embodying Christ. For more information go to: https://mcab.ca/e3-mca. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

For many congregants, the invitation to receive communion at Edmonton’s First Mennonite Church on Sunday, Sept. 27 would mark the first time they had physically set foot in the building for six months.

Niagara churches reopening

Niagara (Ont.) United Mennonite Church began in-person worship on Sept. 13, 2020. (Photo credit: Rachael Peters)

Vineland (Ont.) United Mennonite Church plans to continue meeting virtually for worship through September, using YouTube video. According to pastor Louise Wideman, the church is planning a cautious tiered approach to reopening. The first step will be to install equipment for livestreaming the service. The next stage will include inviting small groups to join for in-person worship.

Navigating reopening

(Photo: flickr.com/Riccardo Cuppini)

Mount Royal Mennonite’s Garth Ewert Fisher speaks about his church’s reopening experience during MC Saskatchewan’s ‘Navigating reopening’ virtual meeting. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

During MC Saskatchewan’s “Navigating reopening” virtual meeting, Phyllis Goertz talks about Wildwood Mennonite’s decision to continue with online worship through the summer months. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

Across the nationwide church, there are likely as many approaches to reopening as there are congregations. Mennonite Church Saskatchewan recently hosted an online conversation about how congregations are meeting the challenges of reopening.

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.

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