Caleb Brown was a lead organizer of the Freedom Convoy protest outside the Manitoba legislative building last winter. I asked how he responds to people who dismiss all protesters as white nationalists. I asked how he felt about people who drove by and gave him the finger, as one of my friends did.
I knew I would eventually have to interview my neighbours who staunchly resisted COVID-19 mandates and proudly supported the Ottawa trucker convoy. Actually I have many such neighbours. But it took a year of working through my pandemic enmity until I was ready to listen to them.
Some readers will see more danger than value in such interviews, so let me explain my motives.
Since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic came into the lives of Canadians, this magazine has published many accounts of life in pandemic times. There have been reports on how Mennonite churches and organizations have adapted to health restrictions, found new ways to care for others, and even managed to have fun, despite the challenges.
Following provincial protocols for meetings during the pandemic, members of Sherbrooke Mennonite Church in Vancouver gather for an outdoor service, in the summer of 2020. (Photo by Garry Janzen)
In the spring 2020, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan launched an online Sunday school for children. (Photo by Josh Wallace)
Justin Sun has never known pastoring other than during a pandemic. A year-and-a-half into his first pastorate, he says, “It’s been rough. How do I even do this job? I didn’t even attend a real in-person service until June.” That was nine months after he started in is job as a youth pastor in Richmond, B.C.
Fill the Bus campaign was held in December 2021 when the United Mennonite Home residents, families, staff, suppliers and community members filled the home’s bus with toys, personal-care items, non-perishable food, clothing and gift cards to support the local Community Services Village of Hope. (United Mennonite Home archives photo)
At the beginning of this pandemic, long-term-care homes were hit hard, with residents contracting the COVID-19 virus and many of them died of it.
Walter Sguazzin, executive director of the United Mennonite Home in Vineland, Ont., is happy to declare that not one resident had contracted, or died, of COVID-19 and its variants during the first four waves of the pandemic.
WINNIPEG—A Mennonite pastor known for his vocal support of COVID-19 vaccinations has been named one of the “top 100 (plus) most fascinating Manitobans for 2021” by Winnipeg radio DJ Ace Burpee. Kyle Penner, assistant pastor at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach, was included in the list, which the Winnipeg Free Press published at the end of December.
Mennonite Church Canada’s executive ministers released a statement earlier this week responding to inquiries from constituents regarding exemption from COVID-19 vaccines.
After a year of mingling on Zoom and many online classes, the Canadian Mennonite University community gathered in person on Aug. 21 to celebrate the Class of 2021. At an outdoor convocation ceremony on CMU’s grounds, CMU President Dr. Cheryl Pauls conferred 68 undergraduate degrees, 20 master’s degrees and three certificates.
In a summer when many public activities, including church services, were curtailed, Living Hope Christian Fellowship of Surrey, B.C., hosted a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program from Aug. 9 to 13. Last year, Living Hope’s VBS had only 10 children attending in person, with seven online. By contrast, this year 38 children came, all in person.
Tanzania, home to 66, 744 baptized members of Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania, less than one percent of the population has received vaccination protection against COVID-19.
Mennonite World Conference is calling on its members around the world to love their neighbours by donating to UNICEF’s campaign to share coronavirus vaccinations around the world.
There is no question that COVID-19 has been disruptive. We, like the Israelites, found ourselves wandering in the wilderness, anxious to get back to normal.
We have realized that “normal” will not happen anytime soon so, like the Israelites, we made our home in this new place, building houses (carving out offices) and planting gardens (noticing and practising what is life-giving).
In April, prior to Ontario schools returning to online learning, two Rockway Mennonite Collegiate families set out to make the learning spaces in the school safer for students. They introduced “Austin,” a HEPA-air-filtration system that improves air circulation and quality in indoor spaces.
Two alumni from Indiana’s Goshen College played important roles in the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19. Robert Lerch, Ph.D., head of lab and site management and business operations at pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and Mark Wittrig, senior director of quality assurance at Pfizer, both graduated from the college in 1984.
In its third live-streamed pandemic church service, Comunidad Evangélica Menonita of Barcelona, Spain, celebrates Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday in 2021. Joshua Garber records Estrella Norales, left, and Aïdeis Martín Mallol as they observe social-distancing guidelines while reading the liturgy. (Photo by Alfred Lozano Aran)
“We’re all going through the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat. Context is everything.”
These words, spoken by a North American pastor, address the divergent responses to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many congregations in Canada and the United States continue to experience restrictions on in-person meetings, while others have had the freedom to safely gather again.
When Ryan Polinsky designed T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Menno & Vaccinated” at the beginning of June, he intended to sell only a few to his family. He has since sold around 50 shirts, plus other merchandise like mugs, buttons and hats. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the Manitoba Vaccine Implementation Task Force, even highlighted the shirts in a provincial press conference.
Are you ever afraid to say something because it might not be the popular opinion? Do you struggle to muster the courage to speak out within your congregation because you’re worried you’ll offend someone’s well-intentioned but misinformed idea?
Despite the pandemic, Samih Saltah and Katherine Kandalaft managed to plan a special wedding in 2020. (Photo courtesy of the bridal couple)
A masked videographer captures the wedding ceremony of Katherine Kandalaft and Samih Saltah last Oct. 12, reflecting the new reality during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of the bridal couple)
With their parents as witnesses, Raymond and Stephanie are united in marriage by Pastor Tim Kuepfer at Chinatown Peace Church on March 28. (Photo courtesy of the bridal couple)
The bride and groom may have hoped for a traditional church wedding with an entourage of attendants, surrounded by all their friends and extended family, followed by a fabulous catered wedding dinner. What they ended up with might have been a scaled-down gathering of fewer than a dozen people and a simple backyard meal with everyone wearing masks, or even a drive-by, no-contact reception.
Lily Hiebert Rempel inside the nurses station at Sandy Lake First Nation in northwestern Ontario, where she worked as a public-health nurse on three different occasions during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hiebert Rempel)
The nurses station at Sandy Lake First Nation, where Lily Hiebert Rempel worked during her three, four-week rotations as a public health nurse in the community. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hiebert Rempel)
The nurses residence at Sandy Lake First Nation, where Lily Hiebert Rempel and other nurses stayed during their four-week rotations in the community doing public-health work. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hiebert Rempel)
After more than 40 years as a nurse, Lily Hiebert Rempel was starting to ease into retirement. That is when COVID-19 hit, and the health-care system needed more nurses, not fewer. She was not prepared to go into full-time critical care nursing but, with her public-health experience, she did have much to offer.
At the end of a video conferencing call, have you found yourself waving energetically at the screen? It might seem strange to make a goodbye gesture toward a computer, but something tells us that it’s not right to simply make those faces disappear by clicking a button labeled “Leave meeting.”
Some of ‘The Gourmet Girls’ meet in the Jeanette Thiessen’s backyard to celebrate Daunine Rachert’s birthday on Oct. 10, 2020. Pictured from left to right: guest Marjorie Kornelsen, Charlene Delcourt, Elaine Hovey and Daunine Rachert. (Photo by Jeanette Thiessen)
‘The Gourmet Girls’ enjoy prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. Pictured clockwise from top left: Daunine Rachert, guest Joanne De Jong, Marlene Nelson, Elaine Hovey, Charlene Delcourt, Jeanette Thiessen. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)
A screenshot of ‘The Gourmet Girls,’ from left to right, top row: Daunine Rachert and Marlene Nelson; middle row: Jeanette Thiessen and Elaine Hovey; and bottom row: Charlene Delcourt. (Photo courtesy of Jeanette Thiessen)
Imagine if you could eat at a five-star restaurant every Saturday night, even during COVID-19. That’s what has been happening in one neighbourhood in Calgary since May 2020.
(Photo courtesy of Levi Klassen)
In March, my friend and I were fulfilling our duty of cleaning out the Canadian Mennonite University Student Council room when we came across a filing cabinet of school newspapers from the 1960s. Being rather loosely committed to our cleaning assignment, we soon found ourselves leafing through submissions sent in by students during the summer, and lo and behold, I came across a letter written by someone working at Camp Valaqua (Water Valley, Alta.).
As the academic year draws to a close, students and staff at Columbia Bible College are reflecting on how the college has successfully navigated offering in-person learning despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. These have included reduced class sizes, mask fatigue, teaching behind plexiglass, and keeping resident and commuter students apart.
One month after its launch on Feb. 1, the 2021 Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Spirit of MDS Fund approved $54,900 in grants for 24 Canadian congregations and church-related organizations.