COVID-19

‘You listened to my cry’

‘I’m reading the story of Jonah, one of your servants who also left you behind, or tried to… I think I can share in his prayer.’ (Image by Jeff Jacobs/Pixabay)

Dear God:

I’m really not sure what to pray or how to feel these days. I’ve become a strange blend of anxious and relaxed, concerned and content, grateful and restless, ambitious and listless.

CBC graduates class online

Ken Esau, professor of Old Testament at Columbia Bible College, blows a ram’s horn as he addresses the graduating class on what it means to seek first God’s kingdom. (Screen grab of Columbia Bible College 2020 commencement ceremony (YouTube))

Graduation for Columbia Bible College’s class of 2020 looked a little different this year. Rather than proudly walking across the stage in cap and gown to receive their diplomas, the graduates took part in a virtual online commencement ceremony on April 18. The college had dismissed classes earlier in the year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

‘We are one body’

Leah Reesor-Keller, the incoming MC Eastern Canada executive minister, is pictured at her computer while participating in the regional church’s annual gathering, this year via Zoom. (Photo by Luke Reesor-Keller)

Delegates to the MC Eastern Canada annual gathering voted electronically on motions presented as poll questions in the meeting held on April 25, through Zoom, a videoconferencing application. After the voting was completed, results were immediately available onscreen. (Photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

“We are one body in Christ . . . even when scattered. We are members of one another. We can still encourage and pray for and learn from each other.”

Deepening their walk with each other in spite of social isolation

Terry Stefaniuk, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s moderator, welcomes delegates and guests to the regional church’s 2020 annual delegate sessions. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

Ryan Siemens, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s executive minister invites congregational representatives to share how their churches are coping with and adapting to social isolation. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

After a year spent exploring the theme, “Deepening our walk with each other,” Mennonite Church Saskatchewan continued, inadvertently, to ponder what this means during its annual delegate sessions (ADS).

When COVID-19 forced the postponement of the regional church’s annual general meeting, slated for mid-March, planners scheduled a virtual meeting, via Zoom, for April 25.

Kids talk COVID-19

Matoli and Zavi Braun deGroot enjoy the rhythms of farm life during the pandemic. (Photo by Will Braun)

COVID-19 has permeated the collective psyche. And although kids may not be watching The National or spending their coveted screen time on the Health Canada webpage, COVID-19 is on their minds. I asked several parents to ask their kids—aged 5 to 13—about the new reality. Below are some of their responses, verbatim. 

A new kind of ‘whiteout party’

The home windows of Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, who started the #whiteoutMB movement with Karen Schellenberg. (Photo by Moses Falco)

Tracy Enns, Carman Mennonite Church, joined in by decorating the windows of her workplace with hearts. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schellenberg)

Karen Schellenberg, Interim Pastor at Charleswood Mennonite Church, came up with the idea for #whiteoutMB. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schellenberg)

Over the past two years, thousands of Manitobans have gathered in the streets of Winnipeg to cheer on the Winnipeg Jets in the hockey playoffs. Many were hoping to don their all-white outfits and join these “whiteout parties” again this spring, but the novel coronavirus prevented that.

Immigrants in crisis

Lule Begashaw is a psychotherapist and team lead at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. (Photo by: Nafkot Begashaw)

According to Lule Begashaw, psychotherapist and team lead at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the mental-health team is seeing a big increase in requests for help since the COVID-19 outbreak. She says that “newcomers are a vulnerable population that has definitely been overlooked.” 

Conflict management training goes online

WATERLOO—For the first time in its history, Conrad Grebel University College’s conflict management certificate program is being offered online. The program, based out of the college’s peace and conflict studies department, offers workshops in a variety of conflict management and mediation practices. Participants are invited to attend individual workshops for professional development or personal interest, or to work toward a certificate in conflict management and mediation or conflict management and congregational leadership.

Chaplain-turned-pianist brightens personal-care home

(Image by StockSnap/Pixabay)

WINNIPEG—According to Dr. Bill Thomas, an expert in aging, the three greatest “plagues” facing residents of nursing homes are loneliness, boredom and helplessness—all things unfortunately exacerbated by the current plague of COVID-19.

At Donwood Manor, a personal-care home in Winnipeg, that’s where chaplain Lisa Enns, a member of Charleswood Mennonite Church, comes in.

COVID-19 impact on world hunger cause for high concern

In Lebanon, where Foodgrains Bank member World Renew is working with Syrian refugees, personal protective equipment and hygiene kits were distributed to local church partners so they can stay safe as they distribute food to families in need. (Photo by MERATH Lebanon)

The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger in the world could double due to COVID-19, the World Food Programme (WFP) warns.

Spirit of MDS Fund launched by MDS Canada

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada’s operations may be suspended until fall due to the pandemic, but the organization still wants to be active in responding to COVID-19. To do that, the organization has created The Spirit of MDS Fund to help Canadian churches respond to people in their communities facing hardship due to the virus. Through the $100,000 fund, which received unanimous support from the MDS Canada board at its April 15 meeting, Canadian congregations can apply for grants of up to $1,000 to help with various COVID-19-related needs.

Work-play-rest

‘...at the end of the story Pooh says, “Whew, it feels good to rest. Doing nothing is much more fun after a busy day of helping.” I think we all know this feeling.’ (Image by Innviertlerin/Pixabay)

As our life has quite abruptly and drastically shifted, along with everyone’s around the globe, I have been reflecting on our daily rhythm and working at reorganizing our schedule into a work-play-rest rhythm. 

Salt for the earth

Luis Hernandez, leader of the Brethren in Christ Church in Cuba, and his wife cook huge pots of food in their home kitchen and share it with hungry people around them. (Photo courtesy of Arli Klassen)

These weeks of physical distancing, including Easter, have forced us to think more about what it means to be the church. We appreciate the phrase “the church has left the building!” We identify with Jesus’s disciples on Easter, huddled behind locked doors, filled with fear and despair. I have begun thinking about the church in these days using two more images from Jesus.

Mennonites explore virtual worship

The Easter worship service of Cedar Valley Church in Mission, B.C., was livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. It included singers and instrumentalists performing from separate locations, a message from Pastor Rob Ayer, and information about a Minecraft Easter egg hunt for children. (Photo from YouTube video)

“We’ve been thrown out of the boat and now we’re learning to walk on water!”

MCC set to address COVID-19 threats

Thiciano Pareja Saucedo, 8, washes her hands at El Comedor de Niños, an after-school program for children in the Montero area of Bolivia, about an hour from Santa Cruz. One of its main goals is to improve nutrition and health outcomes in the community by teaching children about healthy eating, gardening and hygiene. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)

Middle East Council of Churches, an MCC partner, distributed MCC relief kits, which contain hygiene supplies, to the most vulnerable displaced people and host community members in a neighbourhood in the Syriac Orthodox diocese in Aleppo, Syria, in 2016. This year, MCC’s partners in Syria and Lebanon will distribute individual hygiene kits and food to help people protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. Names are withheld for security reasons. (Photo courtesy of MECC)

As COVID-19 spreads and worsens, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) continues its worldwide work while attending to the health and well-being of its staff. 

Caring during COVID-19 crisis

House of Friendship’s Sunnydale Community Centre, usually a hub for a diverse range of community programs, is quiet, its programs cancelled or modified due to pandemic protocols outlined in the notices on the door. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

House of Friendship’s Sunnydale Community Centre, usually a hub for a diverse range of community programs, is quiet, its programs cancelled or modified due to pandemic protocols outlined in the notices on the door.
Notices on the door of House of Friendship’s Sunnydale Community Centre in Waterloo, Ont., explain the pandemic protocols that have led to the closure of the centre and the cancellation or modification of its diverse range of community programs. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

How do you stay home when you don’t have a home? How do you physically isolate when you already seem invisible? How do you wash your hands frequently when public facilities are closed?

Doing justice in a pandemic

Prison visits through Person to Person aren’t happening in person right now. Volunteers are encouraged to write letters to inmates instead. (Photographed simulation featuring restorative justice staff and volunteers.) (Photo by Amy Smith)

COVID-19 has altered the lives of most Canadians, but for those in prison and those reintegrating into society after prison terms, the pandemic’s impact is enormous.

Coffee for Peace employees affected by COVID-19 shutdown

Coffee for Peace is a social enterprise managed by Joji Pantoja, a Mennonite Church Canada International Witness worker in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/coffeeforpeace)

The shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting employees of Coffee for Peace, a social enterprise managed by Joji Pantoja, a Mennonite Church Canada International Witness worker in the Philippines.

Willowgrove guarantees camp programming this summer

Before COVID-19, southern Ontario not-for-profit Willowgrove offered summer camps, outdoor education and seasonal events in Ontario from its Willowgrove Day Camp and Outdoor Education Centre in Stouffville and Fraser Lake Camp in Bancroft. In order to maintain its mission but move its work online, Willowgrove has created Camp @ Home, a unique online camp experience that allows children and youth to have personal, genuine camp connections under the supervision of a live counsellor. Each day, campers log on from home for a three-hour condensed camp schedule.

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