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Proclaiming Immanuel

‘Angel announcing: Jesus is here,’ by Elizabeth Cressman, a Grade 3 student who attends Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont.

‘Jesus here and now,’ by Sean Lane, a Grade 4 student who attends Crystal City (Man.) Mennonite Church.

‘Nativity scene,’ by Colin Lane, a Grade 6 student who attends Crystal City (Man.) Mennonite Church.

I was eight years old. That year, the Sunday school Christmas pageant was going to be a no-fuss event. All the kids were going to stand up in a line, each of us reciting a memorized verse from Luke’s Christmas story. 

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” 

That was my line. I was disappointed! 

‘Taste and see that stuff is good’

Capitalizing on the way that society is currently unplugging itself from traditional forms of religion, the mall is an example of a cultural institution that has successfully read the religious market and opened a new outlet for selling and consuming transcendence. (Mennopix photos by Ross W. Muir)

The mall’s clean, bright, inviting and vaulted interior architecture make it easy for us to forget about the outside world. (Mennopix photos by Ross W. Muir)

“If the training of desire towards an ultimate object of love is the final and most important telltale sign of religion, then worship at the mall is about training worshippers to long for the good life: a life of perpetual youth, beauty, wealth and independence.” (Mennopix photos by Ross W. Muir)

The human struggle has always been—and always will be—between worshiping the God who made us or worshiping a god that we have to make for ourselves. Secularism is a myth because there is no such thing as not worshipping.

Faithful practices on a dying planet

‘Bring out your dead,’ by Edmund Evans, circa 1864. This coloured wood engraving pictures a medieval street scene with a town crier and a two-wheeled cart making the rounds and collecting the bodies of plague victims; a few people have gathered around a small fire for warmth. (wikimedia.org photo (public domain))

Over the last few months, the reality of the climate crisis we are in the midst of has started to strike me in a new and terrible way. As the best-case scenarios for our planet grow more dire and the possibility of achieving even these scenarios grows more remote, it has started to dawn on me that the church is not only faced with the task of working to stop the destruction of our planet.

Four decades of welcome

Group photo from a picnic held at Willowgrove Camp in August 1979. Harriet Dick is pictured front left. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

Harriet Dick, back right, and son Alan, back left, host a refugee family in the Dicks’ backyard in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

A Vietnamese couple’s wedding in 1983, to which Nicholas and Harriet Dick were invited, a signal of their ongoing friendship. The Dicks played a big role in further refugee efforts, including helping to settle a very large extended family of Kosovars. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

A horse-and-wagon ride at Willowgrove Camp in August 1979. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

Toronto United Mennonite Church was the first church in Canada to receive privately sponsored “boat people” who were fleeing Vietnam and Laos during the chaos of the Vietnam War. 

Consider it (re)settled

MCC representative Victor Neumann, second from left, in Songkhla, Thailand, with Vietnamese Boat People. Mothers of the pictured children were abducted by pirates. In response to the refugee crisis following the end of the Vietnam War, in 1979, MCC was the first agency to sign a private sponsorship agreement with the Government of Canada, leading hundreds of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in Canada to sponsor and resettle thousands of refugees across the country. (All photos courtesy of MCC)

More than 12,500 refugees have been resettled in Canada by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) since it negotiated an agreement with the government on March 5, 1979. This historic agreement established the framework for private agencies to sponsor more than 327,000 refugees for resettlement in Canada in the last 40 years.

Raspberry capital beckons Gathering 2019

The roundabout on South Clearbrook Road in Abbotsford, B.C., features a giant raspberry sculpture, symbolic of the agricultural heritage of the area. In the background is the Mennonite Heritage Museum. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

Camp Squeah, MC B.C.’s church camp near Hope, is a place of refuge for children and families. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

Washington state’s Mount Baker looms over the Fraser Valley in southern B.C. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

The first West Abbotsford Mennonite Church building. It merged with Wellspring Christian Fellowship in 2008 and became Level Ground Mennonite Church. (Mennonite Heritage Museum photo)

The raspberry capital of Canada, the most charitable city in Canada, the Bible Belt of Canada. These terms have all been used to describe Abbotsford, the site of Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2019, to be held from June 28 to July 1. Nestled in the scenic Fraser Valley just over the border from Washington state, Abbotsford is a growing community known as the “city in the country.” 

Evil is right here with me

“We are a mystery to ourselves, a bundle of contradictions. We are inherently prone to self-deception, particularly when it comes to justifying our own behaviours and assumptions. We are not nearly as pure or virtuous as we imagine ourselves to be. We are, each one of us, capable of beautiful and terrible things. We are human beings.” (Photo © istock.com/fotogeng)

Something needs to be done about all the hate in the world. 

This morning I encountered no fewer than three pieces of media expressing incredulity that the internet seems not to have transformed humanity into an oasis of harmony and mutual understanding, but has, instead, degenerated into a cesspool of anger and ignorance.

Called to bleed and die for the sake of the nation

Some members of the seventh Mennonite World Conference Presidium, held in Kitchener, Ont., from Aug. 1 to 7, 1962. Pictured from left to right: Paul Showalter of Germany; Hendrik W. Meihuizen of the Netherlands; Erland Waltner of Elkhart, Ind.; Peter Wiens of Paraguay; Harold S. Bender of Goshen, Ind.; and Jesse B. Martin of Kitchener. (David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo)

Harold S. Bender of Goshen, Ind., speaking at the Church and State study event, which he chaired. The event, held in 1957 at Chicago Temple Methodist Church, was sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section. (The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo )

H.G. Mannhardt was a Mennonite pastor and writer in northeastern Germany during the First World War. He espoused the values of German nationalism and exceptionalism that were prevalent in his day. (Mennonite Library and Archives/Bethel College)

H.G. Mannhardt was a Mennonite pastor and writer in northeastern Germany during the First World War. He espoused the values of German nationalism and exceptionalism that were prevalent in his day. (Photo: Mennonite Library and Archives / Bethel College)

As a minister of the Mennonite church in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), Hermann Gottlieb Mannhardt knew how to challenge and encourage his congregants in matters of faith and moral conduct. He also knew how to energize a crowd in matters related to politics and patriotism. 

Pregnant with peace

Artwork by Merle Yin, grade 11, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

Artwork by Celena Harder, grade 10, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

Artwork by Christy Zhang, grade 12, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

Artwork by Erynn Heinrichs, grade 12, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

Artwork by Autumn Wieler, grade 11, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

Artwork by Julia Suderman, grade 10, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

Artwork by Karly Wiebe, grade 12, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

Artwork by Taya Friesen, grade 12, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

‘Midnight on ocean’ by Shirley Zhang, grade 12, Rockway Mennonite Collegiate

"Into the woods"by Vivian Chau, grade 11, Rockway Mennonite Collegiate

From the moment we learned I was pregnant, the baby we longed for was continually on my mind. What would it look like? What kind of personality would it have? How would this baby change our life? I was truly “expecting.” Expectant waiting with our baby in mind transformed not just me and my husband, but our whole extended family.

Full stomach, faulty memory

‘Joshua passing the River Jordan with the Ark’ (detail), by Benjamin West

‘Moses shown the Promised Land,’ by Benjamin West.

We are daily awash in choices and opportunities, and many of us are affluent enough to be able to choose among many options. Many of us make many choices even before we get out the door in the morning. Our stomachs are full, we live in fine houses, our income and assets have grown, our retirement funds are increasing, and our possessions keep multiplying.

Biblical characters as spiritual companions

‘Potiphar’s wife displays Joseph’s garment,’ by Lucas van Leyden (circa 1512). Notice in the window in the top left corner Joseph can be seen being taken to prison. (Google Art Project)

‘David and Jonathan’ by Harmensz van Rijn Rembrandt. (Google Art Project)

The Bible is full of stories about people, real people with bodies and minds, and with an array of experiences, relationships and emotions. How odd, then, that we so often turn to the Bible as little more than an instruction manual for communal and personal life.

A united witness

The first issue of the Canadian Mennonite Reporter, August 3, 1971. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

The first issue of The Canadian Mennonite, July 3, 1953. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Frank H. Epp works on The Canadian Mennonite on a manual typewriter in the 1950s. Notice the landline telephone on the wall in the background. (Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo)

Frank H. Epp served as editor of The Canadian Mennonite from 1953 to 1967 and Mennonite Reporter from 1971 to 1973. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Larry Kehler served as editor of The Canadian Mennonite from 1967 to 1971. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Karen Bowman works on a photo-typesetter. Between 1971 and 1988 stories were typed on this machine and strips of copy were literally cut and pasted into position on the layout sheets. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Editor Dave Kroeker gets in close to correct a typo in 1973. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Mennonite Reporter staff circa 1990 include, from left to right: Karen Bowman, office and circulation manager; Ron Rempel, editor; Margaret Loewen Reimer, associate editor; and Ferne Burkhardt, editorial and production assistant. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

The first issue of Canadian Mennonite, September 15, 1997. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Clockwise from front right: editor/publisher Tim Miller Dyck; editorial assistant Barb Draper; managing editor Margaret Loewen Reimer; office manager Natasha Krahn; and ad sales rep Barb Burkholder. (2004 Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Canadian Mennonite magazine in its first year of the 2007 redesign. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

In March 2009, board chair Larry Cornies (left) thanked outgoing editor/publisher Tim Miller Dyck and presented him with one of the six bound volumes of Canadian Mennonite that he helped to create. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Dick Benner, left, was editor/publisher of Canadian Mennonite from 2009 until 2017. Virginia A. Hostetler has served as executive editor from 2017 until the present. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

This month marks the 65th anniversary of English-language magazine publishing for Mennonites in Canada.

From ‘never a teacher’ to ‘why not?’

Photo courtesy of Henry Neufeld

Henry Neufeld’s first classroom in Pauingassi in 1956. (Photo courtesy of Henry Neufeld)

In northern Manitoba, winter travel in the 1960s was by snowmobile and summer travel was by boat. This early snowmobile was made by Ingham Brothers of Lanigan, Sask. The seat and steering at the front were connected to the frame and motor at the back by hinges on the runners. It was propelled by a metal cleat track. (Photo courtesy of Henry Neufeld)

Elna and Henry Neufeld are pictured in front of the Moose Lake School in 1952. (Photo courtesy of Henry Neufeld)

Henry Neufeld learned to fly this two-seater ‘bush plane,’ obtained in 1961 by the Mennonite Pioneer Mission. (Photo courtesy of Henry Neufeld)

“Never a teacher,” I declared from the time I was in public school, growing up in the Leamington district of southwestern Ontario.

Remembering my baptism

Maya Morton Ninomiya was baptized in the Saugeen River at Riverstone Retreat Centre near Durham, Ont., in June 2016, by Wendy Janzen and Kevin Derksen, pastors at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. (Photo by Marcia Shantz)

Kevin Derksen

I was baptized on an Easter Sunday morning, in the midst of a beautiful service celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. By the first rays of morning light, we greeted each other with the familiar refrain, “He is risen!” and “He is risen indeed!” We sang the big, old Easter hymns.

From belief to belonging

Communion, the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist; whatever the name, it has been an integral part of the Christian faith since its beginnings. (Photo © istock.com/ipggutenbergukltd)

At the Mennonite World Conference assembly in 2015, Mennonites who filled the stadium were invited to celebrate the Eucharist together, regardless of baptism or age. (Dale G. Gehman for MeetingHouse)

“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22:19-20 NRSV).

‘God just isn’t finished with me yet’

The church is a community of profound meaning for seniors because it has the capacity to speak to their deep spiritual needs, offering belonging, care and inspiration. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Many Mennonites have memories of grandmas who, at difficult times, would say, ‘I don’t know how anyone can get through life without faith.’ (Photo © istock.com/myrrha)

I was raised in a family with Scottish Presbyterian roots, where no one talked about faith for fear of being “too religious.” We trusted that seniors had it all figured out and their faith carried them, although we would be stretched to say we understood how.

Paving the way to the Promised Land

After serving as interim pastor at Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, Ont., Waldo Pauls ended up staying on as minister for seven years. He is pictured with his wife Pam at their farewell service following Waldo’s retirement in 2014. (Photo by Ernie Janzen)

Pictured from left to right, top row: Claire Ewert-Fisher, David Brubacher, Gerry Binnema, Harold Schegel. Bottom row: Waldo Pauls, Wanda Roth Amstutz and Melissa Miller.

“You don’t go quickly from Egypt to the Promised Land,” quips Harold Schlegel. “The wilderness is where God forms us.”

The wilderness Schlegel speaks of is the transition in a congregation’s life between one pastor and another. Church leaders suggest it’s a time that’s ripe for interim or transitional ministry.

‘Acceptance without exception’

‘David and Saul,’ by Ernst Josephson, oil on canvas, 1878

‘David would play his harp, and Saul would feel better. David would mediate the spirit of life and make the evil spirit depart from Saul,’ (Artwork: ‘David and Saul,’ by Julius Kronberg, oil on canvas, 1885)

“And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him” (I Samuel 16:23).

David would play his harp, and Saul would feel better. David would mediate the spirit of life and make the evil spirit depart from Saul.

Peppernuts and anarsa

Neeta Solomon cooks a meal for Marlene Epp. (Photo by Marlene Epp)

A plate of anarsa. (Photo by Marlene Epp)

Neeta Epp prepared various dishes, including anarsa for Marlene Epp, who visited India to interview Mennonite women there about their food practices. (Photo by Marlene Epp)

I recently learned to eat anarsa—a sweet, rice-based treat—while travelling in India visiting with Mennonite women, and learning about their religious lives and food practices. It was late February, but I was told that Christians in India normally prepare anarsa at Christmastime as a seasonal and festive treat.

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