A year after the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, Mennonite World Conference is joining the World Council of Churches and other Christians in a week of prayer March 22-27. The week will invite a time of prayer and reflection on both the lament and the hope expressed and experienced across the world during what has been a year of unprecedented suffering, but also one when churches have worked together in ever new ways to adapt, respond and accompany communities through mental, physical, economical, spiritual, and environmental crises.
When a new year begins, many people resolve to lose weight or begin exercising. But the dawning of a new year is also a good time to consider improving one’s spiritual fitness.
My kids are old enough to start playing ball, and weekly practices and physically distanced games are a regular part of the Barkman routine. In high school, I was a catcher, and Christina played third base, so we want our kids to grow into confident athletes. That means they are learning to practice. Continuous repetitions teach my kids how it feels to throw and hit a ball.
At 7:30 on Monday mornings, members of Mennonite Church Alberta wake up to pray together on Zoom.
“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.
As rallies and protests continue across the United States and Canada in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the five regional churches of Mennonite Church Canada released a statement yesterday asking congregations to set a specific time of prayer this coming Sunday, June 7.
Doug Klassen, who now serves as Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister, confessed to a fellow pastor that he couldn’t pray for more than 10 minutes. “I came to a place where I kept running into myself when I was praying,” Klassen recalls of his early days as a youth pastor.
'This is a prayer we are reluctant to pray because it is so hard to name what we fear out loud... We feel so small in the story of the world, and yet our actions have such big consequences.' (Image by Tumisu/Pixabay)
This is a prayer we are reluctant to pray
because it is so hard to name what we fear out loud.
We go through our days trying to pretend
that life as normal will continue forever,
but that is harder and harder to sustain.
And so we need this prayer where we lay out
the disaster of climate change to you, Lord, and to each other:
the loss of species never to be seen again,
the bleaching of the coral reefs,
the submersion of coastal regions,
the dislocation of populations,
It has become a routine yet still shocking news report: another shooting in a quiet neighbourhood or at a shopping centre, nightclub, school or place of worship. Then come the familiar offers of “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their loved ones. Sadly, there have been too many opportunities to pray these prayers recently.
Nearly 20 years ago, my husband accepted a job offer in Winnipeg that resulted in our family’s move from Ontario, a place we had called home for 22 years.
Over the course of our lives, we likely offer many prayers in a variety of ways. Some are formal, memorized prayers said for specific occasions. A family table grace recited before meals. The comforting words of Psalm 23. The Lord’s Prayer spoken as one body during worship.
Eva Klaassen lives in a seniors housing complex in Prince Albert. She doesn’t own a car, so every Sunday morning she takes a taxi to Grace Mennonite Church. Many of the drivers are new to Canada, she says, but all are very friendly.
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.
People who are involved in service are typically practical, caring people; in other words, people of action. Of course the motivation for doing service is to follow Jesus and his teaching, to reach out to the weak, to the orphans and widows, and so on, according to Jeremiah 22:3 and James 1:27.
Oh God of Love,
Maker of human neighbours and neighbourhoods,
Hear our prayer
from the Danforth, for the Danforth.
Time is a significantly gracious yet controlling dynamic. It’s a dimension from which we cannot escape, but our experience of it varies depending on our context. We move from day to day, month to month, year to year, growing older and hopefully wiser, sometimes caught off guard by the realization that time doesn’t wait for our approval.
Sarah Moesker, front row right, and her fellow companions share the daily rhythm of the sisters’ life. (Photo courtesy of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine)
Sarah Moesker spent the first half of the Companions on the Way program working in the convent’s kitchen. (Photo courtesy of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine)
One of the biggest highlights for Sarah Moesker, front row second from left, was living a prayerful, contemplative life with others. (Photo courtesy of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine)
When Sarah Moesker began asking herself how she could deepen her faith, living in an Anglican convent for almost a year was the answer.
God, our Mother and our Father,
Jesus Christ, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, our Comforter.
We offer our gratitude, for you are with us.
You are familiar without struggles and joys, and still you draw near to us.
You are Holy.
We offer you gratitude for your sustaining love,
For the relationships made and being made,
For our daily bread,
For the material we need to continue everyday,
For how you renew our spirit when we struggle
One of the best gifts my father has ever given me is an online subscription to The New York Times. He has always been an ardent fan of good news sources. The man has a ridiculously insatiable desire to learn. It was inevitable that such an appreciation would be passed on to his children as well. However, while my father devours every article on current events and sports, I tend to skip over the bleak headlines and head straight to the more superfluous articles and slide shows in the House and Garden and Style sections. Hardly academic, but enjoyable nonetheless.
I just read through my "morning pages," looking for nuggets to blog about and ripping out pages to shred.
"Morning pages" come from a class I took last year. It focused on "Disciplines for the Peacebuilder" and maintaining balance, and emotional and spiritual health when involved in the intense work of peacebuilding. The instructions were to write three pages every morning of whatever came to mind. It should be handwritten freewriting - not putting the pen down until the three pages have been filled.
To start off the school year, I decided to make the first week a personal prayer week. Although I usually prefer this kind of commitment together with others, like Will's efforts with reading through the Bible, the crazy-ness of getting back to Harrisonburg, starting a new semester teaching, and trying to finish off data collection with my research project make meeting with others regularly a challenge, and creating space for my own time of re-centering a must.