The idol of neutrality

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

During a Mennonite Church gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina, some years ago, I decided to go to a local restaurant for lunch. I left my name tag and swag bag behind so that I would look less vulnerable to thieves, but I was so successful at hiding my foreign identity that I attracted another kind of unwanted attention.

Menno House

(Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Menno House was formed by a group of young Mennonite students and recent graduates living in Toronto in 1956. The aim was to provide support and community to Mennonite students in the city. The group became involved in youth leadership at Toronto United Mennonite Church. Young Mennonite women attended events, though the residence remained open only to men.

Communal prayers

(Photo by Rosie Sun, Unsplash)

I recall sitting through church services as a child, being even more bored with the pastor’s long prayer than I was by the sermon. During the sermon I could look around at people and out the windows, but during the prayer I had to sit even more still, with my head down, looking only at the floor.

Time to be a champion

Kirsten Hamm-Epp (right) and her mom, Marilyn Houser Hamm. (Supplied photo)

These days I’ve been thinking about youth and the church. Connecting youth to the church is a passion of mine, and I’m fortunate that the wonderful people of Saskatchewan see fit to pay me to do this work. I am also fortunate to have had a number of people invest significant time encouraging me to live into my passion and work for the church.

Mennonite Men of Canada

(Photo: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

By 1961, men’s groups in General Conference churches had proliferated to the point where a national organization, “Mennonite Men of Canada,” was formed. Here, in 1962, are executive members Henry M. Dick (Calgary), Carl Ens (Saskatoon) and Ted Friesen (Altona, Manitoba). Men’s groups met for fellowship, service projects and to run boys’ clubs.

Standing ready for the end

Olfert cousins, gathered at Aunt Anne’s funeral. (Supplied Photo)

Recently, another of my old aunts died. Aunt Anne was my dad’s sister. The Olfert family was a large one, with six boys and six girls. Three sisters and a brother remain.

Aunt Anne was a grand old lady, who carried the family trait of great determination. Her life was often not easy. A long-time widow, she had also buried two of her children.

Everything is connected

(Photo by Tumisu from Pixabay)

This column is going to attempt two tasks, because, well, everything is connected! As usual, I may be trying to do too much—let’s see!

First of all, May is mental health month. Several years ago, I wrote about my own mental health struggles. Of all the columns I have written, it was the scariest of all to send to readers, but also generated the most public and private responses.

‘Camp shapes people’

(Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/campswithmeanin)

I am looking ahead to my last summer as associate program director of Mennonite Church Manitoba’s Camps with Meaning (CwM) program; my last summer spent travelling to and from Assiniboia and Koinonia; my last summer training and supporting an amazing group of young adults; and my last summer watching staff, volunteers and campers make connections and have ridiculous fun.

Talking more about power

(Photo by JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash)

It was Easter Sunday, and after the sun came up over the horizon during our congregational sunrise service, we all tramped inside to share an amazing potluck breakfast spread. My husband Keith landed at a men’s table, and I watched with interest as they became very animated in their discussion.

Darkness and light in worship

(Photo by Carolina Pimenta/Unsplash)

When Sarah Kathleen Johnson was an undergraduate student at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., she wrote a hymn text based on Psalm 139. More than a decade later, Len Enns, her former choir director at Grebel and a prominent Mennonite composer, would set the text to music, and the pairing would become Voices Together No. 200: “Darkness is not Dark to You, God.”

Jesus and the 4 Cs

(Photo by Tim Hüfner/Unsplash)

Have you ever heard of the 4 Cs? In education, the 4 Cs refer to 21st century learning skills including critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating and collaborating. In my role now, I have been thinking about how Jesus connects to the 4 Cs, and how they can connect to our work in the church and the world around us.

Bernhard Schellenberg

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives)

In 2023, the Mennonite Heritage Archives celebrates 90 years of service to the Mennonite community.  It can trace its roots to the Conference of Mennonites in Canada’s annual sessions held June 26-28, 1933, in Gnadenthal (near Plum Coulee, Man.), when Bernhard Schellenberg (1879-1966) was appointed archivist.

‘An old nose’

(Photo by Michał Parzuchowski/Unsplash)

A recent weekend was exhausting, delightful, enlightening, hilarious, touching . . . and exhausting.

The stars lined up in such a way that we kept our youngest grandchild, seven-year-old Jaxon, here for the weekend. Usually when he’s here, he is accompanied by his two older brothers, but they were busy doing other things.

Dandelions for the Gospel

(Photo by Viridi Green/Unsplash)

A dandelion tattoo festoons my left forearm, a puffball ready to launch its wispy seeds. Asked to speak at one of our congregations one Sunday, I intended to start the children’s feature by showing the tattoo.

“Can you do that?” a friend asked. “Can you show a tattoo in church?”

That exchange is object lesson No. 1, and I will let you decide what to take from it.

What more could I want?

(Photo by Ello/Unsplash)

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

Despite regular self-reminders of my abundance, I want.

Despite the ongoing conversations with my children about our relative wealth, they want.

Despite overflowing shelves of books and games, and complaining about lack of storage space, and instruments that barely see the light of day, I want.


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