In my work with high-risk single mothers, I’ve been meeting one-on-one this summer with women, as our weekly group program was put on hold due to the pandemic. Over and over, I’ve seen the positive effects that a caring community has on individuals and how vastly important it is.
In early August, I heard about the devastating impact of floods and a landside on a Mennonite congregation in Kerala in southern India, with mud covering the building and many church members missing. Paul Phinehas, head of the Anabaptist conference there, asked for prayers for:
This summer, our neighbours had a total of four trees taken down that bordered either side of our property. I really miss those big, beautiful trees. One tree was at least 50 years old, the other three were probably closer to 100, but it took only a few hours to reduce them to small piles of stump shavings scattered on the ground.
“Find us empty and wandering . . . find us in the wilderness, and fill us with your feast.”
This lyric by Phil Campbell-Enns, pastor of Home Street Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, is from a song that was chosen for the first Mennonite Church Canada online worship service on March 22. At the time, it perfectly described where we found ourselves and how we felt.
In Saskatoon, at the 1975 Conference of Mennonites in Canada annual conference, the Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) board, “long embarrassed about faculty salaries,” asked for funds to raise salaries to a maximum of $20,000 per year for PhD professors after 10 years of service.
A story in Genesis 28 describes the patriarch Jacob stopping for the night while on a journey. His sleep includes a dream of a visit from God. In the morning, Jacob awakes and offers the profound observation, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I didn’t know it! This is none other than the house of God!”
As a result of that experience, Jacob names the spot “Bethel.”
Because of my Christian friends I’m taking a hiatus from social media. One has repeatedly posted a meme of Jesus with an AK-47 assault rifle. I tried hard to explain in detail why I thought this was horrible. What I mean, of course, is that we argued.
“Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God” (Hosea 14:1).
In this final chapter of Hosea, God bids the Israelites return to God and acknowledge their waywardness, but also to be assured they will find compassion and fruitfulness in God.
The Mennonite church has the opportunity to become a dependable partner in the work of dismantling racism.
The church as a whole has a record of racism—both overt and covert—that has been attested to by generations of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) community members both within and outside the church.
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.
Since I was a young boy, I’ve been fascinated by words, stories and ideas.
So when I heard that I had an opportunity to be a regional representative for Alberta on the Canadian Mennonite Publishing Service (CMPS) board of directors, which acts in an advisory capacity for the direction of the Canadian Mennonite periodical, I took them up on it.
Every year around this time, the congregation I belong to makes plans for Gathering Sunday. After a summer of sparser attendance at worship services, our gathering on the first Sunday after Labour Day is always a celebration, a reunion for those of us who vacationed outside the area and for those who stayed put during the summer.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: A time to born and a time to die . . . .” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2).
The Conference of Mennonites in Canada annual session was held in July 1975, in Swift Current, Sask. Hot weather put participants’ “cool” to the test. The assembly was not only about business but also about relationships and, as such, there was time for work and play, including a game of volleyball, pictured.
I’ve been asked recently why my column is called “Third Way Family.” The question has prompted me to share my reasoning behind choosing this title and what it means to me.
I am listening these days to stories of how people and their churches are responding to the physical and emotional needs around them due to COVID-19. Every congregation is finding ways to help those around them who need food, assistance with their rent, connecting digitally or some other kind of accompaniment.
The past few months have awakened us to our fragility as individuals, communities and nation states. We’ve observed the fragility of our health-care system, food-supply chain, economies, global trade, international relations, institutional accountability. It seems that everything in our world is fragile, including ourselves.
When H.S. Bender came out with The Anabaptist Vision in the 1940s, he offered a Mennonite theology that was different from the evangelical fundamentalism widely accepted in the church at the time.
During a Zoom call a month or so ago, a pastor friend mused, “Is worship all we have left?” Our virtual meet-up—all folks involved in congregational leadership—had been sharing various strategies we had tried to carry on with Sunday morning worship services.
I am thinking about sparrows today, about how many of them there are, and yet how little I notice them until they stop for a quick perch on the railing of my deck and I find myself wishing that they were some other variety of backyard bird, perhaps something with just a little more colour—like a wren or a goldfinch or an oriole. Even a chickadee or a nuthatch will do.