Why go to all the trouble of producing a new hymnal? The Gesangbuch commission of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada faced this question in 1961. The 1942 version, it was felt, lacked readability and a variety in tunes. Furthermore, the world of the early 1960s “demanded a broader witness,” with more vocational, youth and gospel songs. The conference needed a unifying hymnal.
At the end of the infamous year 2020, I retired from pastoral ministry. Again. We’ll see if it “takes” this time.
The Buddhist nun looked across the table and asked me if Christians were taught how to practise faith. “Is Christian faith only beliefs that you try to internalize? Or do you do anything to help people more deeply develop themselves?” she asked.
My youngest daughter Ruth can be a little firecracker. We say that she’s sweet and spicy.
Sometimes she can get into a real funk, though, and I can feel lost as to how to help her. I am thankful for my wife, who often sweeps in to save the day when my strategies are failing miserably. Sometimes our strategies work and sometimes they don’t.
As human beings, we’re generally pretty lousy at grace. We long for it in our deepest and truest moments, and we desperately need it, God knows. But we often struggle to receive it. We’d prefer to earn, to justify, to merit. Grace is for the weak, and that’s not us.
Relationships, not rituals, are what’s important
Mennonite Church Canada’s online study conference, “Table talk: Does the church still have legs,” had thought-provoking talks.
In Sara Wenger Shenk’s talk, she asked, “Why do instructions about how we do communion become more important than its meaning?”
Happy New Year. In reflecting on the church for 2021, I’ve been impacted by my experience creating virtual choirs—those videos where choristers sing at home, into their phone, and the video and audio from that phone recording get put together into one cohesive choir.
I read with great interest the many articles about how different churches are responding to the pandemic and government restrictions. There are many! Because there are many ways for churches to respond both to the pandemic and to the restrictions.
In 2013 I went on a pilgrimage to Scotland to explore my family roots and the “thin places” and sacred sites in the land of my ancestors. I arrived at the Glasgow airport shortly after 8 a.m. After landing, I immediately picked up my rental car and headed to my first destination. I hadn’t been able to sleep on the overnight flight, so I hadn’t slept in 30 hours.
Expectations. We all have them. We have expectations of others, and expectations placed upon us. Meeting expectations can be especially conflicting when navigating between different cultures.
The 1973 motto for the annual Conference of the United Mennonite Churches of B.C. was “Evangelism that cares.” Sessions were hosted by two churches in Vancouver: First United Mennonite and Mountainview Mennonite. The opening speaker asked, “Are we evangelists who care about people in the city?
(This Viewpoint piece was inspired by Christina Bartel Barkman’s recent “Marriage and conflict” column.)
Conflicts seem to occur even in the best marriages, and sometimes even church policies can become the cause of a marriage conflict.
By everything that is right and good, Helen Penner's life should have been celebrated with singing.
Let me tell you a story. A couple of years ago, our church council did some brainstorming around how to begin reaching out to our neighbours. Because our church is located in a rural community, the possibilities are limited and come with significant hurdles.
In the early 2000s, I sat in the church office of Pastor Wang in southern China. He was lamenting the fact that 300 people from his congregation had signed up to take baptismal classes during services over the Christmas weekend. I tried to encourage him by saying that that number was beyond a Canadian congregation’s wildest dreams.
The Rosedale Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (also known as Holdeman) is in the community of Crooked Creek, Alta. This photo is from the 1970s, but the community began in 1928 and is located 72 kilometres east of Grand Prairie, Alta. In 2019, this congregation’s membership was 178.
Advent is the season of waiting for the gift to come. Advent moves into the season of Christmas, which ends at Epiphany, when the Magi—possibly Zoroastrians—famously gave gifts to the infant Jesus.
What do you do when you maybe don’t believe the Bible—or at least a particular part of it?
My grandfather smoked, but I didn’t know it. Grandma didn’t want us to see him smoking and pick up the habit, but they agreed he could continue as long as it was out of sight. I had no idea until years after his passing, when a coworker returned from a smoke break smelling just like grandpa.
When the death of George Floyd sparked race-related demonstrations across North America earlier this year, one of our deacons asked, “What can we do in response to this?”
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (Mark 9:38, NIV). John’s exclusionary attitude remains a prevalent attitude in our churches: “You are not one of us!”