Ever since the arrival of the coronavirus, there have been segments of the church that have been criticized for not taking the pandemic seriously. Christian sceptics and those who criticize them are well-represented on my social media feed.
Participants in a Festival of Peace at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., embrace during a small group session.
It can probably be said, with a reasonable helping of truthfulness, that the family that I was born into didn’t put big energy into teaching social niceties. Certainly we were taught respect, but “No, no, you take the biggest piece,” didn’t figure prominently.
We don’t talk about mental health much in the church. When we do, we tend to see it as deviation from a presumably healthy “normal.” This is deficit thinking. Maybe our standards of “normal” are a problem. Maybe we could see the diverse ways that minds and bodies function as gifts.
In late August, my wife and I became first-time homeowners. There had been many times we wondered if we would ever be able to afford a house, ever save up enough for a down payment, or if we even wanted to do the traditional homeownership thing. But, after 16 years of marriage, we bought a house.
As I finish off another growing season on the farm, I reflect on how things grew, what went well, and what to tweak for next year. Aside from our various pastured livestock, I also grow a market garden and, after nine years, I still feel that I have so much to learn.
Within this Mennonite hearth, we can read an environmental history. By 1850, when John E. and Magdalena Brubacher built this house, the forest stands of southwestern Ontario were well on their way to being transformed into farmland. The harvesting and sale of wood and its products was the engine of the economy.
Since living in a pandemic that has suddenly limited indoor socializing, I have been particularly thankful for the neighbourhood friendships we’ve created. In March and April, when we were all isolating, we actually got to know our neighbours far better.
As a young adult I entered a Mennonite college knowing little about Mennonites. I grew up (mostly) Baptist. I was astonished to hear people say over and over again, “You must be a Mennonite!” I sputtered that just because my last name is Klassen does not make me Mennonite, and that, in fact, I was a Christian who happened to be a member of a Baptist congregation.
My focus on growth may seem strange during this difficult season we’re in, but I believe that the best way to get through this pandemic is by growing.
My understanding of growth is simple. It’s the process of becoming who someone (or something) was created and designed to be.
There are many ways for us to grow during even the most-challenging times. We can grow by:
The youth of the Mennonite church are often on my mind, and over the years, they have secured a place in my heart. It has been total joy and privilege to share time and space with them at national gatherings, regularly in my ministry within Mennonite Church Manitoba, and through the sharing of stories in Canadian Mennonite.
LaVerna Klippenstein (1934-2014) fulfilled many roles, including mother, wife, teacher and author. After her marriage to Lawrence Klippenstein in 1956, the pair began working in the Métis community of Matheson Island, Man., for two years with Mennonite Pioneer Mission. She is pictured hanging laundry on Matheson Island.
The first story is as recent as a week ago last Sunday. As I stood to sing a somewhat familiar hymn in the morning worship service, the words came off the page to grasp my attention with unusual urgency. The song was “There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy,” and the verse that snared me was the third.
Whether you know the word or not, shalom is central to the way most Mennonites think of what it means to be disciples faithful to Jesus. “Peace” is how the Hebrew word shalom is often translated.
I was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to read amidst my children having breakfast and building with Lego, and I read this verse: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, Your sons and daughters will prophesy. . .” (Joel 2:28).
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.