Unity and uniformity

(Photo by Gilbert Mercier, Flickr)

As a preteen more than 50 years ago, I remember asking my mom about the difference between Baptists and Mennonites, given that we were members of a Fellowship Baptist church while all our relatives were Mennonite Brethren. My mom stumbled to find an answer.

Worship through visual art

“Tree of Life,” by Saejin Lee. (Reprinted by permission of the artist)

If you have flipped through Voices Together, you have likely found that visually it looks like many other worship and song collections, with one noticeable difference: the inclusion of visual art. Unlike previous collections, the new hymnal contains 12 works of art which are interspersed throughout the collection, depicting acts of worship and aspects of the Christian story.

Four models of multiracial church

(Photo by Daniel McCullough/Unsplash)

In his 2003 book, One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches, George Yancey shares the results of a major study funded by the Lily Endowment and conducted by Michael Emerson, Karen Chai and Yancey.

The researchers discuss four distinctive types of multiracial churches. Below, I analyze these types from a Mennonite perspective.

Are pick-and-shovel prayers still tearing through God’s rooftop?

(Photo by Shchekoldin Mikhail, Shutterstock)

In Mark 2:1, Jesus teaches the word to crowds gathered at his home. (Most readers don’t realize this was likely Jesus’s house). Jesus didn’t want the crowds. In the previous verses he healed a leper and told him not to tell anyone. However, the healed leper couldn’t keep his mouth shut, which resulted in large crowds forming at Jesus’s house.

Walnut Receiving Home

(Photo: Conference of Mennonites in Canada, Native Ministries)

In 1976, Jake and Trudy Unrau bought a home at 171 Walnut Street in Winnipeg and opened it up for Indigenous people visiting Winnipeg for medical appointments. In 1977, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada bought the home, and the Walnut Receiving Home became part of its ministry.

The gift of urgency

Jesus teaching from a fishing boat on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. (Photo by Annalisa Jones, Shutterstock)

An impassioned rant by a grandchild included these words: “Opa, why are you not dead yet?”

Why indeed.

The comment regarding my deserved death connects to the story of a recent event in my life.

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.


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