Opinion

CO foresters

Photo: David T. Wall Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

Conscientious objectors (COs) played an important role on the Canadian volunteer scene during the Second World War. Among the assignments was work in the forests around Banff, Alta., clearing trees. Surprisingly, much of the parks system in Canada was established by these people, some of whom were less than willing to be there or do the work.

Work-play-rest

‘...at the end of the story Pooh says, “Whew, it feels good to rest. Doing nothing is much more fun after a busy day of helping.” I think we all know this feeling.’ (Image by Innviertlerin/Pixabay)

As our life has quite abruptly and drastically shifted, along with everyone’s around the globe, I have been reflecting on our daily rhythm and working at reorganizing our schedule into a work-play-rest rhythm. 

Salt for the earth

Luis Hernandez, leader of the Brethren in Christ Church in Cuba, and his wife cook huge pots of food in their home kitchen and share it with hungry people around them. (Photo courtesy of Arli Klassen)

These weeks of physical distancing, including Easter, have forced us to think more about what it means to be the church. We appreciate the phrase “the church has left the building!” We identify with Jesus’s disciples on Easter, huddled behind locked doors, filled with fear and despair. I have begun thinking about the church in these days using two more images from Jesus.

The power of paradox

‘These paradoxes turn out to be keys that unlock doors...’ (Image by Felix Wolf/Pixabay)

Christianity is rooted in paradox. A paradox is when two or more incompatible truths are held together to reveal a deeper hidden truth. An example of a paradox in Christianity is that the Kingdom of God is both already here and still coming in the future. Other examples include:

Mennonite resistance

(Photo: Richard Sutton, Kitchener-Waterloo Record/ Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Tourists attempt to photograph boys outside of the Elmira Old Order Mennonite Meetinghouse, circa 1970. The boys are using a hand mirror to thwart their efforts. The photo appeared in the local newspaper with the caption “Mennonite Resistance.” After the Second World War, urban Canadians embraced rural tourism.

How broad is salvation?

'God has never been revealed to me by finding answers, but rather through the gentle holding of possibilities.' (Image by Raheel Shakeel/Pixabay)

Someone told me recently that they had been asked to share their faith journey in a Sunday morning church service. The invitation, however, came with an addendum: “Don’t talk about universalism.”

At the end of that conversation, I reached for my phone dictionary for a definition. “Universalism” is “a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved.”

The public good in a time of pandemic

'Societal and governmental responses here and around the world show that people and institutions can change quickly.' (Image by Miroslava Chrienova/Pixabay)

The COVID-19 pandemic feels surreal. Streets of our cities are nearly empty, even at rush hour. Kids are home, schools have gone online, and some workers log in from home after many years of regular commutes to an office. And huge numbers of workers have been laid off. 

Mennonite encounters with contemplative prayer

'...dwell with the Spirit of God in silence, just receiving, being open.' (Image by zefe/Pixabay)

Doug Klassen, who now serves as Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister, confessed to a fellow pastor that he couldn’t pray for more than 10 minutes. “I came to a place where I kept running into myself when I was praying,” Klassen recalls of his early days as a youth pastor.

Old photo

Photo: Mennonite Genealogy Inc. Photo Collection

Photography in generations past was a very deliberate, expensive and intense hobby. Special equipment, such as chemicals, film, lighting and the camera itself, was needed. Photographers often had to develop their own photos, which meant they had to have a dark room.

Thrift shopper, peacebuilder

'I can’t even count how many times our local thrift store has provided exactly what I was looking for.' (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/mccthrift)

I was walking to church for an event a few weeks back and stopped by our local Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store for my usual weekly peek and to say hello to the dear ladies who faithfully volunteer their time.

Being the church in risky times

Arli Klassen and Keith Regehr with their children in Maseru circa 1993. (Photo courtesy of Arli Klassen)

As relatively privileged people living in Canada, there aren’t too many times that we think about whether this action or that action might result in our death. Living in these pandemic times, though, reminds me of our years living in southern Africa near the end of official apartheid. We thought often then of whether doing this or that might result in death.

Fear not

(Image by Jasmin Sessler/Pixabay)

I watched in disbelief as people feverishly filled their carts with toilet paper and bolted before someone could steal their treasure. In less than a minute, the toilet paper was gone and the mob dispersed. Except for one lady standing in front of a stack of six packages of toilet paper, protecting it from the envious eyes of those around her.

‘Greater love has no one . . .’

The Rose Cottage, located in the historic ‘plague village’ of Eyam, England, where 250 of the village’s 350 residents died of the Black Plague between 1665 and 1666. (Photo by Michael Beckwith / bit.ly/cclicence2-0)

“Greater love has no one than to lay their life down for their friends,” said Jesus.

That’s an amazing thing for anyone to do. But what about a whole village laying down its life for people it doesn’t even know?

What makes us Mennonite?

Tewodros Beyene, outgoing president of Meserete Kristos Church, washes the feet of his successor, Deselagn Abede. (Photo by Tom Eshleman/LMC)

“Talking about ‘a’ Mennonite identity seems passé,” wrote Marlene Epp in 2018. Still, Epp, a member of a pre-eminent family of Mennonite historians, is more than willing to talk about Mennonite identity. 

Living into a new imagination

‘Can the next generation of leaders see themselves being involved in short-term, issue-specific initiatives to achieve a specific goal or outcome?’ (Image by Free-Photos/Pixabay)

Once upon a time, around 35 years ago, God brought into the world some new people. These people have grown up to love Jesus and follow him with all of their lives. They have also responded to the impulse of the Holy Spirit and God’s call to serve as leaders in the church. Some of them are pastors. Some are people just interested in making a difference in our world in Jesus-shaped ways.

The gift of imagination

(Image by Free-Photos/Pixabay)

I remember the feeling with such clarity: that furious, terrified, sick-to-your-stomach despair one feels when you are numerous pages into writing an academic paper and the computer freezes and you’re unsure if it was saved. Rebooting and reopening the document brings about despair and tears as you discover it’s all gone. Every. Single. Word. 

Climate change as a spiritual crisis

A group of young Mennonites pictured at the climate strike in Winnipeg on Sept. 27, 2019. 'We are shifting and caring more about the climate, and every little and big thing we do helps,' Douglas Kaufman writes. (Canadian Mennonite file photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

When Luke Gascho and Jennifer Schrock of Goshen College’s Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center invited me to help lead efforts to engage Mennonite churches on climate change, it felt like a call from the Spirit. I felt prepared because I had been leading Benton Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., in creation care for 15 years and had just spent a sabbatical studying ecology and theology.

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