I struggle often with my relative wealth and privilege. Working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for 20-plus years helped give me something “to do” to address inequities in our world. Working with Mennonite World Conference (MWC) makes me even more aware of the inequities of wealth and privilege, and how we might respond as the church.
A few years ago I was trekking through a desolate, snow-filled forest, enjoying the spacious tranquility of a crisp winter hike, when I came upon a tree buzzing with activity and life. There were well over a hundred little birds gathered in and around a relatively small tree less than 10 metres ahead of me. It was striking both visually and audibly. Surreal even.
After a long period of waiting, we learned in December that a COVID-19 vaccine had been approved and distribution was beginning. We were told that, by the beginning of September, we all should have received the vaccine, and life can begin to return to “normal.”
Epp sisters Anna Klaassen (1904-1976) and Maria Nickel (1903-1957) work together on the family farm in Saskatchewan stooking sheaves of grain. Stooking required workers to gather the cut grain into sheaves and then to stand the sheaves upright to help dry the grain before it is threshed. It was back-breaking work.
My first season of a church in an intentional pastoral transition process was as an associate pastor with my home church in Surrey, B.C.
In 1984, a local reporter interviews Gary Snider, dressed in clothes his grandfather wore when he arrived as an immigrant from the Soviet Union 60 years before. Three hundred people took part in this commemorative walk, retracing the route of a group of 1924 Mennonite immigrants from a railway siding in Uptown Waterloo, Ont., to Erb Street Mennonite Church.
The Jan. 10 bulletin at Tiefengrund Mennonite Church included the following church family news: “Ed Olfert has officially retired and is now living the good life! In other news, Ed was taken to hospital on Wednesday and was subsequently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and now has to alter his diet and take pills/insert needles for the rest of his retirement. . . .”
I like Lent. I wonder how many Mennonites practise this season in the church calendar. And if so, what they do.
Life is full of spectrums, and I often struggle to find my place on them.
Some spectrums, like the light spectrum from infrared through the visible colours to ultraviolet, although fascinating, aren’t highly controversial. Other spectrums, like our political or theological views, can harbour very passionate and divisive lines.
Many of us are taking crowds very seriously these days and avoiding them as much as possible. For the sake of public health, I cannot encourage this enough. But there’s a crowd we have been avoiding since long before the pandemic started.
Scarlet fever, cholera, diphtheria, smallpox, typhoid and whooping cough were some of communicable diseases that plagued communities in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Jacob Kroeker (1836-1914) came to Manitoba in 1876 and settled in the village of Schoenweise. From 1881 to 1885 halskrankeit (diptheria) was a significant communicable illness that affected many.
I believe it is important that we are called to belong to a faith community that is beyond our own congregation. My main question today is: “How do we belong, how do we connect with the people in our Anabaptist church (regional, nationwide, international) beyond our congregation?
I’m writing this on Jan. 18 and I’m wondering how tone deaf my article will seem by the time you read it. I have no idea what the world will be like in a few days, let alone a few weeks. Who knows what catastrophic event or pivotal moment in history will have occurred between now and early February?
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?”