Vaccines, sexual misconduct and defunding the police were the subjects of some of the most popular stories Canadian Mennonite published on its website in 2021. Here are the top stories we published last year, based on the number of page views.
10. “A hymn by any other number,” published last February, tells the history of “Dedication Anthem.” The hymn is known to many Mennonites as “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” or simply as “606” due to its number in The Mennonite Hymnal (1969). In this feature, Bradley Kauffman, project director and general editor for the Voices Together hymnal (2020), examines the hymn’s origins and importance in the Mennonite church before going into a larger exploration about innovations in church music over the last six decades.
9. March marked the 25th anniversary of the release of “Amish Paradise,” a song in which legendary music parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic lampooned the Amish—and mentioned Mennonites along the way. “Watch: ‘Amish Paradise,’ 25 years later” explores the history behind the song, in which Yankovic sings, “We’re all crazy Mennonites living in an Amish paradise.”
8. May saw the first in a series of discoveries at former Indian residential schools of unmarked gravesites containing the remains of hundreds of people, believed to be mainly Indigenous children. Published the following month, “‘It was a wake-up call’” tells the story of Jim Shantz, former Indigenous Neighbours coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee Alberta. Shantz spoke of his commitment to walking with his Indigenous brothers and sisters and suggested that there is a lot to learn from Indigenous spirituality. “We tend to focus on our vertical relationship with God,” he said. “The Indigenous remind us that the horizontal relationship is also important.”
7. In January, Mennonite Central Committee announced that it had initiated research into how national socialism (Nazism) shaped the contexts in Europe and Paraguay where MCC operated in the 1930s and ‘40s, and how, at the time, MCC engaged with the German National Socialist government and worked to resettle Mennonite refugees from the Soviet Union. “MCC initiates research into historical connections with National Socialism” detailed MCC’s intentions. The organization released its research findings in September.
6. Some of the areas with the lowest vaccination rates in Canada are areas inhabited by lots of Mennonites, senior writer Will Braun reported in August. In “Will COVID-19 create lasting divisions in churches?” Braun spoke with representatives from 10 Mennonite Church Canada congregations about the extent of pandemic-induced division. “In about 12 months, [the pandemic] is going to look very different for us,” one pastor said. “How do we plant seeds [for healing and reconciliation]?”
5. In July, Saskatchewan correspondent Donna Schulz told the story of Tree Bird in “An Indigenous woman's journey and advice to Mennonites.” Bird was adopted by a Mennonite family who raised her on a farm west of Saskatoon. Bird spoke about her journey, including how she has reconnected with her Indigenous roots and spirituality. “What we, as Indigenous people, are asking of the church is that you educate yourselves,” Bird said, adding later: “Let the universe guide you to a place where you can be of service. You will meet wounded yet resilient and amazingly strong Indigenous people.”
4. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020 provoked a reckoning over the role of police in society. Published in September, “Defund the police?” covered Manitoba Mennonites who are critical of policing. “I would hope that people understand police defunding and prison abolition as a movement toward greater safety for everyone,” one source said. “Oftentimes, it gets represented as exactly the opposite—as a movement toward chaos—and it’s just not that.”
3. In May, two Mennonite organizations announced findings of inappropriate sexual behaviour by Frank H. Epp, who served in a variety of leadership roles in the Mennonite community in Canada before his death in 1986. “Investigation reveals misconduct by influential Mennonite leader” reported on the findings of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and Mennonite Central Committee Canada.
2. “Mennonite leaders weigh in on vaccination” was published in February, when Canadian provinces were in the early stages of vaccine rollout. Winnipeg-based reporter John Longhurst spoke with five leaders from Mennonite Church Canada and five leaders from other Mennonite denominations in Canada and the U.S. about whether or not they would promote the vaccine.
1. “No religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccines: MC Canada,” which included a message from Mennonite Church Canada’s executive ministers, was the most popular article we published in 2021. The message from MC Canada leadership stated that “there is nothing in the Bible, in our historic confessions of faith, in our theology or in our ecclesiology that justifies granting a religious exemption from vaccinations against COVID-19.” The leaders added, “From the earliest biblical writings, in the words of Jesus Christ and in ecclesial writings since Jesus’ ascension, the command to love God and love our neighbour is paramount. Vaccinations allow us to live out this command.”
Is there a story you read in Canadian Mennonite last year that sticks out for you? Let us know in the comments. Do you have an idea for a story you would like to see us cover in 2022? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.