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Loving the enemy in Burkina Faso

A woman prepares food for her family in Burkina Faso. (Mennonite Church Canada photo by Deborah Froese)

Web First | Jun 20, 2016

In a land that closely resembles the place Jesus lived more than 2,000 years ago, his words still prove true. The people of Sidi, Burkina Faso, plant their fields with the tools and methods described in the New Testament. They draw water from wells, and feed their families with crops they harvest. Some of them live by Jesus’ teaching, recorded in Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

What I learned while walking the Camino

Alvin Thiessen completed the 800-kilometre pilgrimage along the Camino de Compostela. He reached the Cape of Fisterra, on the Atlantic coast, 90 kilometres past the city of Santiago de Compostela. (Photo by Alvin Thiessen)

Web First | By Alvin Thiessen | Jun 20, 2016

After 10 days of walking, I come to a small town in Spain called Belorado. The day before, I had walked a gruelling 31 kilometres up and down hills, in warm and sunny spring weather. Maybe it’s the long walk and my feet are tired, or, maybe it’s the constant climbing up and down the hills, but something feels different under my left foot. I get to my hostel and take my walking shoes off to find a blister has formed under my foot. It’s a bad one!

Can MC Canada become a ‘we’?

Viewpoints | By Gerald Gerbrandt | Jun 15, 2016

One thing became very clear during the Future Directions Task Force conversation: In the imagination of most of us, Mennonite Church Canada is an “it” or a “they.” Currently, we experience the larger denomination—including the area churches—as an entity apart or distinct from the local congregation. We may affirm the services the denomination provides, or the programs it delivers, but these are “it” doing things for “us.”

Stronger regionalism weakens national church

Viewpoints | By Waldemar Regier | Jun 15, 2016

I have always been part of the Mennonite world, having been called to Jesus Christ in my early years; active in the fellowship of the church throughout my youth; and trained by the church through Canadian Mennonite Bible College, Winnipeg, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind., and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y. I was ordained into pastoral ministry in 1964, just at the time of transition to professional ministry in Canada.

A pastor’s holy moments

Dick Benner
Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jun 15, 2016

We expect a lot from our pastors, especially the part-time ones who are forced to be bi-vocational. They speak candidly about their roles and their congregation’s expectations in this issue beginning on page 4, as interviewed by our Saskatchewan correspondent, Donna Schulz.

Meet the pastors who moonlight

Besides his year-round ministerial duties at Eigenheim Mennonite Church, near Rosthern, Sask., Allan Friesen works each summer as an interpretive guide at the historic Fort Carlton Provincial Park, teaching school children and tourists about the fur trade and the signing of Treaty 6. (Photo by Maryvel Friesen)

Feature | By Donna Schulz | Jun 15, 2016

Someone once said, “There’s no such thing as part-time pastors, only part-time salaries.” If this is true, a lot of congregations within Mennonite Church Canada are getting good value for their money.

Bi-vocational ministry has become increasingly commonplace as churches decrease in size and can no longer afford full-time pastors. Even large congregations who employ pastoral teams frequently have one or two part-time ministers on their payroll. For better or worse, part-time ministry is here to stay and may become even more prevalent in the future.

Readers write: June 20, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

Reading the gospels led reader to ‘faith in a living Christ’

Re: “The Bible is full of shortcomings and biases” letter, May 9, page 10.

Not a fragile faith

Willard Metzger
Viewpoints | By Willard Metzger | Jun 15, 2016

In a recent Bible study, we were looking at John 20 where Jesus appeared to the disciples. Gathered behind locked doors, Jesus appeared in the midst of them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he did an amazing thing. He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

This is a significant development. It was a graduation. They would now carry on the faith—not by receiving more teaching by Jesus, but by listening to the Holy Spirit. It was an empowering. It was an unleashing of the law written in their hearts.

‘You say goodbye, I say hello’

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

A long time ago, my high school physics teacher defined work as moving something from one place to another. “You could work all day trying to move a boulder,” he expanded, “and if you hadn’t actually shifted the position of the boulder, technically speaking, you wouldn’t have worked.” His definition left its mark on my teenage brain. I do not know how accurate his description was, but I recall it as I enter an employment transition.

Alexander Fast

Photo by C.F. Klassen / Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Viewpoints | By Conrad Stoesz | Jun 15, 2016

Alexander Fast (1888-1942), front row right, and his second wife Selinde Fast (1894-1973) fled to Germany from Russia during the Russian Revolution and were immigrants to Canada in 1928. In this photo, taken in 1933, they are at the Winnipeg train station with friend C.F. Klassen (behind Alexander), leaving for British Columbia. Mennonite immigrants have not always been welcomed in Canada, being considered a danger because they came from a communist country even after passing government screening of the day. Sadly, our world continues to produce refugees.

The pursuit of truth (Pt. 6)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | Jun 15, 2016

In an article entitled “Has militant atheism become a religion?” published on (March 24, 2013), primatologist Frans de Waal writes, “In my interactions with religious and nonreligious people alike, I now draw a sharp line, based not on what exactly they believe but on their level of dogmatism. I consider dogmatism a far greater threat than religion . . . .”

Returning to their roots

C. Schmidt—front row, second from left—and Henry W. Friesen—back row, right—were two of the founding members of the Mennonite Youth Farm. Friesen was a driving force behind Youth Farm Bible Camp for many years; his wife Helen—back row, second from right—continues to reside at the Youth Farm. (Photo courtesy of Youth Farm Bible Camp)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Jun 15, 2016

The history of Youth Farm Bible Camp is, in no small sense, the history of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan. In the early 1940s, the Mennonite Youth Society began holding retreats at the Dominion Experimental Farm, just south of Rosthern. Several individuals saw the neglected farm as an ideal site for the ministries of Saskatchewan Mennonites. Henry W. Friesen, Isaac Epp and J. C. Schmidt spent a full year in prayer to discern whether or not they should purchase the farm.

Hope Mennonite Fellowship withdraws from MC Saskatchewan

Hope Mennonite Fellowship of North Battleford, Sask., left the area church on April 30 over theological and same-sex issues. (Photo by Gerhard Luitjens)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Jun 15, 2016

Hope Mennonite Fellowship withdrew its membership from Mennonite Church Saskatchewan effective April 30, 2016.

A hedge of protection

Virginia Froese

God at work in the Church | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | Jun 15, 2016

Forty Mennonite Church Manitoba clergy attended the area church’s biennial “Healthy boundaries” seminar, held this year at Carman Mennonite Church. Led this spring by clinical psychologist Lois Edmund, the conference is mandatory once every four years for all credentialled MC Manitoba pastors.

Topics covered at the seminars include “Boundaries defined and their importance in ministry,” “Healthy congregations and healthy pastors,” “Strategies to reduce pastoral misconduct,” and “MC Manitoba policy on professional misconduct,” among others.

Mennonite historical assumptions challenged

Chief Calvin Bruneau, left, Roger Epp, and Isaac and Millie Glick are pictured at the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta’s 2016 spring conference with a display of a model canoe and jams from people the Glicks worked with in northern Alberta. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

God at work in the World | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

Participants at the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta spring conference, held on April 30, 2016, at Holyrood Mennonite Church, Edmonton, spent time “Rethinking Mennonite history in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” the theme of this year’s event.

‘This profession found me’

Betty Pries leads a recent workshop for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada called ‘Pastors in the 21st century.’ She is pictured showing how the polarities of ‘open’ to God at work in the wider world and ‘centred’ on Jesus can speak past each other, rather than complementing and building on each other. (Photo by Dave Rogalsly)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Jun 15, 2016

Growing up in an immigrant family prepared Betty Pries to see God’s presence in the struggles of life. Her grandmother’s “story-based faith” came to her through stories from Russia under communism, fleeing the Soviet Union during the Second World War and homesteading in Paraguay. In spite of struggles, and perhaps even because of them, there was a pervasive sense of God at work in the world and of being dependent on God.

‘Mennonite’ composers headline concert at WLU

Pictured from left to right: Paul Pulford, who conducted the orchestra in Glenn Buhr’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 3; Stephanie Martin, who composed ‘Babel: A Choral Symphony’; Buhr; and Lee Willingham, who conducted Martin’s piece, at the April 3 world premiere of the two works as part of the 40th anniversary of WLU’s Faculty of Music on April 3, 2016. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)


Artbeat | By Dave Rogalsky | Jun 15, 2016

Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Faculty of Music with a concert on April 3, 2016, that featured the premiere of works by two composers with Mennonite roots and connections.

Glenn Buhr, WLU’s professor of composition and director of the Improvisation Concerts Ensemble, comes from Mennonite roots in Gretna, Man. His grandfather left the Mennonite church to join the Canadian military in the First World War; besides that, he married outside the faith and became a lawyer, basically sealing his outsider status.

Cousins write family saga: Daughters in the House of Jacob

Signing copies of Daughters in the House of Jacob are Christine Kampen, left, and Dorothy Peters. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

Artbeat | By Amy Dueckman | Jun 15, 2016

Two Canadian Mennonite women, one a pastor and the other a professor, introduced their new book, Daughters in the House of Jacob: A Memoir of Migration, at the Mennonite Heritage Museum on June 4, 2016.

Sharing faith through teaching Sunday school

Benjamin Weber is a member of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jun 15, 2016

Some teachers want their lessons to run smoothly, but not Benjamin Weber.

“I like a healthy amount of chaos,” says Weber, 29, who teaches the youth Sunday school class at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont. “I open the floor and let them ask me about anything. Usually it’s about current events, so we relate that back to the topic at hand.”

Weber has taught the class for the last four-and-a-half years.

The power of film

Watching great films is a spiritual experience for Winnipeg filmmaker Paul Plett. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jun 15, 2016

“Watching great films is a very spiritual experience for me,” says Paul Plett. “It hits a tuning fork in [my] heart and my whole soul reverberates.”

The 30-year-old, who attends Home Street Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, is not only an avid film watcher but makes films himself. He recently completed work on Northern Folk, a documentary about folk music in Canada, as well as a three-minute science fiction film for children about a day in the life of a hologram.

Into the woods

Elmer Martin of Floradale, Ont., is pictured with a fawn found in the woods near Koksilah Alternative Service Work Camp on Vancouver Island, B.C., in 1942. For many COs, serving in alternative service was their first time away from home. (Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo by Jesse B. Martin)

Web First | By Laureen Harder-Gissing | Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

In June 1942, 3,000 Mennonites gathered at the Kitchener, Ont., train station to bid farewell to conscientious objectors (COs) bound for forest-fire fighting and tree-planting camps in British Columbia. The local newspaper noted that the crowd, larger than any that had gathered for military troop departures, “was swelled by hundreds of curious citizens, who were attracted by the singing of hymns.”

Becoming the people of God is a messy business

Fred Redekop, left, pastor of Floradale (Ont.) Mennonite Church, visits with Arli Klassen, chief development officer of Mennonite World Conference, the keynote speaker at this year’s Ralph and Eileen Lebold Fundraising Dinner, a joint project of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and Conrad Grebel University College. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | Jun 15, 2016

The 2016 Ralph and Eileen Lebold Fundraising Dinner, held on June 2, 2016, at Conrad Grebel University College, featured Arli Klassen, chief development officer for Mennonite World Conference, who spoke to the “Messiness of becoming the people of God.”

Youth Assembly 2016 canceled due to low numbers

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jun 01, 2016

You planned a party for 200 people, with games geared for groups of 20. Food quantities have been tallied, and overnight lodging arranged for guests who are coming from far away. And then you find out that only a handful of the invited guests are able to come.

Assembly: Pray for grace

Dick Benner
Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jun 01, 2016

Prospects for an intense conversation on several issues appear to be gaining traction for our upcoming assembly in Saskatoon in July.

The agenda features the conclusion of the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process after seven years of discernment. And many delegates will come with serious questions about the Future Directions Task Force recommendations. The conversation at the area church level has already been rigorous around these recommendations, sent out to the congregations with only a six-month window for discernment.

An open letter on Future Directions

From left to right: Chris Lenshyn, Ryan Dueck, Krista Loewen, Jeff Friesen, Susie Guenther Loewen, David Driedger, Virginia Gerbrandt Richert, Kyle Penner, Carrie Martens, Kevin Derksen.

Feature | Jun 01, 2016 | 3 comments

We are a group of pastors from each of the five area churches who have gathered around the current Future Directions Task Force conversations in an effort to understand and respond together. We write as younger pastoral leaders with hopes for many years yet in service to the Mennonite church in Canada, and so with a significant stake in this ongoing process. We would like to offer the following reflections, encouragements and prayers for our shared family of faith.