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Peace books for toddlers

The cover of the children’s book The Sun and the Wind, retold by Cornelia Lehn and illustrated by Robert W. Regier. 

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Nov 25, 2015

With Peace Sunday past, we approach the time of waiting for the Prince of Peace to be born, so I wanted to share a few children’s books on peace which have been getting repeat reads at my house lately. None of them are explicitly theological or faith-based, but they convey ideas which resonate with Mennonite peace theology, and thus plant the seeds of peace in the imaginations of toddlers and young children like my son.

Living on the corner: In the wake of terror in Paris/Beirut/Baghdad

Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Nov 18, 2015

Once again, we have lived through a moment that will continue to define our century. The wake of the triad of terror that has happened in the last days in Paris and Beirut and Baghdad will create rhetoric similar to 9/11, the attacks in New York and Washington. Our mindsets and attitudes will bend, our politics and apologies will twist, all to address this day.

Creating collective psalms of praise

Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Nov 17, 2015

Recently at my church here in central Winnipeg, we have been navigating a sermon series on the Psalms. My small group, some ten or so very diverse people at various stages in their adult-esque lives, have also been journeying through various types of psalms by engaging in a plethora of approaches and activities.

An end to all kinds of wars

Mennonite Central Committee’s 2015 Go Purple postcard

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Nov 10, 2015 | 3 comments

As we celebrated Peace Sunday at my church this week, a friend of mine got up during the time of sharing and prayer. He told us that November has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness month in Manitoba, and that in response, Mennonite Central Committee’s Voices for Non-Violence is involved in the “Purple Lights Campaign” to shed light on domestic violence and work on prevention. You can learn more about it and find ideas on how to get involved here:

Mennonites, medicine, and the body

The poster for the conference, “Mennonites, Medicine and the Body: Health, Illness and Medical Research in the Past and Present,” held at Canadian Mennonite University in October 2015.

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Oct 27, 2015

I had the privilege of participating in a conference this past weekend (Oct. 23, 24, 2015) at the University of Winnipeg hosted by Royden Loewen, the chair of Mennonite Studies. The theme was “Mennonites, Medicine, and the Body: Health, Illness and Medical Research in the Past and Present,” and it was a fascinating combination of medical, historical, literary, and theological perspectives.

More-with-Less for toddlers

A page from the children’s book The Dumpster Diver, by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by David Roberts. 

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Oct 15, 2015

Being a parent, I’ve found, can be profoundly clarifying in terms of what aspects of faith one finds most meaningful, and therefore most worthy of teaching to one’s children. One aspect of the Mennonite tradition that has shaped my faith profoundly is the ethic of simple living, of living in ecologically-sustainable and socially-just ways, of living more-with-less. This is something I want to pass along to my two-year-old son.

Participating in holy history

Settler and indigenous participants shake hands during the Reconciliation Walk at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events held in Ottawa, in June 2015. The five-kilometre walk included about 10,000 people. Members of the Student Christian Movement (SCM, also known as WSCF), Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Central Committee, and Christian Peacemaker Teams were present during this walk, as were representatives from many other church denominations and justice-oriented organizations, and individual citizens.  (Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe)

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Sep 23, 2015

I’ve been on the road three of the last six months, in no particular order. As I return home and begin to reflect on the encounters and experiences that I’ve had, my heart returns to settle on my experience at the closing events for the Truth and Reconciliation ceremonies (TRC).

I attended these ceremonies in Ottawa as part of the regional assembly for the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) of North America, joining young adults from across Canada and the United States.

Remembering Simone Weil

Simone Weil, 1909-1943. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Sep 22, 2015

The Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition arose in a context of great suffering. If you’ve ever done any reading (or even leafed through!) the Martyr’s Mirror (a collection of the stories of Christian martyrs from Jesus’ time to the 16th century), you know that our spiritual forbears underwent brutal torture and even death for their faith. Yet we as present-day North Americans find this mindset foreign, even incomprehensible.

Small town suicide

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Sep 12, 2015

I wrote this story two years ago, and since then another suicide has occurred and been mourned, in a neighbouring community. That man I did know. To remember both of these men who left behind wives, children, even grandchildren, today I publish it. Let’s learn how to handle mental illness in the church in a way that embraces rather than isolates.

It is with a heavy heart that I write today, and even now I debated sharing this. I do so because I believe that the story I am about to share is one with a lesson that we, the Mennonite church, need to learn.

In the face of in/difference

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Aug 27, 2015

As I write this I am flying over the ocean, returning from an international ecumenical gathering in the north of Italy. People from across the world were there, including some from countries I had never met people from. Places like Myanmar. Places like Senegal. And places like Germany, Italy, U.S.A, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Iraq, Chile, Sweden, China, India, Lebanon, Korea, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Russia, Nepal, and so many more.

Learning from Pope Francis

Pope Francis on his 2013 visit to Brazil. (Photo by Agencia Brasil, from Wikimedia Commons.) 

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Aug 19, 2015

God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts, and guiding us in unexpected ways. –Pope Francis

Being the theology enthusiast that I am, I was pleased to discover a cover story on Pope Francis when I unwrapped this month’s issue of National Geographic magazine.[1] In case you haven’t been following his two-year career, Pope Francis is perceived by many as a breath of fresh air for the Catholic Church, and as something of a radical who is not afraid to break some of the taboos associated with the role of pope.

Italian adventures in inter-religious dialogue

The Italian Alps, near the Agape Ecumenical Center in Prali, Italy. (Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe)

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Aug 17, 2015

I have spent the last week in the beautiful Alps of Italy, at the Agape Ecumenical Center, gathering with an international community to delve into interreligious dialogue. I am the only Canadian and the only Mennonite. But considering how often this happens when I travel abroad, I have stopped being surprised by this.

Mysticism for toddlers

One of Tomie dePaola's beautiful collages in The Song of Francis. (Photo by Susie Guenther Loewen)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Jul 30, 2015

I was happy to discover another gem of a children’s book on the subject of faith at my public library recently: it’s called The Song of Francis, written and illustrated with beautiful, vibrant collages by Tomie dePaola.[1] It’s another one of my son’s current favourites.

On confessions of faith

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective was published in 1995 and is still used by Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Jul 20, 2015

You may have heard about what happened at Mennonite Church USA’s convention earlier this month, specifically with regard to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ Mennonites. And, like me, you may be saddened by the hurtful interactions that occurred as our sister-church gathered.

Individual vs. person

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Jun 29, 2015

Sometimes I think the church struggles with the tension between its individual members and its task of being a communal body. In a socio-economic context such as ours, where individual choice is paramount, different branches of the Christian church have tried to address this tension in different ways.

Within the more evangelical traditions, the tendency is to make faith as specific to individuals as possible: it’s about Jesus as my personal saviour who died for me and a “brand” of Christianity that’s tailor-made for my individual lifestyle and needs.

Abigail, the peacemaker

“David and Abigail” by 16th-century painter Guido Reni (Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Jun 19, 2015

This week I was reminded of a biblical figure who is often overlooked: Abigail (or, as my Bible disappointingly calls her, “the wife of Nabal”!). Her story is found in I Samuel 25. I find it intriguing as a woman and as a Mennonite pacifist, because Abigail is, arguably and perhaps unexpectedly, a master peacemaker, someone who prevents a lot of needless bloodshed through her wise and well-timed words and actions.

Ally or accomplice: What does the Lord require of us?

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | May 28, 2015

There is a popular language arising in the church when it comes to justice work, that of “being an ally.” It means to align yourself with whoever your “other” is, so to love your neighbour and serve the Lord. But what happens when words are not enough, and when having only words of an ally can make injustice? What happens when being an ally is not enough?

Theology for toddlers

The cover of the children’s book, Where is God? published by 

By Susie Guenther Loewen | May 28, 2015

Here’s an unusual question: Do the children in your life read theology books?

Christ as Christa

The icon of Sophia (Wisdom) by Eileen McGuckin (Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | May 27, 2015

Earlier this year I was invited to give a lecture on feminist Christology to a class of undergraduate students. Now feminist Christology is something very dear to me, even though a lot of people’s eyes glaze over with incomprehension when I say those words! Briefly put, it’s about who Jesus Christ is in women’s experience.

Portraits of Justice

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | May 04, 2015

Hello my friends of faith and curiosity!

I happy to announce that the project I have been curating for quite some time is ready for launching! Huzzah!

As a part of the Beautiful People Moments Project I am launching, I have curated a series called Portraits of Justice. The project involved interviewing and photographing 20+ people living in different countries around the world, asking about justice and church in each context.

All those featured will include quotes that came from three simple enquiries:

I can't breathe

The logo of the #ReclaimHolyWeek campaign, organized by Holy Week of Resistance

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Apr 24, 2015

After a recent experience in New York comes this reflection on racism and the social context of our faith.

I can't breathe. At this moment, this is one of the most politically charged statements you can say in the United States. It drudges up a social context where racism and state brutality are killing innocent people.  It evokes a memory that causes resistance to injustice. It is a call to action. It is conviction.

The peace of resurrection

The resurrection as a peaceful response to violence. (16th-century engraving by Jean Tisserand, from Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Apr 21, 2015

Here we are, a couple of weeks post-Easter, and I’m still thinking about the resurrection. Have you ever considered the resurrection as symbolic of peace and nonviolence? And don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this—it’s not just another instance of the Mennonite tendency to reduce everything to either Jesus or peace!

Guns into rainbows

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Apr 15, 2015 | 1 comment

So my son, who is almost two years old, has a set of wooden building blocks—you know, the kind with the letters of the alphabet on them, along with pictures of things that start with each letter. Instead of the usual “A” is for “apple” and “B” is for “ball,” however, these blocks are a little more off-beat (a.k.a., “hipster”). For example, “K” is for “kazoo,” “V” is for “vinyl,” with a picture of an LP record, and, one of my personal favourites, “Y” is for “yard sale”! A dear friend of mine gave them to us as a baby-warming present, and I find most of them really amusing.

A baby

Big Sister welcomes the new family member.

By Tamara Petkau | Apr 02, 2015

He came one week and one day early. He came quickly, so quickly that his dad and midwife almost missed his grand arrival. “He’s here,” the nurse yelled while everyone else was still trying to get ready.

Yes, he is here. My sweet, perfect son is finally here and he has forever changed my world making it an infinitely better place.

Unforgettable days in Chile and Uruguay

A typical Latin American welcome or parting kiss. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Apr 02, 2015

A lot has happened since I last wrote. The ten days in Chile were especially unforgettable!

Chile, with seven climate sub-types, is 4,300 km (2,670 miles) long and 350 km (220 miles) wide.  I was almost down to Antarctica! Chile leads Latin American nations in rankings of human development, income per capita, globalization, transparency, and state of peace. The country has a female president.