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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.

Five reflections in South America

C. Paul and Hildi Amstutz serve in chaplaincy and spiritual formation ministries in Asuncion, Paraguay. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Apr 02, 2015

Ardys and I have been able to spend ten wonderful days together first in Asuncion, then at the world-famous Iguazu Falls and now in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ardys is now on her way back to Canada; I leave on Thursday for ten days of ministry in Chile. Weather has been in the 80's with an occasional tropical rain. 

While I do not pose to be an authority, let me share five reflections from my contacts here in South America.

Reflection # 1: Admirable mission work 

Friday: A poem

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Apr 01, 2015

Now that we’ve entered once again into the sombreness of Holy Week, I’d like to share a poem of mine which expresses some of my reflections on the cross, which I’ve shared on this blog before.

On sin

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Mar 19, 2015

It’s become clear to me from a lot of the conversations occurring within Canadian Mennonite, especially in the letters to the editor, that as Mennonites, we’re not of one mind when it comes to sin. Now sin, generally, isn’t a terribly popular topic of conversation, even among church-going types. It tends to remind us of guilt trips and church splits—not things to talk about in polite company!

News from Paraguay

Paraguayan pastors and church workers arrive by truck to attend a four-day workshop. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Mar 18, 2015

Everywhere I go I extend greetings from my church, family and friends. There is always an enthusiastic response saying that I should convey greetings back to you. Greetings!

Good fellowship in Brazil

Youth are engaged in graffiti evangelism. Note that Jesus is going to church in a boat on a skateboard with a Bible in one hand and a spray can in the other! (Photo by Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Mar 12, 2015

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, both in land mass and population. The densely forested Amazon Valley, which includes up to 69 Indian tribes, makes up a large portion of this very interesting country of mixed peoples. According to government reports, 55 percent of the Brazilian people have some African blood. This is due to Brazil having slavery until 1889 and the owners having many children from their slaves, who they treated as mistresses.

The name game

By Tamara Petkau | Mar 11, 2015

I’m now in my ninth month of pregnancy, which is hardly the beautiful and magical time magazines and mommy-blogs would lead one to believe that it is. Pregnancy is difficult, magical—yes—but difficult. Part of me feels like the magic slowly wanes with every pregnancy I put my body through, and those not-so-delightful pregnancy symptoms only seem to multiple with every additional child.

Except “nesting.” I have yet to experience the symptom of “nesting,” which, I’ve been told, is a mother’s strong desire to prepare the home for the arrival of Baby.