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More thoughts on Future Directions

Photo by Marcello Gambetti from freeimages.com

By Susie Guenther Loewen | May 26, 2016

As I’ve continued to follow the process set in motion by the Future Directions Task Force (FDTF), I’ve come to a different place with my thoughts on this major restructuring of our denominational body, Mennonite Church Canada. It seems clear that, with the exception of Mennonite Church Alberta, the recommendations of the Task Force have been approved to some degree by the area churches, and that the restructuring will most likely go ahead.

Remembering the mothers of the ‘disappeared’

Chilean mothers of the “disappeared” gather, holding signs of their missing loved ones. (Photo by Kena Lorenzini, from Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | May 07, 2016

When I was a young child, my family lived in Chile, where my parents worked at an inter-Protestant seminary. We happened to be there to witness the end of the brutal, U.S.-backed military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, as he was peacefully voted out of power in the late 1980s. Even as a child, I knew about the dictatorship’s practice of “disappearing” people—of kidnapping students and dissenters, torturing and often killing them in secret, and then denying any such people had been detained. They were simply gone without a trace.

Bethlehem experiences

Tear gas containers litter the gardens near the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank. Palestinians know that every Friday they can expect tear gas to be lobbed into the refugee camps outside of Bethlehem. (Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe)

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Apr 11, 2016

‘How you experience holy is different than you expect it to be.’ -Rev. Carrie Ballenger Smith

After a year of travel, seeking faith and justice on four continents, there are lessons that I am still unpacking. Between the busy schedules of church, master’s thesis work, travel and work with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), it takes a moment of pause to catch up with my experiences. And so, I pause. I look back to remember.

Holy Saturday

Sunset in Bethlehem (Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe)

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Apr 09, 2016

Holy Saturday,
The place for bleakness, twisted mourning, black.
I like this day, today,
How it holds permission to wallow and be in the dark,
To wander in the twisted depths.

Missing the Crucified Woman

“Crucified Woman” by Almuth Lutkenhaus-Lackey (Photo by Susie Guenther Loewen)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Mar 25, 2016

The sculpture above stands on the grounds of my theological college, Emmanuel College in Toronto, of the United Church of Canada. I used to walk by her almost daily, on my way to class or the library. She has become more and more meaningful to me as I’ve learned more about her and as my knowledge of feminist, womanist, and other liberation theologies has deepened. Now that I’ve moved away from Toronto, I miss her, and I find that she is missing from a lot of our theological reflection on the significance of the cross and Easter as well.

Future Directions

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Mar 23, 2016

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the wider Mennonite church these past few weeks, as there have been discussions about the future of Mennonite Church Canada at the gatherings of each of the regional churches.

Gelassenheit and power

The bleeding woman touches Jesus’ cloak, in an image from the catacombs in Rome. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Feb 29, 2016

I got into an interesting discussion with a friend from my church recently. In adult ed., we were talking about liberation theology and its view of sin. (You can read about liberation theology and sin here.) 

On harmony

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Feb 22, 2016

I’ll be honest right from the beginning: when it comes to music in worship, I’m a hymn-person. Always have been. Especially as a youth, when everyone assumed that because of my age I must be a fan of praise-and-worship music! It’s one of the things that I love about worshipping in a Mennonite congregation: the sense of echoing the faith of those who have gone before us in Christian history, the evocative, poetic theologies of several verses of carefully crafted lyrics, and, of course, the rich, four-part harmonies, blending many distinct voices into a communal act of praise.

Political nativity

Christmas in Sicily (Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe)

By Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Dec 26, 2015

At Christmas time families journey to meet other family members. There is a Christmas tree up in the corner, and some twinkly lights afloat somewhere. Somewhere in the corner there is someone like me, wincing to the sound of so-called Christmas “music” (cough ... noise!), and a grandma or maybe grandpa has just pulled out something warm and baked from the oven. And, most likely, somewhere in a prominent position, on your mantle or even your lawn, you’ve set out the nativity scene.

Jesus the refugee

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Dec 22, 2015

Last year I wrote about Advent as a time of pregnant waiting, and of the way that Mary exemplifies mothering as the embodied practice of hospitality, fulfilling the biblical call to welcome the stranger (Lev. 19:33-34, Matt. 25, etc.) You can read “Making space for the stranger” here. 

Today, I'm reflecting on Jesus as a refugee.

Mary and Maryam

A pre-20th century Muslim depiction of Mary and Jesus by the stream and the date palm that sustained her during childbirth. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Dec 15, 2015

These are times of uncertainty and hatred, when our political and social discourses are marred by xenophobic, Islamophobic, and just plain racist rhetoric. (Remember the niqab debate during our Canadian election? the calls to turn Syrian refugees away simply if they’re Muslim? the sinister tone of Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim comments in the U.S.?) In light of all of this tension between so-called “Christianity” and Islam, I call for a turn to Mary.

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: http://mcccanada.ca/media/resources/1639

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.