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Susie Guenther Loewen's blog

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.

Missing the Crucified Woman

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

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Mar 25, 2016 | 1 comment

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 | 1 comment

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.

Theology for toddlers

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

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.

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.

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 | 1 comment

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!

On theological writing

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Feb 06, 2015 | 1 comment

It’s interesting being a Mennonite and an academic. Sometimes I find my Anabaptist-Mennonite sensibilities grating against the norms of academia: my “priesthood of all believers” mentality against intellectual elitism, my discipleship/faith-without-works-is-dead mentality against the divorcing of theory from practice, and especially, my appreciation for the “plain sense” and the poetry of Scripture (in the vernacular!) against the inaccessibility of academic language.

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