Feature

Writing in the dust

Brander McDonald, MCBC Indigenous Relations Coordinator, plays a West Coast native lullaby to say welcome to the natives on whose land the assembly was held.

The “Dust on the Bible” band—(l-r) Chad Miller (Associate Pastor at Foothills Mennonite, Calgary), Doug Klassen (Senior Pastor at Foothills), Jerry Buhler (MC Saskatchewan Conference Minister), and Joanna and Andrew Reesor-McDowell (Hagerman Mennonite, Toronto)—play the bluegrass classic, “Dust on the Bible.”

Participants of a humorous skit describing Korean social rules take a bow at the Friday evening barbecue at MC Canada Assembly 2012 in Vancouver.

Lily Cheung, an assembly volunteer, shepherds participants onto their bus after the Friday evening barbecue.

(l-r) Hilda Hildebrand, new moderator for MC Canada, blesses outgoing moderator Andrew Reesor-McDowell with Willard Metzger, Executive Director of MC Canada.

We know of Jesus writing only once, Tom Yoder Neufeld told the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly gathered here for Sunday morning worship. Urging his listeners to use more than the written word, he recalled the story of the woman adulterer’s accusers fuming while Jesus wrote in the dust on the ground.

For discussion

1. How is the role of women understood in your congregation? Are women taught to be subservient and submissive? Are women given proper respect? Why might submissive women be more vulnerable to emotional abuse? What do you understand to be Paul’s message in Ephesians 5:22-33?

Killing her softly

It’s Sunday morning, and you greet Sandy* and Bob* as they sit in the pew behind you. You smile and shake hands. What you see is a nice couple, good parents who are active in the church. What you miss are the emptiness and pain in Sandy’s eyes because her husband is abusing her.

A long way home

Ambroise Kabeya Kanda Mwanda of the Democratic Republic of Congo looks across the Limmat River as it passes through Zurich, Switzerland, where Anabaptist martyr Felix Manz’s death sentence was read on Jan. 5, 1527.

Thioro Bananzoro of Burkina Faso stands at the foot of a statue of militant Reformed Church leader Ulrich Zwingli in front of the Wasserkirche (Water Church) in Zurich, Switzerland.

Walking along the bank of the Limmat River, Thioro Bananzoro ponders the challenges Anabaptists have turned into opportunities over the last five centuries.

For discussion

1. How does your congregation go about making important decisions? Do you use discernment language? How do you listen for the voice of God when you are wrestling with an issue? Who takes leadership in discernment? What is the relationship between discernment and decision-making?



Try a little discernment

Because of their belief that everyone was a ‘priest’ in discerning biblical truth as members of the body of Christ, the first Anabaptists of the 16th century were forced to meet in caves, such as this one outside of Zurich, Switzerland. Modern Mennonites frequent the cave in their tours of Europe, such as this group in 2007.

Discernment is a common topic in our congregations these days. We discern a pastoral call, a building program, theology and biblical texts.

‘This land is us’

Jacinto Perez, a community leader in Nebaj, Guatemala, spearheads the resistance against hydroelectric dams on ancestral lands.

A typical street scene in Nebaj, Guatemala.

For five years I lived and worked in the outskirts of San Salvador, El Salvador, with an organization supporting marginalized families living with HIV/AIDS. Although the agonizing combination of poverty and HIV formed a part of my daily experience, AIDS was not the main epidemic that surrounded my life.

For discussion

1. What role models are boys and young men exposed to today? How well do our families and churches do in providing healthy male role models? Does pop culture provide positive as well as negative images of what it means to be a man? Who were the positive role models of earlier generations?

Shifting male roles

Doug Klassen, pastor of Foothills Mennonite Church, Calgary, Alta., served as Pastor in Residence at Canadian Mennonite University in late January and early February 2012. His presentation about the role of men in society at the CMU Monday forum sparked lots of discussion. He reflected further on the topic in a sermon at Foothills Mennonite on February 12, 2012.

For discussion

1. What are some ways that parenting today is similar to, and different from, earlier generations? Were yesterday’s parents also “scared and overwhelmed”? Do today’s parents tend to hover too much? What role should cell phones play in parenting? Are our children too closely programmed? To what degree is materialism a threat to our families?



It takes a church to raise a child

Parents of students at MEI Schools in Abbotsford, B.C., attend one of Dave Currie’s ‘i-Parent’ sessions, that are billed as ‘formatting the next generation.’

Gordon Neufeld, a developmental and clinical psychologist, autographs his book, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers, which he co-authored with Gabor Mate, M.D.

Are my children going to be okay?” This is the overriding concern that Kathy Giesbrecht, associate director of leadership ministries for Mennonite Church Manitoba, hears and senses from parents. Parents are scared and overwhelmed, and there is no manual for them to keep in their back pocket.

Take care

Windows in doors and walls between offices are a requirement in most church safety policies, according to Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, co-pastor at First Mennonite Church, Edmonton.

Ontario pastor Kevin Peters-Unrau tells a Kafkaesque story of what happened when he volunteered to work with children in his community.



For discussion

1. How would your church react if a known sex offender wanted to attend regularly? Is this a simple struggle between fear and love—between the realities of evil and the church’s mandate to be welcoming? How can we balance the need to be welcoming and the fear of evil?



For discussion

1. Do you know people like Sue and Bill in the story? Does your congregation provide Sunday school classes that appeal more to Sue or to Bill? Do you see the world in a modernist or postmodernist way? Are younger people more apt to be postmodernists?



Just what is ‘postmodern’?

‘Bill’ and ‘Sue’ are on opposite sides of the modern/postmodern divide when it comes to Sunday school. Portraying the fictional Bill and Sue in this photo are Marco Funk and Marla Langelotz.

Dave Rogalsky is Canadian Mennonite's eastern Canada correspondent and pastor at Wilmot Mennonite Church, New Hamburg, Ontario

"Staying for Sunday School, Bill?”



“I’m staying, Sue, but not for Sunday school. I’m going to hang out with the ‘coffee drinkers’ in the kitchen. We have some really good conversations about religion and spirituality there, not dry discussions about traditional meanings of an ancient book.”



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