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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. John Rempel suggests that members in our churches have widely divergent worldviews. Do you agree? How would you describe the major polarities in Mennonite congregations? Do the terms “conservative” and “liberal” help or hinder us in describing our points of view?

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.”

For discussion

1. What are the demographics of your congregation? What percentage is over 65? How many of those are frail elderly? What programs or ministries are designed specifically for seniors? Do the older members of your congregation feel involved and engaged?

“Your congregation knows how to care for seniors”

Gloria Dirks, parish nurse at Waterloo-Kitchener United Mennonite Church, holds a plush “microbe” that she uses in children’s education in the congregation.

When Gloria Dirks was retiring from the joint position of Administrator and Director of Care at Parkwood Mennonite Home in Waterloo, Ont. in 2003, she knew she wanted to use her skills in some way. The call of her congregation, the Waterloo-Kitchener United Mennonite Church, to research the potential of a parish nurse seemed like a good fit.

Caring for our seniors

Martha Brubacher, Florence Frey and Vera Martin work on a relief sale quilt at Floradale Mennonite Church.

Across the country, many MC Canada churches are staring at the numbers and scratching their heads. As young people drift away from the church and the baby boomers retire, church leadership is faced with increasing numbers of grey heads.

Is technology enriching our worship?

Youth worship at Charlotte 2005

Andy Brubacher Kaethler currently teaches and directs the !Explore program at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.

Technology is the single most significant characteristic of modern western culture. Canadian philosopher George Grant contends it has long displaced democracy and capitalism as top identifiers. Technology directly shapes Christian belief and practice in ways we must at the very least question, if not actively resist.

Salvation comes to a rich house

“The Conversion of Zacchaeus” by Bernardo Strozzi, 1581 – 1644.

Bruno Dyck

Money, business, salvation and the kingdom of God. You won’t often find these words sharing the same sentence, but they do belong together in the Gospel of Luke. It turns out Luke has a lot to say about how we manage organizations that produce goods and services, and about how this is very closely related to salvation and God’s kingdom.


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