Volume 20 Issue 11

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Guard your heart and mind

I memorized Philippians 4:4-9 more than 20 years ago when I was on bed rest during my pregnancy with my son Aaron. I had lost three babies before him—and one after him—so pregnancy for me was an obvious cause for anxiety.

If truth be known, I am actually a professional worrier, so passages like this one sometimes feel like they were written specifically for me: Hey, Angelika! Quit worrying, start praying. Be thankful; guard your heart and mind.

Cultivating imagination

During the Second World War, guided by the leadership of Pastor André Trocmé, the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and surrounding regions hid Jews who were fleeing from the Nazis. A less well-known story of that era comes from the small Muslim country of Albania, where both the people and the government protected their own Jewish citizens and Jews fleeing from other parts of Europe at all costs. While the world was at war and the Nazi and Fascist regimes made scapegoats of their citizens of Jewish descent, these communities lived a different imagination. They resisted.

Tending our mothers’ gardens

I am writing this column on Mother’s Day weekend. As I weed flowerbeds, memories of my hardworking mothers and their gardens dance in my head. Gram Miller—Anna Estelle—grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, in a large family that was intimately acquainted with poverty. Growing food was necessary for survival. I remember her planting many varieties of beans or enlisting my equally hard-working grandfather to do so. Even after their family was grown, they planted huge fields of beans, a cash crop to carry them over should lean times come.

Neu Kronsthal

This is a photo of the privately run Mennonite school in Neu Kronsthal, Man. John Kroeker (1910-82) is front row far right, and his brother Klaas Kroeker (1907-92) stands behind him. Mennonites coming from Russia in the 1870s were promised freedom of education as well as freedom of religion, believing it was the role of the church and family to educate children, not the state. Government tolerance for these schools soon dried up.

Mental health awareness incorporates art and poetry

Poetry and visual art proved to be a powerful combination as members of Emmanuel Mennonite Church observed Mental Health Sunday this year on May 1.

In 2015, Angelika Dawson, member of Emmanuel and communications manager for Communitas Supportive Care Society, helped develop worship resources for Communitas called “God of All Comfort: Mental Health Resources for Church Worship.” Communitas is a faith-based organization that ministers to British Columbians living with disabilities, both physical and mental.

Depression resurrection

Today begins like any other, the type that has become common for me. I cheerfully get out of bed at a decent time, feed my children a healthy breakfast, tidy up and then do a boring 20 minutes on the elliptical machine while they begin their chores. It may not sound revolutionary, but I marvel at the grace contained in these everyday happenings.

Until almost three years ago, my life did not contain any calm or cheerfulness. Most days began with dread, a deadening wait for bedtime and the numbness of sleep if the nightmares stayed away.

Leaders being equipped to build up the church

Statistically, most mental illnesses show their first warning signs between the ages of 15 and 20—roughly the same age group encompassed by most church senior-youth programs. For this reason, those church members serving in youth ministry are both profoundly affected and on the vanguard of healing.

Niverville Community Fellowship, a Mennonite Church Manitoba congregation in the province’s rural southeast, has been making concerted efforts over the last five years or more to ensure that the training they provide for their youth leaders reflects this reality. It’s working.

‘There is love in this room’

“Living Room Ministries” is a name coined by John E. Toews and Eleanor Loewen in the 1990s. In their book No Longer Alone: Mental Health and the Church (MennoMedia, 1995), they explore “the inter-relatedness of social, emotional, physical and spiritual selves; emotions that hurt or heal; depression; addictions; schizophrenia; grief; and suicide.” Their premise is that “just as we walk with persons who are physically ill, so we must learn to walk with those suffering mental illness.”

Finding God in my neighbourhood

Stuart Murray, author of The Naked Anabaptist, encouraged Mennonite Church Eastern Canada delegates to become mobile temples, moving out of their buildings and into the neighbourhood to speak out the good news of God’s redeeming presence. At the annual church gathering held in Leamington on April 28 and 29, 2016, he encouraged the church to work with non-churched people, meeting the needs of the community, rather than building churches. Murray and Alex Ellish told stories about God at work in their neighbourhoods in Britain.

Wisdom in legacy

Recalling the legacies passed down through generations, women gathered on April 30, 2016, for the 77th annual Mennonite Church B.C. women’s Inspirational Day at Eben-Ezer Mennonite Church.

With II Timothy 1:3-7 as her text, speaker Ingrid Schultz used the examples of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice, who both passed their faith on to him. Schultz is currently chaplain at Menno Place in Abbotsford and former pastor of First United Mennonite Church, Vancouver.

Together in lament, prayer and hope

Colourful paper cranes folded neatly over words of prayer. Bowls of floating candles melting together as one. A smudging ceremony rich with prayer that took five times as long as organizers thought it would because so many people took part.

These elements brought symbolic meaning to a March 20, 2016, service of lament and prayer at Home Street Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. The service was held to show solidarity with Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Cross Lake, Man., and mourn the suicide deaths of six members of that first nation community since Dec. 12, 2015.

Future of the church appears grim

Following in the footsteps of Reginald Bibby, sociologist Joel Thiessen examines how Canadians of today view Christianity. In his book The Meaning of Sunday, he concludes that religion is increasingly being pushed to the margins of society and is regarded as less important as the years go by. Canadians tend to believe that religion should be restricted to the private realm because each person experiences it differently, and they believe religion tends to divide, rather than unite, society. Thiessen is not optimistic about the future of Christianity in Canada.

Six tips for better self-care

From the time you are 15 or 16 to the time you are 26 or 28, your brain undergoes rapid cognitive changes.

“It’s the busiest time [of brain development] since early childhood, and it will never be that busy again,” says Lynda Loewen, a counsellor at Recovery of Hope, a program in Winnipeg run by Eden Health Care Services. “That time of rapid brain development is a huge part of the reason for impulsivity in that age range.”

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