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God at work in the Church

Alberta youth enjoy snow camps

Claire Dueck of Lethbridge, Alta., centre, tags Patrick Allen, left, also of Lethbridge, as Devlin Patrick of Edmonton dodges a tag during this year’s snow camps at Camp Valaqua. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Despite a warm winter, there was enough of the white stuff for youth from Mennonite churches across Alberta to call their annual winter retreats “snow camps.”

On the weekends of Jan. 15 to 17 and Feb. 26 to 28, 2016, junior- and senior-high youth, respectively, enjoyed fellowship, outdoor games and Bible study at Mennonite Church Alberta’s Camp Valaqua in Water Valley. The theme for the events was “As I am.”

The Bible says what?

Bryan Moyer Suderman, an itinerant Bible teacher from Stouffville, Ont., who is also widely known as an Anabaptist singer-songwriter, led Pastors Week sessions at this year’s event at AMBS entitled ‘The Bible says what?’ (AMBS photo)

In her opening address to this year’s Pastors Week event at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, held during the last week of January, Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, the school’s dean of lifelong learning, highlighted widespread confusion in the church today about what to do with the Bible, but implored listeners not to “put the Bible on the shelf.”

Do young people care about the future of the church?

Anika Reynar presents the vision of the Emerging Voices Initiative to the Mennonite Church Manitoba annual general meeting at Bethel Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, on March 5, 2016. (Photo by Beth Epp)

God at work in the Church | By J. Neufeld | Mar 23, 2016

Never let it be said that young people don’t care about the future of the church.

Late last year, Katrina Woelk, a sociology student at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) and a member of the student council, was having a conversation with some other students and members of the university administration about the challenges facing Mennonite Church Canada.

“We were asked, ‘Do you think students care?’ ” said Woelk. “We looked at each other and said, ‘I think so.’ ”

They were right.

Worship warms the human soul

A pastor holds an ice cube in worship, allowing it to melt in the warmth of her hand, just as human souls are warmed and melt in the corporate worship of God. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Mar 09, 2016 | 1 comment

Christine Longhurst believes that the style of worship and its elements—songs, music, liturgy, readings, sermons, sharing and prayer—is of least importance for congregations, pastors and worship planners.

Longhurst, who teaches at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg and leads workshops and weekend seminars on worship in churches across Canada, told participants at this year’s Mennonite Church Eastern Canada School for Ministers, that of first importance is whether worship is focussed on God. Do the elements help people to know and experience that God is present?


The logo for Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016 reminds us that ‘faith’ is our connection between ‘God’ and the ‘people’ (Jeremiah 31:33). The dove of peace is our common symbol across MC Canada and of the peacebuilding work to which we are called. The segmented globe reveals the cross at the centre. The hands reaching to each other symbolize how God yearns for his people to love, support and join one another in the redeeming work of Christ. The colours reflect the harmony we seek in the midst of our diversity.

God at work in the Church | By Deborah Froese | Mar 09, 2016

This summer, our church family will celebrate being a covenant people at Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016, God-Faith-People in downtown Saskatoon from July 6 to 10.

Assembly 2016 consists of two programs: the general assembly and another for youth, with several opportunities for integration between the two. Both are shaped around a paraphrased text from Jeremiah 31:33: “This is the covenant . . . I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Keeping up with #thecovenantcrew

The planning committee for Youth Assembly 2016, God-Faith-People—aka #thecovenantcrew, meet at Shekinah Retreat Centre, about 50 kilometres north of Saskatoon and the location for a Friday evening event. Pictured from left to right: Kirsten Hamm-Epp, Val White, Sarah Unrau and Katie Wiebe. (MC Canada photo)

God at work in the Church | By Deborah Froese | Mar 09, 2016

UPDATE: Youth Assembly 2016 has been cancelled, due to a shortfall in the number of registrations. See here for more information. 

MC B.C. considers call to missional engagement

Concluding the annual Mennonite Church B.C. sessions, Pastor Rob Ayer of Crossroads Community Church, Chilliwack, left, leads the group in a prayer session for leaders and staff of MC B.C. and MC Canada. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

God at work in the Church | By Amy Dueckman | Mar 09, 2016

Reconciliation and relationships were the theme when Mennonite Church B.C. representatives met for their annual sessions late last month. The theme of “Leadership in a broken world: Walking in God’s mission of reconciliation” carried through the weekend, beginning with recognition that the meeting place of Level Ground Mennonite Church sits on Coast Salish territory, a gesture of respect to the hosting indigenous people.

What makes a quilt Amish?

Bruce Bechtel, left, Janneken Smucker, Debbie Shapansky and interim academic dean Marlene Epp pose after Smucker’s 2016 Bechtel Lectures at Conrad Grebel University College on Feb. 5. Bechtel and Shapansky are the children of Lester Bechtel, who has supported the lecture series from its inception 16 years ago. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Feb 24, 2016

What makes a quilt Amish?  Does it have to be “quilted by a group of Amish women sitting around the frame in their sitting room?” Or does it have to have an Amish pattern, like the Amish Wedding pattern created and popularized by Rachel Pellman of the Old Country Store in Lancaster, Pa? Is appliqué or pieced the appropriate technique?

Edmonton church becomes inclusive, affirming

God at work in the Church | Feb 24, 2016 | 1 comment

On Feb. 7, 2016, Edmonton’s First Mennonite Church voted to become an inclusive and affirming Christian community.

Two motions, one stating that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people are welcome to become full and equal members of the church, and another to approve the statement: “God calls us to be an inclusive, affirming, Christian community,” were originally put forward at the 2015 annual general meeting.

Future Directions: Myths and message

God at work in the Church | By Future Directions Task Force | Feb 10, 2016

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. . . Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. —poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke

Mennonite Heritage Museum opens in B.C.

Cutting the ribbon to open the new Mennonite Heritage Museum are, from left: Richard Thiessen, executive director of the museum; Peter Redekop, president of the Mennonite Museum Society; and Christy Clark, premier of B.C.  Mennonites in B.C. now have a central place to learn about and research the origins of their faith and family. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

God at work in the Church | By Amy Dueckman | Feb 10, 2016 | 1 comment

The dream of a heritage museum for B.C. Mennonites to tell their story became reality Jan. 22, 2016, when hundreds, including B.C. Premier Christy Clark, gathered for the grand opening of the Mennonite Heritage Museum (MHM) in Abbotsford.

Hearing stories dispels fear

Glad for an opportunity to relax after a week of exams, Saskatchewan youth listen to Cory Funk’s presentation at this year’s SMYO senior high retreat. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Feb 10, 2016

Retreats present opportunities for building relationships and hearing one another’s stories. Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization’s senior high retreat, held January 29 to 30, 2016, at Shekinah Retreat Centre, was just such a retreat.

Evangelical Anabaptist Network generates hope and frustration

Left to right: Ryan Jantzi, pastor of the Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church, John Troyer of EVANA, Ron Weber from the Listowel Mennonite Church, and Dianne Roeder from Calvary Church, an MCEC congregation in Ayr, visit during a break at the EVANA workshop at Maple View Mennonite Church on Jan. 22, 2016. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Feb 10, 2016 | 2 comments

On January 22 to 23, 2016, Maple View Mennonite Church, with its pastor Brent Kipfer, sponsored the first Canadian workshop of the Evangelical Anabaptist Network (EVANA). Located west of Kitchener/Waterloo, Ont., the church is a member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC).

Do church and journalism mix?

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Jan 27, 2016 | 1 comment

Journalism is a tense and often misunderstood business, especially within the church. Readers get riled, interviewees feel gypped, church leaders squirm. But in many ways the tension is the essence.

I distinguish between “newsletterism”: straight up churchy news with no probing of deeper layers (“Relief sale has record year”); devotional articles (“How relief volunteering deepened my walk with God”); opinion articles (“Why I think relief sales need to be reinvented”); and journalism (“Experts debate pros and cons of relief sales”). The latter is the diciest.

No dust gathering here!

Ralph Dahl and Ted Regehr are pictured in the vault at the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta Archives in Calgary. The temperature- and humidity-controlled room with the light blue boxes is jokingly referred to as ‘heaven’ by the Archives’ volunteers. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

God at work in the Church | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jan 27, 2016

Hearing the word “archives” may conjure sneeze-worthy stereotypes. However, a visit to the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta Archives in Calgary quickly dispels any dusty images.

A crowd of lively volunteers surrounded by history laugh around the lunch table, sharing discoveries made during their weekly volunteer stint to preserve the history of Mennonites in Alberta.

Another necessary conversation: Mental illness and addictions

Wilf Yantzi, an elder from the Poole Mennonite Church, left, makes a point to Brice Balmer, one of the presenters at ‘Mental wellness,’ the 2016 Mennonite Church Eastern Canada annual pastors, chaplains and congregational leaders event held at Steinmann Mennonite Church, Baden, Ont., on Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Jan 27, 2016

Helping those in lay and paid pastoral care roles better minister to their congregations, some of whom deal with issues of mental illness and addictions, was the goal of “Mental wellness,” Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s annual pastors, chaplains and congregational leaders event held Jan. 16, 2016, at Steinmann Mennonite Church in Baden.

Saskatchewan church receives funding from larger community

When it comes to sponsoring refugees, Grace Mennonite Church welcomes support from the broader Regina community.

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Jan 13, 2016

It’s a nice problem to have. Grace Mennonite Church in Regina currently has almost $30,000 in donations and pledges designated for helping refugees. The donations come from a variety of sources, both within and outside the church.

Bearing witness effectively

David Gifford, left, chaplain at the Vineland (Ont.) United Mennonite Home, talks with Dr. Harvey Chochinov at the 2015 Schlegel-UWaterloo Research Institute for Aging seminar, ‘Dignity in end-of-life care, held Nov. 13 at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Jan 13, 2016

Dr. Harvey Chochinov and his team at the University of Manitoba have been working to quantify the effects of psycho-social interventions in the care of patients in palliative care situations. As UofM distinguished professor of psychiatry and director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit, he chaired the federally appointed panel on physician-assisted death struck this past summer by the former Conservative government. He spoke at the annual Schlegel-UWaterloo Research Institute for Aging’s spirituality and aging seminar held at Conrad Grebel University College on Nov. 13, 2015.

Being a Faithful Church (BFC) Task Force

God at work in the Church | Dec 23, 2015 | 3 comments

The final document of the BFC Task Force, including its four-part recommendation to the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2016, is now available for review and response. It has been sent to all MC Canada congregations and is available on the MC Canada website.

The document is called “Being a Faithful Church 7: Summary and Recommendation on Sexuality 2009-2015.” The BFC Task Force believes that the following four-part recommendation accurately reflects the feedback from congregations over the seven-year process:

Winkler church leaves as conference continues balancing act

God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Dec 23, 2015

The Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church notified Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Church Canada in late November that it would withdraw from the conferences as of the end of 2015.

The church’s interim pastor, Jake Doell, declined to comment for the record, but the congregation had indicated earlier that it was not pleased with how the conference was dealing with same-sex issues. It had been critical that conference leaders did not clearly state personal positions in favour of the traditional view.

Historical society adds stories to the peace narrative

A Doukhobor choir, led by Mae Poppoff, wearing the blue T-shirt, sings a traditional Doukhobor song of peace. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Dec 23, 2015

Most Canadian Mennonites have not experienced war first-hand or had their pacifist beliefs tested, but the stories of those who have are an important part of the peace narrative. To address this, the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan hosted an afternoon of storytelling at Bethany Manor in Saskatoon on Nov. 15, 2015, to which 140 people came.


MC Canada national office lays off five

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Dec 09, 2015

Mennonite Church Canada laid off five staff members on Nov. 28, as part of the cost-saving restructuring efforts that fall under the banner of the Future Directions Task Force. While decisions on the task force’s final report will only be made at Assembly 2016 next summer in Saskatoon, a projected budget shortfall of nearly $300,000 this year required immediate action, MC Canada stated in a news release.

Between a rock and a hard place

Dave Rogalsky
God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Dec 09, 2015

Leaders at Mennonite Church Eastern Canada feel they are caught between a rock and a hard place, as they have had to deal with a number of boundary crossings by church leaders over the past five years. Such work can consume time and energy in immense amounts because the denominational leaders want the victims to be treated with dignity and confidentiality, and they want to move the abuser and congregation toward healing.

MC Manitoba envisions new future for camps

Campers at Camp Assiniboia harvest potatoes from the farm. (Mennonite Church Manitoba photo)

God at work in the Church | By J. Neufeld | Dec 09, 2015

Mennonite Church Manitoba has a new vision for its camping ministry, one that involves relinquishing two of its camps and significantly improving the third.

“The question was, how do we ensure the camping ministry remains sustainable in the years to come,” said Dorothy Fontaine, MC Manitoba’s director of mission, on Oct. 26, 2015, at the fall delegate meeting. “That means everything from financial sustainability to, are we going in the spiritual direction God is leading us in?”

‘These records are unique’

Conrad Stoesz examines the original letter of invitation from the Canadian government to Mennonites living in Russia (modern day Ukraine). (Photo by J. Neufeld)

God at work in the Church | By J. Neufeld | Nov 18, 2015 | 4 comments

The looping cursive script has turned brown, the yellowing pages are smudged with fingerprints and held together with aged pieces of tape. In the top left corner of the document, the faded blue ink of a rubber stamp reveals the date this document was written and signed: July 24, 1873.

The letter is a significant historical artifact for Mennonites: it is the original invitation from the Dominion of Canada to Mennonites living in Russia (modern day Ukraine) offering them land, freedom of religion and exemption from military service.