God at work in the Church

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Another necessary conversation: Mental illness and addictions

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.

Bearing witness effectively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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’

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.

‘We should do this again’

“We should do this again!” commented a Hmong young adult, a sentiment heard often after Kitchener First Mennonite Church’s Assembly Scattered weekend in early October 2015.

Nearly 60 youth, children and adults from the congregation were privileged to gather with almost 8,000 Anabaptist believers from 77 countries in July at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Harrisburg, Pa. Those who went wanted to share the experience with the home crowd.

Church geeks serve PiE

Both Jessica Reesor Rempel and Chris Brnjas are fond of puns, as perhaps only geeks are.

Self-professed “church geeks,” they kicked off their new ministry, Pastors in Exile (PiE) at the Queen Street Commons café in downtown Kitchener on Sept. 27, 2015, with many pies being consumed by the 85 people who attended.

Celebrating the past, anticipating the future

Bringing a long-standing and dearly loved institution to an end is not an easy thing to do. The members of Saskatchewan Women in Mission (SWM) have at least shown that it can be done with grace, thanksgiving and, yes, even joy.

When members voted to dissolve the organization at their annual Enrichment Day in April, plans were already underway for a fall retreat. That retreat, held Oct. 16 and 17, 2015, at Shekinah Retreat Centre, became a celebration of the role SWM played in the lives of women and also a time for envisioning what the future might hold.

It takes three villages to send 18 kids to camp

What does it look like when two churches and Camp Valaqua partner toward a common goal? It looks like 18 enthusiastic campers!

This past summer, the Service and Outreach branch of Edmonton’s First Mennonite Church learned that a number of young people from the city’s South Sudanese Mennonite Church were interested in going to Camp Valaqua in Water Valley, Alta., for the first time.

Singing with the Spirit

“I will sing with the Spirit, but I will sing with understanding.” These words, from I Corinthians 14:15, formed the basis of Marilyn Houser Hamm’s recent music workshop at Nutana Park Mennonite Church in Saskatoon.

Houser Hamm, who hails from Manitoba, is well known within Mennonite Church Canada as a musician, music educator, composer and workshop leader, and has served on the music committees for Hymnal: A Worship Book, Sing the Journey and Sing the Story.

Let the children come!

Why would a church of predominantly greying members build a playground for children?

Betty Brown was thinking about children as she drove past the abandoned playground at Midway School in the summer of 2014, so she stopped in to ask a few questions. A year later, at a dedication celebration on Aug. 28, 2015, 46 children under the age of 12 were at Bergthal Mennonite Church in Didsbury, Alta., to enthusiastically cut the ribbons tied all over the equipment that had been relocated to the church grounds.

‘We are in a heap of trouble’

Two hundred people spent a sunny Saturday at Morden Mennonite Church in southern Manitoba to look squarely at how the church can deal with its same-sex crisis.

“Biblical marriage texts clearly envision marriage as a relationship between man and woman. Some of us believe . . . we must embrace such texts in a straightforward way,” read the booklet prepared for the Sept. 26, 2015, event.

“Some of us believe these convictions reflect the culture of ancient times,” the booklet continued, “and that therefore we need not be bound by them.”

Kuen Yee ordained at Edmonton Vietnamese Mennonite Church

Kuen Yee

Kuen Yee was ordained at a worship celebration of God’s leading, diversity and giftedness at Edmonton Vietnamese Mennonite Church on Sept. 6. Area church minister Dan Graber led the ordination ceremony and welcomed Yee into the company of Mennonite Church Alberta pastors. Yee is Chinese and has an Alliance Church background. In September 2012, she began serving as the pastor of English ministries with Vietnamese Mennonites. She holds a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy and formerly served as a lay pastor at Edmonton Chinese Alliance Church.

Conrad Grebel partners with Tabor Manor in chaplaincy internship

Michelle Koop served as a summer chaplaincy intern at Tabor Manor, St. Catharines, Ont., for the summer of 2015. She worked under the supervision of Waldo Pauls. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Michelle Koop grew up going to Vineland (Ont.) United Mennonite Church, next to the Vineland Mennonite Home. She worked at the Home and helped care for the father of Ed Janzen, chaplain at Conrad Grebel University College (CGUC). In part, it was her stories of that care that convinced Janzen of Koop’s “heart for the aged and seniors—living out the love of God.”

South Korean CO freed after 15 months

Sang-Min Lee enjoys some of his favourite fast food after being released from prison, where he served 15 months for refusing to participate in mandatory military service. (Mennonite World Conference photo)

Conscientious objector (CO) Sang-Min Lee, a member of Grace and Peace Mennonite Church in Seoul, South Korea, is free. He was released from prison on July 30, after serving 15 months of an 18-month sentence for refusing military service. The time he spent as a barber in the prison system was credited as additional time served.

News of Lee’s stand for peace travelled quickly through Mennonite channels garnering messages of support from individuals and churches around the world during his imprisonment.

Sunday School in 1980

Photo provided by the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies.

A group of children from Orchard Park Bible Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., carry signs celebrating the 200th birthday of Sunday school as Kathy and Alfred Guenther present keepsakes to the children. In 1780, Robert Raikes started Sunday school in Gloucester, England, as a way to teach lower-class children morals and religion. Although Sunday school is standard practice today, its development was slow in some Mennonite circles due to their understanding of adult baptism and church membership. The first Canadian Mennonite Sunday school was established in 1840 in Waterloo County, Ont.

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