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God at work in the Church

Hutterites thank John J. Friesen for teaching courses

This painting by Victor Kleinsasser depicts John J. Friesen talking to Hutterite students after class. It was commissioned by the Hutterian Brethren Education Committee and presented to Friesen as a gift.

God at work in the Church | Jun 30, 2015 | 1 comment

A new artwork honouring a professor from Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) and commissioned by the Hutterian Brethren Education Committee was unveiled in CMU’s new library on June 3. It honoured John J. Friesen, professor emeritus of history and theology, for his contribution to the Hutterite community.

The Gathering Church celebrates ten years

Jim Loepp Thiessen and Catherine Gitzel stand in front of the Gathering Church’s store front offices on Activa Ave. in Kitchener, Ont., across the street from the W. T. Townshend Public School, where they gather on Sunday mornings. The congregation celebrated its tenth anniversary in February this year. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Jun 30, 2015

Two in three church plants don’t make it past the five-year mark. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been successful, but long life is not part of most church plants. The Gathering Church, a full member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, celebrated its tenth anniversary quietly in February this year.

Lebold dinner funds new pastoral training program

Rudy Baergen, interim pastor at Waterloo-Kitchener United Mennonite Church (left) chats with Roberson Mbayamvula, pastor at Hagerman Mennonite Church. Baergen was the keynote speaker at the June 11 Lebold fundraising dinner at Conrad Grebel University College and Mbayamvula was last year’s speaker.

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Jun 30, 2015

A new focus was announced this year at the Ralph and Eileen Lebold Endowment fundraising dinner, because last year it reached its goal of $1 million to fund pastoral training at Conrad Grebel University College (CGUC). This fund, jointly supported by Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) and Conrad Grebel, was founded in 1997 and is named after Ralph Lebold and his wife. Lebold was a pioneer in pastoral education beginning in 1961.

Ex-offender finds new life and home in the church

Ryan Grills (right) and his pastor, Garth Ewert Fisher, share a deep mutual respect and affection. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Jun 17, 2015

He’s the newest member of Mount Royal Mennonite Church and he loves his church. Ryan Grills started attending Mount Royal just over two years ago, when he was released from the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon.

Nutana Park celebrates 50 years of God’s blessing

Under the direction of Duff Warkentin, the Nutana Park Mennonite Church Choir presents songs of praise and thanksgiving in both English and German to help mark the congregation’s 50th anniversary. (Photo by Howard Giles)

Voices joined together in celebration for the opening hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God,” in a service of worship at Nutana Park Mennonite Church commemorating 50 years as a congregation.

The theme of  “blessing” infused every moment of the celebration service on May 3, 2015, which was postponed a week by a crippling snowstorm that kept everyone at home on April 26. A choir led by Duff Warkentin offered anthems of blessing and thanksgiving in English and German reflecting the origins of 50 years ago.  Peter Hooge planned music for the anniversary service.

More study on homosexuality and the Bible sought

Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church was founded in 1895. It is considering leaving Mennonite Church Manitoba and MC Canada over same-sex marriage issues within the area and national churches. (Photo courtesy of Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church)

God at work in the Church | By J. Neufeld | Jun 03, 2015

Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church wants Mennonite Church Manitoba to organize a conference to study “what Scripture clearly states on the matter of homosexuality and the definition of marriage,” and Ken Warkentin, executive director of the area church, says, “I think that’s a great idea.”

Here’s to old white guys and everyone else

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Jun 03, 2015

I stopped short when the ’70s picture of a serious-looking white-haired man in a suit and tie popped up on my screen.

I had started an article about a Mennonite thinker and institution builder who died before I had a chance to meet him. Part-way through my research I stumbled upon his photo. It was pretty much the standard posed headshot I would have expected had I thought about it, but still, when confronted with the image, I knew the article was dead.

Touring the province, touring the church

Participants board the bus for Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s 2015 Touring Mission Fest. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Jun 03, 2015

Louise Sawatsky has boarded the bus for Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s Touring Mission Fest every year the event has been offered. For the 92-year-old from Saskatoon’s First Mennonite Church, the annual tours are worthwhile and enjoyable.

Begun in 2005 under the auspices of MC Saskatchewan’s Ministries Commission, Touring Mission Fest was initially seen as a way for urban congregations to connect with their more-remote rural counterparts.

‘A community event’

Canoes and kayaks arrive at their final destination after a successful paddle-a-thon down the Fraser River. The $51,000 raised will support summer staff volunteers pay for post-secondary education. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

God at work in the Church | By Amy Dueckman | Jun 03, 2015

Weather was again the main story at the annual Camp Squeah paddle-a-thon held on April 18 and 19, but this time—unlike some years—for all the right reasons. Sunny skies, warm weather, little wind and no major mishaps meant that the 31 paddlers who finished their two-day sojourn down the Fraser River arrived energized and in great spirits.

MCC pre-sale fundraiser exceeds expectations

MCC Alberta supporters add pocket change to a growing spiral, netting more than $550 to go toward paying the costs of the annual Relief Sale held in Didsbury on June 5 and 6. (Photo by Gordon Baergen)

God at work in the Church | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jun 03, 2015

“I thought if we could do $3,000 to $4,000, that would be what we’ve done in the past. When I was off by $10,000, I was elated.”

These words came from Gordon Baergen, a member of Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton who helped to organize a May 21 pre-sale fundraiser in preparation for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta’s annual Relief Sale held in Didsbury on June 5 and 6.

Why Mennonites love their gardens

Susie Fisher holds a handful of heritage cucumber seeds given to her by a Mennonite couple in Winkler, Manitoba. (Photo by J. Neufeld)

God at work in the Church | By J. Neufeld | May 20, 2015

In the village of Neubergthal in southern Manitoba, gnarled cottonwoods with deeply grooved trunks line the village streets and cluster along the edge of farmyards. Cottonwoods here and in nearby towns bear nostalgic meaning for many Mennonites. According to local mythology, the cottonwoods are descended from Russian trees brought to Canada as saplings or seeds by Mennonite immigrants in the 1870s. Some of them were planted on the graves of loved ones.

Chin Christians receive Mennonite teaching with joy

David Martin, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada executive minister, centre, poses with the baptismal candidates from the addictions recovery group in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | May 06, 2015

David Martin was invited to Myanmar (formerly Burma) in March 2015 to preach two or three times and to teach from the book of Galatians in four sessions over two days. By the time he returned he had also performed two graveside memorial services, baptized six, preached at a wedding, and took part in many more services in Myanmar and Malaysia. Martin, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s executive minister, travelled to South Asia with Pastor Jehu Lian Ching of the Kitchener (Ont.) Chin Christian Church.

MCC 50th full of historic symbolism

Elder Margaret Harris and Donna Roach flew in from Vancouver to celebrate with MCC Manitoba at Knox United Church in Winnipeg. (MCC photo by Alison Ralph)

God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | May 06, 2015

As the choirs’ final note of “Die Zeit ist Kurz” hung sublimely in the sanctuary of Knox United Church on April 18, the indigenous drums began to beat and the Buffalo Gals started into the “Wolf Song.” Once they were done, it was back to the Faith and Life choirs and the University of Manitoba Women’s Chorus for “Come Let Us All Unite to Sing.”

MC Eastern Canada gathering hears stories of faith

Chris Brnjas, left, Dimitri Faludy, Rachel Brnjas and Esther Kissor talk about their work at the 2015 Mennonite Church Eastern Canada annual church gathering. The Brnjases work in churches in Kitchener, Ont., and attend The Gathering Church. Faludy and Kissor are from the Jane Finch Faith Community in Toronto. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | May 06, 2015

Paul Wideman, moderator of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, challenged the 28th annual church gathering, saying, “How can we encourage one another by sharing our faith?” The day-and-a-half event was filled with faith stories and had little actual business. Advertised as such, the gathering at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener on April 24 and 25 was fully subscribed with some watching the live streaming from home.

Building houses and learning to serve

Participants in the Youth Farm Bible Camp’s recent trip to Mexico mix cement for the foundation of the house they built. Pictured from left to right: Brandon Wurtz, Holly Epp,  and Dawson Dueck. (Photo by Mark Wurtz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | May 06, 2015

It may not be typical summer camp staff training, but Mark Wurtz says the Youth Farm Bible Camp’s annual trip to Mexico is “probably more worthwhile than orientation.” The camp has been taking senior staff members and youth on short-term mission trips for the past eight years, and Wurtz sees the trips as highly valuable in developing camp staff.

God is at work in the church in China

George and Tobia Veith, left and centre, visit with Denise Epp following one of the Veiths’ presentations on the church in China held at Rosthern Mennonite Church recently. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Apr 22, 2015

“This is about what God’s doing,” said George Veith. “We want all the glory to go to God.”

He was referring, during a series of four presentations hosted by Rosthern Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church Canada on April 10 and 11, to the vibrancy which he and his wife Tobia have witnessed in the Chinese church from their vantage point as Witness workers in Macau for the past 18 years.

Learning from each other

Charles Simard holds a timber wolf hide as he explains to the Partnership Circle participants in Manigotagan, Man., their relationship with the land along the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg that has been their home for many generations. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

God at work in the Church | By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Apr 08, 2015

Although less than a three-hour drive from Winnipeg, Manigotagan seemed a world away. This Metis community of about 200 lives in the dense forest along the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg. It abuts the much larger reserve community of Hollow Water (population 1,200) whose border has become more porous since the passing of Bill C-31 which returned treaty status to some of the Métis.

Western Christians need to ‘get out of the way’

Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s first national indigenous bishop, speaks at the annual Building Bridges event at Circle of Life Thunderbird House in Winnipeg on March 13, 2015. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

God at work in the Church | By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Apr 08, 2015

Mark MacDonald is convinced that “it is the time for something great to happen and that the best thing we can do is get up and wait. There is no stopping it.” But the Anglican Church of Canada’s first national indigenous bishop admits that the church has likely stood in the way of God’s work at times and it may need to step aside.

‘We weren’t on the same page’

Hague Mennonite Church has voted to leave Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, choosing, instead, to become an independent congregation. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Apr 08, 2015

“We have not left. Maybe the [area church] leadership has left, but we have stayed with the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.” With these words, Artur Esau, Hague Mennonite Church’s pastor, spoke of his congregation’s withdrawal from Mennonite Church Saskatchewan.

Mennonite Church Alberta ‘in the black’

Dancers perform to a song of praise at the opening of Mennonite Church Alberta’s 86th annual delegate sessions hosted by Edmonton Vietnamese Mennonite Church. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

God at work in the Church | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Apr 08, 2015

Vietnamese Mennonite Church in Edmonton may seem small, but it is a hosting powerhouse! On March 20 and 21, 2015, the congregation of about 70 adults and 23 youth welcomed pastors, delegates and visitors to the 86th annual session of Mennonite Church Alberta.

Keynote speaker Brian Quan, lead pastor of three congregations at Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, challenged the gathering about what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ, bound together by the Spirit of God for the common good.

Edmonton congregation seeks to be openly inclusive

Donita Wiebe-Neufeld
God at work in the Church | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Apr 08, 2015 | 1 comment

At the pastors council meeting, First Mennonite Church called for prayer as a letter that will be sent to all Mennonite Church Alberta congregations was shared. The letter presents a motion passed on Feb. 8: “As a congregation, we ... would like to move toward becoming a publicly open and welcoming faith community for all people, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, socio-economic status, family composition, and for any other minority or marginalized individuals or groups.

‘Our truth has been discovered’

‘We wish it was over,’ says Wilma Derksen, who, along with her husband Cliff, waited 27 years to learn what happened to their daughter. ‘I waffle about a new trial.’ (Photo courtesy of Cliff and Wilma Derksen)

God at work in the Church | By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Mar 25, 2015 | 1 comment

“God has given us a toolkit,” said Wilma Derksen. First it was forgiveness when Wilma and Cliff’s daughter Candace was murdered in 1984. Then it was learning to love when they learned that Mark Edward Grant was arrested and charged with her murder in 2007, and then truth and justice as they sat through his trial in 2011.

More on CoSA funding cuts

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Mar 25, 2015

What is CoSA?

Mennonite Central Committee describes CoSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) as “a community-based reintegration program that holds federal inmates with histories of sexual offending accountable for the harm they have caused while supporting them through the reintegration back to community at the end of their sentences.” More information is available at


‘A less safe environment for everybody’

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Mar 25, 2015

When a high-risk, low functioning, repeat child abuser was released from prison in the Hamilton, Ont., area in 1994, many locals responded with predictable revulsion. Harry Nigh, a Mennonite pastor, was not among them. He gathered a small group of people who reached out to the man, offering support and accountability. The man never reoffended.

A healing bridge

Since 2004, land and buildings are wasting away on a 90-hectare section of prime real estate in south Winnipeg. Formerly the home of Kapyong Barracks, a military base, ownership of the land is the subject of an ongoing court battle between the Canadian government and seven first nation communities that want to build an urban reserve on the land. (Photo by Deborah Froese)

God at work in the Church | By Deborah Froese | Mar 25, 2015

It may not look like much, but the abandoned 90-hectare site of Kapyong Barracks is prime real estate in Winnipeg. It could also be a healing bridge, according to Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada’s director of indigenous relations.

The former military base is currently at the centre of ongoing litigation between the federal government and seven first nation communities in Manitoba that want to transform it into an urban reserve.