From Feb. 18-20, I was part of a group of 30 students and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) staff from across Canada who met in Ottawa for the annual MCC Student Seminar to learn about refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. We heard from United Nations staff, MPs, MCC staff who work with refugees, and volunteers who assist newcomers to Canada.
When Naomi Chan moved from Hong Kong to Rosthern, Sask., for school, the only thing she knew about the town is that it’s small.
Chan, an international student at Rosthern Junior College (RJC), went from living in one of the world’s most densely populated metropolises, to living 40 minutes north of Saskatoon in a town of just 1,600 and attending a school with a student body of 75.
For Ruth Charette, spending time online is a good way to both get her homework done and have fun playing games and watching funny videos. Using social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat, meanwhile, allows her to connect with her friends through pictures and videos, so they can keep each other updated on what they’re doing.
I did not grow up attending a Mennonite church. Growing up two hours southeast of Winnipeg in Piney, Man., I attended International Christian Fellowship, a small congregation that includes an interesting mix of people and theological backgrounds. It is an international amalgamation of American and Canadian churches on the U.S.
What is the significance of youth pastors living with their partner outside of marriage? How do young people respond to this information? Sexuality, spirituality, marriage, cohabitation and the church community all pertain to this conversation. The reality of cohabitation questions long-held views of marriage.
What makes Mennonites funny, and what does their sense of humour say about them?
Those are the questions at the heart of That Mennonite Joke, a new documentary from Prairie Boy Productions. Written and directed by Winnipeg filmmaker Orlando Braun, the documentary follows Niverville, Man., comedian Matt Falk as he traces the roots of Mennonite humour.
I paid for my undergraduate degree with scholarships and my own savings, and graduated without student debt. I am touchy about this. I tell anyone listening about how expensive it was, how I kept my grades high and earned scholarships, what weird part-time work I did and the imaginative ways I found to save money.
When Manitoba photographer Jay Siemens partnered with Friesens Corporation to create a 2016 calendar to benefit Syrian refugees, he had no idea they would print 1,000 copies and raise $20,000 for the cause in a matter of weeks. But that’s exactly what happened last month in the lead-up to Christmas.
Allison Barron developed an interest in computer games and science fiction at an early age. Reconciling her pop culture interests with her Christian faith has not always been easy, though.
“I’ve never felt very ostracized or pressured because of my [interests],” says Barron, 26. At the same time, “I did not feel like that was something I could bring to church, either.”
My partner Suzanne Braun and I spent three years as Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) service workers in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho from 2011-14. As the connecting peoples coordinator and planning, monitoring and evaluation coordinator, we worked to support a wide variety of MCC partner organizations throughout the SwaLeSA area.
It takes Anna Chemar almost two hours to dress in her favourite style. The elaborate makeup alone requires 45 minutes. Carefully slipping into the clothes—bell-shaped skirt, blouse and corset—takes another 20 minutes. The rest of the time is devoted to final touches: wig, headdress and painted lips. When finished, she looks like a Gothic-styled doll.
“Mennonites talking about sex? That would probably make world news!”
So observes the latest original production by Ontario-based theatre company Theatre of the Beat. The hard-hitting play, This Will Lead to Dancing, tackles this “taboo” topic and encourages Mennonites to talk about lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) inclusivity at least in our congregations.
My mother Colleen Thiessen and I were out for a walk when I visited her a few months ago and we passed our church. I asked how she could attend every Sunday morning. She replied, “I don’t. That’s the problem. I barely even have enough strength to just get out of bed.”
Even walking is an obstacle for her these days.