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Readers write: July 25, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Jul 20, 2016

Use land for food production, not burying the dead

For some time, I have wondered whether we are good stewards when we use precious real estate to bury our dead. I do not now own real estate, and I question why, upon my death, I should own a piece of land for the next thousand years. Thousands of hectares of land hold grave markers, pay no taxes, require maintenance and are all but forgotten. I will give up my little plot to grow food for a starving world.

Delegates have spoken

Willard Metzger
Viewpoints | By Willard Metzger | Jul 20, 2016 | 1 comment

In a much-anticipated assembly, delegates have clearly spoken on behalf of Mennonite Church Canada. After an eight-year Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process, delegates approved the BFC7 recommendation with an 85 percent majority. This is clear affirmation for seeking a way forward together in responding to committed same-sex relationships.

Healthy diversity

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Jul 20, 2016

“What does a healthy congregation look like?” I asked a pastor friend recently. He responded by telling a story of how he had led his congregation through a contentious issue. In the process, people spoke openly of their views, listened carefully, and, in the end, came to a satisfactory understanding about how to live with their differences. “A healthy congregation,” he concluded, “is able to take part in honest, respectful discussions and live with the tension of a variety of views.”

Joy proposition: Give till it feels good

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen
Viewpoints | By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen | Jul 20, 2016

In my childhood home, we had a unique red velveteen bag. When you pressed on the bag in the right place, you heard the sound of someone laughing, really guffawing. The recording went on for at least a full minute and you could almost hear the person wiping the tears from his eyes.

The pursuit of truth (Pt. 7)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | Jul 20, 2016

American architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The truth is more important than the facts.”

I agree, although I’m not sure that I could explain why. What is the difference between truth and fact?

Old Order Mennonite farmer

Photo by David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Viewpoints | By Laureen Harder-Gissing | Jul 20, 2016

An Old Order Mennonite farmer in Waterloo Region, Ont., works the fields by horsepower in 1950, much as his 19th-century counterparts would have done. We take the cycle of the seasons for granted, yet in 1816 Mennonite settlers in Upper Canada (now Ontario) experienced “the year without a summer.” When Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted in 1815, average global temperatures decreased by up to 0.7 C. Waterloo Region experienced seven heavy frosts in June and July of the next year.

Readers write: July 4, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Jun 28, 2016

‘Testing,’ ‘nudging’ on sexual issues has already occurred

The Being a Faithful Church document being presented at the Mennonite Church Canada assembly recognizes that “we differ dramatically in our biblical interpretations,” and that we should “learn to honour those persons with whom we disagree.”

With “unity” and “diversity” in mind, one recommendation being presented is that parts of the body of MC Canada be allowed to “test alternative understandings from those of the larger body to see if they are a prophetic nudging of the Spirit of God.”

Listen to the Spirit

Peter Rempel
Viewpoints | By Peter Rempel | Jun 28, 2016

What direction will Mennonite Church Canada and its area churches be going into the future after the assembly in Saskatoon? Will we become a more faithful church?

Crucial to our future and our faithfulness will be our understanding of, and commitment to, the unity of the church, specifically to the unity of our denomination.

Are we missing the mark?

Phil Wagler
Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | Jun 28, 2016

The team I serve with is blessed by the presence of an 80-year-old saint. He has lived a full life, including serving in high levels of government, so he’s garnered significant insight and healthy scepticism. In the last few years, he says he has realized the power of the Holy Spirit and the centrality of prayer far too late in life.

Agonizing over the ‘best’ community?

Katie Doke Sawatzky
Viewpoints | By Katie Doke Sawatzky | Jun 28, 2016 | 1 comment

My son will be starting Kindergarten in the fall. Along with feelings of excitement and uncertainty over seeing him go to school, and the adjustment it’ll mean for our family, actually choosing a school has been the hardest part.

Irene Klassen

Irene Klassen (Photo by John Klassen / Mennonite Archives of Alberta)

Viewpoints | By Alice Unrau | Jun 28, 2016

Irene Klassen is pictured touring a sawmill at LaCrete, Alta., in September 2003, when the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta meeting was held in the northern Alberta town. The trip was almost a thousand kilometres, so it took a long day to get there. Participants were provided with a tour of the LaCrete Mennonite Heritage Village, the Heimstaed Lodge for seniors, and the sawmill. Klassen was a long-term volunteer for the historical society for many years; it would not have survived had it not been for her determination.

Becoming Aryan

Genealogy—often a means of proving Aryan identity—became a popular pastime among Mennonites in the Third Reich. Pictured, a 1938 gathering of the genealogical society of the van Bergen family in Marienburg, East Prussia.” / Horst Gerlach, Bildband zur Geschichte der Mennoniten (Uelzen-Oldenstadt: Preuschoff, 1980), page 52

Viewpoints | By Ben Goossen | Jun 28, 2016

When Susanna Toews arrived in Litzmannstadt, Poland, in 1944, she was already a member of the Nazi racial elite. Her native village in Ukraine had come under German occupation in 1941 with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. During the intervening two-and-a-half years, the young Mennonite woman became a beneficiary of racial warfare.

Passing on the faith by example

Co-pastor Donita Wiebe-Neufeld of First Mennonite Church, Edmonton, baptizes Tom Buhr. (Photo by Ev Buhr)

Viewpoints | By Ev Buhr | Jun 28, 2016

As parents, you hope that you have done all that you can to nurture and encourage your children on their faith journey, and yet there is that inner voice telling you that you might not have done quite enough. Maybe you could have read more Bible stories when they were children. Maybe you should have prayed together more as a family. Maybe you should have had more in-depth discussions on being a part of the church.

Can MC Canada become a ‘we’?

Viewpoints | By Gerald Gerbrandt | Jun 15, 2016

One thing became very clear during the Future Directions Task Force conversation: In the imagination of most of us, Mennonite Church Canada is an “it” or a “they.” Currently, we experience the larger denomination—including the area churches—as an entity apart or distinct from the local congregation. We may affirm the services the denomination provides, or the programs it delivers, but these are “it” doing things for “us.”

Stronger regionalism weakens national church

Viewpoints | By Waldemar Regier | Jun 15, 2016

I have always been part of the Mennonite world, having been called to Jesus Christ in my early years; active in the fellowship of the church throughout my youth; and trained by the church through Canadian Mennonite Bible College, Winnipeg, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind., and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y. I was ordained into pastoral ministry in 1964, just at the time of transition to professional ministry in Canada.

Readers write: June 20, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

Reading the gospels led reader to ‘faith in a living Christ’

Re: “The Bible is full of shortcomings and biases” letter, May 9, page 10.

Not a fragile faith

Willard Metzger
Viewpoints | By Willard Metzger | Jun 15, 2016

In a recent Bible study, we were looking at John 20 where Jesus appeared to the disciples. Gathered behind locked doors, Jesus appeared in the midst of them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he did an amazing thing. He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

This is a significant development. It was a graduation. They would now carry on the faith—not by receiving more teaching by Jesus, but by listening to the Holy Spirit. It was an empowering. It was an unleashing of the law written in their hearts.

‘You say goodbye, I say hello’

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

A long time ago, my high school physics teacher defined work as moving something from one place to another. “You could work all day trying to move a boulder,” he expanded, “and if you hadn’t actually shifted the position of the boulder, technically speaking, you wouldn’t have worked.” His definition left its mark on my teenage brain. I do not know how accurate his description was, but I recall it as I enter an employment transition.

Alexander Fast

Photo by C.F. Klassen / Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Viewpoints | By Conrad Stoesz | Jun 15, 2016

Alexander Fast (1888-1942), front row right, and his second wife Selinde Fast (1894-1973) fled to Germany from Russia during the Russian Revolution and were immigrants to Canada in 1928. In this photo, taken in 1933, they are at the Winnipeg train station with friend C.F. Klassen (behind Alexander), leaving for British Columbia. Mennonite immigrants have not always been welcomed in Canada, being considered a danger because they came from a communist country even after passing government screening of the day. Sadly, our world continues to produce refugees.

The pursuit of truth (Pt. 6)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | Jun 15, 2016

In an article entitled “Has militant atheism become a religion?” published on (March 24, 2013), primatologist Frans de Waal writes, “In my interactions with religious and nonreligious people alike, I now draw a sharp line, based not on what exactly they believe but on their level of dogmatism. I consider dogmatism a far greater threat than religion . . . .”

Readers write: June 6, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Jun 01, 2016

Recommendation of same-sex inclusion will lead to exodus

Re: “It could soon be ‘time to run’ ” letter, April 25, 2016, page 10.

This letter refers to the upcoming Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon assembly and the recommendation that “we create space/leave room within our body to test alternative understandings [of same-sex issues] . . . .”

‘Who’ before ‘how’

Tim Froese
Viewpoints | By Tim Froese | Jun 01, 2016

Mennonites are blessed with traditions and aspirations that many admire: nonviolent peacemaking, mutual aid, voluntarism, relief efforts, generosity and so on. But these values alone do not inherently communicate the one whose name we bear as Christians.

Focussing on our ethical practices comes with the risk of becoming preoccupied with “how.” How will we be most effective? How can we use our resources most efficiently? How can we transform conflict and make peace? How can we sustain—or grow—vital services?

Lessons from spilled milk

Phil Wagler
Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | Jun 01, 2016

“Don’t cry over spilled milk.” This little English phrase must have been coined by a parent watching her child pour milk into a cup. When our emerging independence turns to “needing” to pour our own milk, a parent can only watch with horror. The cup is off-centre, the pitcher trembles, and the liquid is like a tsunami bursting onto a beach. Nothing in this scenario is ever “all in.” Inevitably the deed is done, and the child’s disappointment is not helped by a justifiable “I told you so.”

Dish washing

Photo: Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies

Viewpoints | By Conrad Stoesz | Jun 01, 2016

In 1963, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches held its annual convention in Herbert, Sask. Here, dishes were washed by hand and, of course, re-used as other delegates waited in line. Mennonite World Conference Assembly 2015 took a different approach to reduce the event’s environmental footprint by using compostable cups, dishes and cutlery. Compostables, together with food waste, were sent to a composting site north of Lancaster, Pa.

Readers write: May 23, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | May 18, 2016

Intent of Star Wars review is to criticize culture of violence

Re: “Star Wars review promotes violence against women,” April 11, page 11.

Thank you to Bev Hunsberger for alerting me to the different ways my article on Star Wars and Hollywood feminism can be viewed, even by likeminded people. She has helped me reconsider how best to communicate my thoughts on violence in film.