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Cultivating imagination

Karen Martens Zimmerly
Viewpoints | By Karen Martens Zimmerly | May 18, 2016

During the Second World War, guided by the leadership of Pastor André Trocmé, the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and surrounding regions hid Jews who were fleeing from the Nazis. A less well-known story of that era comes from the small Muslim country of Albania, where both the people and the government protected their own Jewish citizens and Jews fleeing from other parts of Europe at all costs. While the world was at war and the Nazi and Fascist regimes made scapegoats of their citizens of Jewish descent, these communities lived a different imagination. They resisted.

Tending our mothers’ gardens

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | May 18, 2016

I am writing this column on Mother’s Day weekend. As I weed flowerbeds, memories of my hardworking mothers and their gardens dance in my head. Gram Miller—Anna Estelle—grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, in a large family that was intimately acquainted with poverty. Growing food was necessary for survival. I remember her planting many varieties of beans or enlisting my equally hard-working grandfather to do so. Even after their family was grown, they planted huge fields of beans, a cash crop to carry them over should lean times come.

What are you planting this spring?

Harold Penner
Viewpoints | By Harold Penner | May 18, 2016

May. It’s the time of year when many of us who have, or aspire to have, a green thumb turn our minds to gardening. Some may have already been nursing self-propagated seedlings for weeks, waiting for the right time to transplant them outside. Others make the trip to the local garden centre for flower or vegetable seedlings.

Neu Kronsthal

Photo: Mennonite Heritage Centre

Viewpoints | By Conrad Stoesz | May 18, 2016 | 2 comments

This is a photo of the privately run Mennonite school in Neu Kronsthal, Man. John Kroeker (1910-82) is front row far right, and his brother Klaas Kroeker (1907-92) stands behind him. Mennonites coming from Russia in the 1870s were promised freedom of education as well as freedom of religion, believing it was the role of the church and family to educate children, not the state. Government tolerance for these schools soon dried up.

The pursuit of truth (Pt. 5)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | May 18, 2016

The first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, once said, “I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.”

Sometimes the pursuit of political correctness and the pursuit of truth are at odds with one another.

Readers write: May 9, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | May 04, 2016 | 1 comment

Tell the whole Mennonite story

Re: “People of the plains,” March 14, page 12.

“What is it with Mennonites and flat surroundings?” Bill Schroeder asks. But we also need to ask, “What is it with Mennonites and hilly country?”

Building bridges

Lee Dyck
Viewpoints | By Lee Dyck | May 04, 2016

Bridges are an important part of life in British Columbia. Whether it is the new Port Mann Bridge or any other crossing of our many rivers, bridges are a part of our lives. In Mennonite Church B.C., we are also in the business of building bridges.

The beautiful mind of Christ

Phil Wagler
Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | May 04, 2016

How does the body of Christ maintain her mental health?

We often think about the church as the body of Christ functioning like a human body. In I Corinthians 12, we consider what it means to be a Jesus-centred community in which each part is honoured and each part does its work.

A justice-oriented church community

Katie Doke Sawatzky
Viewpoints | By Katie Doke Sawatzky | May 04, 2016

I haven’t been to the dump before. The route is unfamiliar. My father-in-law and I drive east, now on the outskirts of Regina, and eventually pass the oil refinery, a mammoth mess of tangled pipes behind a sea of parked trucks.

As we pull up, I look upon the hills and see the plastic bags. Some are floating on the breeze, lots are trapped against the fences. They dot the land like candy sprinkles. We find the right place to dump our dirt. I get out and smell the methane, but quickly forget about it as we set to work.

Naomi Martin

Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Viewpoints | By Laureen Harder-Gissing | May 04, 2016

Naomi Martin holds a book belonging to her late husband, Bishop J.B. Martin, at the family home in 1975. Archivists Lorna Bergey and Sam Steiner look on as she prepares to donate his books and papers to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario. J.B. Martin was a pastor and Bible school teacher who advocated for conscientious objectors during the Second World War and travelled to Israel on behalf of the Mennonite church. When records such as these are handed into the care of an archives, they begin a new life as sources for understanding the past and discerning the future.

All about love

Martha Epp, left, shows off one of her quilts to interviewer Amelia Pahl. (Photo by Larrisa Pahl)

Viewpoints | May 04, 2016

At the request of Elsie Wiebe of Mennonite Women in Manitoba, Mennonite Collegiate Institute graduating student Amelia Pahl interviewed Martha Epp, 77, of Morden, Man., who has been the primary caregiver for her husband Henry, 88, ever since debilitating arthritis set in all over his already frail body four years ago. Both Epp and Pahl attend Morden Mennonite Church.

Readers write: April 25, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Apr 20, 2016

‘You betcha’ climate change is real

Re: “Is climate change real?” by Will Braun, Feb. 29, page 17.

Is climate change real? You betcha!

Art can make a difference

Ray Dirks
Viewpoints | By Ray Dirks | Apr 20, 2016

My exhibit of paintings, Along the Road to Freedom, remembers and honours the journeys of Russian Mennonite women who led their families to freedom in Canada, mostly in the 1920s and 1940s. It also acknowledges those thousands who did not escape. It’s a story that is familiar to many cultures and faiths.

My conversion

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

Recently the Listening Church video ( was released, in which lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) people speak of their experiences in Mennonite churches. One speaker challenged people “who had changed their minds” to tell their stories. Here I take up that challenge.

Although it was not always the case, I have viewed myself as “gay-positive” for many years. (I no longer know if such a designation is even used or valued. Hopefully, the positive intent carries my meaning.)

Three significant steps mark my conversion:

Reducing the potential for drama

Peter Dryden
Viewpoints | By Peter Dryden | Apr 20, 2016

There was an interesting scene on a recent courtroom drama in which a dying, wealthy woman had taken the time to place sticky notes on precious items around her home to indicate to whom the items should go after she died. Unfortunately, the woman passed away during the night. By morning, all of her carefully placed sticky notes had fallen to the floor. Oops!

The pursuit of truth (Pt. 4)

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

In my experience, Mennonites live by the adages “Actions speak louder than words” and “Faith without works is dead.”

One of the things that drew me to Anabaptism was its emphasis on “walking the walk” more than “talking the talk.” I was raised in a church in which passionate shouting was the hallmark of faithful gospel preaching, so it was refreshing to discover a Christian tribe known as the “quiet in the land.”

Crowd surfing

Photo: Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies

Viewpoints | By Conrad Stoesz | Apr 20, 2016

Banff, Alta., has hosted numerous Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren national youth gatherings. Pictured are youth “crowd surfing” at a 1995 Mennonite Brethren event in Banff.  Events like these have been important times of building friendships with youth leaders, people within one’s own church, and those from across the country. Youth were inspired to be faithful Christians and became aware of the wider Mennonite church. Will these events continue?

Readers write: April 11, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Apr 06, 2016

Jesus ‘affirms’ male-female marital unions

Re: “What is ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’?” feature,  Feb. 15, page 4.

Exciting times for our church

Ernie Engbrecht
Viewpoints | By Ernie Engbrecht | Apr 06, 2016

It is said that change is inevitable. As true as that might be, it doesn’t have to leave us powerless, for we always have a choice of how we decide to respond to it.

In the four years I served as moderator of Mennonite Church Alberta and on the board of MC Canada, I observed considerable change and I see much more coming. The Future Directions Task Force’s report is being discussed and debated with an intensity I haven’t seen for some time, and to have the people in our church engaged in such a way is invigorating.

Optimism in an age of ‘isms’

Phil Wagler
Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | Apr 06, 2016

In 2015, for the first time in nearly two centuries of publication, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary chose a suffix as its word of the year. That word was “ism.”

To name its winner, Merriam-Webster tracked two criteria: a high volume of look-ups and a significant year-over-year increase in look-ups. Who, pray tell, searches the meaning of suffixes? Will this year’s word be a prefix? Actually, I could see “anti” taking the prize now that I reconsider.

Mennonite plays

Photo: David Hunsberger, Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Viewpoints | By Laureen Harder-Gissing | Apr 06, 2016

Dianne Bailey, Mary Bechtel and Beth Good play Mennonite pioneer women in the 1970 production of Trail of the Conestoga. Several ambitious drama projects were undertaken by Ontario Mennonites during this time, spurred on in part by Canada’s centennial in 1967 and a new emphasis on multiculturalism. The New Commandment by Barbara Coffman was produced in 1967. Urie Bender’s This Land is Ours was performed on the Stratford Festival stage in 1972 to celebrate 150 years of the Amish in Canada.

Readers write: March 28, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Mar 23, 2016

Mennonite histories ‘are not that different’

Re: Future Directions Task Force editorials in the Jan. 18, Feb. 1 and 15 issues.

The editor is to be thanked for wading into the Future Directions Task Force report. That analysis raises a number of issues that warrant more discussion.

Strange, suspect voices

Steve Heinrichs
Viewpoints | By Steve Heinrichs | Mar 23, 2016

One of the things I most admire about Scripture is the space it creates for the undominant voice, specifically the strange and suspect voice. For sure, the text is far from perfect. Alongside all those male authors, heroes and stories, give us some more women! And next to those Israelite colonists, how about a few Canaanites—those dispossessed natives—offering their truths?

Gently lead the mother sheep

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Mar 23, 2016

“What this is about,” the counsellor said kindly, “is the end. How your mother faces the end—her dying—impacts everyone else in the family. How you and your siblings respond to your mother affects each person as well. You are all in this together.”

It’s time we had ‘the talk’

Sherri Grosz
Viewpoints | By Sherri Grosz | Mar 23, 2016 | 2 comments

It’s time for “the talk.” You know, the one we’ve been putting off because it’s uncomfortable. That end-of-life conversation. There is, after all, a 100 percent certainty of our death. The Psalms remind us of our frailty: “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is” Psalm 39:4 (New International Version).