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Hope in a dark-sky world

Karen Martens Zimmerly
Viewpoints | By Karen Martens Zimmerly | May 17, 2017 | 1 comment

I grew up with a prairie view of wide open sky and grain fields dotted with cattle. In the living room, however, hung a painting of fishermen hurriedly pulling their boat to shore, racing against turbulent waves and a storm-blackened sky. My father, a life-long farmer, chose the painting for the hope of rain that it portrayed.

Something is brewing in the church these days, too, but we aren’t sure what to expect. How can we find a future of hope in our current reality?

Spanish lessons

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | May 17, 2017

Walking to my conversational Spanish class, I rehearsed phrases in my head, hoping practice would strengthen my fledgling skills. In spite of my efforts, I knew I would stumble to find and pronounce the right word. Sure enough, in class I attempted to say I had eaten lunch with friends, but instead said I had eaten my friends for lunch. We all chuckled, commiserating about our incompetence.

What is your passion?

Pamela Miles
Viewpoints | By Pamela Miles | May 17, 2017

How often have you heard the question, “Will you sponsor me?” I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, from a family member, a colleague or someone in your church. For many charitable organizations, organizing events in which their supporters can actively participate is a wonderful way to raise funds, get people engaged and create awareness of their causes.

Wisdom, where art thou? (Pt. 8)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | May 17, 2017

Doubt has a good public relations manager these days. The world seems awash with books, articles, sermons, even a few TED talks, praising its beneficial goodness. I too have tried to redeem the sullied reputation of doubt in the church with my preaching and writing. Over the past year I’ve started to wonder if the pendulum has swung too far though. Have we naively overestimated and championed the virtue of doubt without fully appreciating its destructive power?

The book of James (1:6) names one thing that will prevent us from receiving divine wisdom. Doubt.

Isaac Wiens

Photo: Isby Bergen Photograph Collection / Mennonite Heritage Centre

Viewpoints | By Conrad Stoesz | May 17, 2017

The Isaac S. Wiens real estate office in Herbert, Sask., is pictured in 1911. Wiens (1874-1958), left, was born in Russia and came to Canada as an infant. His family became part of the Bergthaler Mennonite Church and lived in the Gretna, Man., area. He married Katharina Friesen in 1897, and they had 10 children. The family joined other Mennonites who moved to Saskatchewan looking for land and opportunities. Wiens settled in the community of Herbert. By 1911, Wiens was the village secretary.

Shimmering peace in the midst of darkness

Sue Nickel
Focus on Mental Health | By Sue Nickel | May 17, 2017

“Argh!” I cried out, as I slammed my fist down hard onto the kitchen counter. “I hate this! I’m so tightly wound up my body feels ready to split open. I can’t stand the tension anymore!”

Healing for soul and spirit

The indigenous drum has become important to Sara Fretz. (Photo by Jennie Wiebe Photography, courtesy of Sara Fretz)

Focus on Mental Health | By Dave Rogalsky | May 17, 2017

Singing has always been a passion for Sara Fretz. Long before she took up the profession of music therapy she found music “very therapeutic” for herself through her years of growing up. But music is also prayerful, and draws her close to God—faith and singing go together for her.  She “comes to herself as a person” when she sings.

Mental health and ‘having faith’

Beth Downey Sawatzky
Focus on Mental Health | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | May 17, 2017

After retiring from professional service almost two years ago, Valentine (Val) Warkentin found she missed her work as a counsellor and accepted an invitation to volunteer at Canadian Mennonite University. Many kinds of mental illness only develop, or present for the first time, during a person’s teen years and early-twenties, which makes academic institutions dynamic and challenging contexts for her work. “The stresses and expectations in schools result in students being particularly vulnerable.

Being the church in an age of anxiety

Presenter Betty Pries of the L3 Group leads a workshop for Mennonite Church Saskatchewan pastors on ‘Being the church in the 21st century.’ She illustrates how individuals and congregations are wounded, yet those wounds can be places where God is allowed to enter. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Focus on Mental Health | By Donna Schulz | May 17, 2017

High anxiety is a characteristic of this age. Political and economic uncertainties abound, and electronic media, purported to help people connect with one another, actually seem to make them feel increasingly isolated.

These realities were the starting point for discussion as Mennonite Church Saskatchewan pastors explored what “Being the church in the 21st century” means. They met at Mount Royal Mennonite Church on April 28, 2017, for a one-day workshop with Betty Pries of the L3 consulting group.

When mental illness drops in at church

Donita Wiebe-Neufeld
Focus on Mental Health | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | May 17, 2017

Asked how many “walk-ins” looking for help at a church are likely to have a mental illness, pastors like Werner De Jong say “the majority, for sure.”

De Jong, pastor at Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton, is often alone in the building when people wander in to ask for help. In fact, he leaves the door unlocked so they can find him. “The first thing I do is invite them into my office to talk with them,” he says. Invariably they ask for money, but money rarely helps [with their issues].”

Leading the leaderless

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | May 17, 2017 | 1 comment

We do not expect our denominational leaders to write encyclicals, assume pompous titles or drop pastors into congregations, but what exactly do we expect of them within our proudly pope-less priesthood of all believers?

Should they enforce adherence with the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective? Should they just run area or national church ministries? Should they state their views on contentious questions or simply facilitate communal discernment?

ReCommission, ReLearn, ReUnion

Rescue Junction, a blue grass gospel group from the hamlet of Millbank, north of Stratford Ont., performed at the MCEC gathering on Friday evening. Members are (from left): Nick Huber, Joe Clark (standing in for Dallas Roth) Kyle Gerber and his sister Kaitlyn Gerber, and Roger Martin. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | May 17, 2017

When delegates from the churches of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) met in Oakville, Ont., on April 28 and 29, the focus was on re-commissioning, based on Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus speaks to the disciples before his ascension. Read frequently in many languages, the words spoke to the many nations already present in the area church.

‘One night changed everything’

Alina Kehl, left, and Taylor Clemmer fill their plates at a refugee fundraiser lunch at Floradale (Ont.) Mennonite Church on March 26, 2017. The food was prepared by a Turkish refugee who is being hosted in the village. (Photo by Barb Draper)

God at work in the World | By Barb Draper | May 17, 2017

Last November, two Turkish men arrived in the small village of Floradale, in the heart of Ontario’s Mennonite country, seeking refuge. Leon Kehl, a local resident, had developed a relationship with Turkish Muslims in the past, so it was natural that they turned to him for help. He arranged to have the men, who are not named because their families remain in peril in Turkey, live with his parents next door while they applied for refugee status.

Lifesaving latrines and the importance of local partners

This is the frame of the first latrine to be built as part of MCC’s project in the rural community of Wopisa-Gabriyèl in Haiti. (MCC photo by Ted Oswald)

God at work in the World | By Rebecca Shetler Fast and Ted Oswald | May 17, 2017

Hurricane Matthew hit the rural community of Wopisa-Gabriyèl, Haiti, hard last October, leading Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to respond to sanitation needs identified by community leaders.

“There was a lot of damage to this community in the storm,” says Previl Pierre, a local leader and community monitor in MCC’s environmental education program in the Artibonite region in central Haiti. “Many goats and cows died, and whole gardens were lost.”

Learning to let go

Julia Klassen was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when she was 14 years old. (Photo by Aaron Klassen)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | May 17, 2017

When she was admitted to hospital at the age of 14, it didn’t take long for doctors to diagnose Julia Klassen with anorexia nervosa. She displayed all the classic symptoms: a fear of gaining weight and a strong desire to be thin. She was malnourished, the result of restricting her eating for three months.

Students find relaxation through ‘puppy therapy’

Columbia student Victoria Rempel gets up close and personal with a mini-Schnauzer. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Jantzen)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | May 17, 2017

Students at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., have a unique opportunity to de-stress before exams: puppy therapy.

For the past two school years, the Student Counselling Centre has brought puppies to campus for one day at the end of each semester. Students sign up for a 15- to 20-minute slot so that they can play with the puppies.

Men’s choir fosters community, generosity

A Buncha Guys is an informal choir of young men who love to sing. Conducted by Russ Regier and accompanied by Val Regier, the Guys perform several fundraising concerts each year. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | May 17, 2017

“To me, it’s always amazing how the guys come and keep coming to sing,” says Russ Regier. The guys he refers to are A Buncha Guys, an informal choir made up of young men in their early post-high school years.

In late 1997, Regier and his wife Val were asked to lead a choir of young men at Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, where they are members. “We decided to keep going after Christmas,” he says. “The guys invited their Shekinah connections,” and the choir grew from there.

Eritrean church grows in spirit and godliness

Pastor Jonathan Abraham, backed by women singers, leads worship at the Eritrean Shalom Worship and Healing Centre, which conducts services at First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | May 17, 2017

Voices rise in Tigrinya, the most widely spoken language in Eritrea, and in tongues. Waves of music wash over the gathered congregation of refugees from the East African country in the sanctuary of First Mennonite Church in Kitchener. Leading the ecstatic worship is Pastor Jonathan (Joni, pronounced Yónie) Abraham, microphone in hand, backed by a group of women all clad in white, as they practise one of the Shalom Worship and Healing Centre’s priorities: connecting with God.

Grebel names new president

Marcus Shantz

Web First | May 12, 2017 | 1 comment

Marcus Shantz will serve as the eighth president of Conrad Grebel University College and will take office on Oct. 1, 2017. The Board of Governors cited Shantz’s outstanding leadership skills, his significant contributions to local business and arts organizations, his engagement in the local and global church, and his first-hand knowledge of Grebel and its stakeholders. The board highlighted his understanding, respect, and support for higher education, as well as his creativity and integrity.

Donations sought to send youth to special delegate assembly

Emerging Voices Initiative members Anneli Loepp Thiessen, left, and Katrina Woelk are the lead planners and hosts for an initiative raising funds to sponsor youth participation at the special delegate assembly in Winnipeg, Oct. 13-15, 2017.

Web First | By Deborah Froese | May 03, 2017

Youth are in demand. When the Emerging Voices Initiative (EVI) held a cross-Canada tour in 2016-17, the importance of encouraging youth involvement in area and national church initiatives rose to the surface again and again. Their presence is now wanted at the special delegate assembly in Winnipeg on Oct. 13 to 15, 2017.

Beyond guilt and lament

Virginia A. Hostetler
Editorial | By Virginia A. Hostetler | May 03, 2017 | 2 comments

Years ago, I needed some practical help. A person close to me—someone who had the ability to lend a hand—saw my need and said repeatedly, “I wish I could help, but I can’t. I feel so guilty.” That guilt did me no good. Instead of feeling supported, I felt resentful.

Today we are learning about ways in which our ancestors—and we—have deeply wounded the indigenous peoples of this land: the historic taking of land and the residential schools, and also the present inequalities in health, education and community support, along with the insidious racism of our society.

Land is the heart of the matter

‘If you understand nothing else about the history of Indians in North America, you need to understand that the question that really matters is the question of land.’ (Thomas King in The Inconvenient Indian) Photo: © istock.com/ninahenry

Feature | By Roger Epp | May 03, 2017

In the opening half of Steven Ratzlaff’s play Reservations, first staged in Winnipeg in 2016, an Alberta Mennonite farmer informs his two children that he plans to give a section of land—most of what he owns—to the Siksika First Nation. The farmer has heart troubles and he’s already renting the land out.

‘They’re destroying our home’

Filmmaker Brad Leitch prepares to head down the Nelson River with Marilyn and Bob Mazurat of Tataskweyak Cree Nation. (Photo courtesy of Interchurch Council on Hydropower)

Feature | May 03, 2017

When the water goes up behind the $8.7-billion Keeyask Dam in northern Manitoba, one family will lose more than any other. At a church-sponsored event in Winnipeg on March 18, 2017, they told their story.

The seven Kitchekeesik sisters from Tataskweyak Cree Nation made the 900-kilometre trip south to speak at the premiere of a short film that takes viewers down the Nelson River to the area that will be flooded by Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask Dam, slated for completion in 2021.

River dams and land claims

Screen shot from the documentary For Love of a River. (Photo courtesy of Rebel Sky Media)

Web First | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | May 03, 2017

Manitoba filmmakers Brad Leitch and Will Braun have brought the reality of settler-indigenous reconciliation work in Canada to the public screen.

Readers write: May 8, 2017 issue

Viewpoints | May 03, 2017

An appeal from MennoMedia’s Canadian board members

At our most recent MennoMedia board meeting, executive director Russ Eanes predicted that our organization is at the forefront of the transformation that is taking place in our denominations. Both Mennonite Church Canada and MC U.S.A. are undergoing significant changes in size and structure. Because MennoMedia supplies faith resources to congregations, it is the first barometer registering the winds of change.

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