Feature

The alternative method of God

Andrew Suderman, right, preaches at Harvest Time Ministries, a church located in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa, with Pastor Ntapo handling translation duties. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Suderman)

Throughout the Bible, God embodies--and challenges us to embody--a method that challenges the assumption that success, power and influence are gained by focusing on us. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Suderman)

Andrew Suderman

One thing that I find so inspiring in South Africa is the countless people who participate in miraculous activities as they strive to make their communities better.

For discussion

1. Professional hockey is known for fighting and violence. Should this deter Mennonites from being avid hockey fans? Is hard hitting and fighting an essential part of the game? Is violence okay if it’s allowed in the rules of the game? Is this what David Driedger means by structured violence?



New logo a distraction to talking about peace and violence

It is nothing new to say that Winnipeg and southern Manitoba boasts an abnormally high concentration of Mennonites, although I suppose the Mennonites don’t boast. And given our historical and ongoing tension with how to respond to issues of peace and violence, it was also no surprise that more than a few eyebrows were raised at the unveiling of the Winnipeg Jets’ new logo.

For discussion

1. Ralph Lebold says that “the congregation is the central reality for gathered Christians.” Do you agree? What are some ways that people from your congregation engage meaningfully with each other? Why do we often resist being open about our questions, finances, mental and emotional struggles?



Strange and wonderful paths

Ralph Lebold, left, and Jim Lapp at the Purdue ’87 Mennonite Church assembly.

Ralph Lebold and Florence Driedger moderate the joint Mennonite Church/General Conference assembly at Normal ’89.

After 50 years in ministry I have discovered that there is a significant interplay between the divine and human when it comes to physical and emotional healing. All healing is a work of God’s grace, including medical, psychological and social interventions, whether the caregivers acknowledge it or not.



For discussion

1. How are the songs and music chosen in your congregation? How much thought is given to the words when songs are chosen? Do you agree that we focus on the style of music more than the words we sing? What might help us focus on the words?



Paying attention to the words we sing

With words on the big screens, thousands of Canadian and American youths join in spirited singing at the 2005 youth convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Christine Longhurst

"Let me write the songs of a nation. I don’t care who writes its laws.”



This statement attributed to 17th-century Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher about countries also applies to the church. Christians have long recognized the power of music to shape what we believe about God and the life of faith.



Heeding the call

César García, at the podium, greets the Sung-Chiang Mennonite congregation in Taipei, Taiwan, in May. To his right are outgoing MWC general secretary Larry Miller, and Joshua Chang, Sung-Chiang pastor and former MWC general council delegate. (Photo by Byron Rempel-Burkholder)

Pictured from left to right are MWC general secretary-elect César García, his daughters María and Paula, and wife Sandra Báez. (Photo by Tangie Sheets)

Members of the Mennonite World Conference executive committee, MWC general council commissions, and Young Anabaptists Committee pray for César García, kneeling, following his appointment as general secretary-elect at their 2011 meetings in Taipei, Taiwan, in May. (Photo by Byron Rempel-Burkholder)

As one amateur Mennonite historian likes to point out, the only real Mennonite name is Menno Simons.

Quilt art depicts Mennonite-Aboriginal interaction

Encounters along the Grand by Judy Gascho-Jutzi hung in the assembly worship space.

A fibre art depiction of the interaction between early Mennonite settlers and Aboriginal people in the Grand River valley was on display at the Mennonite Church Canada assembly July 4-8. “My vision was to create a pictorial slice of history,” said Judy Gascho-Jutzi, the artist.



“This is not the end!”

Willard Metzger, MC Canada General Secretary, takes part in Friday night’s worship, at MC Canada’s Annual Church Gathering in Waterloo, July 8.

“We are the church!” cheered Willard Metzger, general secretary of Mennonite Church Canada, inviting progressively younger age groups to join with him in an ever-louder cheer.



Is the end near?

Loren Johns

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, together with Tyndale House Publishers, have unleashed a behemoth industry on the world, Christian and otherwise. The original twelve volumes of the Left Behind Series have sold over 63 million copies in over a hundred languages.

For discussion

1. Does your church have ways to connect personally with the individuals it helps? How important is this personal contact? Have you ever experienced awkward moments while providing help to someone? What aspect of the exchange was most awkward?



Just trying to help

My parents packed me, my sister and a Christmas hamper into the car. We were headed to an address provided by the local Cheer Board. The plan was for us to all go in for a short visit. I imagine the Cheer Board encouraged this to humanize the helping. Predictably, our venture took us to the run-down side of our Mennonite prairie town.

For discussion

1. Have you ever attended a worship service where you didn’t understand the language? What was your emotional response? For how many months or years would you be willing to worship in a setting that included a mixture of languages or simultaneous translation?



‘New’ Mennonite congregations face same issues decades later

Quan

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada saw the inauguration of English-only churches across the country. These were often difficult transitions, as those left behind in the “mother” congregations felt that the new congregations were leaving behind something of the faith as they left behind language and culture.



Changing the language of worship a test of love

Faith Mennonite Church, Leamington, Ont., grew out of a painful split from Leamington United Mennonite Church in the late 1950s over whether to continue holding services in German or switch to English.

Altona Mennonite Church, Man., began meeting in 1962 as an English-language congregation following a split from Altona Bergthaler Mennonite Church.

Faith Mennonite Church, Leamington, Ont., is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but its memories are tinged with sorrow as the new congregation grew out of a painful church split.

For discussion

1. What has been your congregation’s experience with divorce? Does the church respond differently to divorce than it did in the 1970s? Has divorce lost its stigma? Are those who are divorced still discouraged from taking positions of leadership in the church?



For discussion

1. What percentage of the adults in your congregation attended a church school at some level? Do you agree that fewer young people are choosing Mennonite schools today? What is the major deterrent? Should congregations provide tuition assistance to encourage students to attend Mennonite schools? Does yours?



Creative connections

Like many pastors, Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, who co-pastors First Mennonite Church in Edmonton with her husband Tim, enjoys creating space for creative gifts to flourish. “It’s totally selfish. I love working with people like that,” she says in a telephone interview. Her enthusiasm is evident in her voice.

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