Recently ordained, Emily Toews—at 35—is the youngest female lead pastor in Mennonite Church Saskatchewan. She has served for four years at North Star Mennonite Church in Drake, and clearly enjoys her work.
As far as I know, I’m the only one. I’m the only home-grown Alberta woman who left the province, studied in Mennonite institutions, and is a pastor back here. Friends in other provinces wondered, “Why go back?” They knew Alberta’s redneck reputation. Happily, stereotypes are never the whole truth and sometimes they are lies.
Growing up in a very conservative Old Colony Mennonite home in the 1950s and ’60s, I soon learned that education was not encouraged. Church was meant only to attend. I was to keep anything I heard or learned to myself; the men would sort out what needed to be sorted out. My place was to marry, have children and submit unconditionally to my husband, to leadership and to authority.
Canadian Mennonite profiles the inspiring stories of women pastors from each of Mennonite Church Canada’s five area churches, beginning with Eve Isaak from British Columbia and working east to Martha Smith Good in Ontario.
Every one of us deals with mental health challenges. Whether we’re losing sleep about the math exam tomorrow or are hospitalized for schizophrenia, whether we’re on medication for depression or battling obsessive regrets over how we’ve raised our children—we each have been dealt a unique set of cards.
American Mennonite conscientious objectors (COs) working in mental hospitals during World War II decried the deplorable and inhumane treatment of patients. One symbolically powerful way they objected—and advocated for better treatment—was to unshackle the patients, collect the iron chains and cuffs, and melt them down into one enormous bell.
1. Do you remember comments about physical appearance from when you were young? What attitude did your parents and family have about physical appearance? How did they communicate that attitude? How many mirrors do you have in your house today?
1. What has your congregation done to help members dealing with personality disorders, addiction or family dysfunction? How effective has it been? How involved should the congregation or the pastor be in helping people cope with these types of issues?
Jane’s nightmares kept her from getting a good night’s sleep. “They are just terrifying,” she told her doctor. “I wake up almost every night. It’s like someone is suffocating me—like a body lying on top of me—I’m holding my breath—just shaking with fear!”
“I think we can help with that,” said Dr. Shenk. “Let’s try this new sleep medication to see if that helps.”
Every morning I look in the mirror and do not know who might be looking back at me. I wonder what the day will hold. Will it be a day of relative calm? Or will it be a day when my voice becomes higher-pitched, and my speech speeds up, gushing out of me in staccato fashion while my mind tries to keep up with the ideas that come rushing in?
1. Sue Steiner tells the story of her friend who emptied her wallet in the offering plate at a concert as a spontaneous act of love for God. How would you have responded in that situation? Do you admire this person for her gesture, which she described as an act of trust in God?
A woman—a good family friend—pours perfume worth $25,000 on Jesus’ feet at a dinner party held at her house in his honour. She removes her head scarf, shakes her hair loose, bends over, and wipes Jesus’ perfumed feet with her hair. The fragrance fills the whole house. Surely that fragrance remains on Jesus’ feet—and in Mary’s hair—for days.
1. The Christmas season is a time of giving. How does your congregation and/or community get involved in giving during this season? What are we saying when we give gifts? Do you agree with Aiden Enns’s comment in the “Alternatives” article that, “when we give, we acknowledge our dependence on others”?
Christmas will be different this year for Winnipeg’s Kathy Okolita.
She stands in her newly renovated home surrounded by 18 people who have come to offer a house blessing. She can’t seem to say “thank you” enough as she offers fried chicken and potato salad to her guests.
Many people spend their evenings and weekends leading up to Christmas scouring the local mall for the perfect gifts for their loved ones, planning their Christmas feast or decorating their house.
A portable Christmas tradition
Gabrielle Plenert of Winnipeg, Man., and her family spend their Christmas season rather differently.
That our planet is troubled and in need of the ‘light of the world’ to dawn on Christmas morning is evidenced by the first of our three seasonal feature articles, ‘Israeli development thwarts peace on earth . . . at least in Bethhehem.’
Embedded in the Christmas story is God’s desire for peace on our planet. Luke announced that “peace on earth” was the theme that the angelic choirs sang over the skies of Bethlehem on the night that the Saviour was born. We can conclude from their celestial anthem that God yearns for peace on earth.
1. In what ways are the people of your congregation involved with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)? Which generations are most involved? How high are the feelings of support and loyalty towards MCC? Do you know Mennonite churches that do not support MCC?
The MCC revisioning process seeks to address the tension of being rich Christians in an age of global inequality—an age in which golf tournaments in Manitoba (as shown by the cover of MCC Manitoba’s annual report, left) fund hurricane recovery efforts in Haiti (MCC file photo by Ben Depp, right).
At a time when relief supplies can be purchased in countries close to disaster sites—providing stimulus to their often hard-hit local economies—does it make economic or environmental sense to continue making blankets and relief kits of all kinds in North America and then ship them around the world?
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is the largest and most influential Anabaptist organization in the world. It has nearly 1,200 workers and an annual budget of $82 million.
1. How many trees are planted annually in your community? Are they part of a community initiative? Who plants and waters them? How important is it to plant more trees?
2. In what situations would you cut down a tree in your yard? What are the advantages and disadvantages to having lots of trees in your neighbourhood? When might a tree be legitimately “in the way”?