Feature

For discussion

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”?

Alternatives to a ‘Consumer Christmas’

Gabrielle, Katrina and Natasha Plenert decorate their Christmas tree with ornaments they have received over the years from overseas or from Ten Thousand Villages.

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.

Israeli development thwarts peace on earth

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.’

Military vehicles are a common site in the West Bank and Gaza strip.

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.

For discussion

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?

MCC centrality questioned

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?

Will Braun

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.

For discussion

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”?

Peeking under the bonnet

A few years ago, when conducting research for my Ph.D. on Amish women in business, I visited a gift shop and noticed a rack of romance novels with pictures of Amish women on the cover. I asked the Amish business owner, “Do you sell a lot of these?”

“Yes,” she said. “The tourists like them.”

“Do Amish buy them?” I enquired.

“Well,” she said, “a lot of people read them.”

Should there be a test for citizens of God’s kingdom?

If I want to become a citizen of the U.S., I need to take a citizenship test. Something similar occurs in Canada when someone wants to become a citizen of this country. The Canadian citizenship test evaluates an applicant’s knowledge of Canada, and includes questions about the government, elections, rights and responsibilities of citizens, and Canadian history and geography.

The gospel according to Google

After more than a decade of living without a computer—he hauled his old one to the dump—Ralph Lebold of Waterloo North Mennonite Church, Waterloo, Ont., is back online. He now calls himself a ‘converted Luddite.’ (Photo by Dick Benner)

Just over 50 percent of Mennonite Church Canada congregations have their own websites. Next year that number will be higher.

For discussion

1. How concerned would you be if you had Muslim neighbours? How fearful are most North Americans of Muslims? Is this fear justified? What would you say to those who oppose the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York City? Do you think Muslim refugees are less welcome in Canada than other refugees?

Interfaith bridgebuilding

Ray and Susan Martin of East Zorra Mennonite Church, Tavistock, Ont., visit with Fauzia Mazhar and her daughter Mehar Nayyar at the Floradale potluck.

Grade 12 Rockway Mennonite students Zainab Ramahi, left, and Leanna Wigboldus lead a school chapel this spring.

Documentary filmmaker Burton Buller, back row centre in white shirt, joins the multiracial/multi-faith potluck line at Floradale Mennonite Church.

Muslim and Mennonite women clean up after the potluck meal at Floradale Mennonite Church, Ont.

Mohammed, a Palestinian refugee, and Luke Keller of Erb St. Mennonite Church, Waterloo, Ont., share a smile at Floradale Mennonite Church, Ont.

Burton Buller came to Ontario’s Waterloo Region this spring to explore the many Mennonite-Muslim activities taking place in the community for a new documentary exploring peace traditions in both the Christian and Muslim faiths.

For discussion

1. How homogeneous is your congregation? How long does it take for “outsiders” to feel welcome? What extra challenges does someone from a visible minority have to feel accepted? What should Mennonite congregations do so that people from other cultures can feel welcomed and included?

Who are our multicultural Mennonites?

The “What makes a Mennonite” brochure has been translated into Spanish, traditional and simplified Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Chin, while other language translations, such as Hmong and Laotian, are planned. These resources are available from the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre, Winnipeg

Once upon a time, Mennonite congregations in Canada could largely define themselves by German or Swiss Mennonite heritage, but no more.

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