COVID-19

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Chilliwack church organizing virtual VBS

CHILLIWACK, B.C.—Children at Crossroads Community Church may not be able to attend Vacation Bible School this summer, but they can still have a VBS experience, as the congregation is hosting a virtual VBS program—“Sharing the story of Christ”—from July 20 to 24. “This program is aimed at kids in preschool to Grade 5, but is open to anyone who's interested,” say organizers.

Coins count, and so do bottles

Rosthern (Sask.) Mennonite Church members meet in Brian and Delilah Roth’s farm shop to sort and crush bottles donated through their bottle drive. Pictured from left are Brenda Isaak, Brooklyn Isaak, Denise Epp, Jeanette Hanson, Todd Hanson, Lloyd Schmidt and Cheryl Schmidt. (Photo by Delilah Roth)

Four pick-up trucks laden with bottles and other refundable items prepare to leave the Roth farm for the recycling depot in Rosthern, Sask. (Photo by Delilah Roth)

Brenda Isaak, Ashtyn Isaak and Larry Epp carry bags of bottles to the recycling depot in Rosthern, Sask. (Photo by Delilah Roth)

Every Saturday in May, Rosthern Mennonite Church members drove the streets of Rosthern, picking up bottles and other refundable beverage containers.

Embracing disequilibrium

Claire Ewert Fisher, interim pastor of Rosthern Mennonite Church, speaks during MC Saskatchewan’s virtual town-hall meeting, “Dreaming church beyond pandemic.” (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

Sharon Schultz maintains that the quality that should characterize the church of the future is hope. Speaking during a local power outage, her words seemed to offer a light in the darkness during MC Saskatchewan’s virtual town-hall meeting, “Dreaming church beyond pandemic.” (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

“We have to embrace the disequilibrium we feel right now and let it teach us what it needs to teach us,” said Claire Ewert Fisher, interim pastor of Rosthern Mennonite Church, speaking at Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s virtual town hall event, “Dreaming church beyond pandemic.”

Reading, watching, listening: A buffet

Here are some things on my content buffet. (Photo courtesy of freepik.com/elchinjavadov)

When the conversation is lagging in social situations, one of my favourite questions to ask is, “What are you reading?” This inquiry often leads to an interesting interchange of ideas and suggestions. 

Today, I’ll turn the table and tell you about some things that I’ve been reading. And watching. And listening to. Here are a few things on my content buffet:

I am my brother’s keeper

“The way of Jesus sounds very much like embracing a social contract. He is called ‘the Man for others.’ Early Christians were known by how they loved one another.” (Pixabay photo by Caniceus)

Many years ago now—I’m getting a bit long in the tooth—I took what I thought would be a bird course in my second year at what was then known as Waterloo College. It turned out to be anything but, and I remember more from that course than from any other in my seven years of university education. It was a course on political philosophy.

Why I’m not in a hurry to reopen church doors

(Image by seth0s/Pixabay)

Not long ago a group of churches and church leaders across the province signed a letter asking Ontario premier Doug Ford to allow churches to reopen at the beginning of the month of June. I did not sign the letter.

Despite the way some church leaders have tried to frame this issue, the restrictions we’ve been facing are not a matter of religious freedom. People of faith are not being unfairly targeted because of their religious beliefs or practices any more than are those who would like to go to the gym or watch a pro basketball game.

Life together online

'I’ve been visiting many churches. Not in person, of course, but on the internet.'

Since the middle of March, when church buildings closed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, I’ve been visiting many churches. Not in person, of course, but on the internet. Each week I click on the link to a worship service that a Mennonite congregation, or group of congregations, has prepared to share with members of our denomination.

Legacy of the last great epidemic

A Mennonite quartet sings for polio patient Ted Braun, in an iron lung at the King George Hospital in Winnipeg in the mid-1950s. Ted watches the singers in the mirror positioned above his head. (Photo courtesy of Henry John Epp)

An iron lung, the iconic image of the polio epidemic of the 1950s, at the Riverview Heritage Museum in Winnipeg. (Photo by Will Braun)

Dave Penner recalls playing in the ditch with his brother in the summer of 1952. He was 5, his brother Henry was three years older. The freshly dug ditch on the expanded Highway 3 next to their yard near Morden, Man., had filled after a rain storm and Dave remembers having a grand time in the water with his brother. 

What is nature to you?

The shortest route from Wopisa-Gabriyèl to get medical assistance requires descending this waterfall. (MCC photo by Ted Oswald, 2017)

If you’ve ever invited me to go camping with you, you’ll know I’m not exactly what you would call “outdoorsy.” I enjoy nature, but I don’t really see the need to sleep in it, much less in a stuffy tent with sticks and rocks poking into my back. I feel the same about hiking—I’m just fundamentally unable to understand the appeal of walking for hours through the woods, tripping on rocks and being pestered by insects, just to turn around and walk back again, having accomplished nothing but getting myself exhausted and sweaty?

B.C. thrift shops open again for business

Despite the rain, customers line up patiently to enter the Mennonite Central Committee Centre thrift shop in Abbotsford on re-opening day, May 25. Thrift shops in B.C. had been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

After more than two months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the 10 Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) British Columbia thrift shops were reopening with limited hours by the end of May.

COVID camp closures

Camps across the country are cancelling their summer programs. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/CampSqueah)

B.C. children will not be able to attend Camp Squeah this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

Camp Squeah of Hope, B.C. has cancelled its 2020 camping season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a May 15 statement, camp director Rob Tiessen wrote, “In order to best ensure the health of our campers and staff, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our 2020 summer camp session. This applies to all day and overnight camp programs, including Family Camp.”

MennoMedia: Do not sing together if you are gathering physically for worship

(Image by 微博/微信:愚木混株/Pixabay)

With stay-at-home orders being lifted across much of the U.S. and Canada, churches are thinking about what it will look like to open their doors again. Yet because the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us, it is up to churches to consider how to do so safely. 

Watch: Quarantine viewing ideas

"Everyone has their own needs, their own ways of engaging with film..." (Image by Jan Vašek/Pixabay)

Looking for a movie to watch? Sue Sorensen has some suggestions for you.

Sorensen, an English professor at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, is featured in a series of five short videos CMU posted to its YouTube channel earlier this month. 

Each video features a film that Sorensen recommends watching, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Death toll

The cover of the Sunday, May 24 issue of the New York Times.

I started Sunday morning in tears as I read through the heartbreaking list that blanketed the front page of the New York Times. To mark the deaths of (at that point) nearly 100,000 American citizens, the paper listed the names of a thousand of them. 

MCC announces program cuts, changes due to COVID-19

Tha Thi Ke stands in her family’s first cornfield in Vietnam’s Phu Tho Province. In 2001, MCC encouraged farmers to grow winter corn crops and find other ways to supplement income from their rice yields, helping them remain on their land rather than being forced to migrate. (MCC photo by Jack Leonard)

Mushiya Christine, Kayaya Lulula and Veronigue Lumba Misenga took part in a support group for older refugees in 2017, run by MCC partner Refugee Social Services in Durban, South Africa. These elders can feel isolated and stressed, but home visits and support groups help them feel connected. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has scaled up its work to respond to the global crisis, increasing projects related to water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH), local health initiatives and food relief.

On staying safe

'Stay safe. You hear these two little words a lot these days.' (Image by Mohammad Fahim/Pixabay)

Stay safe. You hear these two little words a lot these days. They serve as the tag at the end of the phone call, the coda for the email, the last words before signing off yet another Zoom meeting, the wary exhortation as you watch your son head off to a shift at the grocery store. These two words have become part of the furniture of our leave-taking, virtual or otherwise, during the days of COVID.

A column about plague columns

Plague columns, like this one in Linz, Austria, are a reminder that the source of salvation is God. (Image by Alfred Stier/Pixabay)

If you’ve travelled in central or eastern Europe, you may have come across a plague column holding a prominent place in a town square. Plague columns were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries as a display of public faith in the church and in God.

Sunday morning on Zoom

'I grieve the real faces and the real touch, yet I’m also thankful for this very real community.' (Image by Armin Schreijäg/Pixabay)

Church is about to start and the Zoom link doesn’t work! For some reason it keeps sending me to a YouTube video of “Seek Ye First,” and I can’t find my church!

Too much news?

'These are days of information overload.' (Image by Steve Buissinne/Pixabay)

These are days of information overload. There is so much news to follow! Local, regional, national, international, from this part of the country and from that part of the world. 

The ‘sewists’ of Waterloo Region

Bev Suderman-Gladwell, right, and her son Nathan model some of the gowns sewed for frontline workers by a group of volunteers in Waterloo Region. The group has also added scrub caps and masks to the lists of supplies its members are sewing. (Photo by Andrea Deering Nagy)

When Bev Suderman-Gladwell was asked by a physician friend to “leverage her Mennonite connections,” to respond to a time-sensitive need, she had no way of knowing an “extraordinary project” would grow out of that request.

To death’s door and back

Vic Winter is back at home with a new outlook and a new beard. He says he is keeping it. (Photo by Marilyn Winter)

Vic and Marilyn Winter wave as 130 cars filled with well-wishers pass by their house to welcome his return after a lengthy hospitalization for COVID-19. (Photo by Zach Charbonneau)

Vic Winter was admitted to hospital in Leamington on March 20. In short order his wife Marilyn was sent home while he was sent to the intensive-care unit at the Windsor Regional Hospital, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed unconscious on a ventilator to help him breathe as he fought for his life. He wouldn’t see his wife again for six weeks.

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