Opinion

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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.

J.J. Thiessen

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Conference of Mennonites in Canada Photo Collection)

J.J. Thiessen of Saskatoon served in many leadership roles at the congregational, provincial, national, and binational levels most of his adult life. He is quoted in A Leader for his Times: “What is the chief need of present day humanity? Depth! Truly, if anything increases from year to year, it is superficiality. . .

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 presence of Christ

‘Let us receive the blessing of the presence of Christ yet again.’ (Image by MikesPhotos/Pixabay)

Although our world is facing the challenge of COVID-19, I am so glad for the parts of life that remain unchanged. Every day brings press conferences with appalling numbers of the losses we endure, talk of restrictions and life that seems like it’s in a state of flux. Yet, peanut butter, Netflix, and, of course, the Revised Common Lectionary remain. 

Canadian Foodgrains Bank meeting

Photo: Robb Nickel / Mennonite Heritage Archives / MCC collection

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank had its beginnings in 1975 as the Mennonite Central Committee Food Bank. In November 1982, representatives of 10 Christian denominations met to discuss plans for an inter-church foodgrains bank. Among those at the meeting, pictured left to right facing the camera, were Frank H. Epp, J.M. Klassen and C. Wilbert Loewen.

Holy curious living

Life for Eric Harder ‘was a mystery to savour rather than a load to carry,’ Ed Olfert writes. (Photo illustration by Betty Avery)

In late January, Eric Harder died at age 74. He was my friend.

I became acquainted with Eric 25 years ago, when I moved to Prince Albert to begin my ministry work. Both he and Velma were strong presences in the church. They offered leadership and encouragement in all the ways that a new pastor desperately needs.

What I learned from Ramadan

A decorative lantern crafted specifically for Ramadan in Egypt. (Image by Ahmed Sabry/Pixabay)

We were in the midst of the Christian season of Lent as I wrote this. Shortly after Lent ended and Easter came, Muslims began the season of Ramadan. The month-long period of daily fasting launched on April 23. The couple of years I have observed the season of Ramadan have been of stunning benefit for my Christian faith.

‘You listened to my cry’

‘I’m reading the story of Jonah, one of your servants who also left you behind, or tried to… I think I can share in his prayer.’ (Image by Jeff Jacobs/Pixabay)

Dear God:

I’m really not sure what to pray or how to feel these days. I’ve become a strange blend of anxious and relaxed, concerned and content, grateful and restless, ambitious and listless.

CO foresters

Photo: David T. Wall Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

Conscientious objectors (COs) played an important role on the Canadian volunteer scene during the Second World War. Among the assignments was work in the forests around Banff, Alta., clearing trees. Surprisingly, much of the parks system in Canada was established by these people, some of whom were less than willing to be there or do the work.

Work-play-rest

‘...at the end of the story Pooh says, “Whew, it feels good to rest. Doing nothing is much more fun after a busy day of helping.” I think we all know this feeling.’ (Image by Innviertlerin/Pixabay)

As our life has quite abruptly and drastically shifted, along with everyone’s around the globe, I have been reflecting on our daily rhythm and working at reorganizing our schedule into a work-play-rest rhythm. 

Salt for the earth

Luis Hernandez, leader of the Brethren in Christ Church in Cuba, and his wife cook huge pots of food in their home kitchen and share it with hungry people around them. (Photo courtesy of Arli Klassen)

These weeks of physical distancing, including Easter, have forced us to think more about what it means to be the church. We appreciate the phrase “the church has left the building!” We identify with Jesus’s disciples on Easter, huddled behind locked doors, filled with fear and despair. I have begun thinking about the church in these days using two more images from Jesus.

The power of paradox

‘These paradoxes turn out to be keys that unlock doors...’ (Image by Felix Wolf/Pixabay)

Christianity is rooted in paradox. A paradox is when two or more incompatible truths are held together to reveal a deeper hidden truth. An example of a paradox in Christianity is that the Kingdom of God is both already here and still coming in the future. Other examples include:

Mennonite resistance

(Photo: Richard Sutton, Kitchener-Waterloo Record/ Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Tourists attempt to photograph boys outside of the Elmira Old Order Mennonite Meetinghouse, circa 1970. The boys are using a hand mirror to thwart their efforts. The photo appeared in the local newspaper with the caption “Mennonite Resistance.” After the Second World War, urban Canadians embraced rural tourism.

How broad is salvation?

'God has never been revealed to me by finding answers, but rather through the gentle holding of possibilities.' (Image by Raheel Shakeel/Pixabay)

Someone told me recently that they had been asked to share their faith journey in a Sunday morning church service. The invitation, however, came with an addendum: “Don’t talk about universalism.”

At the end of that conversation, I reached for my phone dictionary for a definition. “Universalism” is “a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved.”

The public good in a time of pandemic

'Societal and governmental responses here and around the world show that people and institutions can change quickly.' (Image by Miroslava Chrienova/Pixabay)

The COVID-19 pandemic feels surreal. Streets of our cities are nearly empty, even at rush hour. Kids are home, schools have gone online, and some workers log in from home after many years of regular commutes to an office. And huge numbers of workers have been laid off. 

Mennonite encounters with contemplative prayer

'...dwell with the Spirit of God in silence, just receiving, being open.' (Image by zefe/Pixabay)

Doug Klassen, who now serves as Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister, confessed to a fellow pastor that he couldn’t pray for more than 10 minutes. “I came to a place where I kept running into myself when I was praying,” Klassen recalls of his early days as a youth pastor.

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