New Hamburg, Ont.
Photo: The Bible Quiz team from Floradale church works on a question. From left: Danny Draper, Joseph Weber, Doug Draper, Lucas Redekop and Joel Bauman.
In what ways is the fate of the three little pigs similar to those who build on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
With this kind of question, 11 teams of youth in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) quizzed in April on the book of I Corinthians. Many of them found this Pauline epistle a bit more difficult to understand than the narrative gospels.
Tyler Yantzi, member of the winning team from East Zorra Mennonite Church, remarked that as they were studying for the competition, they had to discuss some passages for awhile to figure them out. He added: "Afterwards, I would talk to my Sunday School teacher to get some things clear."
Yantzi, having quizzed for three years, cites three aspects which he especially enjoys-the competition, meeting for practices, and meeting people at the competitions. This year, the finals were held in conjunction with the MCEC delegate sessions to allow more youth, as well as adults, to observe.
Bible quizzing among Mennonite youth in Ontario began 40 years ago. Alice Koch recalled 1963 when the winning team consisted of her children Eleanor (Snyder), Earl, Harold and Evelyn, along with cousins Lloyd and Russel Koch. As Ontario champions they could have gone to Pennsylvania for the North American competition, but Earl got married that year, and Harold ("the big push behind the team") was his best man.
Alice reflected, "They remembered a lot of detail, some of which was quite trivial, but at least they studied the Bible."
There was no quizzing in the Ontario conference for about a decade, but it was revived again in the late 1970s. Fred Lichti remembers that quizzing came into the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference at that time. For several years, the Western conference champions would have a joint playoff with Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec, often at the joint conference sessions which were just beginning. (Both conferences are now part of MCEC.)
Lichti, whose own son was part of the Listowel team this year, commented: "It is an excellent way to do concentrated Bible study. It helps to nurture their faith in years to come. And it counters some of the biblical illiteracy among youth that we bemoan."
Harold Hildebrand Schlegel was installed as conference youth minister at the quiz final held at Riverdale Mennonite Church in 1985. He remembers the "dynasty" competition between East Zorra (his home congregation) and Steinmann (one year Steinmann entered three teams). Now, 40 years later, the final match was again between East Zorra and Steinmann.
Chris Matthews, a 21-year-old university student, was the player/coach of the East Zorra team. A participant for seven years, he has reached the age limit of players.
"It would be nice to get a broader base of participation," he said, alluding to the fact that Bible quizzing is a Swiss Mennonite tradition that has not caught on among youth groups of Russian Mennonite background.
Schlegel observed that in the past there was frustration with simply learning scripture by rote. So leaders developed the format of interpretive questions which invite teams to collaborate for several minutes and make an application to daily life from the given passage.
Alice Koch feels the youth may be too young to put their own interpretation on scripture (40 years ago young people stayed in the youth group until they were married and sometimes beyond).
Schlegel adds: "It is hard to do authentic interpretation in the heat of the moment, so perhaps the preparation is where the real learning takes place."
Lois Cressman coached a team from St. Jacobs in the late 1970s. She was succeeded by Roy Brubacher, a long-time youth Sunday School teacher who enjoyed coaching for many years and produced some winning teams.
Cressman coached quizzing again in the 1990s at Nith Valley Mennonite Church when her own children were in the youth. She believes that what youth learn under pressure can come back later in life to continue to nurture their faith. She notes that some youth put lots of commitment into quizzing, while others enjoy the fun, win or lose!
St. Catharines, Ont.
Photo: Boris Sithideth talks about the Toronto Lao congregation that has just become a member of MCEC. Bonnie Sithideth is at right. Photo by Mary Mae Schwartzentruber
This is our first delegate meeting under the name Mennonite Church Eastern Canada," noted Barb Draper, assistant moderator, as she opened the morning session on April 13.
Commission chairs and staff presented their ministries in litany form, depicting how they want to "rhyme with God" in their programs. Reports were interspersed with the song "God's love is for everybody," which has become the theme song for Mennonite Church Canada. Thus they signalled their intent to also "rhyme" with the broader church.
In a landmark decision, delegates agreed that MCEC would transfer the Rockway Mennonite Collegiate property to the school at the cost of $1.00 (value of land and buildings is estimated at $8 million). The property will revert back to MCEC if the school ceases to exist.
This action is in line with MCEC's policy of not being a "landlord." It also potentially protects both MCEC and the school from certain liability claims. Terry Schellenberg, Rockway principal, and David Brubacher, minister to conference, read a litany to commemorate this agreement.
In other business, delegates agreed to partner with MC Canada in appointing a Resource Development staff person (fund raiser) to work on behalf of both bodies within the MCEC constituency. This action was deemed necessary because donations to the wider church are declining, while the request for resources is not. It is the perception also that donors appreciate personal contact with those who represent ministry needs to them.
Agreements for joint staff have already been negotiated for Manitoba/Saskatchewan and Alberta/British Columbia.
The MCEC Executive Board recommended that fall delegate sessions be held every second year. In the off year, Executive Board and staff members will be in communication at the region or cluster level. Special delegate sessions can be called as needed. This an attempt to foster broader ownership of the congregation-conference partnership and mutual financial accountability.
At the session last fall, MCEC decided to enter a "Season of discernment" on how to handle disagreements on homosexuality in the life of the church. A reference group has been appointed to help the Executive Board discern the issues and identify a process for further dialogue. It will also build a network of resources for congregations and other parties to engage in dialogue and identify where consensus might lie.
A highlight of these sessions was receiving the Toronto United Lao Mennonite Church into MCEC as an emerging congregation. This provides a three-year window for the congregation to establish its viability and explore its "fit" with MCEC.
Six years ago, Boris and Bonnie Sithideth began church planting among Laotian people in Toronto. Boris worked with two independent congregations for the past six years to explore links to MCEC. The majority from these two groups decided to join as the Toronto United Lao Mennonite Church, with Boris as pastor. They worship in four languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, English and Lao, doing much translation to foster inclusiveness. They meet at 3625 Weston Road in Toronto.
There is a continual ebb and flow of congregations within MCEC. Kingston Mennonite Fellowship has closed its doors because of decreasing numbers. The Cambodian Christian Centre which had been an emerging congregation decided to align itself elsewhere after the Missions Commission ended its funding.
Three new church plants are happening-a Korean multi-ethnic congregation in London, a multi-ethnic congregation in Montreal, and a Vietnamese congregation. This leaves a net number of 92 congregations within MCEC.
Photo: A banner at the MCEC
sessions states a theme of Jack Suderman's presentations. Photo
by Maurice Martin
The power of the rhyme allows
us to think back and look forward," said Jack Suderman in
his first address to the delegates of Mennonite Church Eastern
Canada on April 12. He drew the idea from Mark Twain who said:
"History does not repeat itself; it only rhymes."
Suderman played with nursery rhymes to get the delegates to rhyme with the topic. He then pointed out how the Babylonian exile rhymes with the slavery in Egypt, and Jesus rhymes with Isaiah's vision of the suffering servant. For other New Testament writers, Jesus rhymes with Moses as a liberator bringing a new law. And Christian baptism rhymes with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Is "missional church" language describing something new? Yes and no, said Suderman. It's like a new verse to an old song, reminding us of the past but anticipating a new future. The task of the church is to "rhyme" with what God has done, is doing, and will do, to align our purposes with the purposes of God.
The church is sent by Jesus, even as Jesus was sent by God. Therefore Jesus is both the content and the method of our sending. We do not need to invent it; we need simply to rhyme with it.
When Jesus states that he is sending the church as he has been sent, he twice declares, "Peace be with you!" (John 20:19,21). What would have happened had Columbus said "Peace be with you" as he entered the Americas? Or if the Crusaders entering the Middle East had said those words?
Suderman concluded his presentation with the analogy of a swing to illustrate how the church can get beyond its present inertia. Even a young child soon learns how to make it move, with the simultaneous actions of leaning back (looking to our past), pulling forward on the ropes (drawing the past into the present), and kicking with the feet (moving into the future). And so the church is sent into the world. "Swing with joy!" he concluded.
On Saturday morning, Suderman described how the church rhymes with God in the task of being shepherds. He noted that in John 10:3, the shepherd calls his sheep by name and leads them out. Why? The answer lies in verse 16: "Because I have other sheep that are not yet in the pen."
Suderman recalled the four aspects of Jesus' sentness: prophet, priest, king and sage. The church is similarly called not only to "the priesthood of all believers," but also to the "prophethood of all believers," calling the world to a new way of peace and justice under the reign of God. In the politics of Jesus, we also participate in the "kinghood" of all believers. And in the "sagehood of all believers" we teach the world a different wisdom.
Be careful not to buy into "priesthood" as a chaplaincy model of ministry, he warned. In that model, the object of ministry is believers, not nonbelievers; it is done by clergy, not laity; and it is measured by the satisfaction of those in the church. By contrast, the "sent church" ministers through the laity, is directed towards the world, and is measured by the evidence of changed lives.
Suderman's third address, based on Ephesians 4:1-16, offered practical suggestions for missional congregations. The strategy is quite simple, said Suderman. It is to use the spiritual gifts bestowed on each person. That is how a "sent" community exercises its "sent" vocation. Seize the moment, celebrate the moment, and harness the moment, he said.
He quoted Daniel Berrigan who said: "To be a hopeful people, we need to do hopeful things."
Photo: Tim Froese (second from left) meets with graduates of the former Mennonite Vocational School run by Mennonite Central Committee in the 1950s.
What does a Mennonite presence
mean in Korea where Anabaptism is hardly known but where discipleship,
peace and community are highly valued?
Tim and Karen Froese, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in Seoul, are trying to find the answer.
The seeds of Anabaptism were planted by relief workers in the 1950s after the Korean War. Now, relationships and influences are bearing fruit with the opening of the Korean Anabaptist Center last November.
As co-director of the centre, Tim finds himself with many roles: counsellor, librarian, educator, administrator. The centre "has chosen three themes, those of discipleship, peace and community," says Tim, "and undertaken to do four types of activities in conjunction with these themes: make resources available, provide educational opportunities, experiential learning, and develop relationships/network."
Korea has traditionally been a society very concerned with orthodoxy. It is "quite homogeneous, thus making any change quite obvious and therefore difficult,"explains Tim. "This makes it very difficult to invite others to consider an alternative theology such as Anabaptism."
Yet people from all walks of life are drawn to the ministry of the centre. One example is Geum-Chool, a 70-year-old elder in the Holiness Church who recently purchased a copy of C.J. Dyck's Introduction to Mennonite History. Another is Du-Shik, a law professor who recently released a book entitled Swords into Ploughshares, arguing for the merits of Christian pacifism. Young-Mok, a Presbyterian seminary graduate, is helping with the centre's translation projects.
On April 4-5, the centre had its first retreat to launch the booklet "From Anabaptist Seed." About 30 people attended. Among the weekend's activities was viewing the movie, "The Radicals."
The centre is carrying out its resource, education and networking mandates in a variety of ways. Individuals and groups may borrow from the 1,000-volume library at the centre, while a small bookstore sells educational materials. The centre staff counsel those who wish to study overseas, and later this year Korea will be sending its first person to the International Visitor Exchange Program operated by Mennonite Central Committee.
In networking, the centre reaches out through its contact list of 400 names, and many people visit the bilingual website at www.koreaanabaptistcenter.org.
The Froeses, who come from Manitoba, lead bi-weekly "Cross walk" meetings which bring people together for study, prayer and sharing. The name "Cross walk" describes how people gather "to discern together what it means to 'walk' like Jesus in light of his death on the cross and to create a safe place for people who want to find a way to cross over to the other (Christian) side of the street of life." Participants come from a variety of church backgrounds, including clergy and lay people, as well as non-Christian backgrounds.
Between stimulating theological discussions and operating an office, the Froeses continue to be an Anabaptist presence. Despite the challenges, they feel that Anabaptist faith and life present an attractive model of Christianity for Koreans.
"We look for people to commit together with us by sharing homes for guests, time and skills for volunteering, and resources for our operating budget," says Tim. "Thankfully, God has provided in truly remarkable ways in each of these areas."
The Froeses welcome prayers and contact. They can be reached at San 28-12 Yonhi-dong, Seodaemun-ku, Seoul 120-113, Republic of Korea; phone: 011-822-333-0838; e-mail: email@example.com.
-MC Canada release by Amy Dueckman
Photo: The extended Bartel
family. In back: Pam and Perry Bartel. Middle row: Jordan Larrison,
Chris Eby and Edward Ujvary. Front: Emma, Anika and Katie Bartel.
Two parents, three kids, a dog, plus three teenage guys, means there is never a dull moment in Pam and Perry Bartel's home. Last August, the Bartels became Service Adventure unit leaders here.
"I had a pretty open slate" about what the unit would become, says Perry. "Maybe that comes from having worked with young adults, from camp ministries to congregational work here. Every person brings such a unique twist."
The three young men in the unit take turns with household chores and leading worship. Participants Jordan Larrison, of Michigan, and Chris Eby, of Virginia, even helped build their own beds.
The emphasis on simple living has been an adjustment for 19-year-old Eby. Living on the $50 monthly allowance has put money into a different perspective. And having western and eastern Canadians and Americans in one house leads to interesting discussions.
No two days are ever the same in his work with Rehoboth Christian Ministries, either. Eby admits he probably won't realize the impact of this Service Adventure for a few years.
"I don't necessarily think this is for everybody, but it's definitely a challenge...if you want to be pushed a little bit, pulled a little bit."
Edward Ujvary, 19, of Quebec, sums up the program as "teaching through relationships." He says Service Adventure is for those who want to be refined by God.
Assisting elderly patients has been a life-changing experience, and has helped him see death in a different way. He has also learned from his connection with Mennonites here. He says the experience "prepares you for a lot of things.... I've never experienced community in this way, ever."
That community includes members of Lethbridge Mennonite Church, which provides a host family for each participant and financial aid. Work placements include the Lethbridge Food Bank, the Coaldale Health Care Centre, and a L'Arche community.
This two-year term has proven to be a good decision for the family, say the Bartels, who both work outside the home. Of course, like all families, the unit has its ups and downs.
"There's one way to talk about faith in a Sunday school/church kind of setting, and it's another to go home and actually live in the presence of the same people that we're talking about this stuff with," says Perry.
Pam points out that living as unit leaders is asking a lot of their girls. Emma, 8, Katie, 6, and Anika, 4, now share one bedroom, but say it is fun having the guys around.
Plans for next year include moving the unit back to Lethbridge.
-Heidi Vincent Dyck
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