Canadian Mennonite
Volume 12, No. 15
July 28, 2008


Promise and peril

Tim Miller Dyck


Tim Miller Dyck

During the opening session of Mennonite Church Canada’s national delegate assembly earlier this month, I, along with about 400 others, sat under large letters calling on us all to be a wise and discerning people.

These were Moses’ instructions to the people of Israel more than three thousand years ago as they were about to enter the Promised Land after 40 years in the wilderness. They were at a moment of promise and peril. They were leaving behind physical lost-ness, but were facing a yet more dangerous challenge: the risk of spiritual wanderings taking them far from the God who had brought them safely out of Egypt.

As Tom Yoder Neufeld said in his keynote message at the bi-national summit that followed, Moses had reason to be worried. In Yoder Neufeld’s words, the land would occupy them more than they would occupy it. They would turn from worshipping the Lord God to foreign idols of their new neighbours, pursue wealth and property, and ultimately lose the land entirely, as they were driven into exile by the powerful nations they wished to be like.

But even when the Israelites first entered the Promised Land, God had in mind something bigger. The Israelites were not to be wise and discerning just for their own benefit. The benefits of wise and discerning living were to testify of God’s teachings to their neighbours, “who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’?” (Deuteronomy 4:6b).

Yoder Neufeld compared the Israelites’ time of promise and peril with Jesus’ similar time in the wilderness. Cramping and weak, Jesus turns down the temptation of food by saying, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

“Yes, we do live by bread, but we do not live by bread alone,” said Yoder Neufeld. “We are, as church, being tested today not only on what we do with our bread, but on whether we will offer the word coming from the mouth of God to those whose deepest hunger will not be stilled by more bread.”

We live in a country where many hunger for more than just bread, of which we have so much, and a world where many hunger simply for bread. We have been stunningly, completely undeservedly blessed with the privilege of sharing both bread for life and the Bread of Life.

Announcing Obituaries: Earlier this year, our church’s German-language magazine, Der Bote, closed after 84 years of publication. Over the past months, I’ve heard from many Mennonites asking if there was anything Canadian Mennonite could do to help with this loss.

Canadian Mennonite’s full board had an extensive discussion on how we could respond. Ingrid Janzen Lamp, Der Bote’s editor, had noted that obituaries were one of the most beloved parts of that magazine. So, in response, Canadian Mennonite will be adding obituaries this fall to provide a place for anyone in our readership (not just Der Bote readers) to share these testimonies about our loved ones.

The board and I wrestled with the practical details of how to do this, as Der Bote often published four, five or six pages of obituaries each issue, and we didn’t want to remove this many pages of the articles we now publish about our life together as Christians.

We also didn’t want to choose only a few obituaries out of those submitted to publish, or cap the length at 150 words or so, as this leads to obituaries that contain just lists of names, not the details of someone’s life and walk with God that can make obituaries so inspiring.

Our compromise was to add more pages to the magazine to add new space for full obituaries. To pay for the printing costs of these pages, we decided to charge a small amount for obituaries, priced at our actual cost (20 cents a word or about a dollar a line, including a headshot photo). We will also continue to offer the same “Milestones” death notices we have always provided to everyone for free. For those who want to publish an obituary but do not have ability to pay, we have established a fund that will reduce or eliminate the cost for those who ask for this.

I hope this approach is the right balance between our desire to provide this new service to you all while balancing obituaries with the other types of articles that readers still want to get, and in a financially sustainable way.

Most of the articles you submit and we publish are about the living. But this addition provides a way to say goodbye to our loved ones and provide them with a testimony that reaches the whole church. Obituaries can be submitted now by mail to our office or by sending them by e-mail to

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