Category Archives: Religion

Going on a Field Trip

lunch timeI went on a field trip last week with a group of women from my church. We all volunteer at the Selkirk MCC Thrift Store together.  Marj is our leader.   Her weekly news reports via e-mail keep us in touch with each other. That way even if we miss a week of volunteering we still know what’s going on with the others in our group.  In one of her newsletters Marj proposed a field trip.  We all agreed it was a great idea. So last Wednesday we headed off on our little adventure. 

morrisFirst stop of course was another Thrift Shop.  This one in Morris.  manager morrisA staff member who originally hailed from Newfoundland gladly took us ‘behind the scenes’ to get a better idea of how the place worked.  morris tourWe checked out their slick price marking system. storage system morrisAnd took note of how they organized things that came in as donations. bargain hunterWe poked around the aisles looking for bargains and….fur coat even tried on a mink stole that was for sale.  jasmine tea roomThen it was time to head for the Jasmine Tea Room in Altona.  We were in two different vehicles and each car took a bit of a detour through the town, since both drivers had Altona roots and wanted to show us sites that had been important to them when they had lived in Altona. lunch altonaOur lunch at the Jasmine Tea Room was delicious and since we finished eating a little early……altona gallery park we headed off to Altona’s  Gallery in the Park to wander among the sculptures there

mcc store altona

Next we dropped in at the Altona Thrift Shop.  It is of historical significance because it was the first MCC Thrift Shop in North America and was founded by four energetic and philanthropic women from Altona.

mcc thrift shop founder

Altona residents Selma Loewen, Sara Stoesz, Susan Giesbrecht, and Linie Friesen started the first Thrift Shop in 1972  to raise funds for MCC’s work  in developing countries. 

 altona thrift storeThe store staff was ever so nice to us and gave us a tour of their facilities. quilts altonaWe marveled at the beautiful quilt room where material is saved and cut and sewn and stitched by many groups of volunteers. Then the quilts are displayed and sold.hildebrand home neubergthalOn the way home we made a stop in Neubergthal, a Canadian historic site where homes and other buildings, are maintained as they might have been in a traditional Mennonite village.  Here we pose on the driveway of a home that belongs to fellow members at Bethel Mennonite Church. 

After our Neubergthal stop we headed back to Winnipeg and said good-bye, but not for long since we will meet again next week on the second storey of the Selkirk Thrift Shop where once again we will be unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and pricing donated items. Of course we will also be chatting about our memorable field trip. 

Other posts…….

I’m A Shop Girl

The T-4’s Go Mennonite In Neubergthal


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Tolerating Other Christians

“It’s tolerating other Christians that’s the hardest!”

I spoke about religious diversity at a church a number of weeks ago.  I talked about how my spiritual journey had been enriched as I learned about Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and indigenous spirituality.   During the discussion later I was interested to hear from my listeners that while they normally didn’t find it challenging to be tolerant of people from other faith backgrounds, they did find it very difficult to be open minded and understanding when they interacted with other Christians; people who professed to have the same faith as they did, but differed greatly in their attitude towards social and political issues.  I understood. 

A statue of Jesus with open arms in Quebec City

I believe for example that following the way of Jesus when it comes to social and political issues means………being a pacifist, making care of creation a top priority, giving women control over their own bodies and trying to reduce the abortion rate through progessive social initiatives rather than legal action, creating gender equity in every sphere of society, maintaining strict control over gun ownership, opening our country’s doors to as many refugees as possible, giving equal rights and protections to people in the LGBTQ community, and sharing income to provide good medical care, education and housing for all.

But there are many people that also say they are following Jesus who have very different opinions about what that means in relation to those issues .  How do I show tolerance and understanding for their beliefs when they may be the polar opposite to mine and I believe them to be damaging and harmful? How do I make sense of the fact that we both say our ideas come from our best efforts to be true to what it means to follow Jesus Christ?

I will be going back to the same church in September, this time to speak about diversity within the Christian community.  I will have lots to think about before then.  

Other posts……….

Is It Wrong to Die For Your Faith?

Faith For Free- Faith That Frees

Common Threads Cartoon



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Blaming Satan Is Misguided and Dangerous

I was troubled by an article written by Christian author Max Lucado for the Fox News network on Friday in the wake of yet another deadly school shooting, this one in Santa Fe, Texas.  Lucado tells readers it may seem as if God has abandoned people when terrible things like school shootings happen, but we are not to worry, because in essence God is just biding his/her time. The Day of Judgement will come soon and then God will get revenge on Satan who is the cause of all the evil things that are happening in the world.

Satan in Front of God by Corrado Giaquinto 1750

That kind of theology offers me no comfort and seems very dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know there is plenty of evil in this world and I realize some people feel they have to personify that evil by calling it Satan or the devil.  But when we blame everything on some other- worldly demon it becomes just a little too easy not to look inward and find the things we need to change about ourselves and society. 

In an opinion piece in The Atlantic David Frum says American high school students are 82 times more likely to die from a gun homicide than teenagers anywhere else in the developed world.  That is a statistic that should make people spring into action to change things, not wait patiently for God to exact revenge from Satan on some hoped for Day of Judgement. 

I think if God, the source of good in this world, read Max Lacado’s article, he/she would shake their head, thinking…….. I gifted these people with the intelligence, the resources, the example of Jesus to follow… so they could fight the negative and damaging tendencies within themselves, and undo the injustice and harm they have created in the world…… and now………. they are waiting for me to somehow make things right.  How sad!

Creative Commons photo taken by Lorie Shaull at the Washington DC protest organized by students after shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida in February of 2018

I know that’s not true of everyone.  And to be fair I have read suggestions from Max Lucado himself for saner gun laws in the United States. But his idea that we should find a measure of comfort and hope in some future Hollywood-like showdown between the forces of good and evil is misguided. That showdown needs to be real. It needs to be happening now and we each have a role to play in it.  Seeing people come together to take positive and progressive action to combat things that are destructive is what gives me comfort and hope. 

Other posts……

I’m So Tired of You America

Thank Goodness for the Battle of the Sexes

How To Stop Abortions



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A Cartoon About My Common Threads Sermon Last Sunday

sermon learning from other faiths

Other cartoons……..

Bucket List

Learning From Judy Blume

Easter Memories

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Prayer in Parliament

Goeff Regan, Peter Milliken, John Bosley and Andrew Sheer the last four Speakers of the House of Commons

Did you know the Speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa recites this prayer every day before Parliament opens?

Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings, which have been bestowed on Canada and its citizens, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as Members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as Members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen.

Chaplain of the United States Congress Patrick Conroy

I started exploring how Canadian politicians officially acknowledge the divine after the recent religious kerfuffle in the United States. Pat Conroy the chaplain for the American Congress was asked to resign by speaker Paul Ryan.  There are conflicting reports about why the resignation was requested, and Conroy has since withdrawn it.  In the Washington Post writer Rachel Laser argues there shouldn’t even be a congressional chaplain.  Given the diversity of the American religious landscape she finds it absurd a Christian male has always served in the post. She suggests taxpayer money shouldn’t subsidize the promotion of a certain faith in the House of Representatives. 

While the American Congress has a paid, elected chaplain who opens all sessions with prayer, I could find no evidence our House of Commons or the Manitoba Legislature have official chaplains.  I did discover however daily sessions of Canada’s Parliament open with prayer, the prayer at the beginning of this article.

Searching through documents for the Manitoba Legislature I found written records for each session showing they open with prayer as well, but it doesn’t say what kind of prayer it is or who prays it. 

Supreme Court Justices

In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that while politicians had a right to worship privately as they saw fit, public meetings in which they were serving in an official role, could not open with prayer. Ironically the ruling only applies to municipal governments because federal and provincial governments have special immunities. Parliamentary privileges granted in 1689 allow the House of Commons and provincial legislatures ultimate authority over the day-to-day operations of their government bodies. That’s why prayers are still said there despite the Supreme Court ruling.

Although I think we need to be very careful about the separation of church and state I personally don’t object to parliamentary or legislative sessions opening with prayer. But I think those prayers should reflect the religious diversity of our country. Perhaps this could be done by eliminating phrases like ‘Almighty God’ or ‘Amen’ from the Parliamentary prayer or inviting clergy from different faith traditions in Canada to come in each day and say a prayer in keeping with their religious beliefs. Perhaps representatives from the major religious groups in our country could compose a more generic prayer that is inclusive and highlights the common threads between all the religions practiced in Canada. 

Justin Trudeau has chosen not to comment on the issue of prayer in the House of Commons

The issue is obviously a political hot potato. Following the Supreme Court ruling about political prayer in 2015 Justin Trudeau said it was important to respect the court’s decision, but since coming to power he has chosen not to comment on the issue only saying that the Parliamentary committee in charge of House procedures has responsibility for the matter.

I think our politicians probably need all the prayers they can get, but whether those prayers should be said aloud in the Legislature and Parliament, and what the nature of those prayers should be, is a question for further public discussion.

Other posts…….

The Journalist’s Prayer

Prayer for a Golf Tournament

Artist’s Prayer



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Common Threads- The Hopi

hopi grade one class

My grade one class in our Hopi school

Our family lived for a year on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona and taught in a school there run by the Mennonite Church. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to explore Hopi faith and culture. We were invited to many dances and community events in the villages where our students lived.  Our younger son was a participant in Hopi Head Start and this gave us a chance to spend lots of time with other young parents and learn how their spiritual beliefs had guided their lives and guided the life of their people for thousands of years. 

eagle dance

Our son ready for the eagle dance

When our son’s Head Start group was asked to do the eagle dance at a religious gathering the other fathers helped Dave make our son’s giant eagle feathers, taught Dave to sing the song that would accompany the dance and included him and our son in all the rehearsals.  I had tears in my eyes as the elderly Hopi women of the eagle clan tenderly brushed the feather’s on our son’s back as he finished dancing with his friends. The Hopi religious ceremonies were so colorful and full of music and drama and dance and gift giving and eating and intergenerational teaching and relationship building.  I often stopped to think how austere my own faith’s worship practices were in comparison. And there were many common threads. 

piki bread on display at the heard musuem

Traditional piki bread made by the Hopi from blue corn

Just as we said grace before a meal the Hopi took a tiny bit of food from each serving dish on a table and placed it in a bowl outside the door on the ground as a thank you to the spirits. Just as we dedicate babies in our churches they had meaningful and celebratory baby naming ceremonies to which we were invited.  We baptize young people in our faith and they had special ceremonies in their kivas to induct teens into their kachina society.

bb team hopi mission school 1990

My husband with the Hopi basketball team he coached

Dave who taught and coached this age group at the school was even invited to attend one of these initiation ceremonies.  His willingness to do that and our readiness to participate in Hopi dances and allow our son to do so, was questioned and criticized by some church members.  They warned us to be wary and careful about getting over involved in Hopi spirituality but we figured if we were teaching the children about Christianity at the school we needed to be accepting of the invitations they gave us to learn about their spirituality. 

boys on hopi indian reservationjpg

Our son with a good friend when we were living on the Hopi Nation

Living among the Hopi people for a year was a memorable experience for our family. We learned there were many common threads between our faith and the faith of the Hopi. We saw God in our Hopi students and their families and their insights, traditions and practices helped us embrace God’s mysterious presence in the world.

Other posts…………..

Visiting Hopi Mission School

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Common Threads- Judaism and Christianity

In Mainz Germany I visited St. Stephen’s Church.  I saw the nine huge gorgeous stained glass windows in this Catholic cathedral created by the Jewish artist Marc Chagall.  Chagall made the windows in the last decade of his life as a contribution to the Jewish-German reconciliation effort.  Chagall himself was forced to flee France after it came under Nazi occupation.  Chagall chose stories from the Old Testament for his windows, stories shared by both Judaism and Christianity.  He hoped that the two faith traditions in Europe could build on their common threads and eventually come to the point where they could reconcile and work together for the common good.

Other posts………..

Common Threads- Aboriginal Spirituality

Common Threads- Buddhism

Common Threads – Creation Stories

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