We had supper last weekend with friends whose daughter teaches at Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School. They told us their daughter’s elementary class was involved in an exchange with the Al-Hijra Islamic School. Classes from both schools have been visiting one another and participating in games and activities together. In CBC interviews the Muslim and Mennonite principals said they were looking for ways to help children implement values of openness, fairness, kindness, compassion and care; values shared by both Muslim and Christian belief systems. By providing opportunities for their students to connect they hoped to prevent stereotypes from breeding and teach the children how important it is to respect those whose faith might differ from their own. The kids interviewed for the CBC story were happy to be making new friends.
Mural of Canada’s children on Broadway in Saskatoon
I am glad educators are actively seeking opportunities to foster tolerance, respect and friendship between children of different backgrounds. It gives me hope for the future of our country and the world.
A Classroom Very Different From Mine
Encouragement After the American Election
Thoughts on Hope
“For the blessings of this food and these friends and our families, we thank you.” That simple table grace spoken by a young boy named Jake is the key event in William Kent Krueger’s book Ordinary Grace. Jake stutters terribly. But when he offers to say grace at the meal following his sister’s funeral he is able to pray in front of a large group of people without stuttering once.
Jake volunteers to pray because his father who is a pastor is getting ready to say one of his usual long-winded theologically correct table graces and his mother who is pretty angry at God about her daughter’s death shouts, “Can’t we just have an ordinary grace?” Her son Jake obliges. Jake’s ordinary grace brings his mother comfort.
Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell
Although many people no longer say grace I think the ritual can be meaningful whatever your religious affiliation or even if you have none. It acknowledges the gift of food because we know not everyone in our world can take that gift for granted. When my brother who works in the agriculture industry says a table grace he always includes a thank you to the farmers who have grown the food.
When we lived on the Hopi Indian Reservation before traditional meals were served, a small portion of food was taken from each dish and placed in a bowl which was set on the ground just outside the door. One of the things that action demonstrated was a willingness to share food with anyone who might pass by.
Family of artist Andries Van Bochoven Saying Grace- 1629
Saying grace provides a way to acknowledge gratitude for the food we will eat, gratitude for the people whose efforts have brought it to our table, gratitude for our relationship with those who share our table and our willingness to share our food with others. Saying a simple grace no matter what our religious beliefs can be a meaningful and comforting ritual just like it was for Jake’s mother in Ordinary Grace.
By the way Ordinary Grace is a great story of a boy coming of age in 1961. The book is suspenseful and well written.
Norman Rockwell and the Mennonite Connection
A Prayer For A Golf Tournament
A Prayer for the New Year
Filed under Food, Religion
Sometimes Christianity feels like a party we haven’t been invited to.
If we deny a burden exists or that we need help lifting it; over time that weight pressing down on us can become intolerable.
It is a shame I don’t always practice what I preach but it would be a disaster if I only preached what I practiced.
We can’t just learn by ourselves, alone out under the stars.
Love of God and love of neighbour are like the longitude and latitude for locating the purpose of life. At their intersection is where I hope to live.
Those were some thought-provoking quotes from the book Letters of Faith by David Douglas. However I found its tone a little too filled with patent religiosity and I wished it had fewer platitudes and more questions. The book is divided into twenty-six sections. Each begins with several Scripture passages and includes a story and a reflection. The stories all come from a year the author spent working as a pastor in a coal mining area in the Appalachia forty years ago. The book does give some good insight into what life was like in that time and place for many people. They had what appears to be a simplistic faith but one strong enough to carry them through very tough times. The book made me start thinking about what I might choose as the ABCs of my own faith.
I Have Fought the Good Fight
A Black and White Religion
King David Was A Rapist
When my husband Dave encounters someone on the street asking for money he almost always stops to chat with them and then gives them some cash. This is exactly what the Pope recently recommended we do during Lent. The pontiff urges us to smile and talk to beggars and homeless people and then give them money. He says we are not to worry what the needy person spends the money on. He stresses the importance of making a personal connection with them.
Pamphlets available at various downtown Winnipeg businesses suggest a different strategy. They say we should donate to local charities like Siloam Mission and the Salvation Army and then refer panhandlers to those places.
I often encounter four or five people asking for money on my way to work downtown. Since I’m usually in a hurry I give the first one I encounter coins and then say ‘sorry’ to the others.
My husband’s strategy and the one the Pope suggests are probably more compassionate and in keeping with Christ’s example. Perhaps I should try it during Lent. If I make sure I leave in plenty of time for work I’d have enough minutes to stop and say hello to each person I meet who is asking for money. It certainly wouldn’t hurt me financially to give everyone I meet some change. I could even make sure I have change in my pocket each time I leave the house to facilitate this. I’m going to try and get on the same page as my husband and the pope.
Questions at the Vatican
My Former Church and the Pope
This terrific sign is displayed in front of the church I attended for some forty years- Grace Mennonite in Steinbach. With its message in both English and Arabic it lets everyone know that God’s people of every faith and background are considered friends of the congregation.
I thought of the Grace Church sign when I read an article about the Pope’s Lenten message. This year he wants people to give up indifference for Lent, indifference towards neighbours and God. He says indifference is becoming a global phenomenon.
I am in the United States right now and the media here carries reports each week about at least one new executive order from the country’s current government that shows a marked indifference and lack of sensitivity towards the concerns of neighbours. One week it was refugee neighbours, the next immigrant neighbours and just this week transgender neighbours lost some of their freedoms.
In the face of government indifference and lack of compassion it is even more important for people of faith and faith communties to display their caring and acceptance. I happen to know Grace Mennonite reaches out to their neighbours in many ways. They recently sponsored a Syrian refugee family and have housed a soup kitchen in their building for over a decade. They haven’t only put up a sign they have taken action as well. Their example is an inspiration.
Saying Hello to People
Those Who Went to War and Those Who Didn’t
Watching Silence a movie about Catholic missionaries sent to Japan in the 1600s makes you question if faith truly can be transferred from one culture to another. When you attempt to adapt a faith so it fits into another culture does it change so much that it becomes something else entirely? Is that a good thing?
Is it morally right to attempt to transfer a faith common to one culture into a different culture when trying to do so can result in enormous suffering? That kind of suffering is depicted in a graphic and violent way in Silence.
Rather than trying to convert others to our faith wouldn’t we be better off learning from people of all faiths? Perhaps if we put our truths together we could actually find a way to ‘save’ the world.
People talk about a simple faith. Is faith ever simple? In the movie Silence faith is a messy, troubling puzzle. Trying to untangle that puzzle is painful and heart breaking and costly.
Is coming to faith a static one time thing? There is a character in Silence named Kichijiro who keeps questioning and rejecting his faith for a variety of reasons and then returning to it. That seemed pretty realistic to me.
Do those television evangelists really have it right? I watched a sermon by one of them the other day and its basic message was if you believe in God everything will work out for you. That doesn’t happen in the film Silence where people who are intensely devoted to their faith have tragic things happen to them.
Can anyone truly say……..”God told me to do that?” Some people claim that happens to them and then they go ahead and do some pretty terrible things in supposed obedience to God’s voice. In Silence the priest Rodrigues is desperate for God to tell him what he should do. But God is silent. Maybe that’s a good thing. Could it be that “God’s voice” is a combination of our own conscience, the advice of others, and what our faith has taught us is good and right?
Chinese Spiritual Practices
A Religious Opinion
A Veronica Sighting
I am so excited about our Little Free Library. I am the librarian at my church and one of the library’s recent projects was installing a Little Free Library on our grounds. Our library will be one of nearly fifty found all over Winnipeg and one of 50,000 that have sprung up in more than 70 countries. Estimates are that some 200,000 books a day and more than 60 million books a year are exchanged through Little Free Libraries.
The mission of Little Free Libraries is to promote literacy and a love of reading and to build a sense of community. The movement began with two Wisconsin book aficionados Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. In 2010 they got the idea of building small simple libraries from recycled material and inviting people to donate books to stock their shelves. When people left a book they were encouraged to help themselves to others that had been donated.
Never in their wildest dreams did the two men imagine the movement would take off as it has. They now have a website where people who build Little Free Libraries can register their library and have it placed on the site’s world map. Little Free Libraries have been built on the grounds of hospitals, churches, police stations, fire halls, schools, businesses and private homes.
The library at our church features two reading benches and a cupboard that looks a little like a grain elevator. But each Little Free Library is different and if you go on the website you can see all the creative ways different people have constructed theirs.
Having a Little Free Library at our church was my idea but I had no clue how I would go about building it. Luckily a call for help placed in the church bulletin recruited a young architect who had just started his first job with a design firm in Winnipeg and an experienced retiree who loved to build and had a well equipped carpenter’s workshop. The two collaborated and used some lovely burr oak provided by the widow of a man who had loved wood but died before he was able to use the oak to build something. Another man from our congregation who is a graphic designer agreed to do all the lettering on our library. Our library was open for business at one point but then due to some fierce winter weather we had to close it for a little fine tuning. Now however it is up and running once again.
Since hundreds of people use our church each week visiting our food bank, taking part in our young parents’ group, attending the children’s clubs we operate, taking the English classes we offer, dropping off their youngsters at our daycare or visiting relatives in our senior’s residence we hope there will be lots of patrons for our Little Free Library.
Great Aunt Marie’s Books
The Millenium Library
Filed under Books, Religion