Category Archives: Religion

A Utah Massacre Remembered

In an old courthouse in St. George Utah I saw this beautiful quilt hanging on the wall. It is called A Remembrance and Reconciliation quilt.  It tells the story of a horrific incident in Utah history referred to as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In a New York Times article Sally Denton calls it “the darkest stain” on the history of the Mormon religion. On September 11, 1857 in a meadow in southwest Utah militiamen from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints attacked a wagon train of Arkansas families on their way to set up new homes in California. They killed 140 men, women and older children, saving only seventeen children under the age of eight. The head of the Mormon militia was a man named John D. Lee  who was the adopted son of Mormon prophet Brigham Young.  The church has labeled Lee a renegade zealot. He felt he needed get rid of infidels who might want to hurt the Mormons or infiltrate their territory. To this day there continues to be a great deal of controversy about exactly what transpired. How much did Mormon church authorities know about the massacre both before and after it happened? Did they try to cover up evidence or unfairly place blame elsewhere, including on a local group of First Nations people?

The quilt I saw in St. George has forty eight squares contributed by descendants of both the militiamen who helped Lee carry out the massacre as well as descendants of the Arkansas settlers whose ancestors were killed.  A similar quilt is on display in Arkansas. It is a way to remember those who died and to express sorrow over what happened as well as provide an avenue for healing. 

Green leaves on the quilt record the names of people killed. Red flowers record the names of the seventeen children who were spared.

I visited the home of Rachel Hamblin which was close to the massacre.The seventeen children whose lives were spared were first taken to Rachel’s house. She writes of that experience saying…“in the darkness of night, two of the children cruelly mangled and most of them with their parents’ blood still wet upon their clothes, and all of them shrieking with terror and grief and anguish” 

The quilt tells a tragic and damning story but I have to give credit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for having it on display where thousands of visitors can see it. As is the case with so many religious groups who must now confront the atrocities committed by their clergy and membership in the past, there is hopefully a growing realization that only transparency and honesty, admission of guilt and request of forgiveness, can help pave the way to a more peaceful future where no religious group believes it has a corner on the truth so all are accepted with love and are never seen as enemies. 

Both wisdom from Buddhist and Hindu sources are included on the quilt


Filed under History, Religion, Utah

Mary’s Childhood

1674 st. anne and st. Joachim with mary Francesco Solimena_

1674 painting of Mary and her parents by Italian artist Francesco Solimena.

I’m preparing for a women’s retreat I’m speaking at in October and in one of my talks I will be looking at the childhood of Mary, Jesus’ mother as it is found in the Gospel of James.  The gospel was written within fifty years or so of the gospel of John in the New Testament and was held in high regard till the fifth century when the current New Testament canon was more or less finalized.  Pope Innocent I declared the Gospel of James untrustworthy in 405 AD, but it continued to be very popular in the Eastern Orthodox church and inspired literally thousands of pieces of art that depict Mary’s childhood.

Veit Stoss_St. Mary altar_joachim&Anne_Crawcow, Church of St. Mary_1477-89Mary’s father’s name was Joachim. Joachim was from Nazareth and Anne, Mary’s mother was from Bethlehem. We see Anne and Joachim here in a beautiful wood painting found in the Church of St. Mary in Krakow Poland.  It is by artist Veit Stoss and was created in 1480. 

Joachim and Anne's WeddingAnna and Joachim married when Joachim was 46 and Anne was 24.  Their wedding is depicted in this 1476 codex illustration by Cristoforo de Predis. 


Joachim and Anne settled in Jerusalem. They were good people known for their work helping the poor and for donating money to the temple. Joachim was a wealthy sheep owner and often supplied the priests with sheep to use for sacrifices in the synagogue.  Anne and Joachim loved each other and were devoted to one another but had to wait twenty years for their daughter Mary to be born.  We see the couple above in a 1528 painting by Italian artist Ambrosius Benson. The Embrace of Saint Joachim and Saint Anna is in the collection of The Prada in Madrid.

giotti anna and joachim at the Golden GateThe conception of Anne and Joachim’s daughter Mary was something of a miracle. That miracle is recorded in a beautiful 1305 painting by Giotto di Bondone called Legend of St. Joachim and St. Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate. The Gospel of James records that an angel directed Anne and Joachim to go separately to the gate of the temple. When they met they kissed and Anne became pregnant. 

The Birth of the Virgin by Wolf Traut (1478-1520)According to the Gospel of James Anne breastfed her daughter right after she came into the world and midwives were in attendance.  There are hundreds of paintings depicting the birth of Mary. Above is The Birth of the Virgin by German artist Wolf Traut painted in 1513


and this is The Nativity of the Virgin by Flemish artist Earsmus Quellinus painted in 1665.  

russian orthodox icon mary as a child

 Russian Orthodox Church icon depicting Mary as a little girl.

Anne and Joachim promised God that because they had been blessed with a child they would give her in service to the temple. In this icon of the Russian Orthodox Church we see Mary as a little girl. By the time she was six months old Mary could already walk seven steps. She had many playmates and her first birthday was celebrated in style with a big dinner.  By the way in the Catholic Church Mary’s birthday is celebrated on September 8, the same day as my husbands’ birthday.

mary and parents by Jose Alejandro ArangoHere we see an image of Mary and her parents by Mexican artist Jose Alejandro Arango. At age two Joachim thought it was time they took Mary to begin her service in the temple but Anne begged him to let Mary stay home another year and so they waited till she was three years old.

presentation of the virgin done in 1534 by Titian

First Presentation of the Virgin by the Italian artist Titian done in 1534

There are literally hundreds of paintings of Mary being presented at the temple by her parents.  

Presentation of Mary at the Temple by another Italian artist Gaspare Diziani some two hundred years later in 1730.

Presentation of Mary at the Temple by  Italian artist Gaspare Diziani in 1730.

 In the Catholic and Orthodox church the day Mary went to live in the temple is celebrated as a liturgical holiday on November 21st.

the education of the virgin in the hermitage guido rene 1641

In this 1641 painting Education of the Virgin Mary Italian artist Guido Reni shows Mary with the other young woman in the temple. This painting is in the collection of the Hermitage in Moscow.

Mary lived at the temple till she was twelve. She was probably part of a special school for girls there, where she was taught all kinds of creative skills singing, dancing and playing musical instruments. She will have learned weaving and spinning as well as practical things like healing illnesses and had an opportunity to study the Scriptures and to learn about the customs and history behind Jewish holidays. According to the book of James Mary stayed at the temple till she became betrothed to Joseph. 

education of the virgin Eugène Delacroix 1842 FrenchBut………. in many famous paintings Anna and Joachim are depicted as being a big part of Mary’s life right up until her marriage.  We see that in this 1842 painting of Mary and Anna called Education of the Virgin by French artist Eugene Delacroix

The Education of Mary Jean Jouvenet 1700 Uffiziand in this 1700 work called The Education of Mary by another French artist Jean Jouvenet which is part of the collection at the Uffizi gallery in Florence.

The Education of the Virgin and is by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. It dates from 1625 and is in the Royal Museum in Brussels.This painting is called The Education of the Virgin and is by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. It dates from 1625 and is in the Royal Museum in Brussels.It shows Mary as a young adult with her parents just before her marriage. 

El Greco’s The Holy Family painted in 1592..pngIt should be noted that there are many artists who have portrayed Anna and Joachim taking a very active role in the care and raising of their grandson Jesus. Like in Spanish artist El Greco’s The Holy Family painted in 1592.

Holy Family with Saint Anne and Saint Joachim by Lorenzo Lotto

Holy Family with Saint Anne and Saint Joachim by Italian artist Lorenzo Lotto

The books chosen for the Bible tell the stories of many men’s childhoods- that of Moses and David and Joseph in the Old Testament and of course the childhoods’ of Jesus and of Timothy in the New Testament but there are only fleeting references to the childhoods’ of women.  That makes the account of Mary’s childhood in the Gospel of James even more interesting to explore. 

Other posts………..

A Preganant Mary and A Mary With Knives In Her Heart

Thinking About Mary On Good Friday

The Pool of Bethesda



Filed under Art, Religion

Playing Church

The last few days I’ve been going through old family photos to prepare for my Dad’s upcoming birthday and while doing so I came across this picture of me and my siblings ‘playing church.’   I am leading worship from the piano bench, my eyes closed in pious prayer. My sister is joining me in prayer but my little brother, although his eyes are closed seems to be doing his own thing, waving something in his hand.  My sister has her arm around him trying to keep his behavior in check. Behind us on the piano is a Sunday School book titled We Learn About Jesus. I see my little purse on the piano as well and since my sister and I are in nice dresses  perhaps we had just returned from a church service and were reenacting it. playing church

It is interesting to me that I played the role of the minister and leader in this  ‘pretending church’ game because in the churches of my childhood no women would have led worship or preached. Those were exclusively male roles in the congregation.

I am preaching in a church in southeastern Manitoba this morning.  Perhaps my childhood pretending game was a good omen for future changes that would come to the church providing opportunities for woman to be leaders and preachers. 

Other posts……….

Many Women Are Pastors But Our Language Still Excludes Them

More Visible But Not Equal

Doc Schroeder

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Filed under Family, Religion

Why Do We Have To Blame Someone?

This is my Carillon column this week. 

Who is to blame?  Last week the headlines of provincial news media featured a story about a car accident that occurred during a funeral procession. Thomas Novak a pastoral worker for the Catholic Church was in a procession to a cemetery, when his car was hit on the passenger side at a busy Winnipeg intersection. Novak was shaken up but not injured.

funeral-processionHowever as a result of the accident he is calling for an end to funeral processions.  He thinks they are just too dangerous.  Funeral processions are a tradition still practiced in some rural Manitoba areas, but infrequently in Winnipeg, and consequently many drivers simply don’t know the protocol surrounding them. That invites accidents. I tend to agree with Novak.  If funeral processions are a hazard why have them, particularly at high traffic times of the day? Most families now lay their loved ones to rest in private services before or after the actual funeral. Often cremation has taken place and ashes will be scattered later so no trip to the cemetery is required.

One argument made for continuing funeral processions is that people might have a hard time finding their way to cemeteries without them.  GPS technology and Google Maps make that argument a moot one. 

lyle thomas memorial garden

This plaque near the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg pays tribute to Lyle Thomas a worker who died while it was being built.

Another reason given for funeral processions is that they are a way to show respect for the person who has died. But there are many other opportunities for doing that, including publishing obituaries, making a charitable donation in the person’s name, planting a tree in their memory, erecting a plaque or carrying on traditions they started. 

What really surprised me about this news story was how it became such a big issue and how commenters on media sites immediately looked for someone to blame after reading articles about the issue.

The first targeted group was young people, who according to many commenters don’t have proper respect for traditions like funeral processions. Young people cause accidents because they are so busy texting they don’t pay attention.  Parents were also targeted for failing to teach their children proper respect for the law and for letting their kids spend too much time on their devices, so they become socially isolated and don’t understand social norms.

Another targeted group was elderly people who according to some commenters don’t quit driving when their health no longer allows them to drive safely, and are generally a hazard.  Manitoba Public Insurance was also targeted for not having stringent enough protocols for awarding licences and not making people retake their driving tests more frequently.  The RCMP was blamed for not enforcing laws more strictly to get bad drivers off the road and for not providing police escorts for funeral processions.

Another targeted group was newcomers to Canada who according to some commenters don’t know the traditions and cultural habits of their adopted country and haven’t become accustomed enough to driving here. The federal government was also targeted for letting too many immigrants into Canada.

Organized religion was also a target of blame. Some commenters said without the religious traditions and trappings surrounding funerals these accidents wouldn’t happen.

funeral processionI was struck by the fact that finding someone to blame was uppermost in many people’s minds.  Why do we do that?   The funeral procession issue is just one of a myriad we could use as an example of how finding someone to blame and ranting about them seems to be the first response.   Why instead of laying blame can’t we have meaningful conversations, look at data, weigh possible options, propose alternatives, and find solutions?  Why do we always look first for someone to blame?

Other posts………


Apartments for the Dead

Dead Yard Party





Filed under Culture, manitoba, Religion

A Peaceful Mind And Heart

boat on the sea of galilee

When I visited Israel I took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was the setting for the gospel story of Jesus calming the storm.

Jesus and his disciples set off in a boat after a very busy day of preaching, healing and teaching. They needed time away from the crowds. Jesus immediately fell asleep but was awakened by his disciples who were afraid. Unlike his friends Jesus was able to rest despite the turbulent weather and his hectic, stressful day.

tour group israelThe morning I was out on the Sea of Galilee, our group leader asked us to deliberately turn our minds away from all our concerns and distractions and take some time to reflect and meditate. This wasn’t easy. Although I tried to block it out, I could still hear the sounds of traffic on the highway near the sea. I could hear someone’s i-pod music and the chatty voices of tourists in neighboring boats. I thought about the drama that had occurred on the trip where I was helping to chaperone twenty-five teenagers. 

near sea of galileeI had to concentrate so I could fill my mind with more peaceful things like the sound of the waves lapping up on the sides of the boat, the sight of a bird skimming the water, the beat of my own heart and the blessings of my trip so far. 

on the sea of galileeSt. Francis of Assisi once said “Before you can proclaim peace with your lips you must be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.

Other posts………

Dead Sea Beauty Treatment

Looking For God in the Wrong Places


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Filed under israel, Religion

Kindness Therapy

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick- Matthew 14:14

We were sharing stories about our mother with the pastor who would speak at her funeral.  My brother recalled a time of brokenness in his life. He said that after he’d poured out his sorrows to Mom she said gently, “I wonder if you are doing enough to help other people.”

the dance of salome by gozzoli wiki commons

This painting by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1461 illustrates the scene in the first part of Matthew 14. Salome dances. To her left is the executioner. John the Baptist’s head is presented on a platter to Salome’s mother who is in the red dress sitting near the back of the room.

The story of John’s gruesome death in the first part of Matthew 14 has few if any redeeming elements.  A brave prophet is beheaded. A young girl Salome is objectified before men. Herod goes against his conscience to save his reputation and his vengeful wife acts on a grudge against John whose advice has struck a little too close to home. 


Miracle of the Bread and Fish by Giovanni Lanfranco -1620-1623

To learn something from this tragic story we need to keep reading and see how Jesus responded to news of his beloved friend John’s horrific death.  Jesus goes out in a boat alone to grieve but crowds follow him. When his boat reaches the shore there they are.  Jesus begins to heal people and when he finds out they are hungry he performs a miracle so they have food.  In his time of brokenness Jesus does exactly what my Mom advised my brother to do, “help other people.”

mom's picture at grace

A plaque at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach pays tribute to the work my mother did to support young children and their families

My Mom dealt with serious health issues for over thirty years. Yet the stories of people she served and supported with her love and care during that time could fill a book.  When we face times of brokenness in our lives it may be that the best and most crucial question to ask is…. “What can I do to help other people?”

Other posts……….

Dorothy’s Room

Dorothy Garden

An Artist’s Date for My Mom


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Filed under Religion


You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Deuteronomy 10:19

gp gm wedding

My grandparents Diedrich and Margareta Peters on their wedding day shortly after they came to Canada as refugees in the 1920s

In the 1920s my father’s parents arrived in Canada from Ukraine. They were frail after surviving a famine and penniless after losing everything to marauding bandits. They couldn’t speak English. Canadians took these strangers in. They received transportation loans.  People found jobs and homes for them.

Recently my husband and I took my father to a party hosted by the son of a family my parents sponsored to come to Canada from Cambodia in 1985.  Everyone in the family calls my father “Grandpa”.  The family has grown, its members have prospered and have become valuable contributing citizens of Canada in many different areas. They still include my widowed father in their social gatherings because they have not forgotten the help my Mom and Dad gave them when they were strangers in a new country. 

A couple from Rawanda that Dave and I helped sponsor to come to Canada

Like my father, many of my grandparents’ children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have been very active in supporting refugees. I think we are all motivated at least in part, by the thought of what would have happened to our grandparents if they hadn’t received assistance when they were strangers in a new country. Helping refugees is part of our family’s legacy. 

Some fifty Scripture passages reference the need for a generous attitude to strangers. In Deuteronomy 10:19 God reminds the children of Israel to show kindness to strangers because they were once strangers themselves in Egypt. In Matthew 25:38 Jesus says that when we welcome strangers we are really welcoming him. Romans 12:13 lists hospitality to strangers as an attribute of the faithful.

According to United Nations data there are more than 65 million refugees in the world today. There is no lack of opportunity for us to act on the Biblical imperative to love the stranger.

Other posts…………

Standing Up For Children

Supporting Refugees Before It was Trendy

Thoughts on Refugees


Filed under Religion