Tag Archives: religion

The Children Are Watching and Listening And Wondering

My grade one class at Marion School in St.Boniface, a French suburb of Winnipeg, Manitoba. I am in the second row third from the left. 

I sat in the dark panelled hallway beside a rattling radiator. I pretended to look at the Dick and Jane reader my teacher had given me. It was 1959. My family was living in an almost exclusively French neighbourhood in a large city because my father was completing his medical internship at a Catholic hospital. I was in grade one in a local public school.

In spring the priest started coming to our class once a week, to prepare my classmates for taking their First Communion at the nearby cathedral, the St. Boniface Basilica. My parents asked that I be excused from these sessions. So when the priest entered the door, all my classmates turned to look at me, as I exited the room, to sit alone, on a wooden chair, in the hall.

I was curious. I tried to peek through the window in the classroom door. I put my ear to the wall to see if I could hear what the priest was saying. What were the other kids learning that my Mennonite parents didn’t want me to know about?

Most of the school’s teachers were nuns and they taught us to say French prayers together before we ate our lunch. After a time I could rattle off those prayers along with all the other kids and make the sign of the cross when I was done. When I demonstrated my new prayer skills to my parents, they gently suggested that I not repeat my Catholic prayers in my Sunday school class at the Mennonite church we attended.

kornelson school steinbach grade three class mrs. kihn

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach, Manitoba. I am second from the right in the second last row.

When I was eight my father joined a medical practice in a small town. We left the city for life in an almost exclusively Mennonite community. During our first months there I learned from my grade three classmates in the public school I attended, that some things my family did were a sure ticket to hell.

I had seen two movies Mary Poppins and Bambi. My grandfather served homemade wine at Christmas. I had aunties who wore lipstick. My parents had chosen to attend the one Mennonite church in town that allowed members to have a television, hence it’s nickname The TV Church.

I soon learned to be careful about describing my family’s activities or talking about events at our church, especially to certain classmates, who seemed to be authorities when it came to my less than favourable odds on making it into heaven.

I’m a grandmother now, but my childhood experiences remain vivid reminders of how the different ideas between faith communities about what is true, or good, or right, or worthy of judgment, can impact children. I try to remember that the children are always watching and listening and wondering.

Other posts…….

The Clapper

A Photograph in The Mennonite


Filed under Education, Religion

Giving Thanks

I grew up in a family where we always prayed before we ate. We had different ways of saying grace for various places and occasions. Lunches and suppers at home began with “God is great, God is good, Let us thank God for our food” or “Come Lord Jesus be our guest and bless what Thou has provided for us.” These prayers were usually recited in unison. Breakfast time was different because before the meal my Dad read a Scripture passage and a short devotional. Then we all paused for a moment while he asked God to be present with our family members during the coming day.

My grandparents with their family some 45 years ago

At my grandparents’ home, we always prayed in German. Although some of us didn’t speak the language fluently, we had all memorized two different German graces, Segne Vater and Komm Herr Jesus, which we repeated with our aunts and uncles and cousins when we gathered for communal meals. On holidays like Christmas and Easter, my grandfather prayed aloud while the rest of us bowed our heads silently. Meals at our church usually began with the four-part singing of the doxology, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”         

Our family when we lived in Arizona on the Hopi Nation

The practice of giving thanks for food is an ancient one in many different cultural groups.  Our family lived on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona for a year. Before celebratory meals in Hopi homes, small portions of food were taken from each serving dish. These were placed just outside the door of the house on the ground. I was told this was a way of saying thanks to the spirits who lived beneath the earth, for making the soil fertile enough for crops to grow.                  

Gratitude is good for our mental health. Pausing to give thanks before a meal can be meaningful.

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger;

For peace in a world, where many walk in fear;

For friends in a world where many walk alone;

We give thanks.”

Other posts ……..

The Hopi Reservation

Norman Rockwell Exhibit

My Grandmother Was a Guitarist


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Filed under Arizona, Childhood, Religion

Lord You Have Come To The Lakeshore

mom's wheelchairLord, you have come to the lakeshore
looking neither for wealthy nor wise ones.
You only asked me to follow humbly.

O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me,
kindly smiling, have spoken my name.
Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me;
by your side I will seek other seas.

You know so well my possessions;
my boat carries no gold and no weapons;
But nets and fishes my daily labor.
O Lord, with your eyes you have …

You need my hands, full of caring,
through my labors to give others rest,
and constant love that keeps on loving.
O Lord, with your eyes you have …

My mother requested we sing this hymn Lord You Have Come to The Lakeshore by Cesareo Gabarain at her funeral. I think the words really reflect the way she lived her life, humbly, caring much more for people than possessions, taking joy in the things she did for others and having a constant love for her family. 

As the congregation sang it during her memorial service the photo above came to mind. I took it the last time Mom was at our family’s Moose Lake cottage. She really wanted to go for a boat ride and so her grandsons carried her in her wheelchair down to the dock and lifted her into the boat. Off she went for a last tour of the lake where she had spent time with her family every summer for over fifty years. 

Other posts about music at my Mom’s funeral…….

Now Thank We All Our God

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

God of Eve and God of Mary

In the Bulb There is a Flower

Precious Lord

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Filed under Family, Music, Nature, Parenting, Reflections