From Joe Heikman

Those of you who receive the Canadian Mennonite magazine probably saw this week the “paid supplement” from Maple View Mennonite Church (Wellesley, ON). If you haven’t seen it, it intends to be a teaching statement on that church’s view of biblical sexuality, particularly condemning same-sex relationships. The content is nothing new, more of the same arguments and scriptures that have gone around and around over the past decade and beyond.

There has been a lot of reaction to this, in congregations and on social media. There are good questions about why this was published and the implications of making theological statements as paid advertisements and what it means to make space for disagreement within our denomination.

I’m not able to settle any of that, though of course I have opinions. What I want to remind us is that this is not a theoretical discussion.

People’s lives are on the line, their mental health, their spiritual well-being. LGBT people face bullying, threats, hate crimes, discrimination, and highly increased rates of mental illness and suicide. What we say to them, how we talk about them, how we continue to make a divide between them and us, it matters. Sexuality is personal and emotional to all of us, and sexual minorities are more vulnerable. That has gotten lost too often in this church debate.

There are ways to disagree well, to show love and walk together and learn from each other. “Reference Statements” fail us in this. Condemning each other from a distance, shouting at each other in print or on social media does not do it, no matter how much we claim that our motives are pure and compassionate.

I say “we” because this is us. These are our people, we’re part of Mennonite Church Canada together. This is our magazine, our dollars, our collective space. And this is our body, the church, offended and offenders, hurting and hurtful. I need to claim my part in this, acknowledge that I’m part of the problem, that I also hurt people with my ignorance and carelessness and self-righteousness.

To that end, here’s my prayer of confession:

God of Love, Creator of All, who lives among us and in us, You are One, united and whole.

And yet we confess that we are not One. As your people, we are broken and incomplete. 

We draw lines and set boundaries, ins and outs, ups and down, greater-thans and less-thans.

We value those who believe like us and behave like us, over those who we don’t understand, who make us uncomfortable.

We are influenced by money, more than by your call to care for the poor, poor in wealth and access, vulnerable in spirit.

We trust in Doctrine more than Spirit, in carefully-worded statements more than carefully-nurtured relationships. We ignore the fruit of the Spirit among those who disagree with us.

We cling to our ideas of equality and our right to be heard, even though Jesus proclaimed an upside-down kingdom where the weak are blessed and the power is routed through the servants.

We find reasons to excuse our sins while railing against what we see as the sins of others; we put up picket fences around the planks in our eyes.

We choose silence and passivity over the call to embrace those who suffer and to weep with those who weep.

We cling to our interpretations of Scripture and we miss the Voice of God.

We “educate” when we should embrace.

We mean well, most of the time. But we look past the hurting people in our midst, and in our ignorance cause more pain.

We want to win more than we want to love. 

We put our security ahead of the cries of those who we wound.

God of Shalom, nothing missing, nothing broken, forgive us.

(silence)

“We are not just made by God we are made of God.”  (Julian of Norwich, a repeated theme in our fall sermon series.) This Spirit of God in us brings the hope of new life, of something new being born in us. Be born in us, God of love and light. Transform our woundedness into new life and new hope, the Body of Christ, full and whole.

Amen.

In this place, as Wildwood Mennonite Church, we have committed to living differently (as written in our bulletin each week):

We're glad to welcome everyone to worship and participate with us! Wildwood Mennonite Church is a community of followers of Jesus Christ that invites into membership all who wish to join us in the journey of faith. With God's help, we will not discriminate in regard to race, ethnic background, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, education, ability, and other factors that give rise to division and marginalization.

Whoever you are, you are welcome, you are loved. And we will bend over backwards to show you that you are God’s Beloved, created by God, of God.

No, we don’t do that perfectly here, not even particularly well sometimes. 

But that is our aim, that is our purpose, that is where the Spirit of God is, among us and in us.

Prayers and peace to those who are hurting today. If you’d like to talk further, I’d be glad to listen.

On Sunday, Oct 15, our fall worship series on “Bodies: Not Bad!” will focus on the experience of disability. One of the complex realities of life is the diversity of physical abilities and needs among us. Even as we bear the image of God, some of us face physical and mental limitations that make life difficult, particularly in a world designed for fully functioning minds and bodies. These challenges impact ability and relationships and mental health, yet they do not reduce our value and worth.

This has long been a priority for our congregation--we’ve done our best to include and appreciate and journey with those among us whose bodies are challenging. We’ve visited hospital rooms, built ramps and elevators, given hugs, and offered friendship, mentoring, and encouragement whenever able. And despite our best intentions, at times we’ve stumbled over our words, failed to offer the help that was needed, and overlooked and excluded and mistreated each other.

If we take seriously the value of each individual as “created by God, of God,” we must keep working at making space--physically, relationally, and spiritually--specifically for people with physical and mental disabilities.

How can we continue to pay attention and serve each other in these ways? You tell me! You’re invited to an open conversation about this on Wed, Oct 11, 7:30pm at WMC. My hope is partly to learn some things to shape the worship service on Oct 15, and mostly to talk together about how the church can respond better to the ongoing needs and desires among us.

 

From Brenda MacDonald:

Picture this: City transit buses, weighed down with unexpected crowds of clientele, wind slowly through their routes with their overloaded capacities abuzz in a party like atmosphere of banter and laughter that amplifies at each stop as more and more passengers embark. These are the two thousand teachers on their way to the annual day of teachers' convention in Saskatoon, making a statement by their actions to show how just one day of leaving their cars at home can impact positively their mark on the environment, while demonstrating how teachers, leading children, are at the cusp of changing the public's attitude and resolve in taking responsibility for looking after the earth we share.

That was the picture in my head. Where it led to, in reality, was a destination several notches below the vision. Bus Riders of Saskatoon granted my Bus to Conference Movement $500 to pay for free busing for 250 teachers to ride the bus to the convention. The passes were distributed quietly at individual schools to anyone interested in taking them. On the day of convention, downtown parking was scarce, as the overload of teachers' cars filled the streets. Why did my Great Idea fail? I think I know. Although I invested a lot of time and energy in seeing this go forward and contacted some key people to enable it, it remained my idea, fuelled by my own earnestness. I was a teamless individual.

Over my lifetime, I have endeavoured to live responsibly, always keeping in mind my environmental footprint. I never really expected my feeble actions to make a big difference to the Earth but at least I knew my conscience was active and it helped me to live faithfully, if not especially effectively.

A couple of months ago, upon hearing Naomi Klein on CBC's Ideas, I found myself swept up in admiration and affirmation of her ardent, articulate appeal. I dashed to my computer to sign The Leap Manifesto (check it out, if you haven't already; you may be surprised by how closely many points contact you.)  In Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, she reiterates the urgency to act now. Surely governments are beginning to display some political will to turn things around? (Try Googling "environmental pacts" and you'll see what I mean.) But Klein laments the collapse of higher governmental influence to effect the changes that urgently need to be implemented if we are to harness the power that climate change is already exerting on our world. She concludes that it will be grassroots movements that will cause the greatest changes in our global policy making. 

Does that mean I have to call up my youthful idealism to strive to live responsibly? (You know the shtick: reduce, reuse recycle.) I believe it does. What I have learned since my youth is about my need to sign up with a team, a group of likeminded people that will challenge me to deeper commitment to live rightly and to help repair damage already done.

At Wildwood Mennonite in Saskatoon, a team has been forming. Since December, a group of adults has been studying Every Creature Singing, an excellent 12-session course put forth from Mennonite Creation Care Network. Here we find common ground to support our efforts that begin from wherever we as individuals are. (Maybe even climate change deniers? Surely we all agree that we love our earthly home and want to follow God's call to care for it?).

There are myriad ways to express our desires to do what is right for the privilege of being a small part of Creation. We are starting by formally affiliating with Mennonite Creation Care Network. While we have carried on our discussions, our pastor and other speakers have been challenging our thinking in the world of finances, which it turns out, is closely enmeshed with how we interact with our natural world. In response, some of us are submitting to a voluntary carbon tax, others to build our community by sharing goods, others to learn together about socially responsible investments. In the congregational audit we performed in our study group, we discovered that we need to formalize the good intentions we have, in order to include the whole congregation in our team, to raise our collective consciousness and to act upon that.

Much needs to be done in order to recover what we have mismanaged and to build hope for the future. And there are a lot of us to pitch in. Yes, our individual efforts do count. We each can practise the three R's, ride our bikes, eat locally, spend and save responsibly, answer Calls to Reconciliation, lobby our government reps--take initiative. When we combine these efforts, where we submit to more rigorous training and exertion, we become a Team of individuals.  Go, Team Creation Care!

Challenge I

The writer of the above hereby formally submits to the Lenten Practice of spurning buying anything plastic or packaged by plastic. Although plastics can be recycled, they have become increasingly ubiquitous, often in places where formerly they would not have been available. This practice will take some determination and will offer some sobering learning, it is anticipated.  

Challenge II

Please consider undertaking your own Green Lenten Practice, such as abstaining from using disposable cups, limiting your daily drive to x number of kilometres, lowering your thermostat…Share your undertaking with others. 

On Sept 18, WMC will welcome guests from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Saskatoon to join us for our worship service and a potluck lunch.  This is a next step in a relationship that has been developing over the past year; many of us have visited the Ahmadiyya mosque on Boychuk and McKercher, our women’s groups have met together, and some good friendships are being formed.

I’ve heard some questions about why our church is intentionally building relationships with a Muslim group, and why this group in particular.  I see several reasons:

For one, they invited us.  Last fall, some women from our church attended a public event at the U of S aimed at dispelling myths about Islam.  At that event, they met a couple of women from the Ahmadiyya community and enjoyed the conversation so much that it was continued later over a shared meal.  That led to an informal larger gathering of women from the two groups.  In March, the mosque invited us to an “open house” event on a Sunday afternoon, and over a dozen WMC folks enjoyed good conversation and great food.  In other words, this relationship began quite naturally and has continued as people of both groups have enjoyed one another’s company.

For another, we need these friendships.  In a city dominated by a white, Christian(ish) majority, it’s hard to see ourselves and our world clearly.  As we hear and interpret the news, as we make political decisions large and small, as we shape our lives and our ways of thinking, we are biased towards what we know and understand.  If we are to love our neighbours and our world as Jesus calls us to do, we need to know and understand people who are different from us.  It is good for us to include in our circles and, yes, our church experiences, people who have lived in other countries, who have distinctive cultural practices, who understand God and the world very differently than we do.

Also, Muslims in Saskatoon need friendships with people like us.  Not that we’re so wonderful, but many of us are part of the privileged majority in our region.  The opinions of white Christians matter a great deal in our region.  And much of the general public’s understanding of Islam is warped by fear and misunderstanding.  These misconceptions and stereotypes are intimidating and at times truly dangerous for our Muslim neighbours (I recommend the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim podcast for an eye-opening and frank window into two Muslim women’s experiences of life in North America).  The Ahmadiyya Muslim community goes out of its way to educate and to correct misconceptions in the news; we can show our respect by listening and learning.

Finally, I’m genuinely surprised at how much we have in common with those I’ve met from the Ahmadiyya community.  We already have many connections through shared work and and school and volunteer experiences.  We have shared values in pacifism and humanitarian work.  We have a shared story as persecuted minority groups within our own religions, forced to move great distances in search of religious freedom.  Of course the differences between us are significant, and we’re not ignoring those or pretending that our religions are the same.  But as we respect each other by listening and learning together,  I think you’ll be surprised at the things we share in common.

I am Mennonite, my neighbours are Muslim, and we need each other.  Now let’s eat! :)

For more information on the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Saskatoon, check out these Star Phoenix articles: 

http://thestarphoenix.com/tag/ahmadiyya-muslim-community.  For a broader look at their story: http://www.ahmadiyya.ca/public/ahmadiyyat

When

Adult Sunday School: 9:45 a.m. 
Worship: 10:45 a.m. 

Family Singing Time: 10:15 a.m. 
Junior Sunday School During Worship

 

Contact

Phone 306-373-2126
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Pastor Joe Heikman
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