Re Picturing God’s Kingdom (August). Historically, the Mennonite church has a spotty record on its tolerance – let alone encouragement – for the arts. In a sense, it’s understandable: artists often stand somewhere on that shady periphery of institution and theology, and consequently have aroused suspicion from church leaders and members. Frequently artists have left the church altogether, and that’s understandable too.
The lesson here might be to live with a bit of indecision and blur the boundaries between church and “world.” We need all those artists and thinkers who drift outside the accepted norm. Without that conflict, the institutional church will be among the walking dead.
Avoid visual distractions
Re “Picturing the sacred and aesthetic through architecture” (Features, August). I believe the MB church has refrained from statues and frescoes or arts of any kind in the church for good reason. If people want pictures in the church, go to Europe and see the large churches with carvings all over – they’re empty. What we need is good evangelical preaching and no drawings to distract from the Spirit of God. We like things simple
More than just music
Re “Picturing the sacred and aesthetic through architecture” (Features, August). In her thought-provoking piece, Charlene Kwiatkowski poses the interesting question: Why is visual art so often lacking in many of our churches?
I’ve pondered this and many related questions for years. Why are there so few Mennonite visual artists, architects, dancers, poets, and writers (Miriam Toews, Andreas Schroeder, Rhoda Janzen, Sandra Birdsell, and Rudy Wiebe notwithstanding)? And why are there so many Mennonite musicians, composers, singers?
The second question, I suspect, is key. Music is efficacious for worship services and therefore has credibility. Mennonite forebears in the Russian diaspora didn’t write books or paint or sculpt or design (other than practical buildings). However, I look forward to seeing the present youth generation break into the other arts in a big way.
Partnerships are a blessing
Re “Partnering together to make Jesus known in Canada” (Features, July). I was excited when I read that MBs have partnered with the interdenominational church planting network called C2C. If we want to reach out with evangelism across Canada, we will have to work together with like-minded churches.
This July, several from our church volunteered to help a neighbouring church with its VBS program. There were more than 300 children in attendance. I was crew leader for 12 Grade 6 girls – what a joy when four responded to re-understand their assurance of salvation! We prayed together to reinforce it with solid Scripture.
Another week, I was sent by Child Evangelism Fellowship to help teach VBS at a rural church east of Winnipeg. Five churches had organized and invited people living in the surrounding area. We had 57 children, Grades 1–7, and taught them the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection through story and song. Nine responded for salvation. It was a joy to work together with this group.
We need evangelism and church plants. The families need Jesus. With many immigrants moving to Canada from a variety of countries, Canada is our mission field. Let’s work together to reach many for Jesus.
Concerns about prophetic language
Re “A word from the Lord” (Outfront, July). I’m troubled and saddened by the report via our executive director regarding consultant Terry Mochar’s four messages arising from the national ministry review. I cannot realistically engage in conversation to explore the relevancy of the recommendations/messages if they’re stated as facts from God. And I’m saddened by the apparent disrespect I sense in setting aside the notion of a discerning community working at consensus building about directional issues in our conference.
Consider gifts within MB family
Re “A word from the Lord” (Outfront, July). I would have hoped we would show courage and confidence in credible MB leaders from MB Biblical Seminary, CMU, CBC, etc., or lay leaders who could have been tapped to do a national ministry review. I believe they would have a better grasp of our denominational history, theology, nuances, and deficits [than an outside consultant]. Let’s learn to appreciate the many gifts we have in our own MB family.
George H. Epp
Celebrating migrant churches in Germany
Re “Migrant church grows new roots” (P&E, July). Thanks to the editor for publishing this article – it’s not often readers have a chance to inform themselves about the Russian-German migrant churches in Germany.
It was our privilege to live and work in the country as MB missionaries during the time of the great immigration from the Soviet Union to West Germany. We watched Aussiedlers coming with great anticipation and praise to God.
In 1998, we counted 356 new migrant congregations with some 61,000 members – about a quarter of them being Mennonite Brethren or Mennonite. The rest called themselves Baptist or evangelical Christians. During the following years, the Lord added more and more Christians – most of them became believers in Germany, and have continued to build churches. We can only profit by knowing more about these Christians. They give us many reasons to praise the Lord.
John N. Klassen
Let’s talk about nonviolence
Re “Balance lacking between evangelicalism and Anabaptism” (Letters, July). I understood Phil Wagler’s views differently than Mr. Klippenstein, and feel Wagler was unfairly labelled as having made “questionable assumptions.” Wagler was merely encouraging MBs to hold their beliefs up against Scripture to ensure that what we stand for is biblically sound.
I can attest to the fact that many MBs don’t have a Scripture-based answer to why they believe in nonviolent resistance. More than once, people have given me the answer: “Because that’s what we believe.”
Let’s not do things a certain way primarily because we have a historical commitment to doing so, or because it’s the only thing that sets us apart from other denominations. Those are both very poor reasons for ostracizing a large number of followers of Christ who have seen military service and aren’t ashamed of it, or those whose ancestors have done so.
In the Bible, military service isn’t listed along with murder as a sin, so perhaps we should quit treating it as one. Let’s not discourage discussion regarding “gray area” issues. I don’t agree with strict nonviolent resistance in all situations, but would like to talk about why others believe it’s essential. Isn’t it alright to have differing perspectives on some issues, even within our church family?
Work as worship
Re “Is work really a curse?” (Text Message, July). Several years ago, I taught a course on Genesis. Being a lover of Hebrew and Greek, I did a number of word studies. Genesis 2:15 was one of those studies that radically altered my perspective on work and career.
Linguistically, “work” and “take care of” can be directly connected to “worship” and “service.” Looking at our work as worship and service to the Creator leads us to value work. One could almost say, “I am, therefore I work,” while the curse of chapter 3 leads us to say, “I work, therefore I am.”