Pastor’s Blog

Located in the town of Vineland, Ontario, we are a small, friendly,  inter-generational church in the Anabaptist tradition that worships God and together seeks to follow Jesus’ example.   We have a long history—we were the first Mennonite church in Canada.  On this site you can learn about the people and the work of our church, find directions to our facility, and learn about our history.  You are welcome to join us!

Worship Service at 11:00 Sunday mornings (10:30 a.m. 1st Sunday in July through Labour Day)  Sunday School for all ages begins at 10:00, except in summer.  Hope to see you there!

Pot-luck lunch usually on the first Sunday of the month (except in July/Aug)

3557 Rittenhouse Rd, Vineland (see directions page for details)

We look forward to meeting you!

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Lessons from the vineyard

A vineyard is a beautiful place.  Straight, immaculate rows of long slender vines, covered in green leaves, yielding bunches of luscious grapes, which not only become food to eat but also yield many varieties of wine.  Little wonder that the Niagara region has become a bustling tourist area.

A vineyard is also an amazing example of interdependence and interconnection. Berries attached by little tiny stems to longer stems to form clusters, and the clusters clinging to canes and cordons which attach to trunks that send their roots deep into the ground.  Every part connected to another, all parts intertwined with each other.

It’s this elaborate web of interconnection, and interdependence, that allows water and nutrients to flow to the grapes.  And if one piece is cut off–if a connection somewhere in this intricate, intertwined web is broken—those Chardonnays and Gewurtztraminers and Muques will soon wither and die.  The life of this vineyard depends on the parts staying connected.

Jesus could have lived in Vineland, because he knew a lot about vineyards.  He talked about vines and branches, pruning and fruit.  He called himself “the vine,” and said that his followers are “the branches” (John 15).  He stressed the important of “abiding,” or “remaining,” in him, in order to bear fruit.

In our worship service on Sunday, September 13, we will reflect on the lessons for living as Jesus’s people in this world that Jesus drew from the vineyard.

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Practicing hospitality

Hospitality is a time-honored virtue in the Middle East, as in this story.

Two men were crossing the desert when they saw a Bedouin’s tent and asked him for shelter. Even though he did not know them, he welcomed them in the way that the conduct of nomads dictates: a camel was killed and its meat served in a sumptuous dinner. The next day, as the guests were still there, the Bedouin had another camel killed. Astonished, they protested they had not yet finished eating the one killed the day before. “It would be a disgrace to serve old meat to my guests,” was the answer. On the third day, the two strangers woke early and decided to continue on their journey. As the Bedouin was not at home, they gave his wife a hundred dinars, apologizing for not being able to wait, because if they spent any more time there, the sun would become too strong for them to travel. They had traveled for four hours when they heard a voice calling out to them. They looked back and saw the Bedouin following them. As soon as he caught up with them, he threw the money to the ground. “I gave you such a warm welcome! Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?” In surprise, the strangers said that the camels were surely worth far more than that, but that they did not have much money. “I am not talking about the amount,” was the answer. “The desert welcomes Bedouins wherever they go, and never asks anything in return. If we had to pay, how could we live? Welcoming you to my tent is like paying back a fraction of what life has given us.”  (Paulo Coelho, The Code of Hospitality,

The Bible also puts a high value on hospitality.  Several stories in the Old Testament speak of biblical figures like Abraham hosting strangers, only to turn out that those strangers were angels in disguise.  The New Testament calls on church members to “extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12:13).

In our worship service on Sunday, Sept.6, we will consider the theme of “hospitality.”  More than beliefs or worship rituals, it was the practice by early Christians of hospitality and love, not only toward church members but also toward outsiders, even enemies, that caught the attention of the cultures in which they lived.   The same is likely true for the church in our culture today.

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Children by adoption

Each year in North America, more than 135,000 children are adopted by couples and singles.  Some adopt a child because they are unable to have one of their own.  Some adopt because they wish to give a home to a child who otherwise might grow up without a loving and supportive family.  Some adults, who themselves were adopted as children, choose adoption because it was a positive experience in their lives and they want to pass this along to another child.  Others adopt for religious and environmental reasons.

In his long opening hymn of praise to God in his letter to the Ephesians (1:3-14), the Apostle Paul declares that God has adopted children who were not his own into his family.  Those children were formerly Gentiles, that is, non-Jews, who were not part of God’s historic people Israel.

But in Jesus, God has opened his family circle to include Gentiles too.  This for Paul is the great “mystery” that has been revealed in Jesus–that God, out of love, has embraced all people, regardless of their ethnic origin, and as invited all to become part of his family.  In fact, opening his family to all people was God’s intention all along, Paul declares, and that has now happened in Jesus.

In our worship service on Sunday, Aug. 30, we will reflect on the good news that God is an adoptive God.   We who call ourselves “Christians” need to remember that we once were “outsiders” to God’s family, “strangers to the covenant of promise” (Eph. 2:12).   But thanks to Jesus, we who were outsiders have become “insiders,” members of a new family.  In that family we have become sisters and brothers to all others who have joined God’s family.  And all of us are children of a loving God who is indiscriminate in love, welcoming and nurturing all who come into his household.

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Blessed darkness

“Darkness” is often a metaphor for something problematic, painful or negative.  We speak of being “in the dark” when we are confused or kept out of the information loop.  We might admit to a dark side, or “shadow side,” of our personality.  We experience those “dark emotions,” like anger and grief.   “Darkness” can also have sinister connotations, as in “the powers of darkness.”  A spiritual crisis can leave us feeling that God, if God even exists, is hidden away in deep darkness.

For the Psalmist, however, darkness is not devoid of God.  On the contrary, God is found in the night:   “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Ps 137:12).

Some of the great spiritual writers through the ages have spoken of “the dark night of the soul.”  This is often experienced as a sterile, painful crisis of faith and spirit, when we might feel desolate and abandoned by God.  In fact, this dark time can be a gracious time of cleansing and growth, when God works obscurely within us to free us from unhealthy  attachments and habits, and to turn us toward patience and trust.  The outcome of the dark night of the soul usually is a new capacity to be more loving toward God, others and ourselves, and a new sense that we are God’s beloved children.

Brief reflection on the theme of “darkness that blesses” will be part of our Taize worship service of hymns, chants and readings on Sunday evening, August 26.

An ongoing challenge in the life of faith is to listen attentively to how God might be speaking to us in our darkness.  And then, when God is silent, to wait with patience and trust for the darkness to give way to the dawn.

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With Christ, in community

Sometimes people, especially young adults, ask, “Why do I have to join the church?  I love Jesus, and I want to be baptized.  But what do I have to join the church?”

The Apostle Paul would not have understood a question like that.  For him, following Jesus and  being a committed member of Jesus’s people was as natural as breathing while walking.  You can’t have one without the other.

In our main scripture for Sunday, Aug. 9, from Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul takes for granted that followers of Jesus are part of a community.  And he identifies the virtues necessary for the community to practice in order to assure its strength and unity.

We will consider several stories from the recent Mennonite World  Conference assembly that illustrate the critical importance of the body of Christ–for good or ill–in one’s personal faith journey.

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Revisiting the man who did good

Not long ago, a man in Hamilton, Ontario became identified with one of Jesus’s best-known characters without intending to.

The man lived in a downtown condo, and got tired of looking out his window at the trash in the parking lot below.  So he decided to clean up the mess.  He collected several boxes of assorted cans, bottles and paper litter strewn on the ground, and stacked them against a posted sign in the alley advertising designated trash pick-up times.

While working, the man was approached by three city of Hamilton bylaw officers.  He thought they were coming to help him.  He was wrong.  They rewarded his good deed with a $125 fine.  When the man asked what he had done wrong, the officers told him that he had committed “illegal dumping.”  He had moved the trash from private property to a public alleyway.  “It’s alright for you to pick up the trash,” the officers said.  “But when you place it on city property, the taxpayer ends up paying for it.”  They said the man should have called the city to report the litter, rather than cleaning it up himself, though the city conceded it could have been seven days until it got removed.

The connection between this well-intentioned citizen and Jesus lay in the story’s headline:  “City trashes Good Samaritan for downtown parking lot clean-up.”

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is one of the best-known stories of Jesus.   “Good Samaritan” has become so much associated with doing selfless good deeds that the label has been enshrined in the names of hospitals and care centres, housing projects and boys ranches.  There are even Good Samaritan laws to protect us from liability suits, should we stop to help a stranger in distress and get into legal trouble.

But Jesus’s original story contains sharp twists and subtle layers of meaning that we may miss because it is so familiar.  On Sunday, July 19, our worship will focus on this famous parable.  We will try to listen to it anew, and see what fresh insight the story of the man who did good might yield for us.

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A whale of a story

One of the more memorable Bible stories is Jonah and the Whale.  Children seem to love it.  On the internet we can find cartoons of Jonah set to catchy jingles, such as this one:

Who did who did who did who did

Who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?

Who did who did who did who did

Who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?

Who did who did who did who did

Who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?

Who did swallow Jonah down?

The whale did the whale did the whale did the whale did

The whale did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah,

The whale did the whale did the whale did the whale did

The whale did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah,

The whale did the whale did the whale did the whale did

The whale did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah

The whale did swallow Jonah down.


Often the moral of the story is something like, “Jonah survived being swallowed by the whale, so God can do miracles.”  Or, “Jonah tried to hide from God but couldn’t, so we can’t hide from God either.”

Actually the Jonah story, which we will consider in our worship on Sunday, July 12, is more for adults than for children.  And it is about a lot more than a stubborn man riding in the belly of a whale and coming through unscathed.  It is a story of obedience and disobedience.  It is a story of justice versus mercy.  It is a story that makes a whale of a claim about God, one that prompts the reader to ask:  “Can I accept a God who is unfair–unfair in the mercy, compassion and pity he shows toward very wicked people?”

At the end of the story, this question is unresolved for Jonah.  Will he grow enough spiritually to have the same compassion and pity that God feels for the wicked?  We don’t know because Jonah just sits there, sulking under his withered bush.  The real ending of the Jonah story is up to us to write.

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