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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The Dardars back in the news again!

Well, the Dardar family was back at it again this week; showing up in the news media once again!

Check out this clip in CHCH news about our beloved newcomer family from Syria.  The news piece appears to be going for more of a focus on how the government has interacted with refugee sponsorships, so there is next to no mention of how we supported the Dardars.  But it is always good to see the Dardars connecting with more people in our community, and building more relationships.

We hope this continues to help them integrate well into their new home!

http://www.chch.com/whats-next-syrian-refugees/

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Working Together to Support Syrian Refugees!

On the evening of November 23 we joined with the Vineland UM Church to help make hygiene kits for Syrian Refugees.  Over 300 kits were made and will start shipping out right away!

relief-kits

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How Ontario’s Mennonite pacifists remember

It’s been a few weeks since Remembrance Day, but you might still find the following article interesting and engaging.

Here is a recent posting from TVO that discusses the experience of Mennonite conscientious objectors during World War II; featuring our very own Julie Stobbe’s father, Arnold Meyers.

How did Mennonites respond to the call to take up arms during this tumultuous time in world history; and what were the questions, situations, and experiences they encountered as they made difficult but faithful choices?  Decades later, how do these same Mennonites now look back on the occasion of Remembrance Day?

Check it out for yourself!

http://tvo.org/article/current-affairs/shared-values/how-ontarios-mennonite-pacifists-remember

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We Have An Opportunity

Well, our neighbours to the south certainly had an historic election last night; and I imagine that for many of you, this election taps into many of the feelings that we talked about in our recent sermon series, Game of Thrones.

If you are someone who hoped America might elect Trump last night; then perhaps this morning, you are feeling a sense of joy or even a sense of hope in the future of that country.

If you are someone who hoped that America might elect anyone BUT Trump to the presidency, then you may have awakened this morning feeling a sense of loss; perhaps even a sense of defeat and depression.

It is truly remarkable that Mr. Trump became elected considering many of the sayings and thoughts that accompanied his campaign.

If you are someone who is feeling frightened and confused about what a Trump presidency might mean for our world, let me draw us back to what we spoke about during our series, Game of Thrones.

This is an opportunity.

If you are afraid that bigotry, prejudice, and hate are going to be elements of the future in America, then this is an opportunity for the church to bring light.

This is an opportunity for us to show something different.

This is an opportunity for us to refuse to judge people based on their religion, culture, or colour of their skin.

This is an opportunity for us to provide community, embrace, support, and love to those who might become marginalized, persecuted, or threatened.

This is an opportunity for us to cross imaginary borders and walls.

You may hear voices that say we need to up the ante on impoliteness, violence, and aggression in order to respond. We have to resist the temptation of those voices.

Anger always feels righteous right away, and it can give us an adrenaline shot of control. Anger always feels like it rules the world, but it is not who we must become.

We can’t respond with anger, but we can respond with sympathy, compassion, and hope. These are not weak forces, but powerful forces that have and will continue to alter the course of history.

This is an opportunity for us to respond to evil with good. This is an opportunity for us to show love just as Jesus showed us.

Let’s remember that the Kingdom of God has never depended on who is in office. Let’s remember that Jesus taught his way in an era where empire, violence, and brutality were widespread.

This is an opportunity for us to stand with people and transform hearts that may have become hardened by division and suffering.

We’ve been serving this way for over 2000 years, and we will not let love stop anytime soon.

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Christians in Politics Debate

So, we just wrapped up our very quick sermon series called Game of Thrones around the topic of Christians and politics; and over the course of that series, I referred to both Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne.  If I am going to refer to both of these speakers and writers, I should likely also give you a chance to hear from them directly.

Here is a debate that took place a couple of years back between the two aforementioned writers and another writer you may be familiar with, Chuck Colson.  Here, these three people basically discuss and debate some of the central questions, ideas, and concerns that come up when we discuss interaction between faith and politics.  If you have some time to check this out, please enjoy!

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Finding Unity amongst Diversity or Can I take Paul seriously?

This past weekend, I attended the White Privilege Symposium presented by the Racial Climate Taskforce at Brock University. Myself, and fellow First Mennonite attendee, Janet Moore, participated in several workshops and listened to keynote addresses that dealt with topics around race including indigenous populations, African-American populations, and more.

One particular workshop that we attended revolved around How to Address White Privilege to Skeptics. Sounds interesting, right? Our first exercise in this workshop was to delineate and list all of the multiple combinations that we can use to express and describe identity (ie. race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, etc.).

After that was completed, we were invited to observe how rights, resources, representation, and respect are then attained in Canadian society. Which races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, etc. have never had to fight for access to these four things?

Once we completed the exercise, the whiteboard at the front looked something like this:

img_0513

Incredible, right? Three things struck me as we went through this exercise:

  • People really need to get past the point of saying “there is no such thing as white privilege.” You literally put together a room of diverse people, and white privilege quickly becomes apparent.
  • Diversity and difference creates an amazing kaleidoscope in humanity, but how do we possibly find unity as a species? How do we possibly come together when there are just so many infinite ways to divide us? Even those of us with sexual orientations other than heterosexuality are divided from one another by the increasing plethora of ways to describe sexual orientation.
  • How can I possibly take seriously Paul’s words in Gal. 3: 28 that there “is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians – you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3: 28, NLT). We actually look like anything but “one!”

Perhaps the key is in Gal. 4: 8-12? Here, Paul says that before “you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws” (Gal. 4: 8-12, NLT).

Here, of course, Paul is specifically discussing how he doesn’t want the Christians of Galatia to believe that they have to observe racial/cultural rules like the practice of circumcision in order to get right with God. Paul spends a huge chunk of this letter protesting that Christians are called to be free from these “so-called gods” or these “weak and useless spiritual principles.” He suggests that when we try to get people to conform to culture as opposed to Christ, this is actually anti-Gospel.

It’s almost as if Paul says that we must embrace the freedom that faith can now take place in multiple racial/cultural diversities and yet somehow unite us; as long as we choose to reject other “gods.”

Is it possible that we have so many different ways to divide ourselves as a species and we have so many different ways to describe ourselves that they sometimes no longer reflect healthy diversity, but they are actually gods unto themselves that we worship?

For example, during our conference, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brock, Tamari Kitossa described how black people often have to perform as white in order to function and receive recognition in a predominantly white society. If I demand that someone from a different part of the world perform “whiteness” in their faith as I perform “whiteness”, am I guilty of creating a “white god” that I now make people worship as opposed to the God of the Bible that Paul refers to? I think that’s absolutely possible and that it is a sad hallmark of Christian history!

Perhaps another key then resides in Gal. 5: 6 where Paul says “there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love” (Gal. 5:6, NLT). Perhaps another way to read this is that there is no benefit in “whiteness;” what is important is faith expressing itself in love.

But how does love express itself in faith? In Phil. 2:7, Paul describes “kenosis” or “self-emptying” as one of the key attitudes that Christians are called to emulate. Christ makes himself “nothing.” He even takes the position of a slave.

Is the path to unity as a species a willingness to empty ourselves of privilege, recognize how we construct racial narratives, abandon the “gods” that divide us, and find our unity in the love that a Palestinian Jewish rabbi displayed 2000 years ago? Maybe so, but that’s for you to decide.

 

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And now for something a little different

Back when I arrived at The First Mennonite Church in October of 2015, I was approached by a fellow named Steve Samuels, with Faith News Niagara, to conduct an interview on my own journey of becoming a pastor in the area.  Steve was interviewing various pastors in the Niagara Region and collecting their stories as a way to paint a picture of what churches look like in our neck of the woods.

In fact, if you haven’t met Steve, he’s an amazing guy with a great heart for serving people and he’s absolutely over the top in terms of wanting to be a part of what God is doing in our communities.

So Steve runs this website called Faith News Niagara, which many people in Mennonite circles may be unfamiliar with, but now you get your first introduction with a look at the interview that Steve conducted with me late last year.

I don’t know how I feel about the picture of me, but check out the content for yourself!

http://faithnewsniagara.com/archives/september/september-16/5-questions-chris-hutton.html

 

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