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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Drew G.I. Hart and Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

It’s been a difficult week for many of us.  Here in Canada, we’ve witnessed through social media so many attempts to make sense, cope with, and understand the ongoing epidemic of shootings taking place in the United States.  This last week, it was the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police officers. And then not even a few days later, the deaths of 5 police officers at the hands of Micah Johnson.

I think many of us empathize with the fear and the pain of the people involved in these incidents.   I think many of us here in Canada deliberate over this situation because we wonder if the same thing can take place here.  And it does.  It even happens with our Indigenous population.

If you’re looking for a way to mindfully engage with this issue and at the same time something great to read this summer, I highly recommend reading Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart.  In this book, Drew not only lays out his own personal experience of growing up black in the US and having to live with the reality that he could be shot by police without provocation or justification; but he also does an excellent job of communicating how even our language around this conversation can inadvertently support and intensify racism.

I found Drew’s writing to be insightful, so well-researched, and I would certainly describe this book as crucial and essential to any conversation around race and violence in our world today.  Check it out for yourself!

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6:30pm Musical Service this Sunday

If you’re planning on coming out to The First Mennonite Church this Sunday, please know that we will be meeting at 6:30pm!  And not our usual time of 10:30am.

This Sunday, we will explore Sensing God through our Hearing.

There are multiple ways that sound can influence us spiritually.  Some of us can feel like we’re having an encounter with the divine when we hear a particularly beautiful song or the sound of a particular instrument.  There is something powerful and incredible when you hear a multitude of people just belting out their voices in unison for a particular song.

Some of us feel we are encountering the divine when we hear the sounds of the world around us such as water lapping on a seaside; water running through a river; or the song of birds.  For some of us, it’s the sound of humanity hustling and bustling through a city.  For still others, it’s the absence of sound altogether that can make them feel as if they are experiencing God.

I’d like to share two things with you that have made me feel like I am experiencing something powerful and worshipful.  The first might seem kindof silly at first; but stay with me on this.

When my wife Michele and I spent time in South Korea, the first thing we learned was just how much people like to sing!  Not only were karaoke bars one of the most popular destinations across all of Korea, but you could even step into coin-operated karaoke booths by the side of the road and sing by yourself or with your friends.

Listen to what it sounds like when over 80,000 South Koreans sing along with one of their favourite artists Psy.  It’s an incredibly powerful and overwhelming noise to hear so much humanity singing together!

Now that I got the silly out of the way.  This next song is a simple expression of one of my favourite verses in the Bible: 1 John 4:18 which says that there “is no fear in love.”  Here, Steffany Grettzinger delivers a soulful and beautiful take on a simple yet profound cry that she makes to God.  Check it out!

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Sensing God Through Our Sight

This Sunday, we’re kicking off a new series at The First Mennonite Church called Sensing God Through Our Worship.  The series was created by Arlyn Friesen Epp of Mennonite Church Manitoba and explores how we might experience God through all 5 of our senses.

This Sunday, we’ll be looking at Sight!

For me personally, there are two sights that often come to mind for me when I think of God.  The first is Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son.

Rembrandt

Of course, I’ve been personally impacted by much of Henri Nouwen’s writings on this painting, and this image often reminds me of things such as God’s grace, mercy, love, acceptance, belonging, and redemption.  The Son finds true healing, true self-worth, and true self-value in the intimate embrace of the Father.

When I think of seeing God in nature, my mind immediately jumps to a very special place for my wife and I, Vespers Point at Camp Hermosa in Goderich, ON.

the point_Fotor

Not only do you get incredible sunsets and a view of Lake Huron that constantly reminds you of the amazing things that God has made; but this is where people have been taking time to worship God every summer evening for over 80 years.  Marriages have been proposed here.  People have shared vulnerable, gut-wrenching stories of loss here.  People have made their first decision to believe in God and follow Christ here.  Families have been meeting here for several generations.  This sight reminds me of a very sacred place on God’s good earth.

What sorts of sights connect you to God?  Or make you feel like you are experiencing something of the divine?

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World Refugee Day

This past Monday on June 20th, organizations such as the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and Canadian Foodgrains Bank celebrated World Refugee Day.

This Sunday, as we gather as a church to enjoy a meal together in community amongst the beauty of Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, we too are going to take some time to pause, reflect, and remember just what is happening around the world right now in terms of record numbers around displaced and fleeing people across the world.

It’s been truly humbling for many of us to be a part of the Dardar family’s journey from Syria to Canada through our sponsorship, and there could certainly be further opportunities for us as a church to sponsor new families.

But in the meantime, to get a picture of just what happened around the world in terms of refugees in the year 2015, check out this video put together by the UNHCR itself.

 

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Ramsay Whitefish – To be or not to be

Ramsey Whitefish lived on the streets of Toronto and was a friend of many through the dramatic arts program at Sanctuary, a church in the downtown area. On May 18th, he was found murdered not very far from the church’s actual location.

From what little I’ve heard about Ramsay, he was a gentle and good man who had lived through many of the realities that First Nations people now experience in North America.  In this video, Ramsay re-imagines Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1 to reflect his own experience living as an aboriginal person on the streets of Toronto.  May you enjoy this raw, poetic insight into the creativity of a young man who was loved by many in the downtown community.

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MCEC Annual Gathering 2016

At the end of April, delegates and representatives from Mennonite churches across Ontario and all of the eastern Canadian provinces gathered in Leamington, ON, and spent time hanging out, singing and celebrating together, and touching base on family business.

There were messages from long-established Mennonite churches on what is new in their neck of the woods, and there was time to hear from churches who are newer to the MCEC family.  There was also a lot of time spent being challenged to dream for new things, and being challenged to ask the question, “What does God have in store for us next?”

If you were unable to be at this gathering, or if you were unable to catch the livestream online during the event, check out this page for links to videos that cover many different aspects of the weekend together: https://mcec.ca/annual-church-gathering-highlights

Definitely check out the videos from Stuart Murray and Alex Ellish on Finding God in my Neighbourhood!

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Doctrine of Discovery

This upcoming Sunday at The First Mennonite Church, we’re going to take some time to discuss an unfortunate example where Christians lost their connection to the example of Jesus and created a system of legal, cultural, and political thought called the Doctrine of Discovery.  This idea lead to many of the injustices that Indigenous people in North America have faced.

It turns out our brothers and sisters in the Mennonite Church USA created a documentary last year that specifically investigates and breaks down the Doctrine of Discovery.  Have an extra 45 minutes this week?  Then check out this documentary put together by several Mennonites and First Nations people in the States appropriately titled Doctrine of Discovery – in the name of Christ.

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