Tag Archives: history

Our church in 1917: Hold your horses!

Some things change, some things stay the same.  The image below is a picture of our church from 1917.  There are a number of pictures of our church and the cemetery in the Our Ontario site; this one is of the old building, which has since  been moved down the street and is now the Upper Deck Youth Centre.   Also note the big driveshed in the back which housed our horses (currently our parking lot!).  You can look up other pictures on the Our Ontario site by searching for “Vineland Mennonite Church”.

The First Mennonite Church - 1917

More historical images of our church from Our Ontario

Our Ontario search page

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The taxman cometh!

In the early 1800’s Mennonites were scratching out a living in the wilderness of the Twenty (now Lincoln); cutting down trees, making homesteads and starting a community. They were also paying taxes.

Mennonite leaders had negotiated with the British even before settlers started coming to Upper Canada, discussing exemption from military service because of religious beliefs. Mennonites were not the only group asking for this; Dunkers (now Brethren in Christ) and Quakers were in the same boat. In 1792 the Militia Act exempted all these groups from personal militia duties. In exchange for this exemption, these religious people paid special fines. That amounted to $20 (5 pounds) per year in times of war, and $5 (20 shillings) per year in times of peace, for every male aged 16 to 50.

The money went directly to support the militia. The taxes were heavy and if you didn’t pay them, you were put in jail. Quakers resisted this tax, and many had their property confiscated and some were jailed. Mennonites followed this law, but were persistent in challenging it, continually sending delegates with petitions to the government. Mennonites from our congregation were active year after year in having this tax removed, even going to court to make their case. It took until 1849 to have the tax removed.

It’s tax time now, and as Christians who follow the Prince of Peace, every year part of our taxes supports the military: last year it was 8.4% of our federal taxes, this year it’s 9.2% of federal taxes. That’s an increase, and we can expect the percentage to keep increasing for the next ten years. Not many of us want to go to jail or have our property confiscated, but I think it’s time for Mennonites to be more faithful in petitioning the government about these military taxes. You can learn more about the movement to allow for peaceful re-direction of the military portion of our taxes at http://www.consciencecanada.ca

This week’s prayer: We want to bring life into the world; right now our tax money is used to purchase weapons and support wars. Direct and guide our actions as Christians who follow the Prince of Peace.

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Before and after moments

Every generation has a “before” and “after” moment. I’ve heard seniors talk about their life saying, “Oh, but that was before the war.” Or they’d say, “Well, after the war everything changed!” They were talking about the Second World War. For the generation before them, the defining moment was the Great War. It was the war to end all wars, the war that we now know was the first of two world wars that marked the twentieth century.

For our time in North America, the terrorism attacks of September 11, 2001 are such a before and after moment. Those attacks triggered the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. Before 9/11 you could fly without having to stand in line for hours in airport security. After 9/11 you had to have a passport to cross the border. For many people, 9/11 before and after stories are filled with grief for loved ones lost.

This week in our worship we will be talking about the before and after context of Luke’s gospel, and how his readers would have reacted to Zechariah’s song in Luke 1. Read it this week.  It is a song of thanks for being saved from enemies. That song would have had a different feel, depending on whether you read it on September 10, or September 12, 2001.

Of course, for many people there are many small, more personal defining moments that have a before and after component. Before/after the baby, before/after the house burned down, before/after we moved, before/after my brother committed suicide, before/after I committed my life to Christ. Zechariah’s song is a puzzle that we read and ponder in before and after moments, it’s a mystery that gives hope. In this “before” Christmas time, where there is so much to be done, when you may even long for the peace of “after” Christmas, take time to savour this mystery.

Thank you God for the gift of scripture, and the hope it offers. Be with us in this busy before Christmas time, awakening us to the after-effects of your Presence.

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