Lessons and Carols

Lessons and Carols
Hosted by Brandenburg Concert and Florence Church

Continuing the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, JOYFULLY, together.

We worship at 9:30 am on Sunday.
Sunday School begins at 11 am.
Potluck is the first Sunday of the month.

17975 Centreville-Constantine Road, Constantine, MI 49042

florence.brethren.mennonite@gmail.com

Thursday, July 30, 2009

MWC Reflections from Mennonite Weekly Review (Paul Schrag)

ASUNCION, Paraguay — The variety of Paraguay’s Mennonites offered a lot to learn at Mennonite World Conference, even for Paraguayans themselves.

In the eight Paraguayan conferences hosting the assembly — three Germanic, three indigenous and two Hispanic — MWC general secretary Larry Miller saw a reflection of the worldwide Mennonite fellowship.

“In your history, your diversity and your vitality, you incarnate the past, present and future of the global Anabaptist church,” he said during the assembly’s Saturday evening worship service.
In interviews, conferencegoers from Paraguay said the assembly made an impact by bringing the country’s Mennonites closer together.

Jakob Warkentin saw benefits both for indigenous and for German-speaking Mennonites.

“It is important for the indigenous people to see that to be Mennonite is not to be white, but also black or brown,” he said. “It is a matter of belief, not of culture and heritage.”

And for German speakers, Warkentin said, worshiping in Spanish at the conference meetings taught an important lesson.

“Here we are in step with the indigenous people, because Spanish is not the mother tongue for either of us,” he said. “So we adjust to that, and we learn from that.”

Walter Neufeld, a Spanish speaker, said the assembly “encourages the Mennonite churches to realize that we are part of a large body of people in the world, that the opportunities don’t finish in Paraguay, that we can work together with others.”

In a workshop, indigenous Paraguayans told of being drawn to the Christian faith and later to a Mennonite identity.

Since the first baptisms of seven Enlhet men in 1947, the indigenous churches have grown to include 8,300 members in three conferences: United Enlhet, Enlhet Mennonite Brethren and Nivacle Mennonite Brethren.

“We’re very grateful for the work of the missionaries and the courage they showed,” said Cornelio Goossen, a Nivacle whose parents worked for a Goossen family and adopted their name.
He said his people learned to put their confidence in God rather than witch doctors.

“There were many things we had to leave behind because of our faith in Christ,” Goossen said.
When the Enlhet first came in contact with the Mennonites in the 1930s, the nomadic hunter-gatherers were “very much afraid,” said Cesar Cabanas. “But the Mennonites said we could live together.”

The indigenous people began to learn the German language, and “the word of God, like a seed, entered into hearts,” Cabanas said. “After the seed was growing, it gave new life. And the indigenous people decided to follow Jesus.”

Among the results of their new faith was an end to the practice of infanticide, which had been common when families felt they could not care for more children.

Today, many indigenous churches are third-generation congregations. But for some, a Mennonite identity is relatively new.

“No one told us we had to be Mennonites, so it’s only in the last generation that we realized we are part of the Mennonite faith,” said Victor Perez. “Mennonite has less to do with the color of your skin than your faith.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Dancela del Tambor" Sister #3

I traveled to Formosa, Argentina with Keith and Gretchen Kingsley, long time friends from Fellowship of Hope in Elkhart. They accompany the Toba peoples of Argentina in the Unitied Independent Indigenous churches. We were able to worship with Pastor Luis Mendoza's congregation from 8:30 to 11:30 pm on Sunday evening, though this was only a part of the total worship service. A new dance group, Dancellas del Tambor (Dancer's of the Tamborine) were dedicated on this night with a special message for them and their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, prayer, professional videography, and cake. Here is just a glimpse of their beauty as they worship the Lord.



video

Sibusisiwe Ndlovu: Sister #2




Sibusisiwe Ndlovu from Zimbabwe and I have been corresponding the best we could as part of the Sister Link program with MWC. She is one of the African Women Theologians group.

We finally met at the women theologians' gathering in Paraguay. Our hearts and our lives poured into one another in a link only possible, I think, through Jesus. We return to our homes praying with more depth and specificity -- she returning to farming to sustain her family and to a church vibrant in faith and hope. What a gift to have this time with her.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Embrace; Converse! Christel Wiebe Sister #1


A new set of sister, brothers, conversation partners now live in my heart, mind, soul, strength. This is the gift of Mennonite World Conference and of Florence congregation to me. The last three weeks have been a long string of pearls, each one a conversation across language, culture, communities of faith in context. I share here just a few images of conversation partners along the Way:

Christel Wiebe was my hostess during my stay in Menno Colony of the Paraguayan Chaco. This colony was begun by Mennonites leaving Canada in the 1920's in order to find a place to live their faith, speak and school children in German, and find exemption from military service. Christel and her fiance, Marwin, shared home, food, stories. In our on-going conversations at MWC Christel and I explored the dynamics of the German, Latin and Indigenous peoples in the Chaco and other faith issues. I am glad to have such a sister!

Pink Menno




Pink Menno was a welcoming presence at Mennonite Church USA Assembly in Columbus, OH. Youth sponsors, Kathy Fenton Miller and Roxie Ewert, as well as delegates Luke Nofsinger and Jon Casselberry Scott chose to add their voices and witness for welcome for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender folks who want to be part of MCUSA. Here are the letters that Kathy and Roxie have posted on the Pink Menno website in response to a letter from Jim Schrag.




Dear Mennonite Church Executive Leadership,
I, along with another woman were youth sponsors from our church and we had 6 youth along with us. During the week we each chose the seminars that we personally wished to attend. Some of our youth chose to attend a film sponsored by the Pink Mennos and to wear pink in solidarity. Why? Simply because they have been brought up in a church which teaches that Christ welcomes all to the table. It is no more complicated than that.
I felt it was extremely powerful to have the visable presence of this issue among us represented by the pink shirts. The convention was faced with an incredibly gentle reminder, that there is a group of people within the MC who, although despised and rejected, still WANT to be there, who DESIRE to worship and share with the larger body, and who CARE enough about the life of the Mennonite Church to continue with the struggle.
Now, we as a church are faced with a great challenge as our youth watch on: How will the body of Christ respond?
Roxane Ewert




Dear Mennonite Church Leaders:
I am writing to convey my experience of Pink Menno at the recent convention in Columbus. I am a parent of two young adults (ages 21 and 23) and also was a youth sponsor at the convention. I fully attended convention events, spoke with our church’s adult participants and also attended some Pink Menno events. I found Pink Menno participants to be respectful and caring and in no way attempting to force information on youth or others. There seemed to be a genuine interest by some youth in attending Pink Menno events and expressing support. These were all entirely optional.
I think It is important for youth to know that there are differing opinions about homosexuality among Christians and Mennonites in particular. It is important for the larger church to acknowledge this also, and to seek ways of having conversation in non-threatening ways. I attended the conversation facilitated by Carolyn Shrock – Shenk and Sharon Waltner and thought this was a beginning toward that goal. Fear cannot be the guiding force in this dialogue.
I am praying for the day when the church can move ahead with this conversation, when threat of disciplining (shunning) is no longer operational, and when the church can fully express the radical hospitality and love of Jesus to ALL.
Sincerely,
Kathy Fenton-Miller




Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pilgrimage to Mennonite World Conference in Paraguay

Coming together in the way of Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11)

This is the theme of Mennonite World Conference in Paraguay. Tim Lind leaves tomorrow and I leave on Monday to travel to Asuncion, Paraguay. The MWC Assembly is Tuesday evening, July 14 through Sunday morning, July 19. Thousands of Mennonites and Brethren in Christ will come from around the globe to worship, study, eat, fellowship and learn together.
The weekend before MWC I will be traveling with a group to the colonies for three days. Then I will have the privilege of meeting with the Latin American and African Women Theologians for a day.

After the Assembly I will go to Formosa, Argentina with my friends Keith and Gretchen Kingsley. There I will have the privilege of meeting and worshiping with the Toba people.

I value your prayers for this important adventure! See the Mennonite World Conference website for more information. Nina

Sickness and Healing by Matthew Bolton: Writing from Nairobi, Kenya


Nairobi, Kenya. In the few quiet moments over the last month, I have been reflecting on healing. My wife, Emily, spent a week in the Aga Khan Hospital here in Nairobi, with a nasty bout of pancreatitis. At the same time, it seems like an unusual number of our friends and family have been struggling with illness.

We also live in a country where sickness and mortality seem so much closer to the surface – a raw daily reality, not a dark little-talked-about fear, pushed to the corners of a well-sanitized, risk-averse society. Poverty, lack of access to healthcare and little effective regulation of safety in the workplace, on the roads or in building codes mean that illness and injury cannot be ignored.

I have come to realize how crucial healing is to the functioning of a community. When living in the West, I often take for granted my health, and that of family and friends. I rarely think about the function of doctors, nurses, therapists, pastors, social workers and others who play such a crucial role in keeping us in equilibrium.

But since time immemorial, humans have sought healing, through medicine, supplication of the divine, ritual, catharsis, ‘talking-it-out’ and the support of the people around them. When we are broken, it is rare we are able to heal ourselves. Even looking up your symptoms in a book relies on the author and the hundreds of people who contributed to that medical knowledge.
Sitting with Emily in a hospital here in Kenya gave me the opportunity to reflect on the cultural dimensions of healing. We discovered that our conceptions of healing are deeply rooted in the scientific tradition. We wanted to know numbers, hear obscure Latin words and be shown diagrams of organs.

The doctors and nurses were willing and able to provide this ‘data’ for us, but some of them also redirected our inquiries to reassurances based on their faith. “What does the enzyme lipase do?” we would ask. “God put it there for reason, we don’t always know what purpose he has,” came one reply.

While we would sometimes find this lack of specificity frustrating, we also came to appreciate the absurdity of our own fixation on medical language, numerical measurements and a belief that a small pill can solve all our problems.

We were surprised too by the number of Kenyan friends who came to visit us, bringing cards, prayers, bags of fruit and good cheer. Some of them took time off work or travelled an hour in a crowded bus to spend time with us. Even the receptionist at the language school we attend, with whom we have only exchanged occasional greetings, called to see how Emily was doing.
It was interesting to discover that our Kenyan friends were genuinely distressed, not about Emily’s particular illness per se, but that she was sick far away from home and that her family could not visit her.

One man expressed that he could not think of anything worse than being in the hospital without a community there to support him. For our Kenyan friends, it seemed, the severity of the illness was, in some ways, less important than whether or not you had people around you who cared. Wellness and wellbeing is not just about the absence of pathogens, but also about one’s connection to community and relationships with people.

As we begin to plan our return to the US, we are again forced to think about health and illness. Having lived overseas, and without jobs that provide health insurance, we will have to rely on short-term insurance that will only cover emergency issues and will exclude pre-existing conditions like the pancreatitis from which Emily has only just recovered.

Moving from a country where an X-ray will cost you only a couple dollars and pills are few cents each, the prospect of massive medical bills is quite scary. Even the US, with its technological marvels of modern medicine, has not yet figured out how to provide healing to all in society who need it.

What I have learned from the stream of visitors, who cheerily dropped by my wife’s Kenyan hospital bed, is that healing is a communal endeavor. None of us can manage it alone, nor can it be left up to a highly corporatized industry of HMOs and overpriced pharmaceuticals. It is the responsibility of all of us to care and support those who have fallen ill in our midst.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Support Florence Scholarship Fund

The Florence Church Scholarship Fund supports Jheny and other students at college. We are planning on contributing $7000 to expenses for students by August 13, 2009.

If you would like to give a tax exempt donation, you may send a contribution to Florence Church, 17975 Centreville Contantine Road, Constantine. MI 49042. Designate SCHOLARHIPS FUND on the check. Thanks you.

Jheny Nieto: Entering Senior Year at Goshen College with Florence Church Scholarship Fund

I cannot believe that I'm about to finish my third year of college! I thank you so much for your contributions which have made my experience at Goshen College possible. In just one more year I will be walking across a stage, reaching out for my college diploma, and the thought of it almost feels unreal. I arrived with my family as an immigrant, struggling to learn a new language and a new way of living. I had dreams of earning a college degree but always feared that I would never be able to afford it. With a lot of hard work and your support, I am now living that dream.

Financially, this has been a very difficult year for many. I attended the town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana with President Barack Obama, and when he talked about the many students who have had to put their college acceptance letters back into the envelopes due to the economic crisis, all I could think of was of how grateful I was for your support. Knowing that I have been in your thoughts, especially during these hard economic times, means a lot to me.

This year I was officially admitted into the Social Work Education program at Goshen College and I truly believe that I have made the right career choice. I am part of the steering committee for SWAA (Social Work Action Association). Through this organization I have been working at getting the social work students to visit the Elkhart women's shelter to engage in conversation with the residents and staff members. This is a good way for us to gain a richer understanding on how to serve the survivors of abuse.

I'm really grateful for the cultural diversity of the institution and the gifts that come along with it. As a member of the steering committee of the Latino Student Union and through my work with the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning (CITL) office, I have found ways to interact with other Latinos(as) in Goshen College. Due to my involvement in the International Student Club (ISC), in May I was presented with the Giving Something Back award at this year's ISC Coffeehouse. And as part of my Women Studies minor, I have been able to study a lot of Latina/Mujerista theology which I have found to be very interesting and useful.

This summer I am very excited about working with my fellow GC student, Daniela Zehr and my pastor, Nina Lanctot, in collecting stories of local women. We are producing River Country Monologues, to be performed Sunday evening, August 23rd at Trinity Episcopal Church in Three Rivers. This is one more opportunity to support women and the culture of safety and empowerment in our community. If you are able, come and join us!

I am making the most I can out of my last few semesters at Goshen College. I am enjoying each and everyday leading up to graduation day. It is due to your support that I am able to imagine myself walking across that stage. I have you to thank for my education and for the future ahead of me. Attending college would have been only a fantasy had it not been for your contributions.

Gracias,
Jheny Nieto