Feb 17, 2012

Spiritual Growth Assistance Fund

Two of our recent postings have been letters that we received in December from recipients of our Spiritual Growth Assistance Fund (SGAF).  Thanks, Alicia and Lydia for your letters.  May God bless you as you discern his will for your life while you pursue your studies. 

Today I want to share some historical information about this fund which I found in Esther Patkau’s book Canadian Women in Mission 1895-1952-2002.  In 1983 a new fund, called Travel Assistance Fund, was started “to assist women from smaller outlying congregations to attend spiritual development events”.   In 1984 the fund was renamed Spiritual Growth Travel Assistance Fund.  In 1993 it was renamed again to Spiritual Growth Assistance Fund “for women preparing for the ministry”. 

The SGAF assists women with the costs of academic and/or applied study at the Master’s level in church related ministries (such as seminary, theology, peace and conflict resolution).  Members of a congregation belonging to Mennonite Church Canada are eligible to apply.  Funding may be granted for part of the tuition costs (payable to the institution) at the discretion of the executive of MW Canada.  First time applicants are given priority, but applications for continuing support are also considered.  The deadline for applications is June 30.

Since 2002 we have been able to assist sixteen women. They are: Melanie Neufeld, Melanie Steinman, Lois Siemens, Twila Epp, Rachel Epp, Leah Bueckert, Marla Langelotz, Melissa Miller, Alissa Bender, Rachel Siemens, Reece Retzlaff, Kara Carter, Virginia Gerbrandt, Sara Erb, Alicia Good and Lydia Cruttwell.

As MW Canada prepares for its 60th Anniversary celebrations in July it would be wonderful if we could reconnect with these women and hear where they are in life’s journey.  If you know any of these women, please spread the word and encourage these women to contact us by emailing or by leaving a comment here.

Application forms are available at our web site at Mennonite Church Canada under the heading Spiritual Growth Assistance Fund or by contacting Liz Koop.      


Feb 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

The Magic of Love

Love is like magic and it always will be,
For love still remains life’s sweet mystery.
Love works in ways that are wondrous and strange
And there’s nothing in life that love cannot change.

Love can transform the most commonplace
Into beauty and splendour and sweetness and grace.
Love is unselfish, understanding and kind,
For it sees with its heart and not with its mind.

Love is the answer that everyone seeks…
Love is the language that everyone speaks.
Love can’t be bought; it is priceless and free,
Love, like pure magic is life’s sweet mystery.

~ Helen Steiner Rice ~

My prayer for you today is that you may experience love in a special way this week, remembering and cherishing the ultimate gift of love that our Heavenly Father has shown to us.   "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NIV)    

Feb 7, 2012

Assitance Recipient - Lydia Cruttwell


As a woman who has benefited from the bursary given to me by Mennonite Women Canada, I just wanted to send you a quick update about what I've been up to this term. In this, my second-last term at Regent College, I'm taking three course (Hermeneutics and Criticism, Systematic Theology C, and Pastoral Care) and, as usual, enjoying the rich array of theological reflections, personal growth, and communal study and worship that this community has to offer. As a former Literature Major in my undergraduate degree, I've especially been enjoying Hermeneutics, since it's given me tools with which to analyze, appreciate, and critique the various methods for reading the bible and interpreting it for today's contexts (we've looked at form and source criticism, social scientific criticism, narrative criticism, and feminist criticism, to name just a few). I feel better prepared both to read and understand the Bible for myself, as well as teach and preach it to others.

I've also had the chance to preach in my home church (First United Mennonite) a couple of times this term -- always a joy, both as a way of giving back to a community that has given so much to me, and as a chance to focus deeply on God's word and do some practical application of my studies to one aspect of a pastor's duties. I've also been blessed by meeting various times with Pastor Ingrid Schultz as I continue to learn about pastoral care and ask questions about the practicalities of pre-marital counselling, grief counselling, weddings, funerals, and visitations. It's been a rich and rewarding learning experience.

It's the last three weeks of term here at Regent, so I'm feeling a little tired. However, I shall continue working on my final papers and assignments, knowing both that God will meet me in the midst of them, and that the Christmas break will seem all the sweeter after my hard labours of this term!

Please feel free to ask me if you've got any other questions -- and thank you again for your generous gift, which allowed me to focus on these studies without having to worry about my financial situation!


Feb 2, 2012

Wonderfully Made

I’d like to take time today to recommend again the 2011 Bible Study Guide (BSG) put out jointly by Mennonite Women Canada and Mennonite Women USA.  The 13 chapters in ‘Wonderfully Made’ are written by Terri J. Plank for women's gatherings, Sunday school classes, retreats, or individual reading and inspiration.

This ongoing project was begun in 1992 and the 2012 BSG will be available in July.  If you or a women’s group you know would like to order the current guide or back copies, please contact Liz Koop at koopfarms@becon.org

JUST IN:  Yesterday I heard from the folks at MennoMedia who publish the BSG that they are out of stock.  Mennonite Women USA are also out of stock and they are hoping to do a reprint.  So stay tuned and I’ll let you know when they become available. 

If you have been using our Bible Study Guide please share your stories and ideas on our blog.  We value and appreciate your feedback on this.   READ ON to see how one women’s group has used the BSG.


              In October 2011, women from the churches of the Niagara Cluster of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada met in Vineland for an evening of Thanksgiving.  Women from each of the churches shared their thankfulness on a specific topic.  I would like to share the presentation that was made by Elizabeth Janzen and Erna Froese of Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines. 

Food is a favourite topic. The purchasing, preparing, serving and eating of meals are all connected to our relationships with each other, our church and the community. We use food when practicing hospitality and welcoming friends and strangers. Food gives us comfort, energy, and satisfaction and provides an opportunity to use our culinary talents as it helps to build a community feeling.

Our Grace Mennonite Church women’s group uses the study guides that we receive from Mennonite Women Canada. We begin our meetings with coffee and muffins followed by a devotional time from the guide, after which we have our business time or perhaps a guest speaker. Our president, Irene Seager, concludes the meetings with a special prayer or reading.

 A few years ago, our women used the guide entitled ‘Bread to Strengthen the Heart”. During that year we enjoyed a noon meal together using the food suggestions from the guide, using appetizers for one meeting, a main course the next month, then dessert at another meeting time. The whole group really enjoyed the variety of foods, the companionship, and lots of laughter.

Our women, like many of you, have done a great many fundraisers and baked many pies and sewed many quilts for others but sharing food and conversation is a very special activity for us. Several times a year, we focus on fellowship by having  coffee or a meal together or as today we took a break in the making of meat buns and shared a pot of soup and the  ‘not perfect’ buns that were made during the morning. We have often invited women from the apartments behind our church or from the community to share in our activities.

In December, as usual, we will have a catered dinner and some musical entertainment with all of the church women. In February we usually have a coffee or a tea party and include the Grace Linwell Apartment women.

Elizabeth has already mentioned the Mennonite Women Canada's study guide that we use for our devotionals. This year’s book is entitled, "Wonderfully Made".  The chapter we chose to use for our last meeting was ''Delight in Rich Food". In the scripture from Isaiah he speaks the words of God to the people of Israel who are exiled in Babylon, saying - - - listen carefully, eat what is good, delight in rich food.                    

The ladies of Grace Mennonite have no problem delighting in rich food. For our final meeting each June we try to do something special. We have gone to High Tea at the Queenston Heights Restaurant, had lunch at Riverbend on the Niagara Parkway and have had a progressive garden tour of our own members' gardens, culminating in lunch at the last garden. Our group has also had several barbeques at Rita Krueger's farm.

One year we had a tour of an historic bed and breakfast in rural St. Catharines.  It had been on the annual House Tour the year before. We saw the beautiful grounds, followed by an exquisite lunch outside. Recently I saw a group picture which we took on that occasion. It served as a good memory because a number of those members are no longer with us.

On two occasions the Grace Women have been invited to enjoy the lovely spacious gardens at Helene Mathies followed by a potluck lunch.

This past year, since the quilting ladies had ended their year with lunch at the Mandarin Restaurant, it was decided to have a potluck lunch at Elizabeth's home. We had a wonderful spread with many special dishes! Perhaps it was special since it was a farewell for Heidi Dawson, who was moving to Calgary. She had been in charge of many of our church baking sessions since she had been a Home Economics teacher, and was also in charge of our Hospitality Committee. I think it was Irmgard Penner who suggested that we all share the recipes of the dish that we had brought with one another.

In September at our first meeting these recipes were collected. Elizabeth typed them and Anita Stephen has agreed to do some illustrations so we hope to have them in booklet form soon.

The last thing that I wanted to mention was our Grace church soup suppers. They were started by our former pastor Wanda Amstutz to help brighten up the long winter. We have them once a month from November to February. People sign up to bring soup or bread or a dessert. It’s a simple meal and everyone is welcome to come.

At this Thanksgiving time we are so very thankful to have enough food and to share food with family, friends and strangers.