Oct 29, 2018



Fall issue is now available!
Elsie Rempel enjoying the fall colours!

Oct 12, 2018

Is Women's Day still relevant?

Participants at the 2017 B.C. Women's Day gather outside to chat.  Changing
times and perspectives on women's ministry have put the future of the
annual gathering in doubt.  (photo by Amy Dueckman)
Mennonite women in British Columbia have been coming together each spring since 1939 for Women’s Inspirational Day, a time of spiritual encouragement and fellowship. But as the planned date of May 6, 2018, approached, still without a coordinator or location for the event, some were questioning whether the annual spring gathering has seen its day.

Waltrude Gortzen, who has acted as Mennonite Church BC’s women’s coordinator for 10 years, stepped down earlier this year. She had been the driving force behind keeping this annual event going, along with the fall women’s retreat.  “I’ve been asking and asking for new members, and nobody has stepped up,” says Gortzen. “This year I said, ‘I’m done.’ I’ve been here 10 years. If it falls through the cracks, it falls through the cracks.”

Not wishing to see the event die after almost 79 years, Janette Thiessen, MC BC’s office administrator, took up the reins herself. She arranged for Elsie Rempel of Winnipeg to speak, found a caterer and contacted four churches to host before getting a successful response from Langley Mennonite Fellowship. She also dropped the word “inspirational” from the event, instead promoting it as simply Women’s Day.

“I couldn’t see it not happening,” says Thiessen. “I’m of the era that says I will keep something going until it doesn’t seem practical anymore. Are we flogging a dead horse? When 100 women show up, I think it’s worth it.”

Times have changed since 1939, when BC Women in Mission (BCWM) held its first Inspirational Day. At that event, the offering taken to be used for purchasing sewing materials totalled $2. Women of the day were gathering regularly to sew materials for overseas relief and missions projects. Modern women who do not sew, who are employed outside the home, or who have other social activities in their lives, no longer find such a model relevant.

Gortzen says the planning committees don’t know how to reach the younger women. “Younger generations are plain not interested; they have no clue to our history,” she says. “They say ‘It’s not for me, it’s for the older women.’ Or they say, ‘We have our care group, why do we need anything else?’ ”

Thiessen believes there is a tension in trying to find topics and speakers to cater to younger women and satisfying older women who have been coming faithfully for many years. She believes that “younger women aren’t so much into conferences. They’re more into their blogs and other things.”

Sue Kehler, who was BCWM president from 1994 to ’96, recalls planning and participating in many Inspirational Days. Now in her 80s, she still enjoys attending. She recalls when Women’s Day was up to an entire day or a day-and-a-half long.  “I believe strongly that women should certainly have a voice in the church and do believe [the Women’s Days] have been serving a purpose,” says Kehler. “It is true that we are struggling, and I think the biggest reason is that younger [women] want to do things together with their husbands.”

So far, the fall women’s retreat at Camp Squeah has been well attended, but it too is dependent on a volunteer committee. Two committee members are ending their terms this year, so the future of the retreat remains to be seen.   

“If we don’t have a women’s coordinator, I don’t know that we can continue,” says Thiessen.

This article was written by Amy Dueckman (BC Correspondent for the Canadian Mennonite) and appeared in the April 23, 2018 edition.

Oct 4, 2018

Vineland Women host Carol Penner

Eighteen women gathered on Monday afternoon for the opening session of the 2018-19 Women's Bible Study at Vineland United Mennonite Church.  The leaders, Adelaide Fransen and Mary Eleanor Penner, had invited Carol Penner, the writer of the 2018 Bible Study Guide "Every Day Worship" to join us.  We were delighted and honoured that she accepted.   Carol's warm and friendly smiles cheered up everyone on this dreary fall afternoon and we enjoyed hearing how she came to be the writer and how she decided on the theme for this devotional booklet.  After autographing our copies of "Every Day Worship" Carol led us through the first lesson and we enjoyed visiting over coffee, tea and refreshments.  Our group meets every other Monday afternoon through the fall and winter.  Carol mentioned that she would be delighted to meet with other groups in the area who are using her material.  She can be reached at c2penner@uwaterloo.ca

Carol autographing our copies of "Every Day Worship"

Carol has a blog with worship resources at http://carolpenner.typepad.com/leadinginworship/

Sep 24, 2018

Circles of Sisterhood --- A Book Review

Circles of Sisterhood
A History of Mission, Service and Fellowship in Mennonite Women's Organizations

by Anita Hooley Yoder 
Herald Press, 2017, 315 pages
Reviewed by Barb Draper
Editorial Assistant to Canadian Mennonite

The golden age of Mennonite women’s organizations in Canada and the United States came in the years between 1940 and 1970, writes Anita Hooley Yoder in Circles of Sisterhood. In both the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church, women were highly involved, getting together to work at sewing projects on a monthly basis. Many congregations had several groups arranged by age, including girls.

The motivation for all this activity was mission and service, but fellowship was always an important factor. Like in other denominations, Mennonite women first organized to support missionaries overseas and to help the poor in North American cities, but as needs increased during the Second World War, they ramped up their output. When relief sales were organized, it was the women’s groups that provided many of the donated items and a significant part of the labour.

The earliest recorded Mennonite women’s sewing circle in Canada began meeting in Gretna, Man., sometime before 1900, but it was many years before Manitoba had a provincial organization. The (Old) Mennonite Church congregations in Ontario were slower to get started, but sewing circles expanded rapidly in 1917, when a women’s missionary society was organized within the denomination.

The number of women’s groups declined through the late 1960s and ’70s. Sewing remained important for some groups, but others began to emphasize Bible study and women’s spirituality. Women’s retreats became popular activities, and the broader organizations began to support women studying theology.

Mennonite Women Canada became an organization separate from the U.S. in 2000. While sewing —mostly quilts and comforters—continues today, the churchwide women’s organization tends to put its focus on spiritual growth and fellowship.

While Hooley Yoder does give an overview of all the work done by women, she devotes most of the book to descriptions of the changing role of women. In the early years, some groups had to have a man open their meetings with prayer, but over time women developed leadership skills that they came to use in other church settings. The author writes from a feminist perspective, describing in detail the occasions when male church leaders seemed to disrespect the work of women.

As a person who sews, I wish the book had more detail about the amazing amount of material aid that must have been provided by Mennonite women’s groups over the years. The author tends to gloss over the clothing that was sewn and mended, the quilts and blankets made, the meals catered and the many other ways women carried on the work of the church. She gives extensive coverage to the process of women acquiring recognized leadership positions in the church, but her tone towards those who continue to get together to sew is almost condescending.

The book ends with an honest reflection on the future of Mennonite women’s groups. Hooley Yoder is not confident that they will continue but recognizes that they are striving to be relevant for the women of today.

***This book review appeared in the Canadian Mennonite February 12, 2018 issue.

Jul 26, 2018

Every Day Worship now available!

The 2018 Bible Study Guide has been printed and is ready to be shipped out.  We will be sending one complimentary copy to churches and/or women's groups who affiliate with Mennonite Church Canada...but you need to request it. Liz Koop (Past President) is the BSG distributor and she also has copies available for sale for $11.99 plus postage
You can reach her by phone (905-562-5920) or email (koopfarms@becon.org)

Every Day Worship is an excellent resource for women’s groups, retreat settings, and individual study and inspiration. Discover the rhythm of worship. Every day, every week, every year, there are ways to worship God. Every Day Worship inspires women to be worshipful people, not just people who worship. Using the elements of a worship service, author Carol Penner guides and invites women to dive deep into Scripture and faith through worship experiences.

Carol Penner lives with her husband Eugene in Vineland, Ontario, in a house surrounded by apricot trees. She worked for fifteen years as a pastor in Ontario and Alberta. She is currently assistant professor of theological studies at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario, where she teaches practical theology. She writes worship resources and shares them on her worship blog at www.leadinginworship.com