Author: Fehderau, Karin
Date published: February 8, 2010
Enthusiastic singing and rhythmic worship marked many of the sessions during the third Prairie Winds Worship and Music Retreat held at the Shekinah Retreat Centre in mid-January. About 75 people from across Canada explored the emotional side of faith using in-depth sharing and an upbeat style not always found in some Mennonite churches.
Arlyn Friesen Epp, who works in the MC Canada Resource Centre in Winnipeg, made sure he worked it into his schedule, attending the weekend event after several days of meetings in Saskatoon. "It's inspirational," he said.
Other participants weren't so sure. Trish Wiens, along with three young people from Yarrow United Mennonite, came to the conference hoping to find ways to bring life to their services. "It's not what I expected," Wiens admitted. "People choose a church because of the music," she pointed out.
The weekend promised to take a new look at rituals in the church using speakers from various Mennonite schools in Canada and the U.S. Attracting mostly congregational worship leaders, the conference seemed to draw those looking for a deeper experience of worship.
Ken Nafziger, music professor of Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, spoke about baptism. "Rituals all have stories behind them," he said as he focused on the biblical account of Jesus' baptism. Admitting he appreciates the different ideas that come from writers outside the Mennonite church, Nafziger carefully explored the ritual of baptism using ideas from author Sarah Miles, who came to faith in Christ after growing up as an atheist.
After detailing his own baptism experience, Nafziger encouraged participants to share baptism stories with each other. In one group, participants represented three different generations; their accounts showed changes over time in the way some Mennonite churches practise baptism.
When an invitation to speak was thrown open to the larger group, some participants spoke of painful memories with their official entry into the church.
"My baptism was such a disappointment," said Sharon Schultz, pastor of Eyebrow Mennonite in Saskatchewan. Others, too, shared difficult memories associated with their own baptisms.
But despite embracing the good, bad and ugly of their faith struggles, much laughter and love seemed to permeate the room and draw participants together in a strong sense of community, as hearts were engaged during the worship weekend.
By Karin Fehderau