this is a letter from Elenore Wieler:
Last summer at a Mennonite conference, it was decided ( sorry about passive voice, but I don’t know who decided), that The Mennonite Church should be more accepting of LGBTQ community. I believe one of our ministers said that ‘at least’ we needed to begin discussing our position on the acceptance of people with ‘other’ sexual preferences. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a sermon of this nature in our fairly conservative First Mennonite Church, and was even more surprised by the rage roaring inside me by the time I left the church that Sunday. Please understand that I am happy for our community to move into a place of greater tolerance for a group that has suffered for so long at Christian hands. However, I represent about 50% of the Mennonite population that remains invisible in our language at worship, in pronoun and metaphor. I have a copy of a letter expressing my concerns, written over 25 years ago to Reverend John R. Friesen at FMC. Things have come long way since I wrote it: we have a female leading minister as well as gender balance in the ministerial roles. Women serve on all committees and occasionally men serve coffee in the basement after church. But God remains Father and Lord, Jesus is of course male, and the Holy Spirit is completely genderless. Where do I find my reflection in the Divine? Where is the feminine face of God, or better yet, where is Goddess? These are of course rhetorical questions which I will answer for myself. Full disclosure, I am also writing an essay on the topic. Thinking about my writing led to browsing possible publishing opportunities which led me to Rhubarb and you. Thus my idea for an upcoming issue: ‘The Feminine Face of God.’ I get that my suggestion may be too narrow a topic. Perhaps something more general about tolerance including gender, race and sexual orientation would provide a broader base for submissions and the diversity amongst readers. I feel nauseated that I or anyone needs to be ‘tolerated’ in a Christian community. But there you have it, a long road leads from the present to what I would find a tolerable level of inclusivity in my church. I would be interested to know if you find my suggestion for a future issue useful. In any case, thanks for listening, – Elenore Wieler
Re: Dis/Ability Issue
This issue held particular interest for me as I have been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It has been an interesting journey, not only how I am coping with the life-altering news, but how those around now relate to me in a completely different manner than only six months ago. I was reluctant to share the report for a couple of reasons.
The common default opening line—“How are you”?
“I got Parkinson’s Disease.”
Conversation shudders to a screeching halt. I wait for the standard expression.
“Gee, I am sorry to hear that”. Long pause. If I am feeling particularly snarky, I wait and stare into their blinking eyes. If I am in a good mood, I reply…
“Oh, could be worse. It’s not cancer or MS or ALS or Alzheimer’s, or living in Amerika and having Trump as Prez. Besides I have a great wife– retired nurse—no debts, house and land paid for, employed sons, otherwise I’m quite healthy, supportive church and faith. Glass is definitely half full.”
But no matter what I say, from that moment onward, their greeting is always overshadowed by the diagnosis and there is an underlying patina of sorrow. Which I neither share nor appreciate.
The second initial line, especially with new acquaintances is “What do you do?” This seems to be particularly true in menfolk–your worth measured or expressed in output and if I am felled by PD, what does that leave me? Useless as teats on the proverbial boar.
I am more than a hapless victim, I am still the curmudgeon I was before. In spite of everything I can still apply a dozen adjectives to myself and none of them include “disabled”. Though I shuffle and stumble, I am yet me. I am more than a disease.
It’s hard to string coherent thoughts together as I await what seems inevitable. President Trump. As I watch the electoral votes for Trump climb higher and higher I can’t say I’m shocked. I would be lying if I said I thought it was impossible for him to win. I hoped. I mailed in my overseas ballot. I joined the secret Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. But I know my country and I know its history. I grew up surrounded by racial slurs, misogyny and homophobia and I grew up in a community where these sentiments were masked as heritage and religious virtue. More >
Outside his home riding, former Conservative MP Vic Toews was considered controversial and divisive. In his constituency of Provencher, however, he was bafflingly popular all the way up until his retirement from politics in 2013. For a time during the Bill C-30 debacle, Toews was seen as such a nemesis to privacy and freedom that Anonymous exposed intimate details of Mr. Toews’ personal life via Twitter to a salivating public. However, none of this controversy seemed to affect his support in the largely Mennonite riding of Provencher.
In the last year leading up to the presidential election in the United States, Donald Trump’s incendiary statements naming Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, rapists and murderers together with his non-stop rants about building a border wall that Mexico will pay for, have created significant backlash in Latino communities in the United States and Mexico. More >
My doctor says that I have HEMOCHROMATOSIS ! I do not quite believe him. Even though I respect him for his credentials, fellowships, reputation and gentle care, I think that he is wrong – at least in my case. And before you play the “armchair” psychologist on me and tell me that I am in denial, please hear me out. I admit to having too much iron and not being happy about it. It appears that genetics and an aging body are catching up with me. Thanks to my wife and doctor, I have agreed to treatment (amelioration). Everyone in the know is convinced that I have the HFE gene and have hemochromatosis. I think (my young son agrees) that I’ve become a GHOUL; a slave to the vampire; one of his regulars. Not really sick, just a little weak and now enslaved to His teeth, the phlebotomy. More >
Al Reimer grew up in the Steinbach of the 1930s and 40s, a town of industrious folk, mistrustful of books that were not the Bible or expanded evangelistic tracts . . . but as a young boy he swiftly became lost in words, in fictions. For these he had to go no further than his father’s bookshelves.
His father was Peter J. B. Reimer, a teacher and later a minister in the Kleine Gemeinde, and an ambitious man. More >
It was a sad shock to hear of Wes Funk’s death. It was a surprise, a few weeks later, to see Di Brandt had chosen a poem he’d submitted for publication in the next issue of Rhubarb Magazine — The Gender Issue.
Shocking, too, was the subject of the poem, about the “poet’s” aging and death. Autobiographical or not, I can’t help but see it as a kind of farewell.
Wes and I lived on the same block in Saskatoon for many years. We belonged to the same writers group, the group that was originally begun by Anne Szumigalski, carried on by Elizabeth Brewster after Anne died, and then passed, in the same manner, to Elyse St. George, who, though in her eighties, is still striding on.
When my husband and I began making preparations to hike two thousand one hundred and eighty-nine miles from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail, the most common question we encountered was “Why?”
We heard this question every day from the time we announced we would be hiking until the day we left. People’s sentiments could be summed up by a baffled high school student of mine who commented, “Miss, you know you can, like, drive a car there, right? You crazy.”
On a recent visit to Netherlands we rented a car and drove to the province of Friesland, land of my forefathers. Specific Dutch locations linked to family ancestry have long been lost in the mists of time, notwithstanding my father’s considerable research. After five centuries, three intervening countries, and several refugee crises, it is understandable that maintaining precise documentation was not uppermost in family thoughts as they prepared, yet again, to flee to safer havens.