Category: student life (Page 2 of 8)

How One Step of Faith Led to a 600 km Walk

Leading up to the summer of 2017, I could never have anticipated the depth of transformation I would experience, and the alteration this would have on my daily life as a young, white, settler student, and as a Christian.

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As I prepared to work over the summer, Erin Froese (a fellow CMU student, and previous #myCMUlife blogger) planted a seed in my mind at a screening of the documentary film Split Lake last Spring, about entering the Indigenous-settler conversation more intentionally through the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights.

While I thought little of it at first, God pulled me in. After consulting with some of my spiritual advisors, I took a leap of faith and committed to the entire walk: 600 km from Kitchener to Ottawa.

Did I know what I was getting myself into? Was I prepared for God’s new, transformative path, of which he had begun preparing me for? Could I have anticipated being who or where I am now, from who I was and where I began last spring?

The answer? No.

With great joy and exhilaration I walked; learning along the way, first hand, what it meant to be an Indigenous ally, to walk the path of reconciliation, and what the struggles have been like for our host peoples over the past 150 years of colonialism. 

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Engaging with people of faith and walking day after day, I found a deeper connection and passion growing inside me for the pursuit of justice and reconciliation, believing even now that the church belongs here.

As I developed relationships with specific people such as Leah Gazan, Steve Heinrichs, and MP Romeo Saganash, this personal drive grew exponentially. 

Along the way, I contacted my parents and asked about my grandfather’s work with the Indigenous communities of Manitoba, and came to learn that my ancestry traces (at least partially) into the Indigenous community of The Long Plains. Recognizing that I am the grandson of honorary Chief White Cloud, and that indigenous peoples’ value ancestry very highly, I committed to reignite the reconciliation work my grandfather had begun back in the 1970’s.   

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Following the completion of the Pilgrimage, I found myself planning, but in a type of limbo as if waiting for some guidance as to the direction I should go. While developing a list of actions surrounding the Pilgrimage and Bill-C262 had been simple, taking initiative to provide local education and support in my hometown of Boissevain, Manitoba (Treaty 2 territory), proved to be quite challenging.

However, after several meetings with my pastor, various conversations with fellow Indigenous allies, as well as suggestions from mentors and my parents, I pushed hard for action in August. Since then, I have begun planning possible citywide events with Kerry Saner-Harvey of Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba around a variety of Indigenous issues, particularly those surrounding Muskrat Falls. 

Through the editorial assistance of a few individuals, I wrote and had an article published in the local paper, the Boissevain Recorder, where I discussed the relevance of the Pilgrimage, and the essential importance of Bill-C262 being passed. I have also become a Fellowship Group leader, leading a group on the study and discussion of Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, a book that tackles church-indigenous relations.

Last, but not least, since the latter half of the Pilgrimage to now, I have become an activist on social media lobbying for the Bill, for Indigenous Rights, and for the positive change that can and is happening.

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While I am back at CMU, I continue to lobby and participate in various actions surrounding Bill-C262, and am excited for the future of where this new path may take me. It is here that I have found truth to the phrase, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

I found joy on the Pilgrimage, and in discussion and writing over the summer, and I continue to find joy and see God’s grace in the love and community that I have returned to for another year at CMU.

Colin Reimer is a third year Psychology major at CMU.

From camp to CMU: Knowing God beyond academia

I’m not sure what wild whim it was last February that had me filling out and submitting and application for Summer Staff at Camp Mennoscah.

Lizzie Schrag (far right) with her roommates from Camp Mennoscah. Lizzie Schrag: knowing God beyond academia

Lizzie Schrag (far right) with her roommates from Camp Mennoscah.

My relationship with this Kansas church camp was shaky, at best. I hadn’t gone every year as a camper, and not all the years I had attended had been particularly good experiences. From what I could remember it was hot, sandy, and full of both poison ivy and extroverts.

So when I arrived at camp last June, I had come because it was something in which I believed. I had taken enough BTS courses at that point to have a vague recognition that, when set up correctly, Christianity could be positive and life-giving instead of horribly destructive, as my own post-high school experience had led me to conclude.

Camp, then, was the best example of Christianity being “set-up” correctly, that I could think of: an intentional community that broke bread together; worked, played, and rested together; had healthy intergenerational interactions; and defied gender stereotypes—all on a place set aside as holy ground by the life-giving flow of the Ninnescah River.

Lizzie Schrag: knowing God beyond academia

But what I didn’t bargain for when I arrived at camp was, well, the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God: that Grace, eloquently described in Hamilton’s ‘Unimaginable‘, as “too powerful to name.”

When I started working at camp, I viewed all those aforementioned aspects of Christianity as a check-list, as if I could simply mark them off once they happened. I saw them as practices that brought us closer to God. But I had gone so long without feeling that overflowing, overwhelming love, grace, and certainty in who I was as a child of God, that I couldn’t quite dare to believe that I would again.

But God has a way of overturning all our assumptions and our expectations.

Somewhere between buckets of compost, stacks of dishes, and a little turtle poop (I was the nature person after all), I regained trust in my own ability to be strong, capable, and loving in service—a living example of worship.

And between hymn sings and hug circles, notes of love from our director and quiet campers pouring out their stories, I regained trust in the loving goodness of other people.

And on my last night with campers, as I was hanging back at campfire waiting to put it out, I found myself talking to a camper whose difficult story was eerily similar to my own, and in ministering to her, (I guess that’s what listening, and sharing, and praying really is), I regained my trust in God, and God’s ability to work through what is messy, and broken, and seemingly irreparable.

Lizzie Schrag: Knowing God beyond academia

I went to camp because it seemed like a place to live out what I had learned in textbooks and lectures. But I left knowing God beyond academia.

I affirmed that I need a place to write and think, to make sense of God amidst all the dangerous, damaging religiosity I have, and continue to brush up against. But I also learned that God’s mercy forces us to reevaluate our doubts, God’s grace can sass our bitter cynicism right back, and God’s love can come in forms as small as a baby turtle, and as expansive as a prairie sky.

At camp I slammed into a God who is in all and through all. Even me.

Elizabeth Schrag is in her second year of a Biblical and Theological Studies major. 
This post was first shared in Chapel at CMU on Sept 12, 2017.

Meet the blogger: Five things you need to know

Jason Friesen at CMU on the bridge to Marpeck Commons

Whether you’re a student, staff, alumnus, or friend of CMU, welcome to another school year at CMU.

My name is Jason Friesen, and I’m the primary blogger for #myCMUlife this year.

Some of you may know me, but some of you likely don’t. This seems like a good chance to introduce myself, so here are five things you probably want to know about me before you start reading my blogs.

1)    Who the heck is this guy?
Well, I said my name already. But on top of that, I’m a proud Winnipegger, have grown up in the Mennonite tradition, and I’ve got one older brother.

2)    How well does this guy know the CMU community?
I’d say I know it pretty well! I’m now in my fifth and final year at CMU. Though I was a commuter student for my first four years, I found ways to stay connected to the community, such as playing on the men’s volleyball team (which I still play on). But I now live on campus, so I’ll be spending plenty of time around the CMU community by nature of where I live this year.

3)    Is this guy even good at writing?
Well, I suppose you can be the judge of that. But if it comforts you at all, I’m a Communications and Media student at CMU. Most of my degree has consisted of classes that focus on things like journalism and communication theory.  I’ve had the opportunity to put the skills I’ve learned in these courses into practice by writing for The Doxa, as well as working as a journalist for the Winnipeg Sun this past summer. So hopefully I’ve learned some things from those experiences.
 
4)    What does this guy like to do in his spare time?
Jason Friesen at the mens volleyball final.I’ll be honest, I’m a huge sports fan. I love to play sports (particularly volleyball) and I love to watch sports (particularly the Winnipeg Jets). But I like to think I’m not one-dimensional. I also love music. Though I wouldn’t consider myself a fantastic performer of music, you will probably see me singing along in chapel, or singing to the radio in my car. But I sure do love to listen to it!

5)    What’s been the biggest thing I’ve learned through my CMU experiences so far?
Everybody has a story to tell, and everybody has a story worth telling. I truly believe that if told well, anybody’s story can be intriguing. So many of us think that our stories are not unique, or not worthy of sharing. But if you look at them from the proper angle, and use the right words, you can turn what you might think is an ordinary story into something people can’t wait to read or hear!

A year of living monastically

Sarah Moesker, a year of living monastically

I spent this past year living with The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine [SSJD] is an Anglican, Benedictine-style monastic community located in Toronto, Ontario.

The Sisters are an open community, welcoming people to join them for their chapel services, occurring four times daily, typically followed by a silent meal. They run a Guest House ministry, providing a quiet place for a variety of individual and group retreats. Some Sisters also provide spiritual care to the patients at St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital next door to the convent.

The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine [SSJD]

“Why,” you ask? Now that is a great question!

Truth be told, I think I was beckoned to the convent by a God who called a timeout on my somewhat floundering efforts to do life.

God was like, “Yo, Sarah…” and there was a bunch more, but I had some trouble hearing it. I did manage to catch the gesture toward SSJD when I found myself pensively gazing, back and forth, between two things: a feeling of “You are not returning to CMU next fall” in one hand, and the emptiness of the other hand. 

Seated in the ambient sanctuary of St. Benedict’s Table’s evening service, the list of songs and announcements found its way into that empty hand, and I came across an advertisement from SSJD, calling young women to join them for a year. I sat holding those two things in my hands for the next two weeks, though the setting changed sometimes. Cue the cataclysmic word: Yes.

As for what I learned, in Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis offers a perspective on what it is like to let God into one’s life, where the life is the house and God the renovator:

At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of.”

So I guess I learned pretty quickly that there was a lot more on God’s agenda than on mine.

I learned a lot about how prayer is not just a thing one does but a way one lives. I thought, “oh la dee da, I will just go there and learn how to pray more regularly”. God responded, “Your whole life is a prayer. Come; let me show you how to be attentive to that reality.” Stepping into contemplative prayer has been like coming home to myself—the way God intended me to be, on my own, in prayer, and in relation to others.

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Through simply living the lifestyle of the Sisters, I also learned things about self-compassion, time-management, self-discipline, and the healing mystery of having structure. I developed a better sense of what a balanced life of prayer, work, leisure, and rest feels like—now I just have to remember to apply it.

There was also the healing experience of living in community, which normalized a lot of the elements of socializing and relationships that used to provoke tremendous anxiety.

Another area of growth and learning was my work as a Spiritual Care Provider at the rehabilitation hospital next door, visiting patients and helping out with the services in the hospital chapel. This experience provided some insights into not only the sort of work I would like to do but might also be good at.

These inchoate learnings are some of the things I will be taking back into my life as a student at CMU and into the community I will be living in this next year. 

Sarah Moesker returned to CMU this fall for her fourth year of a Biblical & Theological Studies major, with a minor in Psychology.

Praying for rain: the politics and symbolism of water

I’m in the air right now, on my way to an old friend’s wedding in Edmonton, but I’m thinking about water. I’ve been thinking about water since Christmas Eve, actually, when I listened to a podcast about clean water while driving through a snow storm. I just didn’t expect the thinking to last this long.

Water: A beautiful river scene in BC. Photo courtesy of Marnie Klassen.

In the spring I wrote and presented a speech at the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest about water pollution as a form of violence. I also donated my birthday money to Charity:Water, an NGO bringing clean water to communities in developing countries. This summer has been all about water as well, despite the pervasive drought here in BC.

Two of my summer goals were to canoe more, and to start overcoming my fear of sailing. I’ve somewhat accomplished these goals, with excursions such as canoeing Widgeon Creek and sailing to Gabriola Island on my parent’s Catalina 34, Elysium.

Water: CMU student Marnie Klassen worked for A Rocha Canada this summer in BC.

And, of course, there’s my summer job. I’ve spent the summer working for A Rocha Canada, a Christian conservation organization that focuses on watershed stewardship as a form of creation care. This means that I’ve spent my summer piecing together a video about salmon in the upper Bulkley River, and counting western toads in a pond while wearing hip waders.

I’m struck by both the politics and the symbolism of water, inextricably linked in my experience.

In early July my mom and I participated in the Paddle for the Peace Solidarity Paddle in Vancouver, protesting the proposed Site C Dam on the Peace River. Though I no longer live near the Peace, paddling a canoe that has traversed much of its length in solidarity with those who remain near it, was a profound expression of connection and commitment.

And still, it remained a political act. While rivers connect us, defying political borders, they also seem to divide us. Those of us paddling were clearly doing so spurred on by hope that we had because of political transition in the province. And the onlookers? Who knows. Perhaps some of them endorsed us, perhaps others remain more comfortable with the story the previous government told, about job creation at the expense of a river nobody cares about anyway.

Water: Marnie Klassen wanders through the wilderness of BC.

As the smoke clears, I don’t want to forget about the wildfires. With the change of government, I don’t want to assume that the story’s over. As I finish my job, I don’t want to lose my love for the western toad and the Little Campbell River.

Instead, I’ll pray for rain – for fires and farms and fish.

Marnie Klassen began her first year at CMU in January 2017.

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