Each year we put together an annual report thanking all of you for journeying with us. Know that even your seemingly insignificant support is a big encouragement. The report highlights our work from this last year (the highs and lows) while looking forward to the next. Read it, skim it (ignore it), but save it as proof that 2021 happened and we're all still here celebrating hope, peace, joy, and love together.
During the Winter of 2021, we're taking some time to reconnect and reevaluate our Anabaptist heritage. We want to honour this heritage by mining it for its moments of light and uncovering the times it has fallen short. In this way, we can dig deep into the fertile soil of our past while learning from mistakes. By exploring Anabaptism, we hope to better appreciate the diversity of the congregation at Westview.
2020 has been an unprecedented year requiring much innovation and imagination. At our Centre, this work began in March when the first shutdown forced us to start handing out bagged lunches and groceries. At our church, 2020 called us to transition to an online service and then to a hybrid service that now includes the occasional outdoor service.
As leadership, this year has seen us make significant progress on governance as we work with the Niagara Community Foundation to improve policy. Grazia Shepard, first-time board chair, led with grace and courage. She kept us going through the tremulous year. Although our board is not yet at the point we’d like to be in terms of governance and policy, COVID has only slowed us down; we’re on the right path.
Finally, despite all these challenges, we’ve been blessed with financial success. With the payment of our mortgage in full by a generous donor and the increase in tithes, we are now closer to financial sustainability than ever before.
Thank you to those who continue to give of their money and time, and who share love, despite the struggle, pain, and isolation. We see you on zoom, we hear you at church, we welcome you at the Centre, we love you.
Recorded at Westview Christian Fellowship on May 17, 2020 - Caleb Ratzlaff discusses Acts 15 - the moment the church affirms uncircumcised Gentiles.
Inspired by the experience of LGTBQ Christians, Caleb finds parallels between Westview's journey to be an affirming church and the early church's struggle to affirm uncircumcised Gentile Christians.Spoiler: there's more biblical grounding for affirming LGBTQ Christians than there is supporting Paul's argument that circumcision wasn't always necessary.
By Caleb Ratzlaff
Changes in daily life disrupt comfortable routines. Jolts to our normal pace have a way of revealing things and people we take for granted. With this insight can come inspiration for new ways of living. It’s common to fast during Lent for exactly this reason: by subtracting from our daily routine we gain a new perspective. Lent opens our eyes to the beauty and suffering often hidden in plain sight. As preparation for Easter, this new perspective enables us to better understand the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.
We're experimenting recording messages as Westview. Below is a recording from Feb. 16, 2020 when Caleb Ratzlaff discussed Matthew 5:21-37.
TLDL: Using two commandments -- do not murder and do not commit adultery -- Jesus elaborates on what he means when he says that his life and works fulfill the law and the prophets.
The end discussion has been edited for sound quality and length. Enjoy.
By Caleb Ratzlaff
Post 1: Intro by Rosilee Sherwood
Post 2: Evil In David's Heart
Post 3: David and the Anti-Christ
Post 4: Noah's Ark
Children’s stories about David and Goliath often portray the king as a man after God’s own heart. David, the story goes, is an innocent young man who shows courage in the face of long odds. We want David to be good, a desire that colours readings of his reign.
The quality of David’s heart, however, is a matter of some debate. like all of our hearts, David’s is dynamic and often uncertain of itself. However, it would be a mistake, to model our lives off David and a disaster to organize our communities in the image of his Israel. Taken as a whole, David’s life is in direct opposition to the life of Christ.
The stories shared in this report provide a picture of how we’ve seen God at work in our neighbourhood and church over the course of 2019.
Click the link below to download the full report:
By Caleb Ratzlaff
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.”[a] 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
By Caleb Ratzlaff
Mennonite churches have been relatively successful at doing good for the most vulnerable in our society. Important work often seen as for our neighbours might include: building housing, serving meals, and sponsoring refugees. During a neighbourhood glowride my approach to good works began to change from doing for, to working with the most vulnerable. Before talking about that small but important distinction, I need to tell you about glowrides.
By Rosilee Sherwood
I’d like to introduce to you our theme for the next several weeks. We are going to be revisiting some of the bible stories that are often taught to children. When I was a kid I went to Sunday School each week and my Sunday School teacher had something called a flannelgraph. It was a board with a sheet of flannel over it that she’d have set up on an easel. Then all of the lovely bible characters would be cut out of felt and we’d be able to put them onto the board to show what was happening in the story. Our goal, over the next several Sundays is to take these stories off the flannelgraph, out of the picture book bible, and dig deeper to try and uncover the many layers of complexity and richness that are left out when we make these stories for children.
By Caleb Ratzlaff
Prioritizing profit over the well-being of people seems like a bad idea, for businesses, for society at large, as well as for religious sects. Two stories contained in Acts chapter 19 remind us of this self-evident truth providing an economic lesson. Both concern religious sects that struggle against or outright oppose “the Way” as taught by Paul. My argument here is that each sect takes issue with Paul following his advice would mean that they could no longer enrich themselves at the expense of others.
By John Derksen
Jeremiah 1:4-10; 7:1-11, 15; 20:7-10, 14-18; 31:31-34
A bit like President Obama stood on the shoulders of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus stood on the shoulders of Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah. As Jesus did after him, Jeremiah lived in tough times. He criticized injustice and hypocrisy, suffered a lot for his message, and longed for God’s comforting presence. And in the end he offered hope.
Background and Call
My name is Jeremiah. I come from a little village near Jerusalem. My father, grandfather, and
great-grandfather were all priests. But I was shocked when, as a youth, God called me.
God said, “I want you to announce my message to priests and politicians and kings.” I said, “I
can’t; I’m only a boy!” God said, “Don’t worry; just speak what I command you. I will be with
you; and if you get in trouble, I’ll deliver you. Your words will be my words, and they will
concern the destruction and rebuilding of nations! (ch. 1)
Dinner and Panel on Affordable Housing in Niagara is hosted by Westview and the youth at Bethany Mennonite Church.
Join us for dinner and a panel to learn about affordable housing -- what it is, what are the challenges -- and to hear stories from folks struggling to find an affordable place to live in Niagara.
After dinner we'll be hearing from folks most affected by the housing crisis and rising housing costs as well as learning about the housing support work done at Westview Centre4Women and Start Me Up Niagara. Jane Lavacca, WC4W's executive director will be joining the panel from the Centre; and Karrie Porter, acting executive director at SMUN and city councilor for St. Patrick's ward will be joining us from SMUN.
Tickets are by donation at the door.
On the weekend of May 11th, the Niagara Churches of MCEC hosted a conference called “The End of Us and Them” at Westview Christian Fellowship and Vineland United Mennonite Church. The conference explored past and present stories of poverty in and around our Churches, Hugo and Doreen Neufeld shared about their experience at Welcome Inn in Hamilton, participants of Westview Centre4Women told their stories, and Carol Penner grappled with Biblical material on the topic. We learned about the overdose prevention site in downtown St. Catharines, and we heard from others in our Mennonite community engaged in issues associated with poverty.
These stories revealed both the unstoppable courage displayed by those living with effects of poverty and the bewildering complexity of the issue. It’s not as if there are some who happen to suffer under poverty and others who are unaffected; our lives grow together in such a way that if you’re not suffering, you might be culpable. We hope this weekend encourages churches in Niagara to continue wrestling with the oppressive forces of poverty present in our neighbourhoods.
Jennifer Symonds, a participant at Westview Centre4Women, tells her own story of poverty, courage and even transformation:
Part 1: How Ruth Saves Us From the Affordable Housing Crisis - By Caleb Ratzlaff
Part 2: Mother Mary Revolutionary - By Rosilee Sherwood
By Caleb Ratzlaff
Matthew 27: 57-61
“57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”
We recently finished a series at Westview on the women who appear in Matthew’s Genealogy of Christ: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Through this series, I gained a better understanding of something oft-repeated in my childhood: that , “Christ died for our sins”. Below I argue that the courageous actions of outcasts reveals the sin and injustice upheld by insiders — the privileged and comfortable majority. Christ’s death reveals that salvation is a product of oppressed people’s resistance against injustice; such resistance calls the mainstream community to a better way of life.
To understand how Matthew connects Christ’s salvific work to the resistance of the women in Christ’s life, we’ll start by reviewing some general observations about women in Matthew’s Gospel; before, second, sharing a few of the lessons we learned at Westview about Christ’s grandmothers; and then, third briefly visit the episode where Christ is anointed by an unnamed woman. Finally, I will conclude by thinking about how the women waiting outside Christ’s tomb reveal what it might mean to say, “we are saved by the work of the cross”.
This blog has multiple contributors. The beliefs and opinions expressed by each are one-sided and partial. We hope that by confronting and expressing our one-sidedness through dialogue this blog is able to reflect the life of Westview as we gather together and live in the Queenston Neighbourhood and beyond. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Caleb at email@example.com.
How a Virus Helps Us Understand Easter
Troubling Children's Stories: Evil in David's Heart
Troubling Children's Stories: Intro
Saved by the Work of Christ's Grandmothers: 3/3
Glowriding in the Kingdom of Heaven
2019 Annual Report
MOTHER MARY REVOLUTIONARY Part 2/3
How Ruth Saves Us From the Affordable Housing Crisis and Other Sins - Part 1 of 3
Jesus Isn’t Talking to You
WC4W 10th Anniversary Vid!
Transforming Abuse through Mutual Submission
The Power of Invisibility
Repent and Burn: The Baptism of John the Baptiser
Apocalyptic Literature: A Primer to The Book of Revelation