Friday, 4 May 2012

A river runs through it

by Carol Penner

Look at the land here…does the land on one side look any different than the land on the other side?  It’s a picture taken from Queenston Heights…the land on the right is the United States, the land on the left is Canada.

I’ve been reading a book about the Battle of Queenston Heights, and it says that the communities on either side of the river were very connected socially.  For a long time the only portage around Niagara Falls was on the American side; everyone used it.  People in Youngstown on one side of the river and Newark on the other had parties and were constantly going back and forth.

Of course the declaration of war in 1812 changed all that. For the non-resistant Christians, they refused to buy into the declaration of war…no one was their enemy.  They had friends on both sides of the border, and tried to treat everyone the same.

But how good have churches been at keeping up those connections? It used to be that Mennonites had strong connections with Mennonite churches on the other side of the river.  But gradually over time, we too have divided into national churches, rather than cross-national church bodies. I know and have visited churches all over Ontario but I find that I know almost nothing of my Mennonite neighbours in New York State.

While we never believed in enemies, how has the division between countries influenced how we work as a church?

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