Honoring our Children

…Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these… 
                                                       Luke 18:16

One of my fondest memories of growing up in the Hanover Missionary Church was the moment in any service when the children were called forward.  My friend Megan and I would race to the platform, determined to be ahead of the pack so we could each hold Pastor Chris’ hand as we joined in a circle and were prayed for before going downstairs to our program.  On extra special weeks we would gather at the base of the stage stairs, our mothers waving their arms to remind us to keep our dresses pulled down over our knees as we sat on the carpet, listening raptly while Linus told us another one of his timeless bird stories.

These memories may seem trite; but as simple as they are, these moments were very powerful.  They instilled in me, as a child, that this was my church – that I was as much an important part of it as any adult that sat in the pews and it made a huge impact on the way I view Hanover Missionary Church and my role in it today.

Now I am raising my own children here and I know they already feel a deep sense of ownership over this place.  They are at home within these walls.  They know they are free to ask questions, dig deeper, and be real.  I am proud to be part of a congregation that has always honored children and it makes my heart swell when I see them invited into a Sunday service.

It was a complete joy on Easter Sunday when Pastor Amos called the children forward and read them a story he had written.  I was flooded with memories of sitting there myself and as I looked out across the congregation and saw smiles beaming from the faces of all those adults, I knew I wasn’t the only one who believes our children deserve our very best.

This will not just be their Church someday.  It is their Church right now and it’s important that we never forget that.

Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she’s trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.

How a Sermon From 50 Years Ago is Still Relevant Today

flash back friday, hanover missionary church
Ever wonder what things looked like around HMC fifty years ago?
Hanover Missionary Church, old bulletinThe modern technology of the 60’s allowed the church bulletin to be produced on a typewriter.  Perhaps they weren’t the colouful, eye-catching documents we create today but one thing is abundantly clear – this has always been a congregation intent on providing great ministries for it’s people and community!
Notice the scripture reference for Pastor Purdy’s message on this particular Sunday.  Hebrews 11:1-27 describes faith in action as demonstrated by numerous characters throughout the Scriptures.  How appropriate for us now that we, as a congregation, have embarked on the journey of defining our values and setting our vision.

Hebrews 11:1-27 New International Version (NIV)

Faith in Action

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

May we be like these biblical heroes.  May we move forward in faith and trust in the God who is bigger than all of us that He will make a way, that He will guide our decisions and mark the path He would have us take.
These words are as relevant to us today as they were fifty years ago.  They are as relevant as they were the day they were written into Scripture.  By faith let us move into the future, confident in the God who always provides.

Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she’s trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.

Pat Remembers

*Pat has been attending HMC since 1978. The following are some of her memories, shared in her own words through an internal publication celebrating the 100 year anniversary of our church in 2001.

Flash Back Friday Hanover Missionary Church

I remember I had gone forward at a Billy Graham Crusade in Toronto.  A counselor came to my side and asked me what my need was. I said that I wanted to find a Bible-teaching church to learn about Jesus…she prayed with me and contacted a (local woman) who invited me to church.  My family and I came and instantly felt loved and welcomed…(A kind couple) took us under their wing and invited us home after church.  I had going looking for Jesus to be loved (and) I had finally found a loving family as well!

(All these years later) that same church family is always there for me.  Their prayers and encouragement have helped me to go on.  There has never been a negative word spoken – even when I shared (some of my personal) struggles.  No judgmental attitudes.  Wow!  It is wonderful to be loved!

I have never felt rejection (at Hanover Missionary Church) and I thank God for the church family He brought me to.  He knows my need and has always been there for me.  It is wonderful to be part of the family of God!

Carol Remembers

*Carol has been attending HMC her entire life. The following are some of her memories, shared in her own words through an internal publication celebrating the 100 year anniversary of our church in 2001.

I remember an upside down view of underneath the pews. While my parents concentrated on the Bible lesson, I leaned over the pew searching for legs that I recognized. Occasionally I’d disappear altogether, crawl under the pews and pop up somewhere else. (I’ve heard that sometimes I’d be found sitting motionless on the lap of Mrs. Purdy Sr. who would be brushing my hair into ringlets.)

I remember tiring Sunday School teachers with my perplexing questions and being rebuked by those who couldn’t hear the sermon for my giggling. I remember once being carried out of an evening service, limbs flailing in protest.

I remember that my parents allowed me to doodle during the sermons. I appeared to be remarkably attentive but I was actually trying to capture the earnest expression on the pastor’s face.

It seems as if I didn’t pay attention at all when in fact I have a vivid recollection of the Hanover Missionary Church as it has been since the last 1960’s. I was born into this church, the second daughter of vitally active church members, Harold and Muriel, and a frequent source of embarrassment to them.

Our family life revolved around church activity. I took for granted that my father was frequently at board meetings or building meetings. Time and time again I saw my mom preparing or washing up communion trays, planning a Sundy School or Junior Church lesson, or organizing Keys to Life material. Our home was opened to a host of guest musicians, speakers, and missionaries. We knew everyone and everyone knew us.

I remember turning to individuals within our church family for support during a difficult period when my parents and I were not communicating well. My mother implored another adult to spend time with me and the adult agreed and guardedly approached me to ask what I would like to do that weekend. Imagine her surprise and relief when I replied, “I’d like to learn how to knit!” We spent the weekend sitting on the beach knitting.

I should have been a maturing Christian by the time I was a teen but I wasn’t. I was accustomed to altar calls and urgent pleas to “make a decision”. The truths of scripture and doctrinal statements that I could recite with ease had failed to penetrate my heart.

About this time the pastor started reading the Bible in new translations and began leading the congregation in singing less hymns and more choruses…these changes made a profound difference to me. I was no longer distracted by religious terminology and poetic Elizabethan language and was challenged and convicted by the gospel message. I became a Christian. On a hike with the youth I spontaneously asked Pastor Bill to baptize me and he did.

Evidently, I’m quite attached to architecture and resistant to change because I was intently upset when the Chapel was first subdivided. I liked to stand in the quiet chapel and visualize what once had been. Construction workers were rededicating my memories. (More than) twenty years later, I concede that the church building needs to be used the best way possible. I am thrilled with the…nursery and young children’s facility.

I have learned that the people are the church. I am thankful that my children want(ed) to go to Sunday School because of the terrific teachers who (took) a sincere interest in their well-being. I will always remember that I’ve met some of my dearest friends in our church.

Our church today exists because of God working through many dedicated Christians. Perhaps because of my small stature or spiritual immaturity I have a unique vantage points to those former pillars of the church – both seen and unseen – and I shall always look up to them.

Heather Remembers

*Heather has been attending HMC her entire life. The following are some of her memories, shared through an internal publication celebrating the 100 year anniversary of our church in 2001.

Hanover Missionary Church - Flashback FridayI remember how my little legs stuck to the highly varnished pews in the first sanctuary of this church while I listened to Pastor Bill Lehman preach.  I remember Mom piling sixteen children into the car (in the era before mini vans and seatbelt laws) to drive us to Vacation Bible School during Pastor Wideman’s bus ministry. I remember writing elaborate notes to my friends while Pastor Illman begged the congregation not to leave without getting it right with God. I remember riding my horse to the outdoor evangelistic services in (what used to be) the Zellers parking lot. I remember the kissing tree – a favourite meeting spot behind the church – and I remember the high notes I never hit in the last solo I ever sang while Pastor Bill Smith led this church. I could tell you about the slightly misguided Halloween party I helped to host as youth group president while my father (dressed as a woman) greeted everyone with his shotgun at the entrance of our barn…bet you’d like to hear more about that…

If this church merely represented a lot of fond memories, it would hold a huge place in my heart.

But more than anything else, the Hanover Missionary Church has been a place for me to meet with God. My parents carried me to the altar and dedicated me to God as an infant in this church. I was taught God’s word and memorized a lot of scripture through the encouragement of Vacation Bible School, Keys to Life, Missionary Cadets and great Sunday School teachers. I chose to be baptized as a young girl in this church. When I made wrong choices or felt the blows of crushing defeat in my spiritual life I sought God’s forgiveness and listened for His voice at the altar in this church. When I was angry with God over circumstances beyond my control, He touched me, taught me to submit and spoke in miraculous ways in this church.

It’s strange how you can feel like the church is such a huge part of you and yet realize that you are such a small part of the church.

I’ve seen people I love walk through the doors of this church (and) reject the truth of God’s word or take offence over inconsequential things and leave. I’ve watched others that almost literally crawled into church as the ultimate act of humility or defeat be lifted up by the Spirit of God. It’s miraculous this church, the body of believers – so human, so fallible and yet so saved by Grace and loved by God. I feel so fortunate that the Hanover Missionary Church has been part of my life because God seems pleased to meet me here.

Memories From Vi

{Vi MacKinnon passed away in the Spring of 2011. She had been a vibrant piece of HMC for years. The following is a collection of some of her memories, transcribed from her hand-written notes for a publication that was released for the 100th anniversary of HMC in 2001.}

flash back friday

My family and I joined the Church in 1962. It has meant a lot to us. I felt a very loving, caring, friendly place to worship.

I have to say that my fondest memories were being a Sunday School Teacher. I would like to call it ‘serving the children’. I started out as Dorothy Schmitt’s helper in her class of 4 & 5 year old’s. I loved working with God’s precious jewels…so I started Junior Church. Then the Church decided to start a bus service. I took part in the visitation that it required. We ran the Bus Ministry for several years.

I would need a lot of notepaper to record all the fond memories of so many things about the children. We had singing of choruses, Scripture memorization, children becoming kind to each other, and just loving to get on the bus for Sunday School and Church.

Lynne Crossman was a great helper. She was always there for the children. There were different bus drivers but Gary Schmidt was our last one. The children all loved Gary and Lynne. I was very grateful to God for their help. I always felt so blessed by how the children would take part in the singing (on the bus rides).

One Sunday morning stays with me. It was a fall morning and we were on our way to Sunday School. We had our usual sing-songs and action songs and fall colours were at the Master Painter’s best. Driving through Allan Park, there was such a great spirit on the bus, Gary turned and said, “I think we should stop here and have a service.” I quite agreed. It was a beautiful ride and a beautiful feeling to go into Church with.

Corn roasts, hayrides, and barbeques brought old and young together for great times. There is such a great blessing when one decides to work with God’s children. The work was a joy to me.

Allan Remembers

* Transcribed from a video interview conducted by Pastor Jason in April of 2013.
Allan was received into membership on March 2, 1930 and is our eldest living member from the original church.
OUR CHURCH was a very small church (and was) located on ninth avenue, the previous site of the old post office. It was called the Hanover Mennonite Brethren In Christ Church…built in 1904. 
We were not a very large crowd (and) everyone had to take their turn with the jobs that were needed around the church…I was given the job of firing up the furnace in the winter. I was fourteen years old. I would get up at 7:00 each Sunday morning and walk to the church from our home with an arm full of kindling and wood to start the fire in the furnace. I would have to sit there into the afternoon to make sure the church was warm enough for the service at 2:00 pm.  
I remember a time when the communion cups come before the church. A member of the church, whom I will leave anonymous, requested communion cups rather than the community cup, as a member of his family had tuberculosis at that time. I remember that another member was opposed to the idea. They said that the Bible says that ‘He took the cup’ not ‘cups’. These changes did not go over (well) with some of the people but it was overruled and the purchase of glass communion cups was made…Everyone would gather around the front of the church and take part in the communion with separate cups.  

In the early church we used to kneel during prayer time and some of the prayers, I recall, were quite long – (sometimes people even) fell asleep.  
We had revival meetings at various times of the year. The Trissel Family were guest speakers and musicians many times and they drew big crowds. I remember one night they were singing and the windows were open and people were standing around the street and the front entrance to see what was going on. 
The first old pump organ purchase was a big deal. Many members were opposed because (they believed) an organ was an instrument of the devil. You can see how people didn’t like change in those days.  
In the early 1960’s I was on the church board…and we felt the need of a larger church. Canada Post was interested in the property to build a new Post Office. They purchased the property from the Hanover Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church for $8000. Harold Flemming was on the board at that time. Harold was a man I especially looked up to. He was a builder and a good man to have on the board. He said at the meeting one night that we had to do something about building a new church soon. Harold said, “I’m a barn builder but I can build a church.”  
In 1963 a new church was constructed. I can remember getting ready for the opening Sunday of the church. Dorothy Schmitt and my wife, Kaye, were up on a platform painting the back where there was a cross built in the wall. That wall is in the office today. Many hands helped with the finishing touches in this lovely structure that Harold Flemming and his crew built. I am so proud of this building even today. I would say that we have (a) facility that is second to none. It is an honour to have such a well-equipped church in Hanover.