Ruth Boehm has been granted a sabbatical leave by Faith Mennonite Church with the support of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.  Her sabbatical will be from June 17 to September 30, 2013.  This forum will be a place for Ruth to share photos, videos or some reflections of learnings along the way.

The name of this blog, “Along the Way”,  was chosen purposefully.  ‘The Way’ is an important Old and New Testament idea.  The Gospel of Mark announces the coming of Jesus in this way: “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way: the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:  “prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight,” (Mark 1: 2,3)  Later on, as the followers of Jesus grew in numbers, the first name they had for themselves was of people who followed “The Way”.  (See Paul’s testimony in Acts 24: 14).

So, as I, Ruth, travel along the way on this sabbatical journey I want to share reflections of what I am learning and observing in this physical and spiritual journey.  I will be asking questions about what leaders of people of  ‘the way’ are learning.

The views expressed in this blog are my own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of Faith Mennonite Church and/or our denomination.  (Thanks to April Yamasaki for the wise counsel.)

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22 Responses to ALONG THE WAY

  1. Ruth Boehm says:

    September 13, 2013
    How do you use the bathroom?

    This summer we travelled over 12,000 kilometers and made many pit stops along the way. I have to admit that sometimes I wasn’t sure how to use the different types of bathroom hardware and software we encountered. I have to admit that I am impressed by the variety of engineering of some of some of the objects that are frequently used.

    First of all how do you flush the toilet? Is it a self flushing unit? Does it flush every thirty seconds so that you have a misting even while you are sitting? Do you push the button for a half flush or a full flush? Do you use the foot lever? Is there a lever at the side or do you push the button? Is it an actual handle that you have to hold until everything has flushed down? Do you just walk away and hope it actually flushes or do you look for where the mechanism is?
    When you sit down to go you are never quite sure which way you will have to flush unless it is an outhouse and then you know that you just have to put the lid down after you finish your business.

    Now about getting soap for your hands. Do you hold your hand under the dispenser and wait for it to dispense soap? Do you push or pull the lever? Will it be foam or liquid? Do you look for a bottle on the counter and push down on the dispenser? If it is automatic – where do you hold your hands – close to the machine, farther down or do you have to wave your hands.

    Then there is the water. Will it turn on automatically? If it does – where do you hold your hands? Close to the tap, farther down or do you hold them still or move them around? Do you push the tap? Will it stay on for thirty seconds or more? With one tap will it be hot or cold water or just warm? You never know. In an outside biffy you may even get water but only if you use the foot pump.

    Finally you get to dry your hands. Do you use the hand dryers which move your skin around and still don’t really dry them? Does the dryer turn on if you put your hands over the sensor or under the dryer? If there is paper towel do you pull on it to get a piece of paper, or do you wave your hand in front of the sensor and it automatically dispenses? Or do you turn the knob at the side and the paper towel comes out of the slit? Perhaps the towels are sitting on the counter or there is a basket of small clothes that you can dry your hands and then put the used ones in a second basket. Sometimes it is just easier to shake the water off your hands and let things drip dry.

    I wondered if I was hosting someone from another part of the world how I would tell them how to use the facilities. I guess it would depend.

    I know this isn’t my usual blogging topic but after so many miles and so many pit stops I just had to laugh. There was only one stop with an attendant, only one place where things were washed down by someone else after each use and no public squatter toilets. The forest in the starlight with a bit of TP works just fine too. So, how do you use the rest room or bathroom? Did I miss any variations?

  2. Ruth Boehm says:

    September 9, 2013
    St. Michaels Roman Catholic Church, Leamington, Ontario

    In a moment of silence I heard the creaking floor boards.
    Creak. Creak. A gentle rocking as the people reverently walked toward the front of the church to receive the Eucharist.
    Young and old. People of many different ethnic backgrounds.
    The body of Christ shed for you.
    The blood of Christ shed for you.
    The moaning of the floor boards.
    Christ moaned, suffered and died for our sins.
    And in that moment I connected the floor creaks and the way we come to Christ.
    As believers we come with our imperfections, our brokenness, and creaking with years of living.
    As a body of believers we come with different expectations and needs,
    We come with the reality of who we are and the promise of what we can be.
    And so we come to the table of our Lord.
    To taste. To drink.
    To be restored. To give thanks. To take sustenance for what lies ahead.

    On the way back to our seats the floor still creaks in satisfaction. The body has been well fed and renewed to serve the world.

  3. Ruth Boehm says:

    September 2, 2013
    Worship at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, St. Jacobs, Ontario

    All of the Boehm’s except one in church were together in church on a Sunday morning. A great experience. We decided to worship in the nursery – overlooking the gathered worshipers. All the Boehm children gathered up to the window when it was Uncle Ray’s turn to read scripture.

    The congregation was worshiping together with others from the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) Perimeter Cluster. They decided to use the video which was produced for the 25th Anniversary of MCEC based on the parable of the sower from the Gospel of Mark. It was adapted and acted by Ted Swartz and Company Theatre Works. The video has three segments.

    When the first video was shown my 7 year old son stopped his play and came to the window. “I’ve seen that before”, he remarked. He stood and watched the first segment. “Tell me when it is on again”. The next two times the video was playing all the children stopped, not just my child. They lined up by the window and watched the parable of the sower and the seed. Ages 1 to 7. When it was over, they went back to their play.

    I was grateful for the creative way in which scripture was portrayed and excited to see the children interested in watching a quality production – even for the second time. Thank-you Ted and MCEC and Jesus for the provocative parables.

  4. Ruth Boehm says:

    July 24, 2013
    On Social Media – written by April Yamasaki

    April Yamasaki is the Lead Pastor at Emmanual Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. I was privileged to visit with her at the end of July 2013. April was willing to share her writing on social media with us. She sent me something she has written which reflects her experiences and the directions their congregation are exploring. Thank-you April!

    “One of the ways that the church and ministry has changed over the years is the growth of social media. Emmanuel has had a church website for some years already, but we revamped it last year with a view to communicating more effectively, including the addition of audio sermons—since then we’ve had a couple of new families to the church, and both mentioned the website as a helpful tool in learning more about our congregation. As well, last year we started an Emmanuel Mennonite Church Facebook page, and I and other staff also have personal Facebook, Google Plus, and/or Twitter profiles.

    I find social media a wonderful avenue of connecting with other people. Some members share requests for prayer on their Facebook page, we share upcoming church events, we have a Facebook group for church musicians to share and recommend new songs, for last Mother’s Day I included a reading as part of our worship that someone had shared with me on Twitter. In these and many other ways, social media contributes positively to caring for one another and community building, to worship and preaching, connecting us with members of the congregation, community, and wider church.

    Along with these opportunities, there are also some challenges: the potential for misunderstanding, the temptation to substitute social media for other personal interaction, discerning what’s appropriate for social media and what should be kept off-line, confidentiality issues, time management and copyright issues. We’ve really only begun to address these. So for example, both our associate pastor and I have personal blogs, and we both include a disclaimer that our opinions are our own and not necessarily representing the church or denomination—that helps to draw the line between our personal blogs and the church blog on the church website. And yet we also realize that social media has a tendency to blur the lines, for whatever we write even on our personal blogs on our personal time tends to get associated with our pastoral roles even if we’re not meaning to speak officially. All of this can be confusing, and is definitely a growing edge for us.

    With these and other challenges, our Personnel Committee has actually started working on a social media policy—I’ve only seen a draft so far, and it doesn’t specifically address blogging, but sets out more general principles, e.g., not breaching privacy/confidentiality which applies to all kinds of social media. I’m looking forward to further reflection and dialogue on both the potential and cautions of social media for ministry and leadership.

    April Yamasaki contributes to the Emmanuel Mennonite Church blog at and her own personal blog

    from an e-mail received August 13, 2013

  5. Ruth Boehm says:

    August 8, 2013
    Tomorrow we start our journey back to Ontario. In British Columbia we have had a wonderful time of relaxation, being with family and of study. One of my ideas for the sabbatical of videotaping church leaders and posting them has not worked. I am letting that one go. I will probably not be able to post again until we are back in Ontario close to the end of August. I will be meeting with a liturgical artist in South Dakota for a few days. We plan on enjoying the beauty of creation as we travel home.

  6. Ruth Boehm says:

    Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church
    Lecturer: Soong-Chan Rah
    Regent College: July 29-August 2, 2013

    Penetrating questions, sociological and cultural realities, deep feelings, profound possibilities. A full week spent at Regent College with a class of close to 50 students from around the world. Most of them from Vancouver area. Most of whom are either first, second or third generation immigrant church leaders. Soong-Chan Rah was born in Korea and grew up and studied in the United States. He is a provocative lecturer. He began with a sociological picture of our current post-modern and post-Christendom North American context.

    What is post-Christendom? Post Christendom is a way to describe the shift the church has experienced from being linked with the power of the state to having less formal power. From an Anabaptist perspective this is a good thing. However it has implications for the assumptions and practices of the church today.

    Some stats: For example, in the US in 2011 more children of colour were born than Caucasian. By the year 2050 it is estimated that in the US there will be more people of colour than people who are Caucasian. (Class notes) What does this mean for the church?

    According to Rah, 50 plus books were written about the emerging church movement in the US and UK mostly by white men under 40. Emerging churches is the title given to churches who are trying to experiment with new ways of being and doing church. About 150 emerging churches have been identified in the US. In contrast, hardly any books have been written about the flourishing 4,000 Korean American churches (The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah, 2009, pg 111 and class notes.)
    Why is the current church context seemingly ignoring the flourishing churches of first and second generation Asian immigrants? What can be learned from these congregational leaders?

    In a conversation with a pastor and in taking this course it became clearer to me how Post Christendom is a western and European reality. Those who have immigrated to Canada recently have not been operating a Christendom context. They have come from places where assumptions that some Canadian pastors like me have made did not exist. What can we learn from our brothers and sisters? What can we learn from the flourishing church of new immigrants and second generation immigrants who are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds?

    I have to admit that I haven’t written much because I wasn’t sure what to write. I am still processing things which I heard and read. I will be processing for some time. I know that I want to talk with my colleague at Iglesia la Buena Semilla and some colleagues with the Mission Council of MCEC. I would like to share what I am learning with our congregation and continue the discussion with them about what this might mean for us.

  7. Ruth Boehm says:

    Interview with Lance Odegard on Tuesday July 23, 2013
    Pastor at Artisan, Vancouver, BC
    Met at Starbucks on Broadway in Vancouver

    When asked about the link between arts and worship Lance shared about one of their practices with a piece of art. He calls it visual prayer.
    Choose a piece of art. Ask someone to give a short commentary about the piece of art in its context. What was new about it when it was painted? What was controversial about it? What edges was it trying to push etc. Then read a scripture passage which has some links to the piece of art. Give time for silence to have people look at the piece of art. What do they see? What do they feel? What is revealed to them as they look? Play a piece of music or have someone sing a song that is connected with the piece of art.
    This is one idea that sounds intriguing to try.

    Lance spoke about the privilege of ministry in this setting. He shared that one person who came stated, “I didn’t expect the good news to sound good.” The good news of the gospel has often not sounded good to people. Part of the ministry task is to help re-enchant people that the good news is indeed good. That includes the work of trying to gain a hearing again from some people.

    At Artisan they have found that it is important to name the current realities that people struggle with. To name the grief, the ambiguity and that all is not well yet. It is important to share some of the values shared by artists: ambiguity, nuance, subtlety and appreciation for aesthetics. They recently had a sermon series on “The skeptical believer: speaking to your inner atheist” inspired by the writings of Daniel Taylor.

  8. Ruth Boehm says:

    July 21, 2013 – Visit to Artisan Church, Vancouver BC

    Lydia, Matthew and I drove into Vancouver to visit this congregation. It is located in the downtown public library. We had to pay for parking – $7.50 for the day. We got there early and heard sounds of worship music wafting through the spacious corridors of the library street mall. The sounds led us to a sign indicating that the Artisan church was meeting downstairs. Surprisingly the sounds were from an Asian Christian fellowship which was meeting one door over from Artisan. Two worshipping communities side by side in the same library complex. One a very different colour and flavor from the other.

    Artisan began in October 2009 as a church plant by the Mennonite Brethren Church for the artistic community in downtown Vancouver. Nelson Boschmand and Lance Odegard are the pastoral leaders. It has grown rapidly with attendance close to 140.

    The worship service included excellent music led by two different bands. Hymn variations and contemporary worship songs were sung. Prayers were carefully crafted including adaptations from prayers by Thomas Merton. The slide visuals were excellent and included many Vancouver scenes as backdrops.

    Announcements included theatrical events which involved people from the congregation and a church picnic.

    This is a growing congregation with a real desire to grow in faith that has integrity and roots.

    As we were leaving the library we were intrigued with the pigeons which wander around in the library atrium. Pigeons by the church – a sign of the Spirit?!

  9. Ruth Boehm says:

    July 15, 2013
    We made it to Abbotsford BC late Saturday night !!!!!!! We have had a safe trip and our spirits are renewed with all of the beauty of nature. We have been blessed by connecting with our family and friends along the way. We are getting spoiled rotten by Nana and family. We will now be able to check our website more regularly for the next three weeks. Time to rest. Time to read for my upcoming class. Time to eat just one more fresh cinnamon bun.

  10. Ruth Boehm says:

    July 12, 2013
    Close to Revelstoke, BC

    Beauty is expressed in so many different ways in our Canadian landscape. In the past week we have travelled from Roblin, Manitoba where we camped by Goose Lake to close to Revelstoke, BC. We have been astounded by the views. We have visited family & friends in Vegreville, Camrose, Edmonton and Calgary. We made new friends around a campfire. We bumped into friends from Bethel Mennonite Church at a lookout in Revelstoke National Park today. What fun!

    I am sorry for not posting more often. But we have not had regular access to the internet where I could upload writing and pictures to the internet. I’ve also not been able to interview church leaders as planned. I will have to revise that plan and see what alternative I can find. Perhaps I will simply interview by phone and compile written notes.

    I have enjoyed the sights we have seen along the way. The canola fields in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are simply golden fields against the blue sky. The rolling hills of northern Saskatchewan lead your eye on forever. The ducks swimming on the ponds make you wonder what other ducks are hiding in the rushes. Big hills are broken only by big sky in Alberta.

    In Vegreville we joined in the Pysanka festival and ate perogies and cabbage rolls. I was intrigued that the migrations of the Mennonites and the Ukrainians were so similar. Yet, not one ‘Mennonite’ name among the genealogy of the Ukranians. So close and so separate.

    In Drumheller we marveled at the Bad Lands. We crossed the suspension bridge at Rosedale and climbed up the hills. Only hours and hours later did Barry tell me I had dust on my behind from climbing down the hills. The hoodoos were smaller than we thought, but stunning.

    In Calgary we saw the effects of the flood in some parts. Much clean-up has happened and more is still needed. Family day at the Calgary Stampede was on Wednesday and we got there in time for the free admission and pancake breakfast. The rides were a bit bigger than at the Leamington Fair.

    The foothills were in view as we left Calgary. I wanted to drive in silence to take in the majesty of the mountains. Silent space to take in what has been revealed through creative power.

    Craggy rock intersecting with one cragged faced mountain after another. White streaks of snow on high peaks. Shades of green trees bordering rushing waters. Wind gusting powerfully. Wildflowers blooming beside the road. Protective chain netting to keep falling rocks off the road. Winding, windy, ways up and down and round and through the mountains.

    For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,
    For the love which from our birth,
    Over and around us lies.
    Lord of all to thee we raise,
    This our hymn of grateful praise.

  11. Ruth Boehm says:

    Thursday July 11, 2013 – Driving in the mountains

    Slow down to 60 around the curve. Give the van gas to get over 60 up the next climb. Sunglasses on to deal with the glare. Sunglasses off and car lights on to go through the tunnel. Sunglasses on to see the road. Sunglasses off to go through the tunnel. Sunglasses on to see the rugged mountain peaks. Speed up on the straighter path. Not too fast or the wind will cause the trailer to fishtail. Slow down to go around the curve. Gear down to go downhill. Give her gas to go up hill. Hold the van steady against the gusts of wind. Watch out for falling rocks. Keep an eye out for wildlife.

    The stretch of road from Lake Louise to Revelstoke is stunningly beautiful. But I have to admit that I started longing for the boring drive on the 401 east of London or the simplicity of the number one through the prairies.

  12. Ruth Boehm says:

    Sunday July 7, 2013 – Off the map in Edmonton

    Exit 339 already? We had obviously missed the turn off for Hwy 216. How could that be? We had seen the signs for Hwy 216 indicating that it was 8.6 kms ahead. We had both been watching carefully. How did we miss the sign? In any case we were way past the exit for the road we wanted to take. We decided to get off the expressway and proceed through downtown Edmonton. We managed to navigate over the river and find the church in an industrial park. At one point we gave ourselves a five more minutes to really know where we were before we’d stop and miss church for the morning. When we got to the church we were 10 – 15 minutes late. After the children’s story we listened to the sermon. It was preached by an eloquent young man who hadn’t even been born yet when I lived with his parents during my summer internship at First Mennonite in the summer of 1986. His opening story was about getting lost and needing to use the GPS to find his way. We laughed. The Spirit had brought us here this morning. We had used a new map. We had looked carefully for the signs, but we had either gotten an older map than we realized or had simply missed the signs.
    As I was carefully looking at the map I noticed that there are no longer places of worship marked on the map. You can find parks and recreation centres. But on the city map you can no longer find a place of worship marked. What might this mean for the church that it is off the map?

  13. Ruth Boehm says:

    July 2-3, 2013
    Winnipeg, Manitoba

    “The continuous process of remaining open and accepting of what may reveal itself through hand and heart on a crafted page is the closest I have ever come to God.” Donald Jackson

    Donald Jackson is instigator and primary calligrapher of the St. John’s Bible project. Many were involved in handwriting and adding designs to the whole Bible, NRSV translation. The results are stunning. The original is on display at St. John’s University in Collegeville Minnesota. It was completed in 2011.

    My two days (July 2 & 3, 2013) of working with artists Ike & Bonnie Derksen in Winnipeg began with thinking about what this quote by Donald Jackson might mean. What does it mean to be open and accepting to the creative process? What might be revealed when we use craft and imagination and heart to bring the ‘Word’ to life? We spent time looking through the St. John’s Bible and looking at what we saw in the written text and the drawings. We noticed how the artists adapted when they made a mistake.

    The theme of being open to what may be revealed continued throughout the project as we reviewed the design, bought fabric, chose colours, painted the banner and visited with one another. When we are open to the Holy Spirit we may be surprised at what is revealed as we craft with our hands and hearts.

  14. laura tiessen says:

    Hi there,
    I’ve been thinking of you and praying that all is well – more than well – exciting and interesting and RESTFUL!!
    Happy trekking.
    Laura and Roger

  15. Faith Friend says:

    Hi there you 3 Where are you now? Thinking of you and hoping the adventures are grand!!! All is well here and a break in the humidity is a blessing. No rain expected for the next 3 days. There have been a few flooded basements and fields in the area. Looking forward to hearing from you . Be safe and enjoy the ride. Love to you , Harry and Joan

  16. Faith Friend says:

    So are you back on schedule, more or less? I’m following the schedule you gave us and just wonders. (By the way, doesn’t look to down timish to me)

    Hope you are having a wonderful time connecting with lots of friends.

  17. admin says:

    Sorry to hear about your vehicle troubles Ruth. You did remember to bless your van before you set out I hope? I spent a lot of years of my life fixing cars and have come to realize that cars have a soul also, although different from ours. Give your new van a really nice name and a good blessing and you should be able to make the rest of your journey trouble free if you tend to tire air pressure, oil changes and coolant. Oh and don’t forget to check the serpentine belt because travelling in the heat can really beat up a vehicle, especially those items I mentioned. Safe travels and looking forward to your next update here. Ed B.

  18. Faith Friend says:

    Happy Canada day to you 3 . Glad to hear that you’re on the road again WITH air. We sure don’t need any air today —cold and rainy here in the sun parlour. We have an NB question .What kind of vehicle and what color ? Important ,eh? We’ll keep in touch and be safe. Hugs to all, Harry & Joan

    • Ruth Boehm says:

      Hi Harry & Joan,
      We have a silver 2006 Caravan. By the way, the books you gave Matthew are hilarious. We’ve enjoyed reading them even on sunny days as we travel along!!

  19. Ruth Boehm says:

    The kingdom of God is like yeast that the woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. Matthew 13:33

    Yeast is usually thought of as something positive as the active ingredient to help make bread rise. In New Testament times leaven had negative connotations. It was seen as unclean and corrupt. Yet in this parable it is connected with the kingdom of God.

    This was a parable used in my retreat days for reflection last week. I thought I had an idea of what it meant. God’s kingdom comes about when the difficult or corrupt thing that happen are reacted to in such a way that good comes out of it.
    Well, this has sure been a test for us this week.
    When we excitedly left home last Saturday we were ready for the road. When we turned the AC on only hot air blew. It was a warm ride to K-W. We had had the the AC fixed only three weeks before. Not impressed. On Sunday morning Barry took the van to a garage. The cost of the repairs was high. We had thought about getting a different van later in the year and wondered if this was a sign that it was time. So at the family gathering we gathered lots of counsel. Monday morning we checked with our mechanic and another one and then made the decision to go van shopping. We bought a newer van on Tuesday and got it on Wednesday. We even eventually got a hitch put on and the trailer lights up and running. We didn’t leave for Winnipeg until Thursday morning. So much for our plans of sitting and camping in the Upper Michigan. We’ve had two hard days of driving on the road and have stayed in hotels so that we can make time. However in Kitchener we had time to visit with family, our son could play with his cousins, I saw my nephew graduate from Grade 8, and we ate lots of fresh strawberries and ice cream.
    Today as we were driving I pondered the woman who took the leaven and worked it into the three measures of flour. It took a decision, and a sense of purpose. That little bit of leaven impacted a lot of flour. I realized anew that God was speaking to me about what choices I had. My sabbatical plans to interview pastors hasn’t happened so far. We won’t even get into Winnipeg on time for Sunday morning. I can complain and whine. Or, I can continue to choose to see how God has been present with us each step of the way. I can be grateful. I can see the positive. I can choose how I want to work with the leaven that comes my way. I pray for the strength to work up three measures of flour. Bread and jam anyone?

  20. Admin1 says:

    What a rich week of learning. I’ve spent the week meeting daily with my spiritual director and then time in silence alone. I’ve been walking on holy ground all week, thinking about my image of God, reflecting on being in transition and on giving thanks to God.
    One day I was driving down the road when I had to stop for a turtle. It had collected debris and seeds on its back. It was a bit out of its element. But it was on the road, in transition. It was a bit scared, and its back feet were tucked in. However, it’s head was held up high and its front feet were still ready for action. I feel a bit like that turtle. In transition, ready to head out on the road. Carrying some debris and some seeds. I will probably be on more familiar turf after a while – lose some debris and let the seeds fall where they may. But I’m excited for the months ahead. Heads up – I’m on the lookout for more turtles. Click on the link for the full picture of the turtle.

  21. admin says:

    We shall all miss Ruth as she journeys across Canada to discover our country, learns many new things, meets old and new friends and hopefully to rest and unwind as she traverses Canada. Ruth gives a great amount of herself and her time to us as she leads us spiritually and keeps us strong in the Lord. Laugh, play and have fun Ruth and come back to us refreshed with a new sense of creativity and vigor for your position as the leader of Faith Mennonite Church Leamington. We bid you a safe and wonderful sabbatical and a happy return.

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