Posts Tagged ‘Countess Bible School’


Jesus said, come as a child. Not being childish, but with all the wonder, honesty and curiosity of a child. What does this mean for our journey today?

Watch here.


Spiritual journaling is more than simply writing out thoughts, it can be dynamic as you connect your creative soul to rational mind and discover the Holy Spirit’s direction and discernment in your journey.

Watch here.


Yup, new YouTube videos were created during my family’s retreat at Countess, AB. They cover a variety of spiritual formation topics in no more than 3 minute stints. The first is about Selah.

Watch here.


There is the official history of the world, and the land. There is religious history. There is political history. There is geo-political history. Some would even class colonialism, and other epochs of history (Reformation, Enlightenment, and Romanticism). Each human prairie-memoirsmovement and people cling to an official history of what they distill down to be the most important aspects for their legacy. The meta-narratives of history can be boiled down to the local communities’ yore, and then the tales of the people. This is the jurisdiction of family journals, scrap books, photo albums, and if one family is lucky, publishing of a memoir. This is the journey that Margaretha Wilms …and the Meadowlark Sang –Prairie Memoirs- (2011) takes the reader through. It starts with Mennonite Migration to North America, after laying out who Mennonites are, then comes down to her local family unit on the Prairies (when it was still the Northwest Territories).

A tale familiar to many of a family structure to accomplish shared goals, this being farm life, communal meals, shared religious upbringing, tight community with kith and kin. It also shares some of the struggles, what it was like to be in a world shaped by certain points of view. The fun of Crokinole (and yes it is fun, if you make it to Countess ask for a game). The importance of family, chosen and by blood, for that is what a healthy supportive community becomes, a family chosen. Sharing stories of roles that seem antiquated through today’s lens and child rearing that would not be considered but it was her reality that shaped her life.

The joy of Christmas and the arrival of the Eaton’s and Simpsons catalog for ordering  gifts from, and as we have learned through the exploration of the Countess Bible School, a time when the winter Sabbath from the farm would bring different opportunities.

Through it all, she ties to scripture of her heritage, Hebrew Bible prophets and wisdom. The familiar (to the Birds fans) refrain of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 of a time for everything, and the prophet Joel, to a reminder of why sharing our stories matter:

Tell it to your children,
    and let your children tell it to their children,
    and their children to the next generation. (New International Version)

Willms (p.116) shares of the personal renaissance, as she grew in life and moved from shame to embracing of her heritage and who she was as a person. She writes of being a Saskatchewan farm child in the grasshopper infested-dust bowl of farm life of the Dirty Thirties, how her parents modeled values she still holds dear of the intangibles, or as Willms phrased it eternal over material.

Her journey takes her through Prairie Bible Institute and Caronport, as she discerns whom she is. The narrative shifts into the Russian Mennonites who came later to Canada. For Mennonites had enjoyed very good autonomy, and a strong control of the flourmill industry under Tsarist Russia, but between 1917 (Bolshevik Revolution) and 1925 (when the last would try to flee) the tide would turn as they were seen as enemies of the state (p.234-35). These immigrant’s to Canada became known as Russlanders, as only their country of origin was Russia (p.236).

meadowlark-memoir-image-1.jpgCP Rail loved the work ethic of Mennonites that were coming in this later wave, and brought them to the prairies to work (Countess, Gem, Rosemary and Duchess) with each family being given ¼ sections of land originally managed by French Settlers (p.236). Willms’ husband, John was part of this wave of immigration. They were a hearty bunch that built a church in Gem fairly readily, with many choosing to gather in the Clemenceau School in Countess because it was closer in the cluster (p. 237). The influx of Russlander Mennonites doubled the size of Mennonites in Canada and brought 176 new congregations, this is important as the church was the hub of communal life (p.237). In 1924, 8,000 Mennonites came to Canada, and CP Rail negotiated to sponsor another 3, 772 in 1925 (p. 239). Some newcomers found Canada to worldly and wanted to go to Mexico or Paraguay to avoid what they viewed as a “sinful” nation; while others wanted to dive in to Canadian life taking further education, rising in leadership and building a new world (p.238-9).

John’s parents were part of the 1925 wave of immigrants from Russia. By 1926 Stalin had stopped the flow out of the Motherland (p.239). John was born to his parents in Ontario, they went on to settle a farm in Manitoba before finally coming to Countess, AB in an irrigation arrangement with a few other Mennonite settlers (p.240).

John Willms met his wife Margaretha, in Alberta, in the Irrigation District of Countess, part of what is known as the Palliser Triangle the driest patch of land in Canada (p. 241-242). John had remained in the area when his parents had returned to Manitoba.

The irrigation district from Calgary to Medicine Hat was the property of CP Rail, and built to facilitate the railway (p.242). It was tax exempt from 1921 and was to be irrigated but this idea was quashed instead to use a Dam system of the Bow River by Bassano (p.242).  The French settlements were mostly in tact when the Russlander settlers came and moved in. They had originally been settled by Quebecois and Francophones from Eastern USA between 1917-1919 but after years of almost freezing to death, and few crops they left to head east back to Quebec (p.242). This is why CP Rail sought out the Russlanders to make the hamlets viable for their endeavour.

John attended Clemenceau School for his education, it was originally a Francophone school named after a VIP French General (p. 242-3). It was a one-room school house, with a rectory-style house on the same land for the teacher (who was also expected to function as janitor) (p.243).

As we move into the betrothment, wedding, and settlement back into Saskatchewan with Margaretha and John. Teaching around the province, children, staying connected with the family diaspora, the CCF, oh and a nice wrap up as an appendix with the recipes mentioned throughout the book.

It makes one reflect if they were to pause, and write the story of their family, what would it look like?

What is our story?


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA


Apprenticeship is a brilliant design for most fields. It is the direct application of knowledge in real time. That is we learn, we serve. It is something that I have contemplated many times during my decades of service. There are some ministry or social work programs that build in practicum or service hours during each semester, which in my mind is brilliant. One can learn from a book and faculty sure, but there is something about seeing what works with the transfiguring or shadowed human before you. How do you facilitate the true self emerging? Other programs, wait until near the end to allow for practicum experience and I have found this can be a stumbling block for they are so filled with theory, and heady knowledge there is an unwillingness to learn from colleagues, elders in the field and those they serve for they are filled with knowledge and know it all best…but lack in the heart wisdom.

Most know of the apprentice models through the trades, which makes sense. How does one become a Master Tradesman in their field? Education and practice going hand in hand. Applied knowledge becoming wise. I write this reflecting on being the son of an Electrician. Trust me, I was part of the only SAIT class to need to write the tool exam, so I am not of the handy variety (at least my wife finds me cute, to invert Red Green wisdom). But in spite of my own inaccuracies there are some basics I learned along the way on job sites helping out, and doing paperwork. It aided in discerning where I was meant to be.

But what does this have to do with the Countess Country Museum or a Countess Bible School? It is amazing what happens when you peel an onion of lost prairie history. What we knew was that it was a CP Rail stop, a Hamlet built for that. What was discovered in its 104 year history was a story of discovery, migration, building, and connecting. Community across lines, where for a while, denominational distinctions did not matter. Where Buddhists and Mormons shared land, where Mennonites came and settled after French Settlers left (my hypothesis is the French farmer-ranchers left in the early 20th Century the Alberta area due to the Conscription Crisis that led to our first National Referendum in Canada).

The Mennonites settled the Royal Line, and from 1929-1940 met in Countess, AB out of Clemenceau (Francophone) School. In peeling the onion I discovered something intriguing about the land for 2019. It will be the 80th anniversary of the Countess Bible School (ran for 5 months in the winter of 1939-1940).

What is a Bible School?

T.D. Regehr in Mennonites in Canada 1939-1970: A People Transformed (1996) writes:

Bible schools typically offered a `Bible-centred, intensely practical, lay-oriented program of poste secondary theological training.’ (p.233).

There were 3 objectives:

  1. Equip the laity with basic Biblical Knowledge and understanding.
  2. Equip and train preachers, teachers, choir directors and other church workers.
  3. Preserve a distinct Mennonite Identity

(Paraphrased from Regehr, p. 233).

Winter was obviously chosen, as on the Prairies it was the slow time, and also the darkest time. It supported not only learning but community for it connected neighbours. Truly it was the original Small Group in the modern world if you will. For the leaders learned and discovered their vocation while rooted in community practicing. It was spiritual apprenticeship, preparing those that served the intangibles of life and community. It was learning the knowledge during the Sabbath time of winter on the Prairies to apply in the new spring. Knowledge becomes wisdom when lived and applied. A life vocation is discovered through practice and community.

In 2019 we celebrate this scant 5 months of history on the prairies, as a place of discovery, learning, growth and wisdom. Much like what the Museum is, and will be for Alberta. Happy Anniversary Countess Bible School, 80 years on.

Reference:

Regehr, T.D.(1996) Mennonites in Canada 1939-1970 A People Transformed.

Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


Apprenticeship is a brilliant design for most fields. It is the direct application of knowledge in real time. That is we learn, we serve. It is something that I have contemplated many times during my decades of service. There are some ministry or social work programs that build in practicum or service hours during each semester, which in my mind is brilliant. One can learn from a book and faculty sure, but there is something about seeing what works with the transfiguring or shadowed human before you. How do you facilitate the true self emerging? Other programs, wait until near the end to allow for practicum experience and I have found this can be a stumbling block for they are so filled with theory, and heady knowledge there is an unwillingness to learn from colleagues, elders in the field and those they serve for they are filled with knowledge and know it all best…but lack in the heart wisdom.

For you yourselves know, brothers,[a] that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.For we never came with words of flattery,[b] as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle[c] among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

-Epistle of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (English Standard Version)

Most know of the apprentice models through the trades, which makes sense when using an allegory of a soul palace. I put this out there as a mind palace still keeps one silo’ed while a soul palace speaks to the whole being. And who builds palaces? Why the trades people. How does one become a Master Tradesman in their field? Education and practice going hand in hand. Becoming wise. I write this reflecting on being the son of an Electrician. Trust me, I was part of the only SAIT class to need to write the tool exam, so I am not of the handy variety (at least my wife finds me cute, to invert Red Green wisdom). But in spite of my own inaccuracies there is some basics I learned along the way on job sites helping out, and doing paperwork. It aided in discerning where I was meant to be.

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

-Epistle of 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (English Standard Version)

As noted in earlier posts, as part of my recovery, I have taken on a bit of a Facebook project handling the history page for Countess Country Museum. It is amazing what happens when you peel an onion of history. I find this, as I read Acts 17 this morning with Paul coming to Thessalonika, and spending three Sabbaths in the Synagogue, using history and allegory to teach the mystic spirituality he was bringing. This is like peeling the onion on discovering a, some would say lost prairie history. What we knew was that it was a CP Rail stop, a Hamlet built for that. What was discovered in its 104 year history was a story of discovery, migration, building, and connecting. Community across lines, where for awhile, denominational distinctions did not matter. Where Buddhists and Mormons shared land, where Mennonites came and settled after French Settlers left (my hypothesis is the French farmer-ranchers left in the early 20th Century the Alberta area due to the Conscription Crisis that led to our first National Referendum in Canada).

The Mennonites settled the Royal Line, and from 1929-1940 met in Countess, AB out of Clemenceau (Francophone) School. It was also interesting to peel back the onion further, as I reflect on the words of Paul above, and these images:

13 And we also thank God constantly[d] for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men[e] but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,[f] 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last![g]

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

-Epistle of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (English Standard Version)

How does this tie into a history from Southern Alberta? Well, it ties into the concept that is being built upon within the epistolary writing of Paul here to these gatherings. It is rooted in hope, and love. It is knowing, like we opened with, that it is not just knowledge that matters but practice. In peeling the onion I discovered something intriguing about the land for 2019. It will be the 80th anniversary of the Countess Bible School (ran for 5 months in the winter of 1939-1940).

What is a Bible School?

T.D. Regehr in Mennonites in Canada 1939-1970: A People Transformed (1996) writes:

Bible schools typically offered a `Bible-centred, intensely practical,lay-oriented program of poste secondary theological training.’ (p.233).

There was 3 objectives:

  1. Equip the laity with basic Biblical Knowledge and understanding.
  2. Equip and train preachers, teachers, choir directors and other church workers.
  3. Preserve a distinct Mennonite Identity

(Paraphrased from Regehr, p. 233).

Winter was obviously chosen, as on the Prairies it was the slow time, and also the darkest time. It supported not only learning but community for it connected neighbours. Truly it was the original Small Group in the modern world if you will. For the leaders learned and discovered their vocation while rooted in community practicing. Apprenticeship, or for the spiritual, discipleship.

It is amazing what happens when one peels the onion of history. Not to yearn for the past to remain or come back, but to see what has come before, and what we can build upon. Like this category, Brunch & Bible, it is part of apprenticeship. For almost a decade our house offered Brunch & Bible on a weekend, or some variation there of (currently it is a spiritual book group twice a month, with snacks). It is the gathering like the Countess Bible School during Sabbath time, to discover who we truly are. Explore our stories, it can come in the form of Sacred Scripture, fine arts, movies, shows, whatever bonds, it has an element of Communion in sharing of food, and discussion, reasoning, and knowing the journey to the whole self. I write, hoping it will inspire discussion in small gatherings to explore further and discuss with friends, neighbours, and neighbours not yet met.

For the Soul Palace is hard to complete, without many workers of varied trades and backgrounds.

What is your apprenticeship?

What is your Brunch and Bible?