A new choral work by a Canadian composer and a Ukrainian choir singing music from the Orthodox tradition were part of the Molochna Bicentennial Thanksgiving Service here Oct. 10. The service commemorated “200 years of partnership between Mennonites and Ukrainians in the Molochna River Region.”
Speaking to the theme, “Joint heirs with Christ,” were novelist Rudy Wiebe from Edmonton and historian Paul Toews from California.
About 550 people attended the service, including 191 passengers on the Mennonite Heritage Cruise, a group of Russian emigrants now living in Germany (Aussiedler), and members of four local congregations.
This was the largest gathering of Mennonites in Ukraine since 1943, according to Walter Unger, co-director of the heritage cruise and an initiator of the celebration.
The service opened with a new work by Larry Nickel, long-time music teacher at Mennonite Educational Institute in B.C. The composition, “Molochna Thanksgiving,” was written for choir, baritone solo, instruments and congregation. Local Mennonite congregations also gave presentations in words and music.
In “Reflections on the past: Look to the Rock,” Rudy Wiebe walked through Mennonite history, from 16th century Europe to the diaspora of Russian Mennonites in the 20th century.
“But today we can meet,” he said. “We can come together and tell each other our stories, however sad or happy or amazingly miraculous they may be . . .
“We tell each other stories, as, by His gentle example, Jesus Himself taught us. Our past gives us stories by which we can live our present.”
In “Thoughts about the future,” Paul Toews reflected on how things have changed since he first visited the Soviet Union in 1989. Acknowledging the difficulties that continue, Toews focused on the hope of the present.
“Today there are four Mennonite congregations in Ukraine – Zaporozhye, Kherson, Kutuzovka and Balkova. Today Ukrainians and people from various countries are working together in effective partnership in the work of the Mennonite Centre in Molochansk, in the work of the Mennonite Family Centre in Zaporozhye, in the work of the Mennonite Central Committee, in the work of the Baptist Union.
“Today we meet with a sense of hope,” Toews said, “with a sense that a Mennonite presence and witness in Ukraine is growing and is making a difference.”
—from Margaret Loewen Reimer, Canadian Mennonite
| © 2008 Mennonite Brethren Herald
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