Edmonton’s Fringe Festival 2016

Yesterday, while still on holidays, we visited the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. It has evolved and grown over the years. In the early years, from what I remember of it, the Fringe was a fair bit smaller, and more confined to the Strathcona area of the city. Now it has expanded considerably, and venues are more spread out. We decided to go to two plays. Here’s some photos.

Edmonton's International Fringe Festival 2016

Edmonton’s International Fringe Festival 2016

The Fringe 2016

The Fringe 2016

Watching a hoop act, the boy on the left was chosen from the crowd to participate.

Watching a hoop act, the boy on the left was chosen from the crowd to participate.

The hoop act b & w

The hoop act b & w

Scaramouche Jones

Scaramouche Jones

Scaramouche Jones by Justin Butcher, played by Robert Benz, was the first play we chose to see. In this engaging storytelling adventure, Scaramouche reminisces the events and multi-layered stages of his life, which include, among other things: sorrow and joy, darkness and light, tragedy and comedy. If you like long monologues, this is the one for you.

James & Jamesy in High Tea

James & Jamesy in High Tea

This play was co-written by Aaron Malkin, Alastair Knowles, and David MacMurray Smith. Malkin and Knowles entertain the audience with light-hearted British humour. The play is quite imaginative and audience members were ‘conscripted’ in the performance. If you like to keep it imaginatively light, this is the play for you.

For more information on the Edmonton Fringe Festival, click here.

Brief Book Review: Conquering Fear

Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World        Author: Harold S. Kushner                                                      Publisher: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, A Borzoi Book, 2009      ISBN: 978-0-307-26664-4, 173 pages, Hardcover                              CDN $29.95

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

conqueringfearFears. Every human being, at one time or another, encounters fears. The question is: How does one deal with such fears? Harold Kushner, who served as an active rabbi for many years, offers some of his experiences, knowledge and practical approaches to the subject at hand.

The volume consists of ‘First Words,’ and nine chapters. Each chapter focuses on a particular theme, and begins with at least one pertinent quotation.

There are over eighty references in the Bible instructing human beings not to fear. According to Rabbi Kushner, God does not want fear to dominate our lives; hence he gives us the Eleventh Commandment—“Do not be afraid.” This means, among other things, that: “Our goal should never be the denial of fear but the mastery of fear, the refusal to let fear keep us from living fully and happily.” (p. 24)

If readers are familiar with any of Rabbi Kushner’s previous books, they will recall that he casts the literary net far and wide, drawing on an array of sources, including: the Bible, the Talmud, rabbinic stories, contemporary psychology and literature among them. This volume continues in that vein.

In chapter after chapter, the author counsels his readers not to be paralyzed by their fears. Rather, the best way to handle fears is to face them and try to overcome them.

For example, Viktor Frankl told his patients, “Go out and do what you are afraid of. Expect the worst to happen.” When they did it and the worst did not happen, he would say to them, “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” (p. 168) Of course there are some exceptions to providing such counsel, especially regarding life-threatening behaviours.

My favourite story in this volume is one of hope inside a Nazi concentration camp, when Jews wanted to celebrate Hanukkah. Holiday celebrations were forbidden in the camp, but one man saved a bit of the bread from his evening meal, dipped it in grease from his dinner bowl, fashioned it into an impromptu candle, said the appropriate prayer and lit the bread. His son said to him, “Father, that was food you burned. We have so little of it. Wouldn’t we have been better off eating it?” The father replied, “My son, people can live for a week without food, but they cannot live for one day without hope.” (pp. 93-94)

This volume is written in accessible prose, and readers who are familiar with Rabbi Kushner’s previous books would most likely benefit from this one.

 

Elie Wiesel dies at 87 years

Activist and writer Elie Wiesel, the Second World War death camp survivor who won a Nobel Peace Prize for becoming the lifelong voice of millions of Holocaust victims, has died, Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem said on Saturday. He was 87.

Wiesel was also a philosopher, speaker, playwright and professor who also campaigned for the tyrannized and forgotten around the world. The Romanian-born Wiesel lived by the credo expressed in Night, his landmark story of the Holocaust: “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

After the war Wiesel made his way to France, studied at the Sorbonne and by 19 had become a journalist. He pondered suicide and never wrote of or discussed his Holocaust experience until 10 years after the war as a part of a vow to himself. He was 27 in 1955 when Night was published in Yiddish and Wiesel would later rewrite it for a world audience.

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed …” Wiesel wrote. “Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.”

Asked by an interviewer in 2000 why he did not go insane, Wiesel said: “To this day that is a mystery to me.”

By 2008, the New York Times said Night had sold an estimated 10 million copies, including 3 million after talk-show host Oprah Winfrey made it a spotlight selection for her book club in 2006.

I have read a few of Elie Wiesel’s books, and have found them at once despairing and hopeful, brilliant and tragic, prophetic and contemporary. As a Holocaust survivor, he fulfilled his purpose by being a spokeperson for the six million who perished, and a witness to the world, reminding everyone of the horrors of the Shoah.  May the life, legacy and memory of Elie Wiesel continue to be a blessing. May God grant him shalom-eternal.

Read more here.

Sermon for 5 Pentecost Yr C

Read my sermon for June 19, 2016 here: 5 Pentecost Yr C

Cobalt mining, technology and Amnesty International

As a member of Amnesty International, I encourage you to view the above video, and, if the spirit moves you, to take action to ensure that companies like Apple do their research into how resources such as cobalt are mined. According to the video young people like “Charles” are exploited to mine for the cobalt needed for our technological devices such as iphones. The working conditions are poor, leading to serious health problems for some. The wages are also poor. Apple and other companies need to do their research into how resources such as cobalt are mined, and to ensure that workers producing such resources have proper working conditions and are paid an adequate living wage.

Sermon for 2 Pentecost Yr C

Read my sermon for May 29, 2016 here: 2 Pentecost Yr C

Book Review: Over The Mountains

Over The Mountains: A Story Based on The Second Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren and other contemporary records

Author: Compiled by Eileen Robertshaw

Publisher: Walden, NY: The Plough Publishing House, 2012

184 pages, plus maps and an addition entitled: The Hutterite Mission Machine by Dean Taylor & Jake Gross

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

I’ve not read much Hutterite history. However my sister and brother-in-law who own a business, have numerous Hutterite colonies as their customers. A Hutterite customer gave this volume to them, and they passed it on to me.

Over The Mountains chronicles the life of Hutterites in the eighteenth century from Austria and eastern European countries such as today’s Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Rumania, and Ukraine. As the title suggests, it focuses on a flight of a group of Hutterites from Transylvania from the persecution and conversion tactics of Delphini, a Jesuit priest, sent by Empress Maria Theresia to do away with the Anabaptists. The flight was from Transylvania over the Carpathian Mountains into Wallachia, contemporary Rumania. Later they would emigrate from Rumania to Vishenka, Ukraine and Radicheva, Russia.

The work highlights a recurring cycle. The Hutterites because of their beliefs in communitarian living, based on Acts 2:42-47, pacifism, and re-baptizing those who were baptized as infants; they were regarded as heretics by other Christians, were persecuted, and invading enemy Turks plundered and destroyed their property. They were offered the opportunity to recant and return to the Roman Catholic and sometimes Lutheran churches. When they refused, they were imprisoned, even beaten, children were taken from their parents, and families were separated from one another. The Hutterites then sought out other countries where religious freedom would honour their way of life. Princes and other wealthy landowners from such countries would promise them religious freedom, and then they would immigrate. Whenever the civic or religious authorities of that land began to persecute them; or a war tax was imposed on the Hutterites; or they were expected to serve in the military; or the land on which they lived was disputed because of war; the recurring cycle would begin again.

One of the developments amongst the Hutterites was an underground communications system whereby one or more would secretly travel to visit their imprisoned family or community members, and then return with news as to their circumstances.

Periodically there would be disagreements in the community whether or not to observe all of Sunday as a day of worship and rest; and what type of prayer was permissible.

According to The Hutterite Mission Machine, Hutterite missionary ministers met in 1527 at Augsburg, Germany for what came to be known as the Martyr’s Synod. At this meeting, the focus was on evangelism and missions; and the missionaries divided up certain regions of Europe and agreed on where each missionary would go. Of the 60 missionary ministers who attended the Synod, only two were still alive five years later.

This is an interesting fact for at least two reasons. First, it underscores the priority and commitment to missionary work among the Hutterites in the Reformation era; as well as the courage and faith of the 58 missionaries who were willing to be martyred for what they believed was the work Christ had given them. Second, it is quite a contrast with contemporary Hutterites here in Canada, who seem to have given up on evangelism and missions.

This volume would be most beneficial to those interested in eighteenth century Hutterite history.