Pastoral setting

Efforts by Mennonites in Wellington North to adhere to man’s laws are being shunned by their prospective neighbours in Conn. We have to wonder why. 

Maybe it has to do with change, and people’s typically negative response to anything different. The comings and goings of many people on a Sunday might be disruptive.

Perhaps it is as simple as not understanding or having no appreciation for another culture, which, arguably this is. Mennonites live their lives based on a religion that calls for a simpler, less complicated approach to life.

For generations, commuters have joined us out here in the country. Obviously they were attracted to whatever they liked enough to settle on the sideroads, in the villages and hamlets scattered across Ontario. Over those generations, there have probably been times where newcomers were not welcomed with open arms, but for the most part, people looking to make a home are embraced and get plenty of support.

To think for a moment that neighbours just outside Conn are not welcome to have their church in the hamlet – based on not living within the hamlet – is laughable.

The Mennonites we have known are quite capable of meeting the needs within their own communities. Prior to zoning rules and planning regulations, churches and schools of all faiths were constructed based on the number of parishioners within an easy ride by horse and buggy. Churches that dot the countryside today would have had no chance to be built where they are under current rules.

In addition to meeting the township zoning rules, the Wellington Federation of Agriculture has thrown its support behind the Conn proposal, saving the indiscriminate use of farm land better meant for food production for worthier causes.

To suggest that an exception be made to a policy for the sake of some disgruntled homeowners would be a big step backward.

But Conn remains a microcosm of other jurisdictions not far from home that also find it difficult to accept a church as a neighbour. South-end residents of Guelph continue to disagree on whether a mosque should be built within the view of expensive homes. There, an idea has been floated that churches would be more comfortable in an industrial setting where neighbours would not complain about traffic and the like.

An idea we considered a very forward looking approach to the issue was a lane of churches, where religions of all types could locate and share a peaceful existence. It required township help, county help and city help to get off the ground – and it was basically dashed in part due to the bigotry we believe exists under the surface in many communities.

No answer to where churches should go has been found – a point that should not be lost on future Guelph residents who would have marvelled at the foresight to plan a campus of hope within its city, had visionaries had their way.

As for Wellington North, we figure the neighbourly spirit that draws people to call it home will kick in and the Mennonite proposal for a church and school will be embraced and welcomed in Conn.