What it means to be Mennonite

While the majority of NHL players were enjoying a nearly weeklong break for the All-Star game festivities in Ottawa last weekend, Nick Spaling took the opportunity to give back to his community.
Spaling, a native of Drayton and 2007 draft pick of the Nashville Predators, was in his hometown and at the Dan Snyder Arena in Elmira Jan. 27 to shoot a commercial for the Mennonite Church of Canada.
The commercial is aimed at children growing up within the Mennonite Church, as Spaling did, and to encourage them to chase their dreams and not be held back by their faith or the stigma that surrounds it.
“The purpose is to chip away at some of the stereotypes that are sometimes associated with Mennonites,” said Willard Metzger, executive director of Mennonite Church Canada and former pastor of the Community Mennonite Fellowship in Drayton, which Spaling attended as a child.

MORE ICE TIME Spaling spent about half an hour at the WMC filming a commercial for the Mennonite Church of Canada.

“Sometimes people will associate Mennonite with a certain ethnicity, a German ethnicity, or oftentimes would assume that all Mennonites are old-order Mennonite with the horse and buggy, so we’re trying to dispel that.”
The shoot consisted of two locations; youth playing ball hockey in the parking lot of Community Mennonite Fellowship, and Spaling playing in a mock NHL game at the Dan Snyder Arena. The scenes will cut between one boy in particular at the ball hockey game (symbolizing Spaling as a youth), and Spaling at the NHL level taking slap shots and body checking opponents into the glass.

“The main focus of it is that you can find Mennonites anywhere and everywhere. The idea is that ‘I’m Nick Spaling. I’m an NHL player, and I’m also a Mennonite,’” explained Metzger.

Metzger has been trying to organize the shoot for nearly a year, but with Spaling’s busy NHL schedule, it has been hard to find the time. Finally, the pair decided they could do it over the NHL All-Star break since Spaling would be returning home to visit family because he couldn’t make it home for Christmas.

The NHLer said he was happy to help the community that had done so much for him growing up.

“Being a part of the Mennonite Church, when this opportunity came up I thought it was a great way to get the church’s message out there and to get that point across,” said Spaling after the shoot at the WMC.
“It’s a new and evolving way of looking at things, instead of your typical Mennonite that a lot of people think of these days.”

The commercial is just the first in a series that the Mennonite Church hopes to film, and Metzger said they have arranged to film a member of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as well as ordinary business people and entrepreneurs to give the commercials a well-rounded mix of high-profile professionals as well as the everyday person.

Metzger said he was unsure when the commercial might hit the airwaves, but hoped it could coincide with the Predators’ playoff push in early spring.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

Enter your email to subscribe. Unsubscribe anytime. We may send you promotional messages.
Please read our privacy policy.

  1. Came across this article totally by accident. Was surprised and delighted at the same time. I don’t know Nick either as a Mennonite nor a hockey player…although he is certainly one of our small town’s heroes. As a Jesus walker in at Mennonite Community Fellowship it is clear that I am not a cultural Mennonite. “They” make it clear in unspoken ways, and in turn I make it clear spoken : )
    Heard things about what I thought was just a cool photo op with the community in a Gretzky like tradition. The locals love him! I didn’t hear about the Menno bit.
    One day I even had to phone N. Spaling to apologize to him. I had treated him like a newcomer to church. You know, do the friendly thing, introduced myself, try to start a conversation (he’d been away playing hockey for awhile and gotten, a hair cut, grown up…yada yada… and I clearly hadn’t recognized him). When I did recognize Nick, I WRONGLY shifted him to “rock star status” and didn’t know how to continue the conversation. That would be a problem in any church, wouldn’t it.
    All this to say, I would like to applaud both Willard Metzger and Nick Spaling for going to such great lengths to engage the discussion of “What does it mean to be a Mennonite?” This is just a tip of the ice berg. Bravo guys!

  2. Well, it struck me as creative.

    Not that I disagree with the earlier point about issues of militarism, etc. But having an individual like this affirm and be proud of their mennonite faith who also happen to play professional sports, or to feature someone who plays for the symphony, or is a business person, or whatever, puts a modern perspective on “die stille im land” – we are folks working along side others in all walks of life, invisible made visible.

  3. Good questions Bert. I’m not sure I understand the purpose of the commercial, either. I think the Church of Latter Day Saints has successfully sent out a message via commercials promoting their values and therefore also their Church. I hope that these Mennonite commercials have content beyond just saying I am a Mennonite. I will have to wait and see.
    I would rather the commercial focus on the problem of the militarization of Canada or another issue that we could address from a Mennonite/Anabaptist perspective. Or encourage people to consider the Mennonite Church as a way to join others who want to deepen their spiritual life and live with integrity.
    Whether a commercial is the best means, I don’t know. It certainly is one way to go. I would hope that they link to social media where a lot of influence happens now that TV is so niche-based and fragmented. It also encourages interaction unlike TV.

  4. 1. First, why focus on dispelling the Amish/Old Order myth rather than building on it…what is the essence of our Anabaptist faith? The piece misses an opportunity to identify, with grace, what it is that distinguishes our understanding of the gospel; surely this must be the focus of a national church organization. Is the subject of focus an Anabatist?
    2. Second, why look to a “commercial” ( I assume this would be paid but am not sure) to advertise the Anabaptist Church and our distinctiveness?

Comments are closed.

Related Posts