Articles Faculty Profiles

Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Irma Fast Dueck

Dr. Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, began her teaching career at Canadian Mennonite Bible College, one of CMU’s predecessor colleges, in 1991.

What do you love about your work here?

I love the students and I love my colleagues. I also love the fact that we’re a small enough university that we can’t develop silos. Theology spills into music, which spills into math, and so on. Our lives don’t fit into neat categories—most of our lives are this muddy, murky in-between—and we have a university that embodies that.

06 - Irma Fest Dueck (July 2016) 02

What did you teach this past year that most excited you?

Theologies of Power. It’s an upper level course in theology, and students come from all over the place, including business and communications. It was fascinating to teach them a concept in thinking of power, and then watch them take that concept and read it through their discipline. Power is so insidious—it’s everywhere. For these students to recognize that and work in this interdisciplinary way was awesome to watch.

What are you researching and writing right now?

I’m working on a book about baptism, which I’ve been researching and writing for three years now. The big question that I’ve been wrestling with is: Why aren’t young adults getting baptized? I’ve noticed in my tradition, Mennonite Church Canada (MC Canada), many young adults are actively involved in church organizations but aren’t baptized. Why is that? Why are they hesitant to make commitments to the church? What’s going in in terms of how they interpret the meaning of baptism?

What are you reading for enjoyment?

I just finished reading Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, about a marathon runner who becomes a refugee. And, I’m always reading poetry, so Mary Karr and Kei Miller are two poets that I’m working through right now. Someone introduced me to them when I was on sabbatical in Scotland. I read a poem a day by each of them.

What do you most long for in your work?

What I long for is that love is at the core of who students are, even as they are aware of the complexities and problems of life, and deal with very real fears. I hope that in spite of the complexities, they don’t slide into cynicism or despair, but that they still love—they love God, they love creation, they love the wonder of this world, they love each other, and they love those who are different from them.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

I just finished the Listening Church project with my friend, Darryl Neustaedter Barg, where we interviewed Mennonite LGBTQ people about their experiences in MC Canada congregations and created a video. That was a great project—it gave me a sense of hope for the church. Right now, I’m on the steering committee put together by MennoMedia, MC Canada, and Mennonite Church USA that is overseeing the development of a new Mennonite song collection. We are trying to figure out what congregations need and how the church can resource them for their singing and worship. I’m excited about it.

Alumni Profiles Articles

Dr. Angela Reed: Spiritual formation from Winkler to Waco

In the Baptist circles of Waco, Texas, she’s known as “the Mennonite.”

Angela Reed (CMBC BTh ’96, CMU BA ’00) is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Spiritual Formation at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.

“I haven’t actually been a member of a Mennonite church for 10 years, but that doesn’t matter,” Reed says. “They absolutely, wholeheartedly around the seminary refer to me as ‘the Mennonite,’ and seem to say that with great affection.”

Angela ReedOn faculty at Truett since 2010, Reed spends half her time teaching courses in spiritual formation and discipleship, and half her time directing the seminary’s spiritual formation program.

The spiritual formation program at Truett invites all students to develop habits that support personal and communal spiritual formation that may sustain them through the challenges and joys of ministry.

The program is based upon small group discipleship. Each student is part of a six- to eight-person “covenant group” that meets weekly for prayer and spiritual formation.

Reed’s work also includes providing spiritual direction in groups and with individual students, as well as researching and writing.

Her most recent book, Spiritual Companioning: A Guide to Protestant Theology and Practice, co-authored with Richard R. Osmer and Marcus G. Smucker, recently won the Martin Institute and Dallas Willard Center Book Award.

“What I most enjoy about my work is building relationships with students, helping them to discern their vocation and calling, and helping them to prepare for that,” Reed says. “Part of that preparation is to see them grow in Christian character, and in relationship with God and others.”

Reed grew up an hour and a half southwest of Winnipeg on a farm near Winkler, MB. As a child, she enjoyed reading the Bible on her own, and as a teenager attending Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church, she developed a strong interest in personal spiritual disciplines.

Studying theology at CMBC led to pastoral work at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. She went on to earn her Master of Divinity through CMU and the Faculty of Theology at the University of Winnipeg.

During this time, Reed worked part-time as a spiritual director at Springfield Heights Mennonite Church. While finishing her MDiv, Reed began considering further study.

Her interests in spiritual formation and spiritual direction led her to Princeton Theological Seminary, where she graduated in May 2010 with a PhD in Practical Theology.

More than a decade after leaving southern Manitoba, Reed’s Mennonite roots still run deep. She recalls CMU’s emphasis on community in theology classes, Bible classes, and in chapel.

“I appreciate having come from this small community,” she says, adding that it has influenced her work at Truett. “Creating small group community within the larger context (of the seminary), I think, has been very important to me.”

“That commitment to community that I had within the Mennonite Church is a very strong part of who I am today, how I teach, and how I write,” she adds. “I will never lose that.”

Spring 2016 Blazer Magazine CoverArticle taken from the Spring 2016 issue of The Blazer magazine produced by CMU.
Click to view the entire magazine.

Articles Faculty Profiles

Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Tim Rogalsky

Dr. Tim Rogalsky, Associate Professor of Mathematics, has taught at CMU since 2000.

What do you love about your work here?

There are so many things. One is that my students are really, really fun to work with. I just taught a chaos theory course, and student papers at the end of the semester included a paper on spirituality and environmentalism, a paper on Shakespearean literature, and a paper on God’s omniscience. I love the way they think deeply about so many different but interconnected things, and the way they come up with some really profound insights derived from the mathematical theory of chaos and its applications.

05 - Tim Rogalsky (June 2016)

What did you teach this past year that most excited you?

My favourite course is Intro to Calculus, because it’s easy to apply. That’s what makes math really exciting for me: To think about how the way the real world operates can be understood through mathematics.

What are you researching and writing right now?

I just finished a project on Salvador Dali that I would like to continue. Salvador Dali is fairly well known as a surrealist painter, as someone who was rather crass, someone who you certainly wouldn’t think of as a religious person, but there are a lot of depths to him that I’ve found, and some of those depths involved using mathematics and science as a conduit to spirituality. I call it mathematical mysticism.

What do you most long for in your work?

I love the a-ha moments. Sometimes it’s in the classroom and I watch the light bulb come on in a student’s eyes. Sometimes it’s in my own mind or in my heart; I’m teaching a concept and I suddenly get these intense shivers, and I think about how amazing all of this is in the way that it works together. Sometimes it’s in my own research. I can be in the shower or wake up in the middle of the night, and suddenly there’s this idea that just kind of pops forth in full glory that the day before, the hour before, the minute before I didn’t know, but in that moment I suddenly know and understand.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

I have given a handful of noon-hour talks at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In April I presented, “Why Beauty Matters: The Art of Nature,” on some of the really beautiful mathematical patterns we find in the world. I’ll be sharing a version of that at a CMU Face2Face event in November. Explaining mathematics in ways that are understandable to people who don’t have a mathematics degree is something that I love to do. Watching an audience of non-mathematicians says, “Wow!” about mathematics is so, so cool.

What saying or motto inspires you?

The Franciscan friar and author Richard Rohr has been known to say that mystery is not that which is unknowable, but that which is endlessly knowable. That is so often true in both mathematics and theology. We’re always learning, always striving to know better, and that journey is always thrilling.


I could very well have dreamed

Annual discernment retreat reshapes the way students inquire about vocation

It sounds like something out of Harry Potter: The Office of Ministry Inquiry. In reality the Office consists of two CMU Biblical & Theological Studies professors whose passion is to coordinate efforts at CMU to identify ministerial aptitudes/vocation within individual students, to help those students’ discern the call of God in their lives, and to nurture their first-fruits.

Beth Downey Sawatzky
Beth Downey Sawatzky on Mission Quest: “Together, we air many dreams: dreams of the church, dreams of home, dreams of things not at all like church but fueled by the same convictions.”

Currently, Irma Fast-Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, and Andrew Dyck, Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies head up the team.

One of the key ways the Office fulfills its duties is by organizing a biennial discernment retreat—Ministry Quest, they call it—for students who have either come forward on their own with questions to sort through, or have been encouraged by the promptings of peers, staff, faculty, or other mentors.

This year the retreat was held at St. Benedict’s Monastery & Retreat Centre, just north of Winnipeg. As they do every year, each of our crew arrived on site carrying a tousle of emotions inside: hope, fear, questions, assumptions, misgiving, enthusiasm, excitement, doubt. The balance is different for everyone.

Many students fit the imaginable profile of a “questing” young person with a desire to be useful. Others show up, as I did, protesting.

The Office and other retreat leaders deserve points for effective leadership, because everyone gets real pretty quickly. Generally speaking, a lot of the questions, hopes, and fears turn out to be pretty similar at bottom, and most everything is on the table within 24 hours. At the heart of it, most of our objections are pretty predictable: Me? Couldn’t be. I’m ordinary, flawed, really not half so spiritual as I like to pretend… Blasé, maybe, but honest. This really is what worries us.

Between large group sessions involving very creative ice-breakers and raw testimonies from the leaders, plenty of alone time for reflection, and piercing small-group gatherings for collective sharing and discernment, it’s an intensive, surprisingly productive two days. Together, we air many dreams: dreams of the church, dreams of home, dreams of things not at all like church but fueled by the same convictions. Most students agree, the retreat provides perspective more than answers, but really, that’s all we need.

Everyone walks away with some new insight to consider, or the sense that they’ve gained a new way of feeling for things. We’re each headed in different directions, but the work we are doing is much the same. We’re listening. We are listening deep into ourselves, unsure of what we want or expect to hear, but genuinely desiring to hear something, even if we say we don’t.

If the retreat leaders’ stories are anything to go on, we’re all doomed in the end; but process is as or more important than product. The monastery air seems thick with that truth, the pace of the place resounds with it—a holy hesitance, peaceful and calm. Taking some of that spirit with us, we leave slowly, quietly.

written by Beth Downey Sawatzky

Articles Faculty Profiles

Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Candice Viddal

Dr. Candice Viddal, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics, has taught at CMU since 2010.

What did you teach this past year that most excited you?

I began teaching a sequence of courses in biochemistry. Biochemistry is essentially a course about the chemical reactions that underlie the way that biological organisms work. I find it very fascinating. In particular, I really enjoy learning about proteins. Proteins are essentially the workhorses of the cell. They do all kinds of different things and each protein has its own task. In the last 50 years, there have been so many advances in our knowledge of what specific proteins look like in terms of their three dimensional structure. I can often find in the literature new stories, new contemporary findings, and new discoveries to share with students in the class.

04 - Candice Viddal (May 2016)What are you researching and writing right now?

I study protein dynamics with computer modeling. This means that I track the motions of the tens of thousands of atoms that compose a protein as a way of trying to understand how it performs its function. When proteins do their job, they have to jiggle around. They’re generally very, very dynamic. One of my particular interests is in tracking the energy flow. That is, if an event happens in a protein, I’m interested in knowing how the information of that event, like the binding of a chemical, transmits throughout the protein so that the rest of the protein responds to it.

What are you reading for enjoyment?

I’m reading Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears. It’s a historical mystery novel about the rise and fall of a wealthy man named John Stone around World War I. The story has a very interesting structure: three different people in three different locations at three different times tell it. What I find particularly interesting about the book is that Iain Pears understands the human condition very well. He gets into the characters’ minds and plumbs the depths of their experience, which makes for an engaging narrative.

What do you most long for in your work?

One dream I have is for CMU to eventually offer a Bachelor of Science degree program. Another dream I have is to teach a “Big Ideas” course in science. Right now, I teach very rigorous scientific courses, and I enjoy that. But I would also love to be able to teach courses that engage with students that are not necessarily interested in the real heavy duty mechanics of the subject, but maybe are intrigued by the concepts. I’d love to teach “Science for Poets,” or something like that. It always fascinates me to think about how I would approach a course like that.

What saying or motto inspires you?

I don’t know who said it, but “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” I often think about that. It inspires me to grow daily and to live courageously. It also serves as a reminder that we can do a lot more than we imagine sometimes.

Articles Faculty Profiles

Faculty: In Their Own Words – Andrew Dyck

Andrew Dyck, Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies, has taught at CMU since January 2013. Prior to coming to CMU, Andrew worked as a pastor for 16 years in Abbotsford, BC.

What are you researching and writing right now?

I’m working to finish my doctoral dissertation this summer. I’m writing about the nature of Mennonite Brethren spirituality. I’m looking at 150 years of Mennonite Brethren history and asking what place spiritual direction or Taizé singing, and lectio divina—these so-called contemplative practices—have in a tradition that wouldn’t normally have gone there, but that includes people who are finding those practices helpful.

Where or how do students give you hope?

2016-04-28 - Faculty In Their Words Andrew Dyck [01]

I teach a graduate seminar called Supervised Ministry Experience. The course provides an opportunity for a supervised internship experience in a congregation or other ministry setting, and runs for two or three semesters. In the last six weeks of their last semester, I watch students own their identity as a Christian minister. My priority is to say, it’s not just about what skills you have, it’s about what kind person you are. And I watch them becoming those kinds of people. Seeing men and women becoming leaders gives me a lot of hope.

What do you most long for in your work?

At CMU I interact with students from all over the world and from all different Christian backgrounds, including Mennonite, Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, and more. One of the things I long for is that Christians will treat each other with generosity from their different backgrounds; that they will say, “I can learn from you,” and vice versa: “I’ve got something to offer that I think you could use.” CMU started as two denominations committed to doing that. Now, there’s this explosion of all kinds of other groups here, and that generosity is something I long for and I think is happening.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

Last year, I spent about five months memorizing the book of Ephesians. I did it walking to and from work. Thirty hours of work and it was basically memorized. I’ve had a chance to recite it as a sermon three times now, and I’ve just gotten another invitation from a church to do that. It takes 17 minutes, and then afterward we talk about what people heard. People hear things they’ve never heard before, which I can relate to: I’d taught Ephesians at Columbia Bible College, and I’d preached it as a pastor, but by memorizing it I saw connections I’d never seen before. It’s very powerful.

What saying or motto inspires you?

In Matthew 13:52, Jesus says, “Every scribe [or Bible scholar-teacher] who has been discipled for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” That verse sums up what I try to do. I get to draw on treasures from ancient times and from current times, and I get to package them and offer them to people and say: Look, is there something here you can use? Hopefully I do it in a way that’s in the service of the Kingdom.


CSOP Participant Profile – Darnell Barkman

CSOP massively energizing for Canadian peacebuilder working in the Philippines

When it comes to peace work in the Philippines, Darnell Barkman is on the front lines.

Barkman and his wife, Christina, are Mennonite Church Canada Witness Workers, giving pastoral leadership to PeaceChurch Philippines, an Anabaptist church they helped plant in Metro Manila.

Originally from Abbotsford, BC, the Barkmans have also been instrumental in the development of Peace Assemblies Network, also known as the Philippines Anabaptist Network, a group of peace-oriented individuals and churches who seek to transform their society by embodying a culture of peace in their faith communities in the Philippines.

“Jesus calls us to nonviolence,” Darnell says. “That’s very distinct in the whole world. That’s very distinct in the Philippines.”

The Barkmans and their colleagues work for peace and reconciliation between Christians, Muslims, and the indigenous people of the Philippines in a variety of ways.

They respond to disasters by supporting marginalized people who get less help than others, they train military leaders in peacebuilding and human rights through partner organizations, and they challenge the larger church in the Philippines to love their neighbour and seek justice, just as Jesus taught.

“The evangelical church of the Philippines is missing the peace and reconciliation teachings of scripture,” Darnell says on his website,

“Most leaders and members don’t see scripture’s ethics and peace teachings. They don’t know how to see them – no one has ever highlighted them and they are seldom taught. My goal is that the church centers herself on Jesus’ example and teaching as the soul of the faith. His teaching and examples in the Gospel are the primary story we are living to emulate.”

Darnell is passionate about Mennonite theology and Anabaptist history, and sharing that knowledge with people in the Philippines. He also describes himself as an “experimenter in personal transformation,” discontent to enjoy the status quo and always looking to learn something new.

That’s why, when he found out he would be on furlough in Canada when the 2015 Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP) was taking place, he had to enrol.

Darnell travelled to Winnipeg to take the course The Justice of God: Questions of Justice in the Bible and the World, taught by Dr. Christopher Marshall, Professor of Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Darnell appreciated the way Marshall synthesized restorative justice principles with examples from his personal experience.

“What’s really cool is how he’s involved as a practitioner of restorative justice,” Darnell says.

Just as valuable as what he learned in the classroom was the opportunity Darnell had to meet new people at the CSOP.

“Peacebuilding can be very lonely work,” he says. Attending the CSOP was massively energizing because it allowed him to connect with other peacebuilders. “It’s amazing. It’s what we need.”

Now back in Manila, Darnell is excited to incorporate what he learned at CMU into his day-to-day work.

“Peace is not just a ‘60s hippy idea, or an individualistic, new-age feeling,” Darnell says on his website. “Peacebuilding has a tangible output: Healed relationships and experienced justice in all sectors of society.”

To learn more about CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuildinging, please visit

Student Profiles

CMU students contribute to play about conscientious objectors’ experiences

Three Canadian Mennonite University students are conducting research and assisting in the development of the upcoming Theatre of the Beat (TOTB) play, Yellow Bellies.

“TOTB creates thought-provoking and socially relevant theatre to raise awareness of or get people thinking about social justice issues,” says Rebecca Steiner, TOTB General Director and Recruitment Coordinator at CMU. “This play will highlight the often forgotten stories of conscientious objectors during World War 2 and their contributions to Canada’s development.”

Jonas Cornelsen, Kayla Drudge, and Nadya Langelotz are researching the stories of conscientious objectors (COs) during the Second World War by reading archived material and conducting interviews to gather information about the time period. Their research is contributing to the play’s development.

“The students’ task is to research and share with us the interesting narratives, characters, and conflicts they find and help us think of how we can dramatize them,” says Steiner.

For Drudge and Langelotz, their research and work on the play is a part of their practica, which they are completing through the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives (MHCA). Additionally they are writing articles for the MHCA blog and transcribing archived video interviews. Cornelsen is assisting with conducting interviews and is recording them on video or audio as applicable.

The interviews include questions such as: why did you decide to become a CO? Did your church support you? If you went before a judge, what was your experience like? What was your experience like in the CO camp? How did this experience shape your life?

Part of Drudge’s research focuses on music that was popular in CO camps.

“Guys would sing in a cappella, barbershop-like groups,” says Drudge, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Music. “They would develop groups in CO camps, practice regularly, and go out to churches in the area to sing.”

The play will incorporate live music with a gospel-bluegrass style similar to music common to this period. It will also feature a medley Drudge composed that includes O Canada and I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, a hymn sung by some COs when homesick. The medley will be used to transition between a scene that reflects the experience of appearing before a judge to advocate for CO status and a scene in a CO camp.

Langelotz, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts, is working on one of the scenes and has enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with TOTB on the play’s development. The students have had opportunities to read the play as it’s being developed and offer feedback on scene order and content.

“The play uses historically accurate info and stories but if we have a character in mind with a specific trait, we can put that in,” says Langelotz. “We’re adding our own creative flair. It’s so neat to read it.”

Her research has uncovered a wide range of experiences that COs had.

“There’s huge varieties of different experiences—some had a great time and their time in court was easy to get CO status,” says Langelotz. “Other stories were horrible—sent to prison—standing up for what they believed in but not getting status.”

Langelotz says that those they’ve interviewed have expressed appreciation for the interest in their stories.

Articles Faculty Profiles

Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Janet Brenneman

IMG_7244Dr. Janet Brenneman, Associate Professor of Music and Dean of the School of Music, has taught at CMU since 2001.

What do you love about your work here?

One of the things that I love about working here is that I can continue to explore, work through, and express the deep connection between music and my faith. Faith and music have always been integral in my life, and to be able to bring that into an academic setting is something I really appreciate about this particular place.

What are you teaching right now that most excites you?

This is the first year I’m teaching a conducting class and it has become a source of great joy for me. It’s fun watching students explore the ways they can invite sound through gesture to create something they’re wanting to hear.

What are you researching and writing right now?

In May, I’m headed to Edmonton, AB to attend Podium, Choral Canada’s annual conference. At the conference, I will be part of a panel of women choral conductors discussing community building and leadership, and what that means for women on the podium. I focused my doctoral dissertation on gender issues and the formative experiences of women choral conductors, so I’m looking forward to getting back into that research and exploring it further in preparation for the conference.

What are you reading for enjoyment?

I’m reading Ru by Kim Thúy, which won the CBC’s Canada Reads: One Book to Break Barriers competition last year. It’s based on the author’s experiences of having to leave Saigon, and then spending time in a refugee camp in Malaysia before finally settling in Quebec. This is in the ‘70s during the Vietnam War. I remember that time because there were refugees that came from Vietnam and settled in my hometown of Wellesley, ON. I remember clearly how that impacted our community, and how the community responded to that.

IMG_7245What do you most long for in your work?

I long for students to feel as though they’ve been challenged and pushed, but also nurtured along the way. I want students to feel that they have a voice and that they’ve had opportunity for that voice to develop and grow. I’ve seen that happen. I’ve seen students come in who have been quite shy, quite introverted, and I think we have allowed them to really bring out the best in themselves, whatever that is. I want it to be individualized. I want them to feel they can be genuine and open in their music making.

What saying or motto inspires you?

American poet and feminist Adrienne Rich said, “[Y]ou cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education: you will do much better to think of being here to claim one.” What I take this to mean is that you have to be proactive. You have to put into something what it is that you want to get out of it. Education is this reciprocal kind of relationship—you can’t simply expect yourself to be fed without also helping to prepare and be part of the process.


Interplay workshop offers opportunity for composers to hear scores come to life

Three CMU students and one alumnus recently had a unique opportunity to receive professional feedback on their scores from the Vancouver Chamber Choir and conductor Jon Washburn.

03-09-2016 Interplay workshop 1At the Interplay workshop on February 20, CMU students Mark Holmes a Court, Dominique Lemoine, Tirzah Lyons, and alumnus Jesse Krause (CMU ’10), heard their scores come alive as they were sight read by the choir. Their scores were chosen from among those submitted in response to an open call for compositions.

Interplay is an opportunity for Canadian composers who write for chorus to workshop their in-progress or recently completed choral works with Jon Washburn and the twenty-member Vancouver Chamber Choir.

“It was an amazing opportunity to receive such valuable feedback and to hear my piece being performed by a professional, talented choir. I was able to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t,” says Lemoine. “Being immersed in the choral workshop environment gave me a better understanding of choral music. In addition, all of the gorgeous tones coming from the choir as they performed the various pieces in the workshop inspired me to want to produce more music for choirs.”

Each composer was allotted individual rehearsal time of approximately half an hour and the composers received comments and suggestions from Washburn and choir members. CMU music instructors Neil Weisensel and Randolph Peters were in attendance at the workshop.

“CMU is a place where choral music and singing is taken seriously. It’s nice to get a professional perspective as well—a professional critique will both appreciate beautiful things and good things the student has written and can also provide critique on page, notation, and stylistic elements,” says Peters.

Feedback provided in these workshops may focus on the score’s musical and technical features, pitch selection, strengths, flaws, textures, colours, presentation on the page, and notations, among other aspects of choral writing.

“It was great to hear my piece sung by a professional choir and to work with Jon Washburn, who has a lot of experience in conducting new music. Some of my compositional choices were confirmed and others were challenged, both of which will help me improve future compositions,” says Lyons. “I wish more people had attended, as I feel there was something for everyone to learn. I hope I have the opportunity to be a part of something like this again.”