Whoa Whoa Whoa

Grandpa and Grandma never entered the Manitou Brethern Mennonite Church building again. They abandoned the farm and did indeed accept Katie’s invitation to stay with them on the third floor of their house on 610 William Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Grandma soon found her skills and talents welcome at Concordia Hospital. At long last her wishes were fulfilled. She was back in the nursing saddle again doing what she had always wanted to do all her life.

Ruth gently made contact with Grandma and together they communicated their heart felt love for their beloved son and husband Jake.

Understandably Grandma and Grandpa wanted to again be part of a church community. Katie had encouraged them to join the Mennonite Brethern church in Winnipeg. To this end an interview was scheduled with the minister to discuss this possibility. Of course he welcomed them because they had already been part of a Mennonite Brethern church in Manitou. However a letter of transfer would be required from the Manitou leadership to permit their new membership to start in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg minister volunteered to initiate this matter. However he was not told about details which clouded their departure from the Manitou church.

In due time a letter of response did arrive in Winnipeg disclosing the matter of the family’s probation from membership caused by Jake’s voluntary enlistment in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Winnipeg minister showed no surprise as he pondered the situation. Personally he was sympathetic towards resolving the matter since cases concerning family members who had joined up were well known to city ministers and guidelines had already been set up.

Nevertheless a valid letter of transfer was needed from the Manitou church and to receive this document it was stated that Mr. and Mrs. Epp would have to appear either in Manitou or in Winnipeg to stand before the congregation and express sorrow and remorse for the fact that their son had indeed volunteered for active duty in the war.

When this condition was disclosed to Grandpa and Grandma the Winnipeg minister sensed the instant anger that this requirement engendered. Grandma immediately assumed Mr. E was behind all this, but said nothing. She kept her rage to herself. The Winnipeg minister was prepared for this reaction and suggested that perhaps if he placed a couple of questions before them then the difficulty would be lessened and the impact of the event toned down as if it were just a mere formality. This Grandma and Grandpa accepted. The Winnipeg minister closed the conversation by saying he would look after the paperwork subsequent to the Sunday where the public apology would be made to the congregation.

And so it was. The next Sunday after the preliminary congregational singing but before the Bible reading and sermon, Grandpa and Grandma Epp were duly requested to come to the front. They were asked to face the congregation and answer the questions put before them by the minister.

“Mr. Jacob J. Epp and Mrs. Susanna (Pries) Epp, did you have a son called Jacob Alexander Epp?”

“Yes, we did,” answered my Grandpa and Grandma in unison.

“Did you encourage him to go to war?” continued the minister.

“No, we did not,” was the reply.

“Are you both sorry that your son did independently make the decision to join the Air Force?”

“Yes, we are.”

“Thus, before me and this congregation, and before God, we accept your apology. There is no need for blame to be directed towards you or your family now or in the future. We forgive and forget. You may be seated.”

The minister then instructed the congregation to remember to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Epp into their fellowship after the service since the formal part of their acceptance into the congregation was complete. The remainder of the paperwork would arrive in due time from Manitou.

Indeed, after the service was over, all adult members came forward and happily welcomed Grandpa and Grandma into the fold. The men shook Grandpa’s hand and the women gave Grandma a hug. A handkerchief was needed for Grandpa’s eyes as he wept for joy. Grandma smiled but remained visibly unmoved. She wasn’t convinced that everything was over.

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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