Who Goes Canoeing With Their Mother-in-Law? 5 Questions with Kyle Penner

Kyle Penner is the author of Who Goes Canoeing With Their Mother-in-Law?, a canoeing memoir. He has been the Associate Pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach, Manitoba since 2010.
  • What is the best thing about being a Mennonite pastor
    • Seeing members of the faithful flock sliding into church a solid 10 minutes after the service has started and slinking into the balcony.  Especially when I know they live just a few blocks away.  I’m either inspired by their faithful commitment to live into the horizontal nature of the Christian community, or I’m amazed at how even in a post-Christendom, pluralistic society they still have such a strong sense of obligation buried deep in their souls that they don’t just blow church off to watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Also I get to meet cool people. And sing. And eat. And preach. And pray.  And play broomball on retreats. Plus that Jesus character is a pretty neat guy too.
  • When did you first set foot in a canoe? 
    • At my grandparents cottage at Star Lake. We had an old beater fiberglass canoe, and as soon as I learned how to J-stroke, I spent many an evening solo paddling around the lake.  I only remember one time when I got caught paddling home in the dark and my dad had to fire up the motor boat to come look for me.
  • Have you ever gone canoeing on a Sunday morning when you should have been in church? 
    • No, but that’s a great idea! But knowing how the Lord works, I’d probably catch a master angler pickerel while fishing that morning, but never be able to tell anybody since I skipped out of church that day. Yup. That’s definitely how the Lord works.
  • Can we reasonably expect Dirk Willems to be able to haul an 800 pound polar bear from the icy water? 
    • Well, if the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains, I don’t see why not.  But maybe we should spend less time wondering IF Dirk could lift up a polar bear, and more time asking WHY Dirk is saving a polar bear (as we seek to love God and our neighbor and the Earth, maybe the universe is less about separate entities fighting for survival and more about interconnected entities living in the flow of love) and the UH-OH WHAT HAPPENS NOW THAT DIRK HAS SAVED A POLAR BEAR? (Poor Dirk seems to have a strong penchant for saving the very thing that ends up killing him).
  • What is your go-to dish to bring for church potlucks and faspas?
    • A solid two thirds of the time I am the person who forgets to bring food to the church potluck but still shows up to eat, hoping that the other forgetful people like me have enough Mennonite guilt and shame (or pride) to go straight home after church, thus ensuring that I get a free meal that day.And the other third of the time I only remember about the potluck late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, so my go-to dish is usually a few tuna sandwiches, some slices of New Bothwell marble cheese, and a bag of baby carrots that hopefully haven’t been in my vegetable crisper too long.