Could you please introduce yourself?
I am Connie Epp and I live in Winnipeg, Canada. Drama, theology and music have always been of significant interest for me so that’s where my Bachelor’s and Master’s studies have led me. I have two adult children who are also in music professionally. My daughter is a jazz vocalist in New York, and my son is the principal timpanist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I have taught music for many years and also pastored in a liberal Mennonite church for ten years. Working in the areas of drama, preaching, and worship-leading are all things that I find truly life-giving. I also have a small home decorating business with a friend and have numerous other creative interests. For example, two years ago I was part of a stained glass window project in our church. Twenty-four of us made 100 narrow stained glass windows. I see each day as a new opportunity to make a difference in this world and so I take those opportunities when I am able.
How did you become involved with theater and scriptwriting?
It started when I was very young. My siblings are much older than I am, so I was the only child in my home by the time I was four. I loved making up stories with my dolls and paper dolls. As I grew up there were often programs or events in school or church or with friends where some creative input was needed. I jumped at the chance to write or dramatize. Once my own children were in school, I went back to university to learn more and get my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Being a bit older made me appreciate my education so much more because I was truly interested in the subject matter and now had more life experience to go with it. As each new opportunity comes to me, I like to fashion scripts that are custom fit to the type of participants and audience that’s there so it becomes personal and applicable for their specific situation. I like to give people something to think about that helps move us all in a positive direction.
You are here for the 2nd year in a row. How did you hear about LCC and why did you decide to come?
Leona and Art DeFehr, who attend my church in Winnipeg and were in part responsible for LCC being born, had asked me several times if I would consider coming here to teach but it never worked with my schedule. Over three years ago, however, my husband passed away, my children had both moved to the USA, and I retired from my pastoring work. There was suddenly a lot more flexibility in my life. So when Leona asked again in the summer of 2016, I was able to say yes!
What does Christmas mean to you?
For me, Christmas is one of the re-centering points in the year. I want my life to have meaning and that meaning comes through my Christian faith. The life and teachings of Jesus guide my way and Christmas is a reminder that God loves us and that God is willing to personally connect with us, even as a helpless child. The fact that the extremes of poor local shepherds all the way to rich educated foreign dignitaries are invited to the manger shows how incredibly broad the love of God is. I want to live that “broad love” as best I can, despite how challenging that can be in this world and how often I mess up. Part of that love at Christmas is also a warm family time, connecting with my children and relatives. It reminds us all of our love and care for each other and spurs us to extend that love beyond ourselves to those around us.
What was this year’s Christmas program about? What was the message behind the performance?
The program this year was about four LCC students who were given an assignment to look at the Christmas Story from the Bible and see if it is still relevant today. As they discuss the story, it takes place around them on the stage. And as they read the biblical passages, they discover that God doesn’t use above-average holy people to work with in partnership, but God uses everyday average people. And so, as the story progresses, one of the students trades places with Mary, one with Joseph, one with a shepherd, and one with a magi. We are all part of the story no matter when we are born. The point is that we all are invited to partner with God to make this world a better place. We all have roles no matter who we are. And Jesus’ life shows us the way.
Please tell us about your experience of working with students from 39 different countries.
Working with students from so many countries is truly delightful. It reminds me that young people everywhere in the world are basically the same at the core. But what’s also exciting is the uniqueness and variety of experiences and personalities that each one brings. Some students have had to mature quickly due to the hardships from their past but, despite that, there is a creative spirit that seems almost heightened by those traumas. One sees a preciousness to life in their very being.
In a world where so many world leaders and people are afraid of “difference,” I love that the students at LCC can experience, first-hand, that human diversity is actually enriching for everyone. God made every one of us unique. We all benefit when we can applaud and celebrate the gifts of difference we offer each other. That’s not to say it’s always easy. But this place is a great training ground for learning to bend and find new ways to work together and expand everyone’s horizons. Yay, LCC!
What would you like to wish to the LCC community during this festive season?
I wish for LCC continued growth in learning, in creating, in expanding, and in celebrating such wonderful diversity. This can be challenging work, no doubt! It takes faith and courage. It is also a difficult time for many students who have just left home and find themselves in a strange new environment and who have to go through the process of learning to “adult.” That can be hard on the students and on staff. Much patience is needed all around but this is the birthplace of people who can affect positive change. I wish for LCC to continue to be the warm womb for many up-and-coming movers and shakers.