Focus on Special Assembly 2017

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Delegates affirm Covenant and Operating Agreement

Regional Church moderators signed the Covenant and Operating Agreement that form the newly structured Mennonite Church Canada on Oct. 15, in Winnipeg. Pictured from left to right, seated: Ken Warkentin of MC Saskatchewan; Paul Wideman of MC Eastern Canada; Lee Dyck of MC B.C.; Paul Neufeldt of MC Alberta; and Peter Rempel of MC Manitoba; and standing: MC Canada moderator Calvin Quan. (MC Canada photo by Coreena Stewart)

A Covenant and Operating Agreement describing the intent of both the spirit and function of the new relationships among the five regional churches (formerly area churches) comprising Mennonite Church Canada were affirmed in principle after robust discussion by delegates on Oct. 14 at Special Assembly 2017.

Lee Dyck, moderator of Mennonite Church B.C., introduced the documents, noting that they reaffirm the 20-year-old Vision, Healing and Hope statement. “We’re promising to be together for the long haul,” she said.  

All International Witness workers being recalled next June

Gordon Janzen, centre, an outgoing director with MC Canada’s former Witness program, speaks during a focus group discussion. (Canadian Mennonite photo by Aaron Epp)

To say that the ins and outs of International Witness ministry are complex would be an understatement.

It could take an entire study conference to explore a theology of mission as it relates to congregations, regional churches and the nationwide church as a united body.

Is it a financial plan or a budget?

The terms “financial plan” and “budget” were used somewhat interchangeably in reference to a spreadsheet in the Discernment Guide Supplement outlining how Mennonite Church Canada will be funded following the restructuring taking place after Special Assembly 2017 in Winnipeg last month. Now, only regional churches (formerly area churches)—not congregations—will be members of the nationwide church (formerly national church).

What is the Spirit writing on our hearts?

Anneli Loepp Thiessen, Johise Namwira and Vernelle Enns Penner lead delegates in singing at Sunday morning’s worship service. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

“We don’t all see things through the same lenses. We don’t all agree on every little or big thing, but we are loved by you, and we love.”

That prayerful acknowledgement of diversity and unity as God’s community by Vernelle Enns Penner opened Mennonite Church Canada’s Special Assembly 2017 on the evening of Oct. 13 at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg. 

Throughout the weekend, segments of worship integrated with business discussions, nudging participants to consider what the Spirit is writing on their hearts (II Corinthians 3:1-6). 

Communicating priorities

Artwork by Mennonite Church Canada

Mennonite Church Canada is changing and the need for communication has never been greater. This seemed to be the consensus at the Communications Focus Group discussion held during MC Canada’s Special Assembly 2017 on Oct. 14, 2017.

How will the nationwide church communicate with its regional member churches? And how will regional churches, in turn, communicate with congregations? What role does Canadian Mennonite play in this important work? These were some of the questions participants asked and responded to during the course of the discussion.

Serving Mennonite Church Canada

Marguerite Jack

Lisa Carr-Pries

Eric Olfert

April Yamasaki

Dave Bergen

While some delegates at Special Assembly 2017 looked forward to the nationwide church restructuring process, others mourned the loss of what has been an important part of their church life.

At this juncture in Mennonite Church Canada’s history, it seems appropriate to reflect on the church’s work and the impact that work has had on the lives of MC Canada’s people across the country:

When you’re a small regional church

Ruth Friesen

Ruth Friesen of First Mennonite Church, Edmonton, says her congregation has always had a strong connection to the Mennonite Church Canada national office in Winnipeg and the worship and education resources that came from there. Individuals from the congregation were involved in the larger national efforts, and they kept members informed about what was happening beyond their doors.

‘We want these connections to continue’

Activities for youth at assembly included meeting for lunch with Willard Metzger, executive minister of MC Canada, top left corner. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

EVI members Alex Tiessen, Anneli Loepp Thiessen and Katrina Woelk organized fun activities for youth and also helped them debrief after the sessions. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Youth and EVI leaders explore Winnipeg during a break from Special Assembly 2017 sessions. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

On a mid-October weekend, 13 youth from across Canada weren’t on the field playing soccer, at their desks studying or settling in with Netflix. Instead, they were helping decide the future of Mennonite Church Canada.

Ready to take the next step

Madeleine Wichert (Photo courtesy of Aaron Epp)

Sarah Ens (Photo courtesy of Aaron Epp)

Alex Tiessen (Photo courtesy of Aaron Epp)

Madeleine Wichert, 23
Volunteer

When she missed the deadline to register for Mennonite Church Canada’s Special Assembly 2017, Madeleine Wichert found another way to get in the door—as a volunteer.

“I was originally a little disappointed that I wasn’t going to be a delegate . . . but I’m really enjoying being a volunteer,” she said as she helped usher assembly participants through the supper line on Oct. 14.

Funny GIFs and heartfelt expressions

‘You do it to connect with people who aren’t at your table [and] you do it for the diaspora of people who aren’t here,’ Kyle Penner said of his decision to tweet at assembly. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Micah Neufeld joined Twitter at assembly so that he could follow the conversation happening online. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

For Steph Chandler Burns, tweeting was a way to stay focused at assembly. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Once an avid Twitter user, Steph Chandler Burns almost never uses the social networking site anymore. That changed, however, when she attended Mennonite Church Canada’s Special Delegate Assembly in Winnipeg Oct. 13-15, 2017.

Chandler Burns, interim pastor at Bloomingdale Mennonite Church in Bloomingdale, Ont., was one of more than 15 delegates who were tweeting throughout the assembly, using the hashtag #mcassembly2017 to share their thoughts online.

Overwhelming vote in favour of new MC Canada structure

Delegates voted 94 percent in favour of a new structure for MC Canada. (Canadian Mennonite photo by Donna Schulz)

Ballots offered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ options for the two votes taken at Special Assembly 2017. (Canadian Mennonite photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

Bowls were used to collect the ballots and offerings at Special Assembly 2017. (Canadian Mennonite photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

Delegates voted 94 percent in favour of taking Mennonite Church Canada’s existing structures off of life support equipment designed for a society and church culture from a prior century.

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