I can best write about my hopes and dreams for the future of the church by reflecting on the past. During the last 29 years of pastoral ministry I have experienced growth, turmoil, grace, struggle, surprise, conflict and peace in the church. To each one of those words I can attach stories of God breaking into my life, and into the corporate life of the body of Christ. These experiences of Emmanuel inspire my vision for the future of the conference.
I have known the profound paradox of the words “and yet.” These words help me understand my faith. We live in faith that God is not finished with us yet. While we may experience fear, yet we believe that God is love and perfect love casts out fear. We may live with guilt and yet we believe in the profound forgiveness found at the foot of the cross. We may live with brokenness and yet we are invited to eat the bread and drink the cup of the hope of restoration.
I am profoundly aware that as a Mennonite area church in Canada we face a future full of opportunities and challenges that will stretch our faith, increase our understanding of the will of God, and cause us to ponder the “and yet” responses from God.
The challenge and the opportunity before us is simply to be the body of Christ where we live. To do this we will love the people around us, bring hope and healing to those who are hurting and broken, read the Word of God boldly and in community; nurture the wonder and mystery of God in worship and meditation; and walk with each other in solidarity when we are challenged, in peace when faced with conflict, and with grace when there is distrust and disunity.
My vision for the church includes service that begins with an understanding of Christian justice, moves to an awareness of the felt needs of others, and results in discernment that demands action.
I want to be a part of a church that embraces the Anabaptist heritage of radical commitment to following the teachings of Jesus. I want to live out the examples of Jesus to transform injustice in all its forms and to be an advocate for those at the edges of society.
As a body we are diverse and resource-full. We will do well to embrace the hope that is found in a God who declares grace into our relationships, ministries and dreams. We live before a watching world that is longing to experience a people who know the God of “and yet.”
Ken Warkentin is the new executive director of Mennonite Church Manitoba.