Eden and the rock

February 26, 2014 | Editorial
Dick Benner | Editor/Publisher
Dick Benner

His passion for creation care was palatable, his enthusiasm infectious, his words direct but searing the silence. His stature was not imposing, his voice not booming and bouncing off the walls, but as he spoke his words not only reached beyond the abstractions that sometimes cloud things “environmental,” but his spirit touched ours with an almost magical resonance.

Beginning with a disclaimer that he isn’t “one of us,” Rick Faw said that he was heavily “Mennonitized,” and felt at home with this tribe, having attended Mennonite Education Institute while growing up in Abbotsford, B.C., with close Mennonite friends, and having among his relatives “Shirks, Martins, Klassens and Hildebrands.” He is the education director of A Rocha (Portuguese for “the rock”), a 20-year-old environmental stewardship organization located in nearby Surrey that works in some 20 countries around the globe.

Is this really an annual general meeting of Mennonite Church British Columbia gathered at Eden Mennonite Church, Chilliwack? I asked myself.

Turns out that this bundle of pent-up energy in front of me kept me spellbound for the entire afternoon in that basement meeting room. He wrapped his comments in Scripture, drawing on the simple truth of the psalmist who blurted out eons ago: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.”

He talked of his young son’s wonder and awe at the rocks he discovered, of expanding his culinary experience from a can of Lipton’s chicken noodle soup to locally grown veggies, and of knowing for the first time which birds appear first in the spring and which are the last to go in the fall. He brought the lofty environmental movement literally down to earth, asking us to cast a new vision by doing small things first, like “eating one meatless meal a week,” and limiting our consumption to less energy-demanding food produced for our tables.

Then there was Brander McDonald, the “indigenous Mennonite,” saying, on the one hand, that he brags to his native friends that the Mennonites “get it” when relating to this forgotten minority pushed onto reserves. “You are getting such things as ‘circles’ into your language and practice, but, on the other hand, you need to ‘get off your butts’ and move toward us—fishing with us, playing soccer with us, doing canoe-holding with us, hanging out with our elders.”

He reminded us that our very meeting place was on original Stó:lō land, that there are two residential schools still in existence there, and that renowned leaders of his nation are inhabitants of this part of the Fraser Valley. “Our people will not come to you,” he said. “You will need to go to them.”

Then there was the reality check of our denominational leader, Willard Metzger, who pointed out that 25 percent of our congregations meet and worship in languages other than English, a dramatic demographic shift from 25 years ago, when the denomination was officially formed as a national community of faith. “This is something to celebrate,” he said, “and that will only grow.”

Anabaptism is growing in favourability with many groups outside our faith community, he said.

Could this mean an amalgamation with a larger group in the not-too-distant future?

There has also been a revolutionary change in communications, he said, with information now available through all the web-links: e-mail, YouTube and online platforms. This affects not only MC Canada, but all other church bodies, as we experience the same reality directly affecting such things as publishing, education (online courses) and international relationships.

The impact of all this is in the hands of the Future Direction Task Force, Metzger said, with the heavy duty of coming up with recommendations of how we “do church” in the future.

By the end of this intense conversation that carried us into the realm of the unknown, I said to myself, “Yes, we need a national publication more than ever. What is happening in B.C. affects us all, no matter which area church and in what province. The Mennonites of Canada need a place to hold this conversation like never before.

Canadian Mennonite is that “village square,” where we will work out our faith in the 21st century, just like our visionary elders of the past brought us to where we are today. I was glad I was a part of those two intense days in that church squeezed between two big mountains—the ageless rock formations that have been here for eons of time.

--Posted Feb 26, 2014

See more on Rick Faw's presentation at 'Holy Spirit is great choreographer' in creation care, delegates told

Dick Benner

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