Listening for church harmony

August 26, 2010 | Viewpoints | Number 16
Lorne Epp, Margaret Ewen-Peters and Patrick Preheim |

The Wailin’ Jennys recorded a song on their debut album which included the following lines: “This is the sound of voices three / Singing together in harmony /Surrendering to the mystery / This is the sound of voices three”

This stanza from the song “One Voice” comes to mind not because we have ever been recorded in a studio, asked for autographs or been invited to tour with the Jennys. These lyrics strike a chord with the Vision and Wholeness (VW) Group because they reflect the best of our work in Mennonite Church Saskatchewan.

Like the Jennys, VW is a group that has three voices. Commissions, committees and boards abound in sections IX and X of the area church bylaws, but we are the only ones designated a group. And that fits the score because the responsibilities for which we have been tasked are slightly different than your average area church ensemble.

The VW Group consists of three persons appointed to be:

• A listening and ongoing visioning group;

• Keep MC Saskatchewan focused on the vision of being ‘Christ centred and sent’;

• Study and promote the integration of Scripture in practical action and activity;

• Serve as a support group for all parts of MC Saskatchewan in its visioning and goal setting tasks; and

• Assist in the planning of meetings of the leadership assembly.

Like most job descriptions, at any given time we attend to some of the assignments more than others. What does this all mean when VW gets jamming?

Most of our vocalization is rather mundane in nature. It has become the tradition for VW to conclude leadership council meetings and annual delegate sessions with “the last word.” In these moments we are given space to reflect the things we have heard, seen and sensed. We have been able to acknowledge holy and hilarious moments in a provincial gathering, to name tensions we have perceived or give voice to issues that will require greater discernment over a longer time. These observations sometimes lead to deeper attention to a topic and sometimes not.

Recently, the MC Saskatchewan moderator asked VW to think biblically, historically and theologically on the topic of church membership, as our group had identified membership as a relevant topic among our constituent congregations.

The demographic study of our Saskatchewan churches and subsequent conversation confirmed the fact that we no longer have a clear understanding of baptism, membership requirements or membership expectations. VW’s responsibility was to do some advanced reflection on the topic and share our thoughts to set the stage for the leadership council discussion. Next steps in the conversation about membership are still being processed, but the sense we get is that our preliminary work will help to facilitate the conversation throughout the province.

We are three voices attending to discord and harmony. We listen for the mysteries of God in community. This is the sound of voices three.

Lorne Epp, Margaret Ewen-Peters and Patrick Preheim make up the Vision and Wholeness Group of MC Saskatchewan.

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