The little church that can

August 17, 2010 | Number 15
by Rachel Bergen | National Correspondent
Visitors to Riverton Fellowship Circle receive a mug “full of love.” Church leader Barb Daniels, centre, presents church mugs to translator Ed Toews, left, Brigido Loewen of Paraguay, Alina Itucama of Panama and translator Liz Drewnisz.

Riverton Fellowship Circle, a Mennonite Church Manitoba congregation since 2006, thinks it can.

When it comes to the church’s goals to be Christ-centred, welcoming to visitors and a place where everyone is treated equally, it has been successful for the past 14 years, despite many roadblocks.

Two of its most recent visitors agree. Alina Itucama from just outside of Panama City, Panama, and Brigido Loewen from Pesempoo in the Paraguayan Chaco, visited Riverton on their tour of First Nations commu-nities and congregations in Manitoba for five days last month.

The fellowship’s logo of a fire and cross inside a circle illustrates its philosophy. It fulfilled its goals when church leader Barb Daniels presented mugs emblazoned with the logo to their visitors. “This cup is filled with our love,” she said.

The fellowship of mainly First Nations and Métis congregants began on a strong note 13 years ago. In 1997, 120 volunteers gathered to put up the church building to serve a sparsely populated community in dire need. At its inception, there were 40 to 50 people in attendance on a regular Sunday, all very active in the church.

Now, because many members have moved south to Winnipeg or have died, only about 10 to 15 attend Sunday services anymore.

While Daniels concedes the church “was a lot stronger [in the past] than [it is] now,” from their recent visitors’ point of view, its foundation remains strong.

Despite the significant drop in attendance over the years, the church is still meeting regularly and fulfilling it’s goals, according to Neill and Edith von Gunten, who were formerly pastors of the church until 2005 and who are now co-directors of MC Canada’s Native Ministry. “I think considering all that has happened, they are doing well. They are strong in their faith and spirit, but not strong in numbers,” Neill said.

Visitors to Riverton Fellowship Circle receive a mug “full of love.” Church leader Barb Daniels, centre, presents church mugs to translator Ed Toews, left, Brigido Loewen of Paraguay, Alina Itucama of Panama and translator Liz Drewnisz.

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