Celebrating 75 years together as a church in British Columbia, Mennonite Church B.C. came together to celebrate God’s presence with the theme, “Yesterday, today, forever,” on March 3 at its annual general meeting.
This year’s business sessions, held at Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford, were reduced to one afternoon, rather than the usual whole day, due to the evening anniversary celebration. Most reporting time was abbreviated, but nonetheless delegates got a taste of how God is continuing to work through the various ministries of MC B.C.
MC Canada executive director Willard Metzger encouraged the group to keep the vision of a vital, growing church going, noting that, in Britain, both Methodist and Presbyterian denominations expect to die out in the next 25 years. “Our task . . . will be to think creatively and courageously, that we become better equipped to discern what God is already doing all around us,” he said.
Delegates pass three resolutions
Several resolutions were brought before the delegate body. A motion to spend a portion of the principal of the Mountainview Fund for new missional initiatives was passed; the fund was created following the dissolution of the Vancouver congregation in 1996. Thus far, MC B.C. has used only the interest from the sale of that church property, but now the Leadership Board feels that using part of the principal is necessary to pay for new missional initiatives.
A motion to extend the position of the indigenous relations coordinator to the end of 2013 was also passed.
The most discussion came on the motion to offer “missional coaching” to MC B.C. congregations, with 20 percent of the cost covered by each participating congregation, and 80 percent by drawing $50,000 from the Mountainview Fund.
The Leadership Board is exploring
working with Forge Canada, an interdenominational missional training network of leaders and churches in Canada that bills itself as “committed to training leaders and churches to transform their neighbourhoods.”
One delegate opposed to the motion wondered if a centralized, coordinated effort by MC B.C. leadership was too much of a “top-down” approach.
“Isn’t this what we’re doing anyway?” asked another.
Speaking in favour of the motion, one pastor said, “I welcome coaches in my life. This is not a punishment; it’s an invitation.”
MC B.C. executive minister Garry Janzen asked, “How do we be missional? This is to help us be what we want to be.”
According to Janzen, Forge Canada works through a group dynamic, offering resources to congregations and leaders to develop a missional capacity in the context of the participating congregation or congregations.
Living Hope Christian Fellowship of Surrey engaged the services of Cam Roxburgh, executive director of Forge Canada, when starting its Sullivan extension campus, and, according to Pastor Lorin Bergen, was pleased with the results of an outside resource coming in to help the church leadership get a sense of God’s calling for the new congregation.
In the end, a ballot vote was taken; 73 voted in favour of the motion and 50 against it.
Indigenous presence at sessions
The presence of indigenous peoples was very much a part of the sessions. Brander McDonald, MC B.C.’s indigenous relations coordinator, began by reminding everyone of the history of the local land, saying, “Thank you to the Matsqui people for letting us be on their territory.” McDonald asked for continuing dialogue between the Mennonite community and indigenous people, saying, “We don’t want to be talked about. We want to have a conversation with you.”
A healing pole in the foyer outside the meeting hall was available for anyone to help carve. This pole is travelling to various Christian churches as a reminder of the trauma resulting from forced integration in Indian residential schools of generations past. Indigenous carver Isadore Charters guided those who wished to try their hand at carving the pole, which will be exhibited at the B.C. Truth and Reconciliation Commission meetings in Vancouver in September 2013, in recognition of the Canadian government’s role in perpetrating harm upon First Nations peoples through residential schools.
Worship celebrates God’s abiding blessings
The evening worship service recognized the beginnings of Mennonite Church B.C.—formerly the Conference of Mennonites in B.C.—starting in 1936, but through singing and Scripture centred more on the continuing presence and blessing of God. From a beginning of a few churches worshipping in German, MC B.C. now has 31 congregations holding worship services in 11 languages.
Special speaker for the evening was Stuart Murray, author of The Naked Anabaptist, speaking on “Singing the Lord’s song in a strange land.” Noting that in the post-Christendom era, in which the church is no longer central and domi-
nant, Anabaptist Christians, with a history of being a minority, should be particularly equipped to adjust to the changes. “Embrace a vision of social and cultural transformation, rather than our own interests,” Murray said. “There is great opportunity when there is interest in an unknown story.”
Indigenous carver Isadore Charters, left, directs Don Klaassen, in the fine art of wood carving. The totem pole will be exhibited at the B.C. Truth and Reconciliation Commission meetings in Vancouver in September 2013, in recognition of the Canadian government’s role in perpetrating harm upon First Nations peoples through residential schools.