Partnerships create new ministry initiatives

July 5, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 14
Norm Voth |

In the past several years the Mennonite Church Manitoba board of directors consulted congregations to hear their wisdom and counsel for future direction. There was a desire for a more collaborative approach in bringing together congregations, individuals and other partners to build relationships and achieve ministry goals.

Church planting and community development offer opportunities for such partnerships to emerge. In the past decade MC Manitoba has put some resources into starting new congregations and assisting others with community ministry initiatives. One such partnership between MC Manitoba and Youth With A Mission resulted in the formation of a congregation and continues to grow in new and creative ways.

Jamie and Kim Arpin-Ricci came to Winnipeg nearly a decade ago to establish a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base in the city’s West End neighbourhood. Through their children’s program, community service projects and a used bookstore called The Dusty Cover, they developed many relationships. The Dusty Cover (2007-09) became a community gathering-place with free coffee, comfortable couches and freedom to browse or chat with staff. Questions about faith and life frequently wove their way through these conversations.

Some of those bookstore visitors began meeting regularly at the YWAM house for meals and sharing life. Someone asked if they could be a congregation. Since YWAM Urban Ministries Winnipeg is not a church-planting organization, they looked for a partner with Anabaptist values and theology. After a year of discernment, YWAM and MC Manitoba agreed to partner in the formation of a new congregation called Little Flowers Community.

Little Flowers focused on being a church in and for residents of the West End, an urban neighbourhood with significant needs and tremendous opportunities. Two years ago, one of the congregational participants committed suicide. Out of their grieving, praying and discernment came the dream for Chiara House, a supportive discipling community providing a place for people struggling with mental health issues. Little Flowers did not have the resources to develop the residential community it envisioned, so the members prayed and shared the dream with others.

When we shared the dream with some business people from MC Manitoba congregations, they offered skills and connections to move the dream to reality. Some individuals formed a non-profit corporation and purchased a century-old apartment building. This offers many opportunities for individuals, congregations and businesses to participate in the redevelopment of an empty building into badly needed housing.

Eden Health Care Services, with the vision to share Christ’s hope and healing in response to mental health needs, brings resources and experience to this partnership. The concept fits well with its mandate and offers a model for responding to mental health issues at a community level.

Chiara House is a partnership between Little Flowers Community, MC Manitoba congregations and Eden Health Care Services to provide a supportive community for healing and discipling. Partnerships enable Little Flowers to be a transforming spiritual community providing economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits in Winnipeg’s West End neighbourhood.

Norm Voth is director of Evangelism and Service Ministries for MC Manitoba.

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