It is a great experience to be on the board of Canadian Mennonite. On a personal level, it is both fun and interesting. You get to meet other Mennonites from across the country and hear what is going on in their churches. You find that some things between congregations are very similar. You also see that some issues are distinctive because of different social, demographic or economic conditions.
In essence, the Canadian Mennonite board is a microcosm of the Mennonite church in Canada. The 12 members on the board represent urban and rural congregations from British Columbia to Ontario, and have a variety of educational and work backgrounds. Coming from different congregations and experiences, we unite in common purpose. Meeting together, we learn from and inspire each other.
The board meets as a full group only once per year, over two days in March. It always amazes me how, in this time, we gel from a disparate collection of skills and experiences to a cohesive group excited about this magazine, its role as a connecting thread for the church in Canada, and its future.
A key ingredient in the success of this board-meeting format is that we rotate the location of the annual meetings around the provinces. Last March, we were in Lethbridge, Alta. Next March, we will be in Winnipeg. Board members from the province where we meet arrange for us to be hosted in a given church, and the board becomes more familiar with the Mennonite church in that region.
We meet in a church basement and are billeted in church members’ homes. We invite local pastors and church leaders in that community to share a meal with us, and to tell us how Canadian Mennonite can better serve their ministries. Each annual meeting concludes with a fundraising banquet attended by many in the area, where we enjoy local entertainment and celebrate our shared ministry in Canadian Mennonite magazine.
Just as coming together with Mennonites from different provinces gives each individual a better understanding of the national church, meeting in a different community each year gives the board new insights. We could sit in a room anywhere to discuss the budget, new initiatives or website activity. But by having this conversation in a different Mennonite church each year, listening to local voices and learning about the church in that area, we underscore the fact that this is a magazine of and for the whole church body.
The mission of Canadian Mennonite is “to educate, inspire, inform and foster dialogue on issues facing Mennonites in Canada . . . .” (The full mission statement appears on the facing page of this column and on the About Us page of our website.) Undergirding the mission statement are a number of guiding values, the first of which is Hebrews 10:24-25:
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NRSV).
It makes complete sense to me that a church magazine would be educating, inspiring, informing and fostering dialogue on matters of church and faith, but this passage from Hebrews adds an interesting twist. I am most intrigued by Paul’s words “to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” Usually, when I see someone provoking someone else, it leads to anger and rash action. With Paul’s words as guidance, Canadian Mennonite strives to provoke readers, conscious that our purpose in doing so is to encourage faithful discipleship: love and good deeds.
Occasionally, readers question how a given article or opinion piece fits our mission. We receive more letters of affirmation and praise than criticism, but we listen carefully to all exhortations. It is part of our theology to hold each other to account for our behaviour, and explains why “seeking and speaking the truth in love” and “covenantal relationships and mutual accountability” are also on our list of guiding values.
We cannot often meet in person with other Mennonites from across the country to share, learn and inspire each other. Thankfully, this magazine was created to do the same thing, as best it can, in print form. Keep those letters coming.
Tobi Thiessen of Toronto is chair of the 12-member Canadian Mennonite Publishing Service board.