Perhaps the more pointed question should be: Do our readers and congregations of Mennonite Church Canada want us to survive?
At the risk of this editorial sounding self-serving and turf-protecting, let us clarify that the level of this question goes far deeper than protecting a 62-year-old enterprise or saving staff positions. It has more to do with the future of our church body, and how we function and stay together in light of cultural changes that seem to be forcing us into divisions, technological changes that affect how we produce and deliver the product, theological reasons that undergird our core values as Anabaptist/Mennonites, and finally, financial stability.
First, allow us to quote selectively on this question from some of the 442 written responses to our recent independent survey, as reported on page 15:
- Canadian Mennonite is what it is because of its timeless nature. Trying to radically alter it, or make it more digital/technological, would only hurt the end product and the charm it has.
- CM’s purpose should not be to make us feel good, but rather to inform and provoke more questions and searching.
- I think conveying news of Mennonite issues and interest, warts and all, is very necessary.
- Sometimes I feel that the point of Canadian Mennonite is to remind me that not all Mennonites suck, which sounds really harsh, but sometimes I need a reminder to fix my cynicism. One of the best things that ever happened to you was when the government threatened to pull your charitable status because you were being too political; that, more than anything, says you are going in the right direction. Thank you for existing. I appreciate it very much.
We choose these quotes because they go to the heart of the matter. The “soul” of this publication is its function as a mirror of our best practices as a faith community (stories from across the country). We are a national gathering place to discuss our many issues on a bi-weekly basis, and lead the conversation in a productive manner, which, by the way, is not always putting a positive spin on things, but also providing critique from time to time to keep things in a reality-based perspective.
Are these the values worth keeping for the future of the Mennonite churches of Canada, and to help infuse them with an identity that sustains them through changing structures and frameworks? That’s the more prescient question.
If these values are affirmed, then the question of financial stability moves into place. Not before.
It is our experience that people will pay for what they value, what they think they can’t do without. The vision, the intangibles come first, then the buy-in.
What is at stake financially? First off, more than a third of CM’s budget income comes from MC Canada and the area churches under a Publishing Partnership Covenant that comes to an end in 2017. With MC Canada’s future in doubt, and no indication that the area churches are prepared to pick up the $111,000 it provides to CM, we would have to drastically cut back expenses, which would ultimately affect content.
We are putting in place an advisory board that will launch a three-year strategic plan, including serious fundraising, that anticipates this challenge. We are grateful for the nearly $80,000 per year that comes now from personal donations and we hope that will increase. We ask that more of you respond to our spring and fall fund drives to help keep us afloat.
We place the question of survival into your hands—readers, friends, congregations. Do you want this publication enough to help it pull through an uncertain future and beyond? We leave that with you.
New Manitoba correspondent
• Beth Downey Sawatzky of Niverville, Man., has been named the new CM correspondent for Manitoba, beginning April 1. She succeeds Josiah Neufeld. A soon-to-be graduate of Canadian Mennonite University, with a major in English and minors in music and biblical/theological studies, she and her husband Scott are members of Saint Benedict’s Table and are closely connected to Niverville Community Fellowship, a congregation of MC Manitoba. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 204-371-8259.