The timing was tight. I had made it to the airport parking lot and was then shuttled to Terminal 1 at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to catch my flight to Winnipeg for yet another round of meetings with executive staff and moderators from each of the five area churches and Mennonite Church Canada. Security went smoothly and I just had enough time to grab a coffee and get to the gate in time for boarding.
Who should I bump into at the gate but Marg, who until recently has served on the family services committee that supports my wife’s work at the House of Friendship in Kitchener, Ont.!
We exchanged pleasantries, and I discovered that Marg and her husband Norm were headed to Winnipeg to visit family. It was an advance visit, in lieu of Christmas, planned to beat the bitter winter chill that besets Winnipeg in late December. Mother Nature, however, was not going to defer to Marg’s hope to escape the Winnipeg deep freeze, and we were all headed from -2C temperatures to -22C.
I then explained what was taking me to Winnipeg: “I am heading to another Future Directions meeting.” The goal of this restructuring effort that was approved last July is to reshape how we work at being the church across the country. My hope, I indicated, is that the end result will be a transfer of some of the national resources to the area churches, especially the smaller ones. That way, the area churches can better support congregations to engage the new challenges they are facing and to become increasingly involved in witness and outreach in their local communities, while taking even greater ownership for the future of international witness. The intention of the new model, I commented, is to also connect us even more closely together as a national Mennonite people.
Marg and Norm affirmed the new directions and liked what they heard, but then Marg made a very astute comment: “You know, if this is going to work, then it means that each one of us needs to get involved in our local congregation. The only way congregations are going to have an impact on their local community is, if each one of us takes ownership and is supportive of our church and engaged in the witness and outreach of our congregation. In fact, every one of us should commit to prayerful discernment about what Future Directions means for each of us, our congregation and for the whole church.”
“Thanks, Marg!” I said. “You just identified the foundation of this whole restructuring enterprise. Without solid prayer support and the committed engagement of each one of us, Future Directions will only be an abstract bureaucratic exercise.”
In the final analysis, it is only going to work if, like Marg and Norm, we each respond to the promptings of the Spirit and align ourselves with what God is doing in our congregation and in our local and global communities.
David Martin is the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada executive minister. Find out more about this vision at FutureDirectionsMC.ca.