It is with heartfelt gratitude that we thank and recognize the generosity of the 835 donors, including 45 new ones, to our 2016 spring and fall fundraising drives that brought a record $119,403 into our coffers toward operating expenses and our endowment fund.
While every gift, small or large, is appreciated, we want to give special notice to several large donors, including the Friesen family, who, with their $50,000 gift over five years, helped us establish the Ted Friesen Legacy Fund. This challenged several of you to increase your annual giving and others to give for the first time. The Friesen Printing Corp., in which the late Ted Friesen was a vital business partner, responded in kind with a $25,000 gift over three years.
Other large donors who gave $2,000 or more were Tim Sauer of Kitchener, Ont., and Bruce and Emily Burgetz of Toronto, with their $5,000 gift. Together with tightening our belt on expenses, these gifts have helped us finish our year in the black, with a slight net income. It has put Canadian Mennonite in a strong financial position to carry on our mission in the years ahead.
As I take leave of my post as editor and publisher at the end of March, it gives me confidence that our national publication is in good form as it helps to give shape to a changing structure known as Mennonite Church Canada.
Let me remind our readers of the importance of the Ted Friesen Legacy Fund and of the significance of Canadian Mennonite being both an anchor and a beacon as the national community of faith finds its way with new vision and structure in the days ahead, establishing its place in a post-Christendom era.
It was because of Ted Friesen’s vision and initiative that the Mennonite world of the 1950s came together as a diverse body of German, Swiss and Russian immigrants around an English-language publication. The magazine brought identity and purpose to differing cultural and religious expressions, but was able, through the persistent efforts of Friesen and editor Frank Epp, to focus on a shared spiritual Anabaptist heritage.
Are we again at that crossroad? There are strains on our unity. Differences over the resolutions on same-sex marriage and sanctions against Israel in Saskatoon last summer are forming some unfortunate dividing lines. Passions run deep. Congregants with differing views are making big demands of our leaders.
All of us—congregants and leaders—need a place to stand, a communication vehicle that gives voice to our many convictions, a “village square” where we can gather and talk to each other without rancour or animosity, and hopefully reason together about our differences.
It needs to be an independent platform, as it has been historically, so as to offer a safe place for the exchange of ideas that is central to a fair and just communion.
Canadian Mennonite cannot be biased if it is to serve these ideals with integrity. Over time, this has not been an easy journey. Since the mid-1990s, the publication has been engaged in a partnership agreement that enjoys the financial support of MC Canada, the five area churches and their predecessors. We have attempted to be a responsible and responsive partner, while at the same time reserving the right to critique the establishment when we feel it is necessary.
We have performed our role in what we believe is the best tradition of the “priesthood of all believers,” in which all of us have a stake in the faith development of our local and national body. We look to our leaders for guidance and spiritual wisdom, but we take personal responsibility for what happens to us collectively.
While this sounds straightforward, it is not an easy road. It is difficult, at times, to be both partner and prophet. We risk the wrath of the leaders, on the one hand, when we engage in critique, and on the other, the disappointment, bordering at times on cynicism, by congregants if they sense we are a propaganda vehicle for the establishment. We can become the target from both sides.
My parting advice is that, despite the risks and sometimes rocky road, Canadian Mennonite maintains its independent stance so that all of us, leaders and congregants alike, have a place to gather and talk to each other.
And that’s why your financial gifts are so important to keep us strong and vital during a time when institutional support is looking at an uncertain future. Thank you again, donors!
—Corrected Feb. 13, 2017
If you would like to donate to support the work of Canadian Mennonite, click here. And thank you!