On my bookshelf sit 19 bound volumes of Canadian Mennonite. I’m looking at Vol. 1, No. 1, published on Sept. 15, 1997. Yes, that means that, come Sept. 15, we will celebrate 20 years of this magazine in its current form.
On page 2 editor Ron Rempel welcomed readers to the new format and name. The readership was identified as the people and churches of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada and its five related conferences. The masthead stated that the new magazine “aims to reflect and upbuild the life and work of the Mennonite church in Canada.” That was the beginning of the dream to make the magazine available to every home of that Mennonite constituency.
The periodical’s beginnings harkened back to 1953, when The Canadian Mennonite was launched, a vision of D.W. Friesen & Sons, with Frank H. Epp as the first editor. He was followed by Larry Kehler, who oversaw the difficult task of ending the publication in February 1971. In August of that same year Canadian Mennonite Reporter was launched. The following year the name was simplified to Mennonite Reporter, under the leadership of Dave Kroeker. In 1979 Ron Rempel took over the editor’s role of Mennonite Reporter and served both that paper and the new Canadian Mennonite magazine. In 2003-04 Margaret Loewen Reimer served as interim editor, with Tim Miller Dyck following as editor/publisher later in 2004 and Dick Benner in 2009.
It’s interesting to reflect on what has transpired since that name and format change. (Here’s a gentle rebuke to those readers who still call it Mennonite Reporter, 20 years later!) There was the founding of Mennonite Church Canada, with its five area churches, in 2000. Since then, Canadian members of the former General Conference and (Old) Mennonite Church have walked together, along with newcomers who came with no previous Mennonite background. We have tried to learn each other’s foundational stories and sought to work together amid cultural differences and varying approaches to church life, supporting each other in faithfulness to Christ. Canadian Mennonite has attempted to reflect some of that reality.
Back in 1997 we couldn’t have imagined all the changes that would happen in the church and the world around us. Our society has become increasingly secular, and loyalty to church institutions is waning. The changes in communications have meant that Canadian Mennonite now has a digital presence through its website and social media. Currently the CM team is discerning what will be the next steps, as we try to keep pace with the communication methods of our readers and the realities of the 21st-century church.
We acknowledge those who had the vision for our various “ancestor” publications and the people who have guided the vision in the past 20 years. Thank you to those who have served on the board of Canadian Mennonite Publishing Service and to the past editors and staff. And where would we be without the many contributors across Canada—both of content and of our sustaining funds, including grants from the Government of Canada? We are grateful for the loyal readers who have accompanied us these 20 years and for those who joined us in recent times. You, our readers, have affirmed and challenged CM as we have sought to be a faithful voice in the church. Thank you.
Future Directions documents online
Church delegates will gather at a special assembly in Winnipeg from Oct. 13 to 15, 2017, to consider a re-organization proposal for Mennonite Church Canada and its regional churches. Discernment documents and reports from the working groups can be found online at futuredirectionsmc.ca/documents.
A call for prayer and support
This past March we said farewell to editor/publisher Dick Benner, who began retirement near his family in Virginia. Dick was once again living close to his wife Marlene, who was settled in a long-term-care home there. Last year Dick had shared with readers the poignant story of their long-lasting partnership, her recent struggle with dementia and his journey into grief. On July 13, Marlene Reller Keller Benner passed away peacefully while in hospice care. (See her obituary here.) A memorial service was held on Aug. 19.
At the end of June, Dick was diagnosed with cancer, for which he has been receiving treatment in Germany. Family and friends across Canada and the U.S. have rallied to offer prayers and financial support for his treatment and healing. We invite you to keep Dick and his family in your prayers during this difficult time.