Alberta AGM marked by hope and diversity

March 28, 2024 | News | Volume 28 Issue 06
Margaret Kruger-Harder |
Friday evening session held at Holyrood Mennonite. Photo by Ruth Bergen Braun.

Participants celebrated the diversity of the family of God, strategized ways to improve inclusivity and marked leadership transitions at Mennonite Church Alberta’s 2024 delegate sessions.        


Mennonites from across the province gathered March 15-16 at Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton.        


On the first evening, an enthusiastic, intergenerational, intercultural music group led delegates and visitors in a lively rendition of “Hamba nathi (Come, Walk with Us).”         


The joy of coming together—many people as one in Christ—resonated throughout the weekend.         


Holyrood co-pastor Joon Park shared insights about becoming an intercultural church. He reflected on the churches of Ephesus and Antioch to inspire listeners to recognize and embrace the cultural, ethnic, generational and socioeconomic diversity among Christ’s followers.         


Park shared that being flexible about changes in cultural and ethnic norms, while focusing on the mission of God, is needed for respectful negotiations and compromises.         


Openness to change allows the church, as a diverse body of people, to be reconciled and work together in community through one core identity in Christ.         


Park advised that creating a “transformative, interethnic community” is possible “when allegiance to Christ supersedes all other affiliations, loyalties and convictions; and when the person and mission of Christ become the cornerstone of a congregation’s collective identity.”     


MC Alberta congregants come from a variety of backgrounds. Of 11 member churches, three are diaspora congregations (largely composed of a people group from a different country).      


Holyrood has members from European and West African backgrounds. Also among the attendees at the sessions were people from Ethiopian (Oromo), Myanmar (Chin), South Sudanese (Nuer), Korean, Congolese (Lingala), Ghanaian (Ewe), and Liberian (mostly Kisi) backgrounds.       


Welcoming the diversity of backgrounds was a topic of discussion, informally and in workshops.       


Reuben Tut, pastor of Edmonton South Sudanese Mennonite Church, said, “We would like to be together but language is a problem.” Lack of access to writings in one’s language, especially the Bible, poses significant difficulties for people who do not speak English.        


Doug Klassen, executive minister for Mennonite Church Canada, spoke of his hope to have proposals for the Gathering 2025 business sessions available months ahead of time to people in their language. Suzanne Gross, co-pastor of Holyrood, encouraged providing translations for sermons.      


Scripture passages at the sessions were read in four languages.       


Though the journey is long, the movement toward being an intercultural church is active and evident.         


The overall mood of the sessions was hopeful.     


Karl Blank of the regional church’s finance committee reported that while MC Alberta is operating with a deficit budget in 2024, that deficit is smaller than in 2023. Blank reported that a balanced budget should be achievable in 2025.       


Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary donated $250,000 from the sale of its guest house to Camp Valaqua. These funds will help with the improvement of camp buildings for year-round use by the wider Mennonite community.      


The delegate sessions also marked leadership transitions. Brenda Tiessen- Wiens, moderator since 2018, completed her time in that role.      


Keith Ratzlaff is her successor. An engineer by profession, Ratzlaff expressed humility and cheerful anticipation of what will come in his time of service.       


Tany Willms Warkentin resigned from her position as MC Alberta’s treasurer. She had been a steady, reliable presence in the regional church for over 11 years. This staff position is now filled by Highside Solutions, comprised of the father/son team of Wayne Janz and Austin Janz.       


Holyrood treated attendees to a delicious Liberian lunch, complete with spicy chicken, rice, cassava leaf stew, cornbread and doughnut balls.     


The entire weekend was vibrant with goodwill, as many voices participated in worship, business, workshops and visiting over coffee and lunch.    


“We are different cultures, different languages, different countries,” observed Amanuel Abdisa of Bethel International Church Edmonton Oromo Congregation. “But through the church of Jesus Christ, we are one at this address.”  

Friday evening session held at Holyrood Mennonite. Photo by Ruth Bergen Braun.

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