Some significant changes are occurring at Canadian Mennonite.
First, we are bidding farewell to one of our expert regional correspondents, Evelyn Rempel Petkau, after 18 years of her serving, with distinction, as our Manitoba correspondent (see the story here). Her 600 stories, written to the highest standard of journalism, had a unique style. She seemed to grasp with unusual sensitivity the subjects about which she wrote and framed her stories in the context of what was happening in the religious life of Manitoba Mennonites. We will miss her writing.
One of her farewell comments struck us as instructive for regular readers of this publication: “I have learned a lot about my church and its constituency, and I have made contacts with wonderful people, and have learned so much from them. It has been truly very rich,” she graciously wrote as she enters retirement.
That “learning,” dear readers, has high value. For Evelyn, it worked both ways: In her telling the stories of many people, places and events, she both informed us and informed herself, which is the essence of our conversation as a faith community. Compared to other similar church publications, Canadian Mennonite has gone to great lengths to hire and pay local correspondents, giving our stories maximum depth and authenticity.
These correspondents, especially Evelyn, with her 18-year tenure, know the people in their own locales, and can measure, through these connections, what is important and needs to be told. They have a context that is impossible for us at a centralized home office location to know and appreciate. It becomes a sort of working knowledge as they move among their people that adds both energy and lustre to their stories. It is a great gift.
It also adds value to what the area and national churches are doing. It is, we humbly suggest, a good return on investment for the financial support we receive from these bodies—a sizeable portion (38 per cent) of our annual budget income. These stories are exclusively about how Anabaptist Mennonites are expressing and carrying out the faith in their everyday lives, serving as inspiration and testimony to their fellow believers across the country.
Our main features are a ready source of education for congregations, with some congregations using the “For discussion” questions as their adult Sunday school curriculum. One of our staff members, D. Michael Hostetler, has further suggested that churches pick a story of some other congregation and use it in their worship setting or committee meeting to inspire and encourage, or to pray in solidarity with that congregation and its needs. That, too, contributes to the enrichment of our national conversation and identity.
A second significant change is how we are delivering the content of Canadian Mennonite. In line with the present trend of readers getting more and more of their information via the Internet, especially through mobile phones and other hand-held devices, we have launched a re-designed website that has a clean, friendly design, with larger text and liberal use of photos (see story on page 32).
While our printed publication is still our flagship product, we know that there are increasing constraints, such as mailing time to our homes and space limitations. Our website allows us to carry web-first or expanded stories to a targeted audience that increasingly seeks timely content of personal interest. You will not have to wait until Canadian Mennonite arrives in your mailbox. You can now access it “on the go.” And too few readers still aren’t aware that if they are a print subscriber, they can also get each issue sent to them digitally in pdf file format up to two weeks early.
New Manitoba correspondent
Succeeding Evelyn Rempel Petkau is Josiah Neufeld, 34, of Winnipeg, an award-winning freelance writer who has had features in The Walrus, Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Geez and Childview, among other publications. He is a former editor of Christian Week. His work has been recognized by the Evangelical Press Association, Canadian Church Press and National Magazine Awards. He holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. Parents of two, he and his spouse Mona are members of Hope Mennonite Church, Winnipeg. He will be using a pen name: J. Neufeld. (See contact info on page 3.)