The church mirror

October 3, 2018 | Editorial | Volume 22 Issue 19
Tobi Thiessen | Publisher

Some churches have a mirror in their cloak rooms. You might want to check your reflection before going in to worship. In older, more formal times, you might have combed your hair or adjusted your tie.

Sometimes you are satisfied with your reflection, even pleased. Other times, you might be disappointed or avoid looking. Whatever you may feel about your reflection at that moment in time, you head on in to church anyway.

For 65 years, Canadian Mennonite has been like a church mirror, reflecting the Mennonite family outside the worship service. There we are, taking off our coats and talking to one another about the issues of the day. Often we see people with sleeves rolled up, engaged in activities and ministries that help carry out our mission as people of God.

In my imagination, this church mirror has a flexible wall mount. It is sometimes angled towards the worship service. We see pastors, theologians and church leaders giving spiritual leadership or offering words that help us to reflect on our faith. Sometimes the mirror is angled to show what is happening outside the church doors. People point us to areas in the world that need our attention or introduce us to new ideas that add to our collective understanding.

In this issue, Aaron Epp’s feature “A united witness” reviews the history of Canadian Mennonite. From its founding in Altona, Man., in 1953 as The Canadian Mennonite newspaper, to its 1971 move to Waterloo, Ont., where it was re-named The Mennonite Reporter, to its 1997 transformation into the present magazine format, this mirror has been re-framed a few times.

Epp’s review of the first issue gives the reader a glimpse of Mennonite society and values in 1952. It would be a fun project to review one issue from each decade of publishing to see how some of our cultural assumptions and cloakroom conversations have changed while others have not.

There was a two-year cross-Canada consultation that led to the change from The Mennonite Reporter to Canadian Mennonite magazine in 1997. Minutes show that many concerns raised then are identical to the ones that get raised now:

  • Concerns that we stay connected as a body spread across several geographic regions.
  • Concerns that we have a common forum in which to share information, challenge and inspire one another.
  • Hopes that a common church paper can be a place where members speak to one another on a broad variety of issues.

In an editorial dated Jan.15, 2001, then-editor Ron Rempel quoted the conclusion of the delegates after the two-year process: “We want one primary periodical, and we will entrust this periodical with the task of telling our stories, reminding us of what holds us together and where we disagree, inspiring and challenging us, creating a place where we can discuss issues.”

Here we are in 2018. We have the same mandate but are updating the mirror frame again. In January, watch for whiter paper, more graphics and more white space, a reorganized news section, and some lighter content. (People observe that we are very earnest and could use a few smiles). New columnists will join us. Also, we will introduce a new social media manager for direct engagement in online conversations.

Sometimes a look in the mirror prompts self-reflection. We would like to thank you, the reader, for helping us reflect. Through letters to the editor or direct emails to our office, you bring issues to our attention, challenge our assumptions and encourage us to try new ideas. Reader engagement is tremendously valuable at helping CM carry out its mandate. As we move forward, please keep reflecting back to us what you see, or would like to see, in this church mirror.

New columnist
Much of CM’s space is dedicated to news and announcements. But our columnists offer their personal reflections on the values we hold and the challenges we face, as individuals and as a larger church body. In August, Kingdom Yearnings columnist Ryan Jantzi bid us farewell. We thank him for his words—both the affirmations and the challenges. In this issue, Ed Olfert, a part-time pastor in Saskatchewan, begins his column, In the Image. For almost 10 years, Olfert wrote regularly in the Prince Albert Daily Herald, sharing stories and insights from his life. We look forward to hearing his perspective. —Virginia A. Hostetler

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