“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40: 30-31).
In my new role as moderator of Mennonite Church Canada, I’ve been privileged to meet people of all ages who make up our church family. (See “‘New moderator brings ‘non-anxious presence’.”)
At our delegate assembly in Saskatoon last July, young families were a rare but welcome sight. On the surface, the unfamiliar face on the stage (mine), and the beckoning of an infant’s cry seemed an unlikely intersection at which to decide weighty church matters.
But something struck me when I saw a young pastor making his way from a floor microphone with a toddler in tow. Could God be at work in our midst? Could God’s purposes be accomplished in the distracted lives and over-extended schedules of young parents?
In the fall, I had the privilege of attending the Emerging Voices Initiative (EVI) workshop in Toronto. One of the young adults hosting the event said they had devoted their reading week to lead the cross-country tour to gather input into the future of our national church family. I marvelled, recalling how I spent my reading week at her age. With limited resources, she explained how EVI used technology to connect, unite, organize and mobilize young voices across five time zones.
Their message? “We are passionate about our future together!” Out of fear and despair that young voices would be left out of our Future Directions process, EVI has become a voice for positive change. As a much younger generation, they know what it means to be on the margins. In a very short time, EVI has become a strong advocate for other marginalized voices along their journey. That’s incredibly hopeful to me.
Our November fall leadership assembly is when moderators and executive staff meet from all the area churches across Canada. It was a gift and inspiration to work closely with older and experienced leaders who are just as passionate about our church’s future as EVI. I’m humbled by their steady commitment and generosity. Many are volunteers serving during a challenging time of transition.
I see Jesus often showing up in our vulnerability, when we choose to make difficult choices out of faith. Jesus’ choice of disciples was subversive. He challenged the popular notion of what it takes to build a winning team.
From young pastors with toddlers, to the EVI group, to our elders, I am reminded that Jesus built his church on the faith of people on the margins. At a time when emerging leaders with youth and drive bring a fresh vitality, often working under resource constraints, we’re blessed by the wisdom, time and resources that experienced leaders give to sustain and broaden the mission of the church.
What a wonderful legacy of love and generosity to generations of faith that follow.