Klassen urges outreach at Saskatchewan AGM

March 28, 2024 | News | Volume 28 Issue 06
Emily Summach |
Mennonite Church Saskatchewan Annual Delegate Sessions at North Star Mennonite Church in Drake. Photo by Will Braun.

“The gospel begins with ‘hello.’” This was the challenge Doug Klassen, executive minister for Mennonite Church Canada, gave to those gathered for the Mennonite Church Saskatchewan Annual Delegate Sessions on March 8-9 at North Star Mennonite Church in Drake, Saskatchewan. Over 80 people attended, including 49 delegates from 21 of 22 MC Saskatchewan congregations.      


The theme for the weekend was Rekindling Relationships.      


The planners of the event placed a strong emphasis on sharing stories, worshiping together, and providing time for people to connect informally. “The theme felt like a natural way of naming how much we want everyone to find again how good it is to share in each others’ lives.


For some folks, that probably meant reconnecting with someone from a congregation on the other side of the province. For others, it maybe was rediscovering some part of the work we do together,” said Josh Wallce, MC Saskatchewan’s church engagement minister.     


Presenters acknowledged that the landscape of the Canadian church and culture has changed drastically since the pandemic. While addressing pastors and church leadership, Klassen, the keynote speaker, encouraged listeners to be cognizant of these challenges. “The pandemic has weakened our social ties,” he said. “It [has] flattened our sense of connection and community.”     


He affirmed that people are desperate to talk, to find a place to be their “realest” selves. Klassen suggested that church can be a place of hope in a culture of “scattered and thin connections.”     


He emphasized the need for relationships, and for building community with our neighbours, especially beyond the walls of the church. “The experience of church can be bewildering for people. Stand up, sit down, bow your head, sing this song,” he said. Klassen suggested instead following in the footsteps of Jesus, by opening up our homes, inviting people to a meal, and building relationships.     


“According to Jesus, the gospel isn’t figured out in the synagogue, it’s figured out in the homes of sinners and tax collectors,” he said.     


Even as the agenda moved into official business sessions, the emphasis on relationships remained. When the MC Saskatchewan staff and moderator shared their annual reports, they each invited up one person to share about the impact that relationships have had on their ministry. One of those people was Don Froese.   


Froese is wrapping up as interim pastor at Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon. While Froese had been in pastoral ministry for many years, this was his first time serving a Mennonite Church Canada congregation. He shared that serving at Mount Royal drew him into a new, deeper understanding of his Anabaptist roots. “I always thought I was Anabaptist”, he said, “turns out I was an evangelical.”      


Froese encouraged MC Saskatchewan to realize the “unique, special gift” they have to offer, especially in relation to young people who are looking for a way to integrate their faith with peace and justice work in the world. “The Spirit is blowing,” he said.     


Still, relationships are not without growing pains. The departure of Laird Mennonite Church from MC Saskatchewan in the past year was noted. The Laird representative who had been invited to attend could not make it due to an urgent personal matter.    


The most significant motion at the session resulted in delegates voting overwhelmingly to grant Youth Farm Bible Camp (YFBC), one of three MC Saskatchewan camps, independence. The motion was put forward by the MC Saskatchewan Camp Study Subcommittee, which has been operating and considering the matter for some time.    


The camp is on land near Rosthern owned by MC Saskatchewan. The next step is for the regional church and the camp to develop a lease agreement.     


The discussion prior to the vote reflected the sadness that some delegates felt about this change. Ric Driediger, a YFBC board member, likened the change to a child growing up and moving out—“[YFBC] is ready to leave the nest,” he said, “but MC Sask will always be their parent.”   


Delegates passed a budget that closely reflects the 2022 budget. Last year, the regional church incurred a shortfall of $12,000.   


As previously announced, Len Rempel will take over from interim executive minister Gary Peters in early June.  

Mennonite Church Saskatchewan Annual Delegate Sessions at North Star Mennonite Church in Drake. Photo by Will Braun.

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