Using the metaphor of home, a new book relates the history of the Menno Simons Centre, a residence community for university students in Vancouver for more than 30 years.
Home Together: Student Ministry at the Menno Simons Centre by Thomas Bergen was introduced at a virtual book launch on Oct. 24, with some former residents participating by Zoom.
In his book, Bergen describes six aspects of the centre as home: spiritual, supportive, sabbatical, safe, spurring and sending. He earned a master of theological studies degree from Regent College in Vancouver and was a student there from 2011 to 2013 and residence coordinator at the centre from 2014 to 2019.
In opening remarks during the book launch, Evan Kreider recalled a conversation with the late Paul Boschman, in which Boschman asked, “We have Native and urban ministries; why not a student ministry?”
The idea grew from there and, after fundraising, the Pacific Centre for Discipleship, an inter-Mennonite non-profit society, was formed in 1986. Its goal was to provide a supportive Christian community and a home away from home for university and college students.
The society obtained a former convent in the Point Grey area of Vancouver, near the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Regent College, with 24 individual rooms, two kitchens, a laundry and a chapel. The residence was named the Menno Simons Centre.
Through the years, many students called the centre home, a place to be together in Christian community. They took turns cleaning the facility and shared a weekly community meal together. They learned to live together, develop relationships and deal with conflict in a community of discipleship and belonging.
“Home is never something we own, but that we’re invited into,” said Bergen. He noted that the ages from 18 to 30 are a time when young adults seek a deeper sense of home and ask, “Where do I belong?” and, “Where is home?”
Several residence alumni participated by Zoom, expressing fondness for their home away from home during their university years.
The Menno Simons Centre was sold earlier this year to raise capital for a new residence near the campus of UBC.
Home Together is published by FriesenPress in Victoria, B.C.
For more information, or to purchase the book, visit the Pacific Centre for Discipleship’s website at pcda.bc.ca.
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in B.C.? Send it to Amy Rinner Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Fall 2020 List of Books & Resources