Reconciliation and relationships were the theme when Mennonite Church B.C. representatives met for their annual sessions late last month. The theme of “Leadership in a broken world: Walking in God’s mission of reconciliation” carried through the weekend, beginning with recognition that the meeting place of Level Ground Mennonite Church sits on Coast Salish territory, a gesture of respect to the hosting indigenous people.
Guest speaker Betty Pries, a mediation consultant with ARC Ministries in Ontario, led the group through reflections at roundtable discussions on how reconciliation works in the church—and how it often doesn’t. Pries warned against the danger of falling into “us-them” thinking that serves to alienate, rather than include. Drawing on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, Pries observed that the church at Corinth was a community struggling with challenging values and a congregation rife with conflict.
“Reconciliation is going beyond the chasm that is self and other, us and them,” said Pries, who had spoken the day before at the LEAD conference with the theme of “Nurturing a congregational spirit of reconciliation.”
Stories continued the reconciliation theme. Executive minister Garry Janzen told of his son and daughter-in-law choosing to have an indigenous elder come to their 2014 wedding, both to welcome guests to indigenous territory and to bear witness to their marriage.
Continuing on that theme, Henry Krause of Langley Mennonite Fellowship told of his congregation’s relating to the Kwantlen First Nation and formally acknowledging that its church building sits on Stó:lō Kwantlen land. “The idea of breaking down walls is what we’re about,” he said.
Barry Lesser of Yarrow United Mennonite Church related a story about strengthening relationships in the community, and how one couple from his congregation made friends with neighbours by bringing them homemade soup and buns that they ate together.
Rob Wiebe of Church of the Way, Granisle, shared of befriending an avowed atheist in his community, whose heart was softened because of Wiebe’s walking alongside and acceptance of him.
Pastor Tran Dinh Khanh of the Mennonite Church in Cambodia, who was ordained through MC B.C. in June 2014, was a guest at these meetings along with his wife. Khanh shared stories of the work of the church in Cambodia, including education, agriculture, food distribution and driving out evil spirits. “Many families are changed by the power of God,” he said through a translator.
There were hellos and goodbyes. Northgate Anabaptist Fellowship of Dawson Creek, formerly a member of the B.C. Mennonite Brethren Conference, was officially welcomed as a member congregation of MC B.C. A litany of thanks was read for Surrey Japanese Mennonite Church that closed this past year.
Delegates discussed recommendations from MC Canada’s Future Directions Task Force’s final report, to be considered at this summer’s MC Canada assembly in Saskatoon. Although the necessity for restructuring national and area church organizations generated both questions and lively discussion, the recommendation for approval was passed handily with 89 percent of the vote.
See more on Future Directions at bit.ly/future-directions-mcbc.
See also reports of the annual meetings of other area churches:
Bound to disagree, freed to love (Mennonite Church Saskatchewan)
MC Alberta defers approval of Future Directions report (Mennonite Church Alberta)
MC Manitoba approves new vision, Future Directions recommendations (Mennonite Church Manitoba)
Finding God in my neighbourhood (Mennonite Church Eastern Canada)