David Boshart, president of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., encouraged Mennonite Church Saskatchewan participants at this year’s annual delegate sessions (ADS) to hold on to a hopeful perspective, even as the challenges of church life after the pandemic grew.
“This all begins with Christians who see the world in a different way,” he said. “If we are Christians, we see the world differently. We see the world from a watchpost called hope. This is the story that we have been sent to tell, that the impossible has been made possible. We learn to know our contexts. We see the world with a newspaper in one hand and the Bible in another, not confused about which story is more true.”
The March 11 sessions attracted more than a hundred people, including 67 delegates, to the in-person and online event, whose theme was “Rooted in good soil: Resourcing the rural church.”
One of the more notable challenges facing MC Saskatchewan this year was leadership transitions. The regional church has been without a full-time, permanent executive minister for the past year. Both the current moderator, Terry Stephaniuk, and the finance chair, Gordon Peters, completed their terms at the session.
Alex Tiessen, the nominations committee chair, noted the unusually high number of transitions. The nominations committee had found people who were willing to let their names stand for most of the positions, including for the roles of moderator and finance chair, however, a few vacancies still remained at the start of the ADS. People, especially pastors, were encouraged by Tiessen to consider, “taking your turn, if you haven’t already done so.”
The financial picture of MC Saskatchewan was largely positive. The unaudited financial report that was presented showed excess revenue of $45,698. The excess funds will likely be put in reserve for future needs. Much of the savings from the year was due to lower staff costs because of the executive minister vacancy.
A substantial amount of the business session was devoted to reporting and discussing the camp study that was commissioned by the delegates at the 2022 ADS. The full report on MC Saskatchewan’s three camps—Camp Elim, Camp Shekinah and Youth Farm Bible Camp—was distributed to the constituency a few days before ADS.
Tim Nickel, the consultant who conducted the study, shared a general overview of the report. A time of discussion was opened up with the understanding that no decisions would be made or motions put forward.
One of the primary sources of discussion was about camps as a business, with governance structures and bottom lines; and camp as a ministry, a place where spiritual formation occurs.
Stephaniuk, the outgoing moderator, explained that the MC Saskatchewan Council was trying to hold those two things in tension, so that both can be balanced respectfully.
Nancy Epp, a delegate from Rosthern Mennonite Church, responded: “Some of us don’t consider that as something to hold equally. The spiritual formation piece is the most important.”
The Council thanked the delegates for their feedback and questions, and will take them into account as it moves forward.
One of the most significant leadership changes came near the end of the day. Stephaniuk announced that Gary Peters, a long-time pastor in MC Saskatchewan, will take on the role of interim executive minister. He will serve in the role on a half-time basis for the next six to nine months.
Peters described the process of accepting the role as “surprising” and “spirit-led.” He said: “I don’t know if I have the gifts and abilities, but I know God is with us, God is with me, and together we can do the work of God. We can be bearers of God’s good news. I look forward to getting to know the congregations a little more closely, and the pastors who serve them. I also look forward to connecting with the larger Mennonite church across Canada.”
The work of the church appears to be alive and well in Saskatchewan. At the closing of the ADS, when the commissioning of new and returning leaders took place, all the vacancies had been filled. Sharon Schultz will serve as moderator.
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Kirsten Hamm-Epp, regional church minister, and Josh Wallace, church engagement minister, lead morning worship. (Photo by Emily Summach)
Sharon Schultz, pastor of Eyebrow Mennonite Church, and Andrea Enns-Gooding, pastor of Rosthern Mennonite Church, engage in conversation. (Photo by Emily Summach)
Audrey Mierau Bechtel plays piano for morning worship with Josh Wallace on guitar. (Photo by Emily Summach)
Participants hang ‘seeds’ of the various MC Saskatchewan and MC Canada ministries on the ‘roots’ displayed at the front of the meeting hall. (Photo by Emily Summach)