Two notable actions at Manitoba AGM

March 28, 2024 | News | Volume 28 Issue 06
Aaron Epp |
Fanosie Legesse, intercultural mission minister for MC Eastern Canada, gave two keynote presentations. Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg.

Delegates welcomed a new congregation into Mennonite Church Manitoba and passed a resolution to endorse a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty at the regional church’s annual gathering on March 1-2.   


More than 160 people, including 104 delegates from 31 of the 39 MC Manitoba churches, gathered at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Winkler.   


Fanosie Legesse, who serves as intercultural church minister for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, spoke on Friday evening and Saturday morning, in addition to a breakout session.   


“You all have what is needed to become intercultural church,” he said. Noting the great opportunity presented by the hundreds of thousands of newcomers arriving in Canada each year, he asked: “Are you ready?”   


In the breakout session, Legesse, who grew up in Ethiopia, also gave practical suggestions for engaging newcomers (see sidebar).    


A large delegation from the Vietnamese Mennonite Church in Winnipeg told the story of their community during one of the breakout sessions.   


River East Church joins   


River East Church is the latest congregation to join MC Manitoba. The Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba (MBCM) voted in January to expel the church unless it “returns to an active embrace of MBCM member church expectations by May 30, 2024.”   


The church has a statement of full inclusion, including same-sex marriage and the possibility of LGBTQ+ persons in leadership.    


The church has 205 members, with an average Sunday attendance of about 130. In a letter sent to MC Manitoba executive minister Michael Pahl that was shared with delegates, River East moderator Reynold Redekopp described the church as “a Jesus community for the world,” where the guiding values are prophecy, wisdom and compassion.    


“We value connections within the Anabaptist world and at this point we feel that (River East Church) would align well with (MC Manitoba) and the work being done through (MC Manitoba),” Redekopp wrote.    


MC Manitoba staff and River East leadership have been in conversation for 18 months about the possibility of River East joining the regional church. The vote to accept the church as an affiliate member was 101-3.    


MC Manitoba to sign call for treaty   


Delegates passed a resolution that will see the regional church sign a letter calling on governments to develop and implement a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.   


States that would sign on to this treaty would agree to wind down their use of fossil fuels and transition to using clean energy. Signatories would be held accountable to their commitments.    


The MC Manitoba Climate Action Working Group (CAWG) spent about six months developing the resolution, visiting churches to talk about it and participating in other online and in-person forums to engage the MC Manitoba constituency.   


“To me, [MC Manitoba] signing on to the call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty is important because it signals a commitment of the church to live into a new imagination for how we live in the world—one that chooses life, justice and wellbeing for all,” CAWG member Marta Bunnett Wiebe said in a short video about the resolution that was shown to delegates.    


During a breakout session, Bunnett Wiebe said, “we recognize this isn’t the only way to take action—far from it. A non-proliferation treaty prompts us to ask: So what? What are the implications of that? How might we be called into other ways of acting?”    


Two delegates voted against the resolution.   


Projected deficit in 2024   


Pahl reported a $36,000 deficit for 2023. This will be covered by reserve funds. That follows a $176,828 deficit in 2022 and two previous surpluses.    


“Because 2023 gave us our clearest picture since 2019 of what a normal year looks like, we are on more solid footing as we look ahead to 2024 and beyond,” Pahl said.    


MC Manitoba’s 2024 budget includes a projected deficit of $16,125, within 0.5 percent of the total budget.      Staff changes will reduce expenses in 2025 and beyond.   


Melanie Neufeld, director of mission engagement, is reducing her hours from 1.0 FTE to 0.75 FTE, which took effect on March 1.       


Meanwhile, Kathy Giesbrecht, director of congregational ministries, is retiring effective May 1, which time the position will be concluded.     


“Both of these staffing changes were voluntary and based upon personal circumstances,” Pahl said, “though they were both in part prompted by the changing financial realities for us as a regional church.”     


“We’re doing more together than any of us could ever do alone: supporting each other’s congregations; supporting our pastors; and facilitating regional, nationwide and international ministries,” he said. “God is good.”    


Tributes to Giesbrecht   


During the final plenary session, Pahl and numerous pastors paid tribute to Giesbrecht.    


“‘It’s a great day to be the church.’ I can’t count how many times you’ve said those words,” said Phil Campbell- Enns, pastor at Home Street Mennonite. “Because of you, we believe those words more deeply. It is indeed a great day to be the church.” Giesbrecht expressed her thanks.     


“I walk with a deep, deep gratitude that the church made room for one such as I,” she said, adding that she is grateful for the support and encouragement she received from her parents. “We don’t get anywhere unless someone believes we have something to give. Thanks be to God.” [See an additional tribute to Kathy G below.]


Practical advice

In a breakout session, Fanosie Legesse was asked: “So what if a newcomer family walks into our church on a Sunday morning— what should we do?” Below is a summary of his response.   


Wash their feet. In other words, serve them. If they are new to the country, chances are they came out of much more of a high context culture. Here they don’t have the connections. They probably feel vulnerable and anxious. In Canadian culture, we tend to not be invasive with questions. Many other cultures are different.   


After some introductory comments, you can ask: “Do you have a good place to live? Do you feel safe? Do you have someone to help you get provincial health cards? Do you have enough food? Have you been able to find a grocery store that has the food you like? Schooling for children?” etc. If you find a need, meet that need—wash their feet—if you sense the openness.  


If people stay around, offer a place to be involved. Don’t force them into your template, but see what gifts they can offer, and use them.   Invite them into your home. Share your life with them. Be the people they can depend on. 



Dear Church and Dear Kathy,  


On behalf of the wider church family, and particularly the youth ministry crew here in Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, I wanted to share a few thoughts as we bid formal farewell to our beloved friend, sister in Christ, mentor and colleague in arms, Kathy Giesbrecht.    


Early on in my ministry with MC Saskatchewan, I discovered the deep joy that is working with Kathy. From her, I learned the art of alliteration, the stirring of the Spirit and the kindness of the Kingdom, all critical in youth and young adult ministry. And from the very beginning, I have been in awe of her ability to see, nurture, and call out the gifts of the younger generations of the church.   


On my desk is a well-faded sticky note that says, “be Kathy G to someone else!” written after a particularly uplifting and affirming conversation.   


To spend time with Kathy is to learn how to love and be loved, how to learn while teaching, and how to cry tears of laughter and sadness and gratitude in the same conversation. It is to suddenly find yourself filled with infectious joy, energy and knowledge that there is a place for you in the church.    


It is to dream crazy dreams about what it means to be church, and to watch the seeds of those dreams turn into more than you could ever ask for or imagine.    


To know Kathy G is to know God’s love for you. It is a gift that fills your cup, and it is a gift for which I will always be grateful. For all that you are to us, and all that you will continue to be for the church, Kathy, thank you.    


God’s richest and deepest blessings to you.    


—Kirsten Hamm-Epp, regional church minister, MC Saskatchewan

Fanosie Legesse, intercultural mission minister for MC Eastern Canada, gave two keynote presentations. Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg.

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.