A unique synergy

April 22, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 9
Arlyn Friesen Epp |

“Yep, I have to get an annual membership.” That customer comment reflects growing excitement over CommonWord, the new resource venture of Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), launched in January.

While retail bookstores and service ministries within the wider church have experienced stress over the last decade, MC Canada’s online Resource Centre garnered wide international attention and CMU’s Bookstore sales grew. Together now as CommonWord and situated in a public venue at CMU, we have the opportunity to interact with a diverse local population. In February alone, more than 40 people beyond the MC Canada/CMU constituency signed up for an annual membership with CommonWord.

The CommonWord vision is based on a unique synergy between borrowing and buying, consulting and downloading—developing a diverse one-stop shop for Anabaptist resources. Where else can you purchase a book, borrow a DVD, buy bags of fair-trade coffee, download a podcast, make a unique query or share your own sermon, all from one location? We’re thrilled that people are embracing the concept: buying frozen perogies onsite while also borrowing Sunday school curriculum during a single visit!

In the first two months of operation, CommonWord has experienced a wide array of  customer responses, from conversations about Anabaptism and expressions of gratitude for a local Christian bookstore, to appreciation for Ten Thousand Villages’ fair trade products and the surprise of stumbling into a wealth of loan resources at their disposal.

We’ve heard many warm comments about our space, a place to gather in a beautiful sunlit, friendly atmosphere. Recently, an older customer confided, “I love this place . . . and the books you recommended. There’s something sacred here. It’s got me thinking about going back to school.”

Although we can’t replicate the entire experience online—www.commonword.ca—or over the phone—1-877-846-1593—there is still a lot in this unique partnership for pastors or parishioners located beyond Winnipeg, services like a curated Christian/Anabaptist inventory at competitive prices (or for loan), thousands of free electronic materials, free consulting and regular updates of resources in the CommonWord Curator.

“I know that the resources have been carefully looked at before they’re offered,” wrote one out-of-province customer. “So it’s not like looking at a sales flyer filled with junk, but a resource cupboard filled with everything that I’ll need to do ministry.”

“You operate—and develop—an excellent interconnected resource centre,” wrote another.

Buy, borrow, download, link, consult. All from one location available onsite and online. We look forward to serving you.


Arlyn Friesen Epp is a resource person at CommonWord.

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