The morning begins with many hugs, some handshakes and the hearty, infectious laugh of Kathy Giesbrecht, or “Kathy G.” as many refer to Mennonite Church Manitoba’s energetic associate director of leadership ministries. There is a sense of reunification as we tell stories of our summers and new things that are happening in our lives this fall.
We have gathered for Making Connections, an event aimed at young adults from MC Manitoba to connect with one another and discuss our ideas for the local and wider church.
At 10 a.m., Giesbrecht calls us together, her hands spread out in front of her as she welcomes us all and then says a prayer for the day. She introduces the plan for the morning: a roundtable format that will invite us to discuss four different ideas presented by four different speakers, followed by discussion.
The first speaker is Gerald Ens from Bethel Mennonite Church, Winnipeg. He talks about the connection we have to Mennonites in other parts of the world, suggesting that Mennonites worldwide share a desire to be fulfilled and that they do this through communion. He chall-enges us to consider the other things that unite us as Mennonites, both religiously and culturally.
He concludes by saying that his goal is to find 25 young Mennonites who will represent Manitoba at the Mennonite World Conference in Pennsylvania next July, an idea that spurs much debate about who should attend and a burst of excitement as someone shouts, “Road trip!”
The next speaker is Rianna Isaak, the new program director of MC Manitoba’s Camps with Meaning ministry. Her experience working in areas of peace and justice, specifically with indigenous communities in northern Manitoba, brings insight to the idea of Mennonites as active peacebuilders and justice-seekers in the world around them. She asserts that, as young Mennonites, we share a stubbornness in our work that helps us in this field, which can be discouraging at times, and insists we need to support each other as this work is done.
I am the third speaker. I tell two stories of when my faith was challenged immensely, the first being my time in the Katimavik volunteer program and the second being the time I spent living in India during a practicum as part of my undergraduate degree in international development. In both situations, I found myself time and again explaining to people I met what a Mennonite was. While each time became easier, I could not help but wonder how others would answer this question.
I invited those listening to think about what values connect us as Mennonites and how these values shape our everyday lives as we encounter those who do not know anything about our story.
The fourth speaker is Don Rempel Boschman, lead pastor at Douglas Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, who shares some statistics about young Mennonites attending churches in Manitoba, in order to highlight how our churches are shifting and changing to suit the interests of younger generations.
He notes that this is not the case in every church, as it can be difficult for some congregations to go through transition when they have been worshipping the same way for so long. However, he adds that it is exciting to see how at least the dialogue is happening and that young Mennonites are participating in the conversation.
As the morning unfolds, I think about how God has called us together:
- What reasons do we each have for being here?
- What binds us to each other?
I come to the conclusion that the two questions are interdependent. As young Mennonites who attend, or are members of, Mennonite churches, we share not only an Anabaptist history, but a desire to have a voice in the church. This voice is diverse. It is not always in agreement with other voices, but it is present and vital nonetheless.
This voice is growing louder, thanks to events such as this one, and will continue to be heard this winter and in the coming year.
One day, this voice will be ready to proclaim the values, the views and the visions that young Mennonites in Manitoba have, not only for the churches we attend here at home, but for the church we are a part of around the world.
Kalynn Spain, 26, is a member of Hope Mennonite Church, Winnipeg. She works casually at MC Manitoba’s Camp Assiniboia and full-time at Zinn Farms in Springstein, Man. Young adults in Manitoba can follow ongoing conversations by joining the Young Mennos of Manitoba Facebook group at http://on.fb.me/1D1k8UR.
--Posted Oct. 22, 2014