It’s been 14 years since Canadian Mennonite conducted an independent readership survey. In the next edition (Sept. 28), print and digital readers will find a list of questions that invite your feedback, solicit your opinion on content and attempt to ascertain your reading habits in both venues—print and digital.
For more than six decades, this publication has given voice to the person in the pew, to our leaders at the congregational, area church (previously conferences) and denominational levels. It has helped shape the narrative of life within the bounds of some 230 congregations and 33,000 members comprising the faith community of Mennonite Church Canada.
We like to think of Canadian Mennonite as the “village square” of our denomination, where we come together every two weeks to talk about our life together, to challenge each other on our faith journey and to keep up to date on church family events (milestones, calendar events). It is a place where, in broad strokes, we share an identity as a modern Anabaptist/Mennonite community, but where, more and more as part of a global church, we temper our tendency toward protecting and promoting a cultural heritage in favour of opening our doors and hearts to others who are not like us.
Likewise, in the communication field, we are moving from a solely print product to a digital one where more and more of us are dwelling. For the larger period of Canadian Mennonite’s life, we came to you via your mailbox. From the testimony of many older readers, it is a welcome guest, rising to the level of a letter from home, helping them keep in touch with sisters and brothers across the church, maintaining that strong family bond.
Now, all that is changing—and rapidly. To keep abreast of fast-pacing events, many of you now spend more time on your computer, your digital tablet, your smart phone, than you do reading newspapers and magazines. Information online is immediate and visually pleasing. You are made aware of important events as they happen, not waiting for the cumbersome process of putting together stories and opinion on 32 or 40 pages and reading them two to four weeks later. An item is posted on Facebook and in minutes your friends are weighing in on the merits of the information and sharing it with a host of their friends.
This evolution in communication has been likened to the invention of the printing press, more than five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. The press completely changed the way persons communicated. It opened up a whole new world of spreading information. The digital revolution of today is young, by comparison, and nobody knows for sure where it is headed. We are in this curious time between the old and new—between the power of the printed word and the speed and immediacy of the digital.
It is precisely because of this new, sometimes puzzling, phenomenon that it is important to hear from you, our readers, through this upcoming survey. Our mission remains unchanged, but the way in which our product is delivered is undergoing a huge change.
We need to know your expectations, your thoughts on how and what we are doing, and how you receive information. Please do us a favour us by taking a few minutes of your time to complete the survey and send it back to us.
The Vernon Leis story
We have been accused, wrongly, of sitting on the devastating story of the alleged sexual misconduct by the late Vernon Leis, deceased now for 21 years. Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) first alerted us to the story of the leader’s misconduct between publishing the last issue and this one.
We had no intention of not publishing the story, but first did some background checking, off the record, with officials at MCEC and also contacted the Leis family to give a statement. MCEC would not divulge anything about the investigation process, citing “confidentiality,” and the Leis family, after some conversation back and forth, decided not to comment.
We think that it is only fair to get more background, since it is very unusual for a person to be charged this long time after his death. That’s why we wanted to satisfy ourselves as to the investigative process and to give the Leis survivors a chance to speak. Both the abused and the surviving family are victims. As a faith community, we should care for both.