“Not another visioning process” was a common reaction when I presented the idea of a year of visioning and discernment at Mennonite Church Alberta’s 2018 annual delegate sessions. The restructuring of MC Canada meant a shift in responsibilities for MC Alberta, and a focus on congregations as the centre of mission. What do these changes mean for our regional church’s 12 congregations and our ministry together? What is God calling us to be and do as we move into the year 2020 and beyond?
While there were good reasons for a visioning process, the negative reactions were understandable. Some cited a history of congregational or denominational processes that produced little hoped-for transformation. Few people could name tangible results or positive outcomes of past experiences. Others saw visioning as an overused business process, one they had seen used in their workplaces with dubious results. Many spoke of reports and binders now collecting dust on forgotten shelves or buried deep in storage boxes. Why would this effort be any different?
Why indeed? Foundational to an effective visioning process is to understand the reasons for embarking on one in the first place. If we cannot state clearly the reasons for what we do, why bother? One pastor offered Proverbs 29:18 in support of the process: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Over the course of our yearlong Vision 2020 process, support has grown. Three things contributed to the fading of initial misgivings:
- First was the guidance of Betty Pries of Credence & Co. Through consultation and teaching, she helped MC Alberta see renewal as a spiritual journey for individuals, congregations and as a regional church family.
- Second was engagement by many individuals and congregations. Several of these incorporated prayers for the process into their worship services or individual devotional times. Most congregations were represented at each of three visioning weekends. Guided conversation at these events identified a sense of God’s call surrounding prayer practices, core commitments, deep spiritual longing, community character and ministry directions.
- Third, and perhaps most importantly, our visioning year has concluded with the presentation of an action plan. Our final visioning weekend marked the beginning of the next phase in our life together, which will be guided by the theme “Encountering, embracing and embodying Christ.” Over the next three years, we will focus on what this calling means in our individual lives, in community and in the world around us.
It will take commitment to ensure the outcomes of our visioning process are not left to languish on a shelf somewhere. But I am encouraged with where our visioning process has led us and I’m hopeful for its continued direction for our future. I pray for God’s guidance as we live into being the people God is calling us to be.
Tim Wiebe-Neufeld is MC Alberta’s executive minister. For more information about MCA’s Vision 2020 process, visit mennonitechurch.ab.ca/.