From Brenda MacDonald:

Picture this: City transit buses, weighed down with unexpected crowds of clientele, wind slowly through their routes with their overloaded capacities abuzz in a party like atmosphere of banter and laughter that amplifies at each stop as more and more passengers embark. These are the two thousand teachers on their way to the annual day of teachers' convention in Saskatoon, making a statement by their actions to show how just one day of leaving their cars at home can impact positively their mark on the environment, while demonstrating how teachers, leading children, are at the cusp of changing the public's attitude and resolve in taking responsibility for looking after the earth we share.

That was the picture in my head. Where it led to, in reality, was a destination several notches below the vision. Bus Riders of Saskatoon granted my Bus to Conference Movement $500 to pay for free busing for 250 teachers to ride the bus to the convention. The passes were distributed quietly at individual schools to anyone interested in taking them. On the day of convention, downtown parking was scarce, as the overload of teachers' cars filled the streets. Why did my Great Idea fail? I think I know. Although I invested a lot of time and energy in seeing this go forward and contacted some key people to enable it, it remained my idea, fuelled by my own earnestness. I was a teamless individual.

Over my lifetime, I have endeavoured to live responsibly, always keeping in mind my environmental footprint. I never really expected my feeble actions to make a big difference to the Earth but at least I knew my conscience was active and it helped me to live faithfully, if not especially effectively.

A couple of months ago, upon hearing Naomi Klein on CBC's Ideas, I found myself swept up in admiration and affirmation of her ardent, articulate appeal. I dashed to my computer to sign The Leap Manifesto (check it out, if you haven't already; you may be surprised by how closely many points contact you.)  In Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, she reiterates the urgency to act now. Surely governments are beginning to display some political will to turn things around? (Try Googling "environmental pacts" and you'll see what I mean.) But Klein laments the collapse of higher governmental influence to effect the changes that urgently need to be implemented if we are to harness the power that climate change is already exerting on our world. She concludes that it will be grassroots movements that will cause the greatest changes in our global policy making. 

Does that mean I have to call up my youthful idealism to strive to live responsibly? (You know the shtick: reduce, reuse recycle.) I believe it does. What I have learned since my youth is about my need to sign up with a team, a group of likeminded people that will challenge me to deeper commitment to live rightly and to help repair damage already done.

At Wildwood Mennonite in Saskatoon, a team has been forming. Since December, a group of adults has been studying Every Creature Singing, an excellent 12-session course put forth from Mennonite Creation Care Network. Here we find common ground to support our efforts that begin from wherever we as individuals are. (Maybe even climate change deniers? Surely we all agree that we love our earthly home and want to follow God's call to care for it?).

There are myriad ways to express our desires to do what is right for the privilege of being a small part of Creation. We are starting by formally affiliating with Mennonite Creation Care Network. While we have carried on our discussions, our pastor and other speakers have been challenging our thinking in the world of finances, which it turns out, is closely enmeshed with how we interact with our natural world. In response, some of us are submitting to a voluntary carbon tax, others to build our community by sharing goods, others to learn together about socially responsible investments. In the congregational audit we performed in our study group, we discovered that we need to formalize the good intentions we have, in order to include the whole congregation in our team, to raise our collective consciousness and to act upon that.

Much needs to be done in order to recover what we have mismanaged and to build hope for the future. And there are a lot of us to pitch in. Yes, our individual efforts do count. We each can practise the three R's, ride our bikes, eat locally, spend and save responsibly, answer Calls to Reconciliation, lobby our government reps--take initiative. When we combine these efforts, where we submit to more rigorous training and exertion, we become a Team of individuals.  Go, Team Creation Care!

Challenge I

The writer of the above hereby formally submits to the Lenten Practice of spurning buying anything plastic or packaged by plastic. Although plastics can be recycled, they have become increasingly ubiquitous, often in places where formerly they would not have been available. This practice will take some determination and will offer some sobering learning, it is anticipated.  

Challenge II

Please consider undertaking your own Green Lenten Practice, such as abstaining from using disposable cups, limiting your daily drive to x number of kilometres, lowering your thermostat…Share your undertaking with others. 

On Sept 18, WMC will welcome guests from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Saskatoon to join us for our worship service and a potluck lunch.  This is a next step in a relationship that has been developing over the past year; many of us have visited the Ahmadiyya mosque on Boychuk and McKercher, our women’s groups have met together, and some good friendships are being formed.

I’ve heard some questions about why our church is intentionally building relationships with a Muslim group, and why this group in particular.  I see several reasons:

For one, they invited us.  Last fall, some women from our church attended a public event at the U of S aimed at dispelling myths about Islam.  At that event, they met a couple of women from the Ahmadiyya community and enjoyed the conversation so much that it was continued later over a shared meal.  That led to an informal larger gathering of women from the two groups.  In March, the mosque invited us to an “open house” event on a Sunday afternoon, and over a dozen WMC folks enjoyed good conversation and great food.  In other words, this relationship began quite naturally and has continued as people of both groups have enjoyed one another’s company.

For another, we need these friendships.  In a city dominated by a white, Christian(ish) majority, it’s hard to see ourselves and our world clearly.  As we hear and interpret the news, as we make political decisions large and small, as we shape our lives and our ways of thinking, we are biased towards what we know and understand.  If we are to love our neighbours and our world as Jesus calls us to do, we need to know and understand people who are different from us.  It is good for us to include in our circles and, yes, our church experiences, people who have lived in other countries, who have distinctive cultural practices, who understand God and the world very differently than we do.

Also, Muslims in Saskatoon need friendships with people like us.  Not that we’re so wonderful, but many of us are part of the privileged majority in our region.  The opinions of white Christians matter a great deal in our region.  And much of the general public’s understanding of Islam is warped by fear and misunderstanding.  These misconceptions and stereotypes are intimidating and at times truly dangerous for our Muslim neighbours (I recommend the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim podcast for an eye-opening and frank window into two Muslim women’s experiences of life in North America).  The Ahmadiyya Muslim community goes out of its way to educate and to correct misconceptions in the news; we can show our respect by listening and learning.

Finally, I’m genuinely surprised at how much we have in common with those I’ve met from the Ahmadiyya community.  We already have many connections through shared work and and school and volunteer experiences.  We have shared values in pacifism and humanitarian work.  We have a shared story as persecuted minority groups within our own religions, forced to move great distances in search of religious freedom.  Of course the differences between us are significant, and we’re not ignoring those or pretending that our religions are the same.  But as we respect each other by listening and learning together,  I think you’ll be surprised at the things we share in common.

I am Mennonite, my neighbours are Muslim, and we need each other.  Now let’s eat! :)

For more information on the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Saskatoon, check out these Star Phoenix articles: 

http://thestarphoenix.com/tag/ahmadiyya-muslim-community.  For a broader look at their story: http://www.ahmadiyya.ca/public/ahmadiyyat

I've been working on this letter with a group of other young pastors from across MC Canada for the past couple of weeks. We've been reflecting on what has happened so far with the Future Directions Task Force (FDTF) and this is our response. Take a read and let me know what you think! You can also check out other young folks responding to the FDTF here, Emerging Voices Initiative. -Krista

young pastors

An open letter to the congregations and leaders of Mennonite Church Canada:

We are a group of pastors from each of the Area Churches who have gathered around the current Future Directions Task Force (FDTF) conversations in an effort to understand and respond together.  We write as younger pastoral leaders with hopes for many years yet in service to the Mennonite church in Canada, and so with a significant stake in this ongoing process.  We would like to offer the following reflections, encouragements, and prayers for our shared family of faith.

At the heart of our shared concern is the recognition that we have all observed expressions of mistrust or even woundedness in this process.  We have each been part of conversations in our various local settings that circle around themes of trust, transparency and confidence. These conversations seem to reflect a fracture between congregations and Area/National church leaders.  Our concern is that the FDTF process has exposed fractures or even initiated them. However it has happened, the unfolding of the FDTF process cannot be characterized by trust and mutuality within the body.  In some circles, in fact, trust has been significantly eroded.

As pastors, we recognize that we have not always contributed well to good communication.  We have struggled to bring the activities and realities of our denominational bodies into our local settings.  We have not always shared a compelling vision for our life together as a broader faith community.  And we recognize that much responsibility lies with the individuals in our congregations as well.  Many of our congregants simply are not invested beyond our own congregations or are perhaps over invested in a model that is no longer viable.

And yet, we also lament a lack of pastoral sensitivity in the way that the FDTF process was developed and led.  Many groups felt unheard (even when they were asked for feedback) in the feedback they offered, while others felt manipulated and pressured in the decision-making process.  Some have experienced a sense of ‘spin’ from leaders that has tried to put everything in the most positive light possible. While we do understand the challenges and constraints of the process, we also long to hear some sense of lament from our leaders where there have been oversights or mis-steps; or to simply help us understand some of the inevitable conflicts. We sense a growing divide between the local congregation and our National Church, and thus call for more pastoral sensitivity from our church leaders when addressing these realities.

While we acknowledge that this process should not be shrouded in lament, we do name lament and confession as an important posture in this time of change.  We encourage some avenue for corporate lament (including from our leaders) at Assembly in Saskatoon, as a step in the direction of healing and reconciliation.

On questions of transparency and accountability, we also have some practical suggestions. We understand that there has been conversation regarding the development of a listening group in the transition process. We strongly affirm this direction as a healthy mechanism for transparency and accountability.  We also see this listening group as integral to keeping present to us the questions and concerns of those often absent in the formal (paid and unpaid) leadership structures of the church. We identify the need for this group to reflect the voices of our Witness workers (Indigenous and International), new Canadian / non-white congregations, youth / young adults, and LGBTQ members and adherents.  We also call for this group to reflect the theological diversity in our congregations and to aim for good gender balance. It is our hope that such a group would aid in addressing questions of accountability and transparency while hopefully nurturing trust in leaders and process.

Further, we understand that key leadership in the transition process will be taken up by Area Church Moderators in some form of interim council. Given the lack of diversity in this group, we recommend   the addition of a few ‘at large’ members who can provide additional perspective.

Finally, we recognize that questions of triumphalism, homophobia, racism, sexism, and other abuses are not named at any point in this process.  However, given that any organization is an organization of power we insist that present and possible abuses of power be identified and addressed in the transition process. Institutions are by nature conservative and so we confess that the church as an institution has often responded with hostility to groups and individuals that do not fit its beliefs or practices. We see our calling to address these systemic abuses as part of the peacebuilding work of the church (much like the “Undoing Sexism” and “Undoing Racism” initiatives within MC USA). We can see in retrospect how such attention would have benefited the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process regarding who was included in the formal levels of discernment and decision making.

We affirm that the future of the church needs to be accountable to and informed by those inheriting the church structure. In light of the BFC recommendations we also ask that space already be made in any transitional structures for LGBTQ members (as well as representation from those groups noted above). We see this kind of major change to our church structures as an opportunity to ensure that they reflect our attentiveness to the marginal and vulnerable believers in our midst.

Lingering questions remain about how we will continue to express ourselves as a national body. The current proposal will see more work done by Area and National church staff. We understand that these individuals will still be accountable to Area and National boards. We also acknowledge that there have been various conversations around the development of national gatherings focused on study and worship. We affirm the need for such gatherings, but we also name that this remains an area of ambiguity.  How will our larger vision and shared documents be developed and approved responsibly within an ecclesiology that encourages strong congregational and individual engagement? In the midst of these questions we acknowledge that we will need to let go of some expectations and opportunities once afforded to us by a larger structure.

We confess some uneasiness and an inability to clearly see the vision and processes of our national body.  We call for greater care, attention, and clarity to be given to these questions.

We acknowledge that the Future Directions Task Force has worked under considerable constraints of time and resources.  Additional constraints have been imposed by the constituency through expectations that are either contradictory or impossible to fulfill.

We commit to refrain from placing unrealistic or unhelpful expectations on the FDTF and on the transitional structures of the coming years in whatever form they take.

Despite some difficult and disconcerting experiences in this process, we do also celebrate and give thanks for the various conversations and connections that this process has inspired. We give thanks for the Emerging Voices Initiative that reflects the vitality of our younger members, even as conventional wisdom insists that youth are less interested in the work of the church. The EVI models a helpful and hopeful approach to theological reflection and spiritual practice. We have also been grateful for the connections with each other that have taken place in developing this statement. In the course of the FDTF process, important questions of faith, church, and theology have been brought to the surface.

We give thanks for the life and work of the church and commit to publicly celebrating and sustaining the conversations that are emerging at this time.

Each one of us carries pastoral concern for the broader Mennonite church alongside that of our own congregations. So, in a spirit of pastoral response we offer the following prayer to help gather God’s people around both the FDTF and BFC process as they come to fruition in Saskatoon this summer. We encourage the use of this prayer for both personal and congregational use as we prepare to gather as one body of believers in July.

 

Prayer of Preparation for Assembly 2016

God of our past, you are:

Merciful

Slow to Anger

Rich in Love

Forgiving

Though we are created in your image, we come to you to    Confess

Lament

Speak aloud

That we, the body of Mennonite Church Canada

Have not always lived as a reflection of you.

 

Together we confess that some of us hold power over others

– implicitly or explicitly –

Due to race, gender, orientation or economic means.

We lament the stories left unheard and absent in our gatherings.

We forget that we are all part of

Your collective body

That knows no borders or division.

 

Together we confess the times we have tried to lead your Church

But have made others feel

unheard       manipulated       pressured       belittled

We lament this wounding for it is not how you desire us to treat our family.

 

Together we confess that we have divested our interest in the Church

And invested in other gods and idols that surround us.

We are occupied by our own agendas

By the noise of our strange structures that have both served you

And held us slaves to our own too-narrow visions of your Kingdom.

 

Together we voice our fear and anxiety

Because we treasure what is ending in our Church

And fear what you are leading us to.

 

Yet

 

We are your fickle people

covenanted and bound to you despite our nature.

Have mercy on us.

 

Yet it is you, God, who continues to draw us together as

Reconciled community

Jesus followers

Anabaptists

Mennonite Church Canada

Have mercy on us.

 

Because of your goodness we strive to trust, listen, communicate and humble ourselves

as we respond to our hopeful and hurting Church body.

We cannot do this alone.

Open us to the excitement of the Spirit’s moving in our midst.

Reflect in us your image.

 

Help us to remember that in our future

In our children’s future

We will proclaim you in our Church as:

Merciful

Slow to Anger

Rich in Love

Forgiving

 

Amen.

 

Chris Lenshyn (Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford, MCBC)

Ryan Dueck (Lethbridge Mennonite Church, Lethbridge, MCA)

Krista Loewen (Wildwood Mennonite Church, Saskatoon, MCSask)

Jeff Friesen (Charleswood Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, MCM)

Susie Guenther Loewen (Charleswood Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, MCM)

David Driedger (First Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, MCM)

Virginia Gerbrandt Richert (Altona Bergthaler, Altona, MCM)

Kyle Penner (Grace Mennonite Church, Steinbach, MCM)

Carrie Martens (Stirling Ave. Mennonite Church, Kitchener, MCEC)

Kevin Derksen (St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, St. Jacobs, MCEC)

I was given the opportunity to travel to Orlando for Heavy and Light (https://twloha.com/heavy-and-light/) at the beginning of April.  It would be my first solo trip where all decisions were mine to make, my choices would make or break my memories.  As much as I told myself that I would be open to what would happen, I knew I was going with pre-planned hopes and desires for what would happen.  I was going with the idea that certain moments would happen, certain events would take place that would forever change the direction of my life. 

When I got there I was faced with the reality of the situation and not my dreams.  The decisions were mine and only mine to make, no one to deflect them to, no one to blame.  I was in Florida with no real plan of my own, no idea how to travel or where to go.  I was overwhelmed with the reality of the situation and needed to remind myself that God was in control and the truth of that would come out over and over throughout the trip.  I had to give myself permission to breathe and that I could take what time I needed to, to get myself oriented, to calm my soul and to just breathe.  I had to remind myself that I was in a new place and all that I would experience would be new.  I found myself making choices that would focus on being good to myself.  I could put myself first with no guilt, that no plans was a different way of travelling but that it was okay.  My far out ideals, dreams of what would happen, were just that - far out.  I needed to be deliberate and make choices and be okay with my choices. 

It was okay to enjoy myself.  It was okay that I put myself first.  It was okay.

The only real mistakes that I could make was to not enjoy the moments that God laid out for me.  To be in the moment and to enjoy that moment.  I did not have to explain myself to anyone - not even to myself.  I challenged myself to just be present and to appreciate what was in front of me.

I encountered peace within a  crowd of chaos. I found enjoyment within the joy of others, beauty in the moment. God showed up continually and I saw His work more often than not. I knew that recognizing God in the moment was what mattered. God was more important than what did or did not happen. It was still often a struggle to stay in the moment in spite of this knowledge. I still got distracted by my own desires/dreams, especially as the time grew closer to the start of Heavy and Light.

As the night began I entered a hallowed place and moment that I was a part of. Everyone else seemed to know someone else or at least came to the event with someone.  So as much as I knew I was part of the group, I was still an outsider, I had the feeling of being alone in a crowd where I wasn't alone. Being invited into the stories that were shared on stage reminded me that I wasn't alone. There are so many quotes that I want to be able to remember from the night, truths that reminded us that we are all part of a story that is still going. Tears and laughter were abundant throughout the night, and it ended all too quickly. Several hours flew by in a moment but I knew I was leaving the place with a full heart.

I had many things that I wanted to say to Jamie and Renee, but of course I forgot most of it. I was able to at least say thank you for what they have done for so many, including me.

After I returned back to life, I was asked if I would ever do it again, absolutely I would.  It is one thing to watch from afar, but God took those days and taught me much about enjoying now and not the future.  I am worth the time and energy that self care needs.

 https://twloha.com/blog/twloha10-live-stream/

Kari

When

Adult Sunday School: 9:45 a.m. 
Worship: 10:45 a.m. 

Family Singing Time: 10:15 a.m. 
Junior Sunday School During Worship

 

Contact

Phone 306-373-2126
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Pastor Joe Heikman
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