Tour Reflection: Neighbours

lauracp

by Laura Carr-Pries


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.

I grew up hearing these words in Sunday school, in stories and songs, and memorizing this scripture passage.  These words carry what I have come to understand as a core piece of the Christian faith, and hold particular significance in the Mennonite tradition. With strong connections to non-violence, peacebuilding and service work, if makes sense that during our workshop tour, some stated that “the name Mennonite means to be a witness to everyone.”

Engaging with our neighbours has been central for how the Mennonite church has understood itself and the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve figured out the best way to do this. Because of deep care for our neighbours, we ask questions about how to do this well, both locally and globally. Throughout the course of the tour, I heard people sharing a deep concern for what is happening in the Mennonite church regarding mission and service, particularly international witness. Continue reading “Tour Reflection: Neighbours”

Tour Reflection: Neighbours

Tour Reflection: Youth

katrinawoelk

by Katrina Woelk


In some ways, you’ve already heard my thoughts on this topic. In November 2016, I wrote a post about being intergenerational. Youth and young adult engagement is included in that. I still believe what I said back then. We are all the church right now. Youth and young adults are not just the future, but have to be understood as the church here and now (along with everyone else).

Because of this understanding, I think it’s somewhat dangerous to write a blog post about specific age demographic. It suggests that one age group is more important than another. However, the topic of engaging the “emerging generation” came up across the country, and in every single conversation. Because of this, we decided that we need to let everyone know what the rest of the country is thinking, and dive into understanding our youth and young adult demographic—the demographic that is already the church in a variety of different ways, and will continue to be. Continue reading “Tour Reflection: Youth”

Tour Reflection: Youth

Tour Reflection: Diversity

Anneli

by Anneli Loepp Thiessen


Diversity. The “D” word. Something we want, but don’t know how to achieve. Something we talk about to assure ourselves we are sensitive to differences. Something we would do anything for. Well, almost anything.

Throughout our EVI tour, diversity came up frequently. We heard questions such as: “How can we be more diverse?” “What can we do to make ourselves more welcoming?” We heard laments that the attendees at our events were mostly of European descent. We heard laments that the Interim Council was predominantly males.

Diversity came up a lot.

While we heard disappointment and fear in our discussions on diversity, we also heard stories of hope. We heard about churches that offered “how-to” nights in their communities. We heard about churches that successfully incorporated a second language into their services. We heard about churches that were so committed to gender balance that it became a number one priority in creating church structures. We heard about churches that created meaningful connections with their local community centres.

In a time when we are already in so much transition, it can be difficult to think about all the other ways that our church might be called to transition. In making our Mennonite church more accessible to our neighbours, some suggested that we have to make a very intentional move to give something up. Some wondered if we need to stop asking who an individual’s grandparents are. Others wondered if we need to stop singing songs with words that are foreign even to fluent English speakers. It was suggested that larger portions of budget need to be given to outreach initiatives.

These changes come with huge amounts of sacrifice. They mean holding our traditions more loosely and daring to venture outside our walls.

When Laura Carr-Pries and I were in Waterloo for the EVI tour in November, we had the chance to sit down with Brian Bauman (MCEC’s Mission Minister) and discuss some of his insight on the topic. Brian observes that relationships are the key to establishing connections with our neighbours. While this may seem obvious, it struck me as somewhat revolutionary when he shared the insight with us.

Establishing relationships with strangers can be intimidating, but I believe it has the potential to be incredibly rewarding.

As we look at questions of diversity in the gender of our leadership structures, what strikes me is that even today, when so much more equality has been achieved than in previous decades, it takes a very intentional effort to achieve gender diversity. This goes for inequalities of both genders. It is clear that there is gender imbalance in the Interim Council for Mennonite Church Canada. But there are also areas within our church that men are clearly the minority, like nursery helpers in many congregations.

As much as I wish I had the solution to creating more diverse congregations, I don’t. What I did learn throughout our tour is that becoming a more diverse church needs to be an intentional effort on our part. We need to go out of our way to build relationships. We need to keep seeking out gender balance, not taking “no” for an answer. We need to restructure our systems to accommodate different ethnicities and genders.

Are we up for it? Conversations throughout our tour would suggest that yes, we are. So let’s take this time to continue to collaborate, brainstorm, and partner together to share the church we love so deeply with everyone.


This is the second post in our series of in-depth tour reflections. Click here to find the list of other themes that we’re exploring.

Tell us what you think! Comment here, or send us a message.

Tour Reflection: Diversity