A young boy racing around the stage and off drew smiles during the opening proceedings of MBCM’s 2017 Assembly at MBCI, Winnipeg, Mar. 3–4, 2017. To some, he represented a freedom, newness and growth the MB churches tasted together at this convention.
The theme, “a gospel for the world” played out with Indigenous drumming and hoop dancers calling staid Mennonite Brethren to experience a different perspective on worship, plenary speaker Paul Kroeker speaking about being disciples in a church that is an inclusive community – in Christ – and welcoming new 19 worshipping communities into fellowship.
“Discipleship is not an information download,” he said as a volunteer struggled to pedal the “wacky bike” (reversed steering). “It’s as much about culture [what you’re surrounded with] as about teaching.” The young man on the bike demonstrated Kroeker’s point by successfully crossing the room aided by five people who kept him upright as he fought his instincts to correct his trajectory again and again.
Kroeker urged churches and leaders to create churches that reflect God’s goal for a diverse community with God at the centre, living in Kingdom culture. Recounting hospitable interactions with friends from DR Congo, he recommended a strengths-based approach that recognizes the insights and abilities those with other cultural backgrounds can offer. A diverse Canada lies outside our doors; out of our love for Jesus, will we invite it into our churches?
House Blend Ministries executive director Rachel Twigg Boyce’s update from the 10-year-old MB initiated ministry was an awkward but fitting segue to the business session. The ministry’s spiritual reality proclaims the good news of love and resurrection to those who sow destruction out of anger and hurt even as its financial realities result in selling the house that provides shelter and safety to vulnerable individuals.
MBCM works to resource churches according to their needs. “We want you to be equipped before problems arise,” said MBCM executive director Elton DaSilva. He presented the strategic road map that identifies the needs the four service areas seek to address for churches today and in the future.
- is enhancing its communications strategy to communicate well, regularly and with the church’s needs at the heart;
- takes a contextualized approach that helps each church discern the particular directions in which God is calling their congregation, rather than prescribing methods;
- values theological input, harmonizing evangelical and Anabaptist priorities;
- invests in partnerships between churches and with institutions, such as the Elevation program which funnels MB Mission interns into pastoral apprenticeships in the local church while taking courses with MB Seminary at CMU;
- works to discover and develop tools to equip people to live on mission and resources to help churches meet policies and guidelines of governing bodies;
- fundraises on multiple levels, including targeted giving, so the ministry services it offers can remain sustainable over the future.
Moderator Ruth Schellenberg presented on behalf of treasurer Glyn Allen. Expenses increased in 2016 due largely to the overlap between departing conference minister Keith Poysti and new director of ministry Gerald Dyck. Overall, Allen commended Elton DaSilva for controlling expenses. With a projected increase in church giving (based on eight percent of receiptable revenue toward the conference support fund) the 2017 budget of $773,000 passed.
The delegates also approved the adoption of Plan to Protect as the default provider of safe place policy documents and resources.
Assembly ended with 19 more congregational bodies than it started. At the Friday night celebration service, the stage filled with the diverse leadership teams from the two new churches, four new campuses, two new church plants, eight emerging ministries and three associated churches – majority immigrant or indigenous in composition – that were welcomed into association with MBCM.
Our stories: established churches learning new things with new Canadians
Portage Avenue: “PAC had to relinquish our own control of church” says pastor Jedidiah Carpentier. “Let’s strive to be different under one banner: Jesus Christ.”
They are adding translation to their services to include Korean and Russian-speaking attenders.
The Meeting Place: “We’re not in the rental business; we’re looking for a more diverse family,” says pastor John Neufeld. “We want to get people involved into the fabric of the church…so their voice is being heard.”
A group of mission-minded Brazilian immigrants started a Portuguese service at TMP to reach out to compatriots who are inclined to return to church amid the challenges of a new country.
Fort Garry MB: “We made a commitment that the building is not ours; we walk together with other churches in the same space,” says Carl Hoeppner.
Three congregations from diverse cultures regularly use the building on Pembina Highway for their weekend worship services, introducing challenges not only of sharing but also of managing expectations of hospitality. But these are lessons in outreach: “We need translators of culture who will open doors so we can love together as the people we are meant to be.”
Overheard at Assembly 2017:
“We are often resistant to change; we fear potential loss of power, control, comfort,” says Janessa Giesbrecht. Instead of fight or flight, she suggested a third way: engagement. “Learn to sit with discomfort.”
“Everyone cares about something,” says Janelle Hume. Find out what they’re passionate about and engage them there. “Don’t try to make other people look like “us,” but find out what they have to offer.”
New church expressions/worship gatherings in MBCM
Living Word Temple, Winnipeg
Iglesia Hispana Monte Sinai (Richmond Park MB Church), Brandon
Turtle Island Community Church (Living Word Temple), Winnipeg
Winnipeg South Chinese MB Church [Cantonese] (Winnipeg South Chinese MB Church [Mandarin]), Winnipeg
One88 (Eastview Community Church), Winnipeg
Pimichikamak Community Church, Cross Lake
Philadelphia Miracle Ministries, Winnipeg
Portuguese language service (at The Meeting Place), Winnipeg
Life Driving Church (at Portage Avenue Church), Winnipeg
Fellowship meetings/Bible studies at
- Northwest Angle
- Pukatawagan, Mathias Colomb Cree Nation
- Roseau Rapids
- Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation
- Rat Portage, Wauzhushk Onigum
Hope Community Ministry, Winnipeg
Praise Harvest Sanctuary, Winnipeg
True Light Eritrean Church, Brandon
– Karla Braun, MB Herald.
Assembly 2017 photo gallery