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Elmwood MB Church

Elmwood MB Church

August 17, 2021

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Ken Stoesz (Lead Pastor) from Elmwood Mennonite Brethren Church about the ways God has been working at Elmwood and the community. We hope that you feel as encouraged as we did by this conversation!

The Church

Revitalize – that probably articulates best what we have been trying to do at Elmwood. Though the theme of ‘Revitalize’ was present to Elmwood before the pandemic hit in early 2020, it still continues through to today.

Elmwood MB Church is over 100 years old, but one is never too old to hear the gospel. Elmwood needed to hear the gospel. We needed to repent collectively, and more than that, to be, as Paul says in Ephesians, to pray that God would supernaturally help us understand His great love for us. We needed transformation by His grace, love & mercy. Elmwood didn’t need a hug; we needed to come face to face with hard truths.”

Covid-19

When Covid hit, we decided early on to commit to three things:

    • To be consistent
    • To be accessible
    • And to be “us.”

We realized that what our congregation needed was a sense of normalcy. Everything was changing. Nothing was normal. Can we just provide normal? Can Elmwood be the one thing that remains stable? The answer was yes, and after trying a few things, we landed on the simplicity of an iPhone and a mic for streaming our services.

We also realized early that we needed to be transparent with the church as much as possible in our writing and our speaking. Transparency meaning that no one is promising that they know exactly what to do and that they won’t be able to get covid ‘right.’ 

There have been struggles dealing with covid itself, specifically how the church would handle the health orders. There are a portion of people who support the health orders, a portion of people who do not support the health orders and a portion of people who might be found more in the middle. I found myself having to navigate these conversations. Back in May, we had a 3-hour zoom call and walked through: 

    • What does scripture say about medicine?
    • What does scripture say about the government?
    • What does scripture say about how we relate to one another? 

We found that the bible says less about medicine, a little more about government, but a ton about how we should relate to one another. And really specific things. So the meeting ended with realizing that we all have different opinions about these things. You’re going to pull a verse out of here to defend, that’s fine, but you actually don’t have a lot on either side, but you have a ton of direct commands like ‘you cannot slander each other.’  So we unpacked those texts and tried to do it with a ton of grace, realizing that we are all in this together.

Leadership

Elmwood has a leadership council consisting of about 11 people, and we have been training towards this council being the spiritual leaders of the church and co-pastoring alongside the pastors. This has been one of the highlights during covid – watching the council step up and say “yes” to the care of the people in Elmwood. Practically, that has looked like a lot of phone calls and intentional conversations with members. It’s been awkward and hard. To pray with people and ask them how they are doing and what God has been teaching them, not just Netflix shows and lamenting about the jets, but saying – the reason I am calling you is because I have a mandate before God and before the church that I would give an account for your soul one day.

The council has really stepped up during this season.

Another leadership gift came when we hired a new pastor, Conrad Dueck, three months before Covid hit. I can’t even underestimate what he’s brought to the table this last year. I don’t know where I’d be.

Missions

Elmwood is an incredibly generous church, and we found ourselves in a place where we collectively felt that it was time to do something with the gospel we’d been learning about. People were ready. Together we have:

    • Began a partnership in NorthEast India and have sent three teams out to assist new pastors in training. 
    • Sponsored a family living in a Ugandan refugee camp through MCC that is in the final stages of moving to Canada. 
    • Begun to build relationships with some people living in a camp along the Red River. 

The Future

Although it isn’t known what church will look like in the fall when people start to trickle back in, we are sure about one thing: The goal isn’t a fixed building or a new awesome program, but it is people who know God and are growing in maturity and love and affection for Him. That’s the goal. That’s what we are trying to do here.

Praying for Elmwood

Pray that we are steadfast in our love for one another. Pray that we would be steadfast in God’s word. Pray that we would be instilled with a  desire to reach the unreached with the gospel. Pray that God leads around this corner and that we would become a great commission church. A church that is actively faithfully reaching out to share Christ. Pray for perseverance in ministry, healthy marriages and joy in the ministry even in the midst of opposition, rejection and confusion.

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Pastoral Transitions

Pastoral Transitions

August 17, 2021

A note about transitions. 

We need pastors. Pastors are our teachers, our leaders, the ones who carry our burdens in ways that others can’t or won’t. They won’t reject us in our most revealing moments. They are endlessly hopeful, to the point that we tend to believe it must be the Holy Spirit, ‘cause ‘ain’t no one that optimistic in real life! They guide us to Jesus and inspire confidence that God is trustworthy and holy, worthy of all honor and glory.

Pastors aren’t forever. It’s a mantra that I’ve repeated for decades now. After almost 20 years of pastoral ministry, am I allowed to say decades? Probably not, but there you go. Pastors aren’t forever. However you might think about that statement, I’m sure we can agree that churches tend to live longer than the tenures of their pastors. And thus, transitions are a necessary part of church life. Pastoral transitions are a mixed bag, and if you’ve been around church for a little while, you know what I mean. Seeing a beloved figure leave can be heartbreaking; it can even feel like a betrayal. Many of us are profoundly affected by our pastors. Even when a transition is healthy, it’s tough. And then there are the times that healthy isn’t the word you would choose. The difficulty only ramps up.

The family of churches that make up the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba have experienced many excellent and gifted pastors, and that continues to be the case. Below you will see a list of recent transitions and pastoral vacancies. That’s a list that represents a lot. There are churches, pastors and families on the move. A host of stories. All of us at the MBCM office appreciate the many ways that churches have invited us into their transitions. Connecting with staff and lead teams as they navigate transition is a privilege. Whether sitting with a search team as they navigate the next steps or visiting with a pastor contemplating retirement from ministry, these are precious and holy moments.

There are many stories, and I’d like to tell them all. But here are two.

Some stories about transitions 

Discerning and equipping pastors is a tough errand. We’ve been trying many approaches over the decades with varying degrees of success. Success is measured in terms of new pastors working in our churches. I admit that’s a limited scope of what success looks like, but that’s what we’re talking about today. Multiply Central Canada has implemented TREK to be one such lane of equipping and discerning. Kevin Dyck stepped away from his work as a chiropractor and stepped into TREK as a move of discernment. He also served as worship coordinator at Fort Garry MB. Through this discernment journey, Kevin heard God’s call to pastoral ministry grow. In July 2021, Kevin started as the lead pastor at La Salle Community Fellowship. What a great story of success! No pressure Kevin.

How would you feel if the pastor you loved went to a church up the road a ways? I don’t know about you, but I can see that being kinda tough. For the elder team at  The Meeting Place, this was a question they faced when John Neufeld accepted the role of lead pastor at Eastview Community Church. How were the people of TMP to think about this? TMP’s elder team sent Eastview’s leaders a letter. Don’t worry; it’s a good story! It was a letter of blessing. A communication of sisterly and brotherly love. A note that said John was a blessing to us, and we pray that he will be a blessing for you. I don’t know about you, but I get that warm and fuzzy Holy Spirit feeling inside when I see this kind of story.

Prayer

Would you please pray for our pastors? The ones that serve today. The ones that have departed and even the ones to come.

Pray also for our churches in transition. That God would grant wisdom and favor as they search for the next pastor.

*A special note of thank you to our retiring pastors. Gerry Harms, Bob Enns and Terry Sawatsky have lived full ministry lives. They have poured out for the sake of the church. As any pastor knows, it’s not always easy and fun. But, it’s always worth it. These three have served a worthy King. Thank you for spending so much of your lives for the benefit of the bride of Christ. May you each experience the words of Jesus, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Departures

    • December 31, 2020 – Gerry Harms retired from pastoral ministry. Gerry served at Justice MB for 28? years.
    • June 30, 2021 – Bob Enns retired from pastoral ministry. Bob served at Community Fellowship Church at Newton for 7 Years.
    • June 30, 2021 – Terry Sawatsky retired from pastoral ministry. Terry served at Friends Community Church in Carman for 5 years.
    • June 30, 2021 – David Gibson resigned as lead pastor of Lakeview Community Church in Killarney. David has moved to B.C. to continue in pastoral ministry.
    • June 15, 2021 – John Neufeld resigned as lead pastor of The Meeting Place in Winnipeg. 

Arrivals

    • June 2021 – Joe Welty is the new pastor at Crossroads.
    • Rick Hill transitional pastor at Friends Community Church 
    • August 2021 – John Neufeld is the new lead pastor at Eastview Community Church in Winnipeg.
    • July 2021 – Kevin Dyck is the new lead pastor at La Salle Community Fellowship in La Salle.

Vacancies

    • Lead Pastor – Manitou Christian Fellowship in Manitou.
    • Lead Pastor – Lakeview Community Church in Killarney.
    • Lead Pastor – Justice Mennonite Brethren Church in Justice.
    • Lead Pastor – Community Fellowship Church in Newton.
    • Lead Pastor – The Meeting Place in Winnipeg.
    • Associate Pastor (Mandarin) – Winnipeg Chinese Church in Winnipeg
    • Associate Pastor (Youth and Family) – Community Fellowship Church in Newton.
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Say Hello to Liam!

Say Hello to Liam!

July 15, 2021

 

My name is Liam Bull. I’m a 23-year-old college student studying at Steinbach Bible College enrolled in the bachelor’s of Marketplace Ministry program. My home church is The Meeting Place, located in Winnipeg’s downtown core area. 

For the summer, I will be working with MBCM as a temporary hire, sorting through old files at the old office at 83 Henderson, moving said files to the current office at 1310 Taylor, and working with Jon Isaak to catalogue them and put them in the archives.

I have a big heart and passion for cross-cultural missions.  The majority of my missional experience was spent in Japan, serving with Multiply’s ACTION and TREK programs. I have an enormous passion for sharing the gospel with the Japanese people.  More recently, I have been experimenting with cross-cultural missions in the workplace at my part-time job at Superstore. I try to be intentional about showing and sharing the love of Christ to my colleagues, many of whom are or were newcomers to Canada.

Some of my other interests include reading and creative writing, studying the Japanese language and culture (as well as studying Mandarin and Punjabi languages), playing a board game or video game to relax, and spending time with friends and family as often as possible.

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MB GTE Affiliation Update

MB GTE Affiliation Update

July 15, 2021

We are very grateful to have established a new 3-year affiliation with MB Seminary, CCMBC and CMU to continue offering a Manitoba Mennonite Brethren pathway in graduate-level training. Andrew Dyck and Pierre Gilbert remain on faculty at CMU. As in the past, they will be involved in our Mennonite Brethren Conference Faith and Life Teams, preaching and teaching in our churches and mentoring graduate students.

For students, the course requirements are very similar to the previous years, with no significant changes to their graduation requirements. Students will continue to have a Mennonite Brethren faculty advisor and are still eligible for CMU GSTM scholarships and bursaries.

Our goal is to continue finding the best ways to train leaders and build on our Mennonite Brethren theological convictions. The plan includes greater involvement by MBCM and provides a 3-year window to discern the future of graduate-level theological training in Manitoba. We look forward to how this affiliation will continue to equip our MBCM churches and leaders! Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this process. 

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We have found harmony!

We have found harmony!

July 13, 2021

Interview with Pastor Habtemicael Beraki (Philadaelpia Multicultural Church)

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Pastor Habtemicael. What are some of the ways you have seen God at work? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a church?

The name of our Church has been Philadelphia Eritrean church in Winnipeg under the MB Conference. We’ve carried this name for the last 15 years. The name Philadelphia comes from the seven churches of Revelation. We have liked this name until now! But! We are growing!

About three years ago, we started an English program – a new multi-cultural ministry. So when this ministry began, our English ministers of this multicultural ministry presented their vision and a new name to the church leadership. It was very exciting! Very exciting! We blessed them and trusted them to lead as they have for the last 12 years. 

But after we announced the vision and ministry to the congregation and the multicultural ministry printed its new logo – Life Giving Multicultural Ministries – some from the church asked, “Why do we need to have two names? Why don’t we just say Philadelphia Eritrean Church Youth Ministry?” 

The discussion was not easy. 

The Philadelphia Eritrean Church’s main service was mostly Eritrean and Ethiopian…99% Tigrinya speaking. But, the main focus of Life Giving Multicultural Ministries has been the big picture – multinational – Filipino, Canadians, other African Canadians, etc. So the name ‘Eritrean’ doesn’t include other nations, and we need to carry this. The church was almost divided into two. 

Almost. 

What happened – after the issue had grown – was the multi-cultural leaders took their stand. They had already presented and shown the church leaders their vision, so why were they being asked to change now? But that caused the church leadership to stand firmer as well, saying that the multi-cultural leaders weren’t submitting to the church!

The conflict grew into a big clash.

After a LOT of discussions, we agreed that it is not about the name; it is about the vision. In the end, we changed our name to Philadelphia Multicultural Church. 

It was not easy. Many MB Canadian churches have experienced this kind of challenge, and now we repeated it! (referring to early immigration German-speaking churches). But now everything is good. We have 7 – 8 Sunday school classes. Every Friday and a weekly young adults service in Tigrinya, we have a multinational English service because some young adults want to serve in their mother language – Tigrinya. And the main church service is still running. We have an evangelism group that goes out outside and evangelizes. Last year we baptized eight people. This year, we baptized 5. But more than anything, we have seen growth in our Sunday school programs. We have 11 Sunday school teachers, and as I’ve told you, we have very spiritually mature youth in our English programs. Many have been transformed. We have found harmony.

Thanks for sharing! That’s an incredible journey. What are some of the best ways we can be praying for you as a church?

As an Eritrean church, our parents and families are often back home. We are here in Canada but our hearts are in Africa with our brothers and sisters and family. Eritrea is an unsettled country, so our families are always running away from Eritrea to Kenya and Sudan.  We, here in Canada, are constantly sending money back home to help our families. 

My prayer request is for peace in the whole of Africa so that our people can rest in their county and not run away. More than anything, pray for peace in Eritrea and Ethiopia. 

If there is peace, there will be no need to run. And if they rest, then we can rest too. 

Thanks again for your time. Any final words?

On behalf of my church, I would like to say thank you to the Mennonite Brethren Conference. For many years they have stood with our church and we are here now because of the MB Conference, I will never forget them. We are now a self-supported church, but for a few years, we relied quite a bit on the support of the MB Family. We are the fruit of the Conference and now we are also planning on planting other English churches, so thank you!

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Boats, Booths and the Body

Boats, Booths and the Body

June 10, 2021

Written by Robbie Friesen – Youth Pastor @ La Salle Community Fellowship

In the book of Leviticus, God introduced something called the festival of booths, a yearly festival that continues to this day. The festival begins with everyone building an outdoor tent and then living in it for seven days. It was instituted to remember the 40 years the Israelites lived in tents under God’s protection. Recently, it was stated that this festival was also a great equalizer of the people. No matter your occupation, income or age, you were to live outside in a tent with all of God’s people. It would seem as though this festival may be an excellent lens through which to view our pandemic. No matter one’s occupation, income, age, or anything else, everyone has been faced with living in the midst of this together.

We start to see the differences in the different ways people react today, to this great equalizer. Some choose to ignore this festival and go on living as if nothing in the world has changed. Others take great caution to make sure their tents are precisely in accordance with the law. Finally, the third and largest camp accepts the reality of this time and looks for ways to acknowledge the festival and find unique ways of continuing their lives.

Our church has found itself living in the third camp for the past 15 months. There is an acceptance that COVID is among us and a desire to find ways to live well through it. A recent example of this was the SOAR program run by Multiply at the end of March. SOAR is a regular on the church’s calendar year and a time of unparalleled growth for many young people. As SOAR approached, our church had two main questions to wrestle through. What does success look like this year, and how might God use our circumstances to reveal himself to us?

The first question was tough to work through. In a typical year, it is easy to see what a successful SOAR looks like. Large gatherings of countless youth on fire for Jesus, people choosing to give up vacations and holidays to serve the inner city of Winnipeg and finally, the sights of Jesus overtaking their lives as they surrender their hearts to God. This was a hard vision to give up. However, with our numbers dwindling and restrictions making it impossible for churches to gather together, we needed a new vision of success. Our church decided to make the event open to all ages and encouraged church members to attend sessions over the five days. 

It was in this place that God met our church. Not in a room bustling with young energy as the songs of praise rose to God, but in a small circle with one youth and nine devoted pillars of the church. 

Along with members from the Multiply team, we sat in silence and listened for the voice of God together. It did not take long for a particular image to rise to the forefront of our time together. A simple image of a shipwrecked boat with a broken mast filled with sailors trying to get the ship to work again. For those unfamiliar with the church in La Salle, this boat represented an accurate depiction of the state of our church family. Shipwrecked, a broken mast, and a group of people looking to make it go again.

As we continued listening, God placed our members on the boat itself. We laughed, cried and rejoiced as we understood the vital role that each person in the circle had in repairing, organizing and encouraging the restoration of our church body. At the end of our time together, it was evident that God used our circumstances to show up to our larger church body in a way we were not expecting.

But this is not where the story ends for our church. A few weeks later, the Leadership Team met and wrestled with this same image. As we spoke together, we once again noticed new things, we reshaped our idea of what God wanted from our church, and we prayed for guidance and discernment as we moved after God’s heart.

Finally, this image emerged one final time in the course of our church life. In a conversation with a pastoral candidate, the Leadership Team asked Kevin Dyck where he saw himself in this image. His answer was a true testament to God’s direction to our church. It would seem as if his role filled the very gap that would aid our church in unifying itself once again. This is just one reason why our church is so excited to welcome him onto our Pastoral Staff this summer!

So what have we learned from all of this? It seems as though there was something divine about the origins of this year’s SOAR program. God challenged our church to leave our comfort and predictable models of success for something new. To live outdoors as an equalized people to make space for God to work. He brought together a group of devoted parishioners to share a vision of where the church was now; as well as where the church is going. We are moving after this mission with the help of everyone in the room and the future help that he would send.

I’m not sure what the context of your church’s ship is. It could be broken. It could be a well-oiled machine. It could be that you’re overflowing and ready to put another ship in the water! In any event, God is calling you to find yourself on the waters with a gift and a task. Will you choose to enter into this to bring about God’s glory here on earth?

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A Call to Reconciliation

A Call to Reconciliation

June 4, 2021

Image Source: MB Herald

MBCM Statement

The MBCM family is deeply saddened by the bodies of 215 children found on the grounds of the Kamloops residential school. This is a tangible and heartbreaking reminder of the thousands of children who were killed while attending residential schools and the thousands more who suffered physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse at the hands of those claiming to be the church. As Christians, and more specifically as Anabaptists we acknowledge our complicity in the residential school system and offer our apology and our commitment to do better, to be better in our pursuit of reconciliation with indigenous brothers and sisters in our congregations, in our province, and in our country.This discovery is a reminder that the pain caused by the residential school system is not a thing of the past, nor is it something that we can ignore; it is the responsibility of every Canadian and especially every follower of Christ to be active seekers of reconciliation, to listen to the stories of indigenous people, to hold our government accountable to their promises of action. As we serve our Creator in these ways we claim God’s promise in Matthew chapter 5 “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 NLT).**(Special thanks to The Meeting Place leadership team for preparing this statement)

 

Next Steps & Resources

The TRC Anabaptist/Mennonite apology.
This apology was in response to the TRC and includes commitments to the ongoing work of reconciliation.

Indigenous peoples of Mantioba (A guide for newcomers)
A helpful pamphlet to help increase our awareness and knowledge of the indigenous peoples of Manitoba.

Ways to engage and learn about the history of the residential schools
Thanks to Kathy Riedner Heppner (Fort Garry MB Church) she has compiled some very tangible ways to be involved including action steps for further involvement.

A Call to Prayer
We invite all members of the MBCM congregations to listen and learn. We invite you to take time to pray for the many that are grieving and re-living trauma at this time. As we pray for grace and for healing, let us also be active in working towards justice

 

Blanket Exercise (Learning Activity)

An opportunity to understand a little more clearly what our Indigenous brothers and sisters experienced as a result of colonization. This is a role play experiential learning activity that tells the story of this land and its people from an indigenous perspective. An experience for your congregation Please contact Lloyd Letkeman (Multiply Central Canada) for more information.

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Ways to engage and learn about the history of the residential schools in Canada.

Ways to engage and learn about the history of the residential schools in Canada.

June 4, 2021

Our thanks to Kathy Rieder Heppner(Fort Gary MB) for providing this list of ways to engage and learn about the history of the residential schools in Canada. We share these with Kathy’s permission.

1. Remember – your voice is your power. Don’t just post on social media, we need to reach out to government representatives. Email/write/call your MP, the Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Minister for Indigenous Services, and the Office of the Prime Minister. Their contact information is easily found online. Respectfully demand action on all the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Calls to Action. Call on the government to stop fighting First Nations kids and residential school survivors in court and to stop blocking the creation of statistical reports on residential school abuse claims and the direct transfer of other records to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. We need these truths.

2. Familiarise yourself with the TRC Calls to Action 71-76, which specifically address Indian Residential Schools

3. Watch this 8 minute documentary on why so many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children died from preventable disease, abuse, and neglect:

4. Talk to your kids about Indian Residential Schools. A great resource is the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society’s “Spirit Bear” who has published 3 children’s books that address residential schools.

5. Check out these informative resources to learn more:

6. (added May 31) Donate to the Indian Residential School (IRS) Survivors Society (www.irsss.ca). They are a B.C. organization providing important services to IRS survivors.

7. Take a moment to remember these kids. Do what you need to do to honour them: pray, light a candle, cry, plant a flower in their memory, hug your own kids extra tight.

8. Check in on your Indigenous friends/family. Across the country, they are grieving.
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Turn the next corner

Turn the next corner

April 13, 2021

Amanda Leighton

April brings with it a season of change. The snow melts away, giving space for what was hidden beneath it to wake up. Spring can signify new beginnings and can be energizing! But this spring feels a bit mixed to me. I still feel the energy of new life and the opportunities it brings, but I am also feeling some apprehension…a small but tempering tug. I suppose this is the result of living through a pandemic – every time we turn a familiar corner, there will also be something we can’t predict. I suppose that’s true about life in general.

Some months ago (has it been years?), four of us were sitting around Cam’s table before our weekly staff meeting in prayer.  One of us brought the image of God on God’s throne, looking down on everything below.  At first, this picture brought to my mind a weeping God witnessing all of the brokenness and grief of this world. But this was followed by a picture of how God also sees goodness, mercy, compassion and kindness. I was reminded once again of how God’s perspective is not mine.

In light of this, I imagine God present with us as we turn the next corner together…God with us as we kneel in our gardens, encourage our congregations and teach our students. God in us as we meet online or go for a quiet walk with a friend. There’s something wonderfully mysterious about how our caring presence reflects God’s. Wherever you find yourself– be it farming, pastoring, folding laundry, and so on – may we be people who find ways to be reminded of God’s ever-present care & compassion with us and through us.

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God at work at Westside Community Church

God at work at Westside Community Church

April 13, 2021

Written by Gerald Dyck – Lead Pastor @Westide Community Church (WCC)

How we’ve seen God at work at WCC this past year? Wow, what a question! It’s been a year of “survival.” We’ve attempted to learn as much as possible by viewing  The challenge as an opportunity. 

It’s been a year of continual adjusting and maneuvering. When gatherings restrictions were put in place, we faced challenges such as, how do we stay connected, how do we provide content, how do we as staff justify getting paid? (Just kidding, of course) But more importantly, how do we carry out the mission of the Church in a time when the church is needed more than ever.

Right from the beginning, it seemed as though God was saying, “Who are you or what are you about when you don’t have Sunday morning available to you?” We can’t say we had a great plan or strategy. We simply wanted to love and care for our community with a posture of humility and an eye on the hope of Jesus Christ. Here are some of the things we’ve done and how the Kingdom has been revealed to and through the church.

Going Remote

We decided early on that we wouldn’t record and post a typical-for-us worship service. We didn’t have much online presence in March 2020, but we did have some people from our church who are skilled in film production –Golden Hour Creative Agency, who now had some time available. They had the passion and vision for producing content that would be engaging and of high production value. This allowed us to film weekly messages from remote locations around our community. For eight months, we recorded in greenhouses, cemeteries, bars, museums, city jail, chicken coops, a baseball dugout, sunflower fields, cow pastures, woods, etc. 

We hoped to promote our community spaces while we fed the people of Westside. We also hoped this would appeal to our community to discover where we were filming each week. As a result, we’ve had many Kingdom conversations with our community business owners, grocery stores and other workplaces.

It’s been great to receive online interaction with many who appreciate our attempts at connection. One individual shared, “You won’t see me in a church, but I have cancer, and someone told me to watch what your church is doing. I did, and now I would like to talk about life and death, you know, a light conversation or two.” We’ve been able to connect and share the gospel message in a very real way. 

Christmas Tree

We have a large oak tree at the front of our church, which is off the main highway through the middle of Morden, and we decided to light it up for Christmas. After purchasing lights and renting scissor lifts, the tree was lit for the entire city to see. We hoped it would be a symbol of joy and hope. We were surprised at how many appreciative comments we received from those who did not have any pre-existing connection to the church. Comments such as “I smile every time I pass that tree” and “I feel hope, and I know this COVID season won’t last forever when I drive by,” or “Please keep that tree lit when Christmas is over.” (The tree remains lit, and the plan is to keep it that way.) It’s just a tree with lights, but it’s actually so much more. The tree serves as a nightly reminder that we are to be a light to the world, not to be hidden but to be bold and in the world. 

Co-op Grocery Store Shrink

“Shrink” is the soon-to-be postdated or damaged packaged goods that grocery stores usually discard. For the past year, we have entered into a partnership that has us picking up food and distributing hampers on Mondays to various families and stocking other food cupboards. Past its prime, produce and bread can go to feed livestock. This has opened the doors to relationships with so many who wouldn’t usually come through our church doors. We were also given the opportunity to be the community food bank for a month over Christmas. 

The local Co-op recently created a Facebook promo of partnership with a local church and how they appreciate the relationship and look to expand the partnership in the future. 

Weekly Soup

We collaborated with a chef in our congregation to make approximately 275 bowls of soup a week. The soup was then distributed to our front-line workers such as hospital staff, clinics, teachers, daycares, city administration, seniors,  city workers, police, etc. To date, we have provided approximately 4 thousand bowls of soup to our community. 

These simple acts have generated goodwill with our community. They have been a way for us to be the Church in ways we probably wouldn’t have taken on without the reality of society in isolation and times of desperation.  As we have begun to resume Sunday services, we have some new faces in the building and new ways to engage with others. 

I’ve been impressed by how other Mennonite Brethren churches have been reaching out to serve others. We indeed followed some great examples. Just to name a few, Winkler MB Church has been doing work like this for years, and we steal as many ideas from them as we can. Jubilee Church in Winnipeg and 188 Princess have modelled what it looks like to be deeply involved with the people in their neighbourhoods. 

It’s a challenge to be engaged directly in community work which automatically makes us a messier place. But through our interactions with our community, we have been invited into more and more opportunities to serve others.

We’ve also noticed that the more we know, the less we know. We’ve been humbled by our ignorance and are daunted by the opportunities. We know that only God can pull off what’s next. Our reliance on Him is paramount. It’s only through prayer and availability can we be who God has called us to be. God has been teaching us to love our community. Our Sunday morning gatherings should be about equipping all those in attendance or watching online to embrace the gospel message and extend it to others each day of the week.