ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — “Sing a new church into being,” sang the 300-plus people who gathered for the first nationwide meeting of Mennonite Church Canada since its restructuring in 2017.
Behind the blended voices was a vision, “Igniting the Imagination of the Church,” the theme of Gathering 2019, June 28-July 1.
Representatives came from each of MC Canada’s five regional churches. The event began with a day for pastors and other leaders, followed by two and a half days of worship, inspirational speakers, a delegate business meeting, workshops, excursions and more.
Guest speaker Elaine Heath, an author, former pastor and current member of an intentional Christian community, explored ways congregations can live out their calling to be good neighbors.
Heath acknowledged North Americans live in a time when Christianity is no longer the dominant force. This reality requires new models for being faithful disciples.
Some of the old ways of doing church no longer work. It requires the followers of Christ to move away from perfectionism and judgment and instead looking at ourselves and at others with the compassion of God.
It is clear to her that the church is at “the front end of a new Reformation,” and she’s excited about what God is doing.
“I’m not afraid because things are changing. The church has to change,” she said. “Let’s quit hunkering down and feeling nervous and wondering whether the sky really is going to fall this time.”
Salvation means helping people overcome toxic shame and to become part of a caring community where they are able to observe and practice new behaviors. Heath calls this a process of sanctification in which people get better at making wise choices.
“This is what God’s mission is: shalom for this world, the making of all things new,” she said.
And, she reminded listeners, you don’t need to be a big church for God’s salvation to happen.
Simpler, less expensive
A much simplified MC Canada organization turned an expected $239,000 deficit into a surplus of $42,000 for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31. The surplus was the result of higher-than-forecast revenue from the regional churches, and lower-than-expected expenses in nearly every budget category.
In the new church structure, adopted in October 2017, the 200-plus congregations that make up MC Canada are asked to send all financial contributions to the five regional churches. Each of these regional churches commit in their budgets to send a specific amount to MC Canada for shared nationwide ministries.
The $1.7 million program of fiscal year 2019 is a drastic contrast from budgets of more than $4 million a decade ago. The reorganization was prompted by long-term declines in institutional giving and a multiyear visioning process. Staff reductions were painful, as some programs were eliminated and others were handed over to the regional churches.
Women’s ministry ends
With tears, hugs and 67 years of memories, participants at the Mennonite Women Canada annual luncheon meeting June 30 said goodbye to each other and to their national organization.
With the theme, “To Everything a Season,” members recognized the season had come for ending the nationwide women’s body. Declining attendance in individual women’s groups, the restructuring of MC Canada to shift responsibilities and resources to regional churches, and the dissolution of MC Canada’s five regional women’s groups all contributed to the change.
Jason Martin, director of MC Canada International Witness, thanked the women’s organizations for the $100,000 they had given to overseas mission workers in the past 18 years.
Contributing: Tobi Thiessen, Amy Rinner Waddell.