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First talk-about launched

   

Winnipeg, Man.—Church office secretaries and administrators now have a new forum in which to share joys and concerns, problems and solutions at www.mennonitechurch.ca/talkabout/.

Mennonite Church Canada has set up a discussion board on its web site, and the first forum is open to church office secretaries and administrators. Often, church members are unaware of the sacrifices of time and energy made by dedicated church office staff, and the responsibilities they carry.

The new forum is a place for staff at the congregational level to share information about their job and how they relate to their congregations, and share ideas, suggestions, and recommendations with each other.

Joanne Peters, a church secretary from Bergthal Mennonite Church in Didsbury, Alberta, was glad to hear about the new forum. "I think this is a great idea and am looking forward to trying it. Very often, church secretaries feel somewhat ‘under valued’ in the life of the church and this could provide an important professional & emotional boost for many of us!"

"This is an excellent idea," echoed Cheryl Dyck from Cedar Valley Mennonite Church in Mission, BC in the forum’s first posting.

The mission transition process of Mennonite Church Canada has conceived the talk-about as a new way of drawing broad input into the work of the Church. The Church office secretaries and administrators talk-about is the first trial run at hosting such conversation on the MC Canada web site.

By using the Internet as a means of fostering discussion and new initiatives, costs are kept to a minimum and accessibility is substantially broadened. The resource also complements phone calls or face-to-face meetings.

Gina Loewen, as MC Canada’s Executive Administrative Assistant, moderates the forum and has had positive responses so far. "People are excited about it." The invitation to participate is open to all from Vancouver Island to Petitcodiac, New Brunswick, to the USA and virtually anywhere in the world, said MC Canada webmaster Daniel Rempel. "Internet technology knows no boundaries."

"I like the idea of being able to hear from other people, getting new ideas, hearing what’s going on in different parts of the country," said Loewen.

Dan Nighswander, MC Canada General Secretary, lauded "the wonderful opportunity that is provided by technology for us to broaden the number of persons that can participate in conversations that are important to them and us." While not everyone has easy access to the Internet at home or at work, Nighswander noted that public libraries and Internet cafés are also options.

Nighswander has plans for a second talk-about, this one addressing issues of inter-church and inter-faith dialogue. He is asking for people for people who are interested in being part of a reference group on the subject, a group which could host a broader, public conversation as a talk-about. Those interested can contact him at 204-888-6781 or dnighswander@mennonitechurch.ca

Nighswander expects to initiate that talk-about by June. He sees it as "a chance for people to share their stories and discern together how we can be faithful to our convictions while being in conversation both with Christians in other traditions and adherents of other religions."

Such conversation is timely "because we are involved as a denomination in ecumenical circles, and because many congregations, pastors and members are involved in inter-church and inter-faith relationships." Recent world developments, such as September 11 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict make such conversation all the more urgent.