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Director of Christian Education & Nurture begins work

Elsie Rempel

Winnipeg, Man.—Elsie Rempel is excited about the opportunity to help churches nurture the faith of their children. Rempel started serving Mennonite Church Canada as Director of Christian Education and Nurture on August 1.

Previously, Rempel taught at Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School for twelve years, and in recent years has begun taking courses toward a Master of Divinity with a focus on Christian Education. She served on MC Canada’s Resources commission from 1997-2002 and on MC Manitoba’s Educational Ministries Commission from 1994-2000. In those capacities she helped organize and lead several Christian Education conferences.

A member of Charleswood Mennonite, Rempel has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and Adult Education for the last two years. Her job includes some responsibility for Adult education, where she will partner with Missional Formation and Partnership facilitators dispersed across Canada. (See Canadian Mennonite page 15, July 1, 2002 issue on appointment of Gerd Bartel, Jim Loepp Thiessen and Eric Olfert,)

Justina Heese, Executive Secretary of MC Canada Formation, was glad to welcome Rempel on staff. "Elsie brings a rich and personal knowledge of children's spirituality, a solid understanding of and a creative approach to children’s education, and passionate enthusiasm to her work," said Heese. "It’s hard to imagine someone more suited to the task."

Rempel’s vision for Christian education centres on introducing children to God’s unconditional love through the love and support of their family and church community. "Family, friends and the church begin to influence and nurture a child from the minute it is born. This is an awesome opportunity!"

"From the moment of birth, the congregation is busy supporting the parents and nurturing the parent’s faith, so that this child is in the arms of God both at home and in the congregation. These infants intuitively sense the unconditional love of God."

Because of this, "encouraging and supporting families will become central to spiritual growth and formation," said Rempel.

One of her first projects is developing a new and expanded songbook for the CD "God’s Love is For Everybody – Songs for the Small and the Tall, scheduled for release this fall. The project follows a test CD of six missional church songs for children first distributed at the annual MC Canada assembly in Abbotsford in 2001. The success of the test recording led to an expanded project which will include 17 songs, sheet music, lyrics and a variety of intergenerational and varied responses and activities to accompany the music.

Rempel perceives the need to encourage and equip families to again become centres of spiritual growth and formation. She plans to develop and promote materials for home and congregational life that support both Biblical literacy and a devotional life. In this task she intends to "work co-operatively…with congregations, area conferences and other national sister churches. She intends her office to be "a connecting link that helps everyone to benefit from each other and to encourage everyone in this holy project of nurturing faith."

"My excitement stems from my experiences of teaching children. I have learned that children are deeply spiritual," said Rempel. Her students prayed relevant prayers and kept prayer journals which they were free to share or keep private. "I have learned that children are deeply spiritual, but that they worship and learn in a broad spectrum of ways. Worship and learning which include these ways of responding bond children and adults into a caring, dynamic, growing community. I think we have just begun to understand how open children are to spiritual matters," said Rempel. "This is holy ground."