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Working together, figuring it out
Dec 30, 2002
Winnipeg, Man.—When Anne Campion and her family first moved to Stratford, Ontario thirteen years ago, they didn’t find a church right away. Little did she know that her new church home would eventually lead her to a position as youth ministry director with Mennonite Church Canada.
After considerable scouting around, an un-churched acquaintance suggested Avon Mennonite Church. “My neighbour is the pastor there,” said the friend. “I don’t attend church, but if I did, I would go to that church.”
Although Campion had never dreamed of visiting a Mennonite Church (“What I knew of Mennonites was the stereotype horse and buggy and country back roads”), her first visit to Avon turned out to be positive.
Alone with a two-year old and an infant, then young adult Dan Lebold quickly assisted her in undressing the children and finding a seat. When the children began to fuss, Lebold’s mother (Audrey Lebold) leaned over and whispered, “Don’t worry about the noise. We love children here.”
This inviting atmosphere encouraged Campion to return to Avon. She appreciated being part of a faith community and found the people at Avon supportive of her gifts.
Garry Horst, pastor at Avon, noticed Anne’s passion for youth early on. “Anne is great at seeing or imagining what could be, and challenges others to consider new possibilities,” says Horst.
Raised in a Baptist church with urban missionaries for parents, Campion says she grew up “learning the importance of joining personal acceptance of Christ as Saviour to living out my relationship with Christ in discipleship”. Coming to Avon, she adds, was “… not foreign but an ongoing joining of Christ as Lord and Saviour. What was added was the peace theology, which is significant, (and) which I already had within me without having been taught it.”
The congregation invited Campion to become a youth sponsor in 1991. “I felt a personal call to youth/pastoral ministry in 1995, which I fought.” But the support she found from fellow members affirmed her efforts with youth and the priesthood of all believers theology. “I believe that the church is God’s people and that youth are to be a part of the church,” said Campion. In September of 1999 the church invited her to serve as associate pastor.
Canadian Mennonite University student Larissa Friesen got first-hand experience with Campion during a youth pastor practicum assignment. She sees in Campion a genuine heart for youth ministry. “Anne was a mentor to me, much more than just a supervisor,” said Friesen.
In February of 2002, Campion was asked to be director of youth ministry for Mennonite Church Canada Formation. This half-time position allows her to continue her half-time work at Avon. Much of her MC Canada work revolves around planning national youth events such the upcoming youth assembly in St.Catherines, Ontario (July 9-13, 2003), and resourcing youth leaders in area conferences and congregations. She will also put significant effort into shaping an ongoing vision for youth ministry.
Justina Heese, executive secretary of MC Canada Formation sees Anne as a person who uses her own enthusiasm to get youth excited for what God can accomplish in their lives. “She is alive with energy as she prays, listens to God, reflects on Scripture, laughs, gets to know people, sings and works diligently," says Heese.
While Campion’s local youth group offers an eye into issues the national church needs to consider, the broader viewpoint she gains from her work with Mennonite Church Canada brings new challenges and supports to the youth at Avon. Maintaining a balance between the denominational and local ministries is important to Campion. “We have to work together to figure it out,” she says of the symbiotic relationship between the two jobs.
The author, Allison Peters, is a student at Canadian Mennonite University. This article is part of her practicum experience and a pursuit of her interests in writing, editing, and publishing.