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New leader for MC Canada Formation ministries

   

April 19, 2004
-by Dan Dyck

 


Dave Bergen will take over the leadership of Mennonite Church Canada Formation ministries in August, 2004.

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Winnipeg, Man.— Dave Bergen, pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach, has been appointed executive secretary of Mennonite Church Canada Formation ministries.

Reflecting on his lifetime of church work, the 40-something Bergen acknowledged an early resistance to church ministry work. After a four year stint in program direction and facility management at Mennonite Church Manitoba’s Camp Assiniboia, Bergen spent a year working in construction, and, as he says, “fighting the ‘I really don’t want to go into this’” tension of sensing but resisting God’s call to ministry.

Right up to his final year of seminary (Masters of Divinity), Bergen says he was unsure of his direction, whether he would pursue a teaching career or a life of congregational ministry. He ended up on the ministry team at Bethel Mennonite in Winnipeg for nearly eight years, and then moved to Grace Mennonite in Steinbach where he has been lead pastor for the last nine years.

Bergen says he has always had an interest in denominational work. “Even while working in congregational ministry, I’ve always had a sense that I would like to get involved in denominational work at some point, and in a way that would fit,” he said. For the past three years he has been serving on MC Canada’s communications reference group, a collection of volunteers from each area conference that offer consultation and feedback on the work of MC Canada’s communications department.

“I’m excited about the larger church picture. I have a great deal of interest in how the church works, as an organism, beyond the congregation, and a really deep appreciation for the role of the church at large in nurturing leadership. I feel I am a product of that,” said Bergen, noting that he retains ongoing connection with the small group he was a part of at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) – still an important reference point for major life decisions. “To me one of the strengths of having a denomination is the sense that you are part of something much larger than the little circle in Steinbach or Winnipeg, or wherever.”

Bergen will provide leadership to the ministries of publishing and resources (Resource Centre, Mennonite Heritage Centre and Art Gallery, and Der Bote German language periodical), youth ministries, Christian education and nurture, and ministerial and congregational leadership.

A new component to his job will be serving as the staff person charged with implementing a vision for Mennonite education in Mennonite Church Canada – a vision that was refined by the General Board and church school representatives last November. “I don’t expect we’ll ever arrive at some sort of monolithic educational structure. There’s a lot of richness in our (educational) diversity. But to have some kind of baseline where our educators, at least at the organizational level, think about themselves as being a part of a whole, I think the benefits of that are huge,” said Bergen, noting the cross-fertilization in his own family: he is a graduate of AMBS, daughter Kristin is graduating from Conrad Grebel University College this spring, and daughter Carla is enrolled in Canadian Mennonite University. His wife Essie is an Educational Assistant in the public school system.

When he finds spare time, Bergen can be found engaging in any one of a variety of diversions which include flower and vegetable gardening, making salsa and tomato sauce, tending a water garden complete with 15 large goldfish, or playing guitar and “dabbling in dulcimer and mandolin”. He also acknowledges his “born to be wild side.” Each spring, “I coax to life a 1979 Yamaha 750 triple (motorcycle) and take great pleasure in riding it at the slightest provocation.” Favorite reading material includes topics of theology, ethics and “novels with substance.”

Bergen grew up grew up on a farm near Clearwater, Man., (about 200 km southwest of Wpg.) and attended the Mather Mennonite Church, which no longer exists. He is a product of the public school system, studied for two years at Elim Bible Institute (then known as Elim Christian Education Centre) in Altona, followed by two years at Canadian Mennonite Bible College (now Canadian Mennonite University) and University of Manitoba, and then AMBS. He succeeds Justina Heese, who will retire in September.