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Canada/US young adults discuss joys and tensions of community

   

Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Church USA Joint Release
For November 3, 2004
- by Jennifer Szambecki

 


Lana Miller (centre), of Elkhart, Ind. participates in a footwashing service at a young adult event held in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 1-3, for participants from Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

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Winnipeg, Man.— About 40 young adults from across Canada and the United States came to Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg on Oct. 1-3 to discuss the challenges of community life within church.

“Community: Living the Tension,” was the theme for the annual young adult fellowship event, organized by Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. Presenters shared how different messages from the mainstream culture and the Bible create tensions about how we should live within community. These tensions can escalate when we live with people from different backgrounds and experiences.

Participants said they realized how a good community nurtures both individuals and the group. “It was really refreshing to spend time with people who are just as concerned with issues the Mennonite Church needs to address as I am,” said Jill Swiers of Minnesota.

Ian Dyck, a participant from Winnipeg, said, “God values the uniqueness and distinctness of the individual. Being a leader in my church, that's something I need to keep at the forefront – that I can't generalize and everybody's unique.”

Presenters Aiden Schlichting Enns and Miriam Minders, two media-savvy Mennonites, showed clips from a variety of movies and invited discussion about how mainstream culture shapes our concepts of community. Karen Leis of Saskatchewan led participants to think about what the Bible says about community.

The event offered everything from an evening on the town in Winnipeg to a tour of a Hutterite Colony in rural Manitoba. Participants ranged in age from 18-30 and included married and singles, as well as students and professionals.

The participants enjoyed asking questions of their bearded tour guides at the Starlight Hutterite Colony. The tour of this 140-person community included a look at their school and church and information about lifestyle: Who can vote? Only married men. Which members are eligible to become ministers, and what process is used to make the final decision? A name is drawn from a hat, leaving God to decide.

Another weekend highlight was a variety of fellowship times with the group, including a dialogue about how to best live out community, a reader's theatre and a foot-washing service.

Performing was Thirstborne, a five-member Christian rock band that serves Mennonite Mission Network by encouraging Christian service as they tour across North America. They led the group in worship and stretching exercises. They shared how constantly traveling together in one van is a good example of living within the tensions of community.

As the weekend ended, the group of bi-national young adults exchanged e-mail addresses and reflected on what they had learned. Many participants felt energized and inspired to bring their renewed understanding of the challenges and opportunities community living presents back to their universities, congregations and homes.