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God’s People Now! Listening Tour concludes


David Martin, Executive Minister at Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and Robert J. Suderman, General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada prepare to cut a cake in a surprise presentation at Mannheim Mennonite Church (Ont.), honouring the last stop on the God’s People Now! Listening Tour. They were joined by Keith Moyer, Congregational Chair (left), Gord Alton, Interim Pastor (back), and Pam Peters-Pries, Executive Secretary of Support Services, MC Canada (right). “God’s People Have Spoken – Congratulations!” read the inscribed cake.

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November 10, 2006
- Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man. — Tears were the most surprising – and mystifying – aspect of a Listening Tour for Robert J. Suderman when he visited 225 congregations across Canada.

Suderman, General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada envisioned the tour as a way of getting to know the wider church when he was first appointed to the position in December of 2005. What he had not expected to find was the depth of passion and tears with which people would express their appreciation for the visit and the passion for ministry in their respective corners of God’s work in the world.

At each visit, Suderman asked four simple but inviting questions: How are you? What are you doing? What concerns would you like me to know about? What are your needs?

During one visit, a quiet participant who had taken time off work to attend, ended a meeting by explaining her presence: A friend from another congregation reported a profound emotional experience upon hearing fellow members respond frankly to Suderman’s questions. She wanted to also feel such a profoundly emotional experience – and did.

Various staff and Suderman himself expressed similar, deeply emotional moments. “I am mystified to understand this deep welling up of emotions at times during this tour,” said Suderman adding that he had also observed moving moments in colleagues throughout the challenging but energizing tour.

Dave Bergen, Executive Secretary of MC Canada’s Formation ministries, shared the sentiment. He called these “holy moments,” times when “we became deeply aware that in the honest sharing of story, need, struggle and celebration the Spirit of God was present and alive, moving in the midst of God’s people, calling the church ever forward. And that as part of one body of Christ, we were all the richer for it.” It was clear that people deeply love the church and their respective congregations, added Bergen.

Suderman is also grateful. “The hospitality we experienced in our visits was extraordinary, and I am extremely grateful. Whether a congregation was struggling or experiencing a high, the sacrifice of time and sharing of conversation was generous,” Suderman said.

Although the physical part of the Listening Tour has concluded, the implications are far reaching, said Suderman. “We have been blessed with an uncensored snapshot of the life and spirit, the concerns and needs of our church from coast to coast. The task of distilling, discerning, and responding to what we have heard is a task that is now before us. We look forward to engaging what we have heard.”