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Inspired by the Word: Gathering
Part II of V


2008 Assembly Delegates discuss issues of non-violent peacemaking and “greening”.

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March 13, 2009
-Deborah Froese

The Bible inspires us to connect with other believers. In fact, the Hebrew and Greek words that are most often translated for “church” also mean “assembly.” In this second of five articles, we look through the eyes of those who attend Assemblies at the importance of gathering together to engage in our calling.

Part I | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Registration forms. Lodging and transportation arrangements. Reconnecting with family and friends. Each year, summer brings a flurry of activity to Mennonite Church Canada congregations who send delegates to the national Assembly. In a few activity-packed days, delegates will worship, pray, learn, discuss and discern, and break bread together.

Long-time Assembly-goers look forward to it as an important part of being the church.

Helen Kruger has attended at least 30 assemblies since 1961, primarily as a delegate. She and her husband William, who are currently Interim pastors at Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, Sask., remember one couple who were energized by their first Assembly experience. They gained confidence to speak out about what they believed. “It gave them the courage to be leaders,” Kruger says.

In an email exchange, Kruger writes that coming together in dialogue and decision-making strengthens our effectiveness as a church. It enables us to witness more effectively to a world that needs healing and direction. “For me, Assembly is a time of inspiration and nurture. It is a time to renew vision, gain incentive and feel fed by the combined strength of fellow believers.”

Marie Rehsler can’t count the number of assemblies she has attended over her lifetime. A member of Yarrow United Mennonite Church in Chilliwack, B.C., Rehsler has always taken an active role in the event, whether in her previous position as President of B.C. Women in Mission in the late 1990s, or as a volunteer. In Abbotsford in 2007, she was in charge of parking, ushering and signage.

“It’s important to have the exchange of ideas and also to help each other. The other thing is the social aspect, that you get to know the people who are in charge and you feel free to contact them…you are aware of what is happening in our churches and communities.”

With an infant and two young children in tow, Monica Bock of First Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Man. attended her first Assembly in 2008. “Curiosity drove me there,” she says. “My mom had often gone growing up, and she loved them.”

Bock reports that the coinciding Children’s Assembly made the event relatively easy for her to attend – and it made a lasting impression on her two older children, ages 3 and 5. “They would come home every day with these little faith nuggets,” she says. “They still talk about it.”

She also appreciated the passionate open-mike discussions about topics that were important to her – “greening” and non-violent peacemaking. “There was a buzz and excitement about being together with like-minded people.”

“How do we get a sense of being the church in Canada if we don’t see each other?” asks Albert Durksen. As the leading pastor of North Kildonan Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Man., Durksen has been an avid assembly attendee since 1982.

“The most meaningful times for me are when we are working at things through the work we do,” Durksen reflects. “What is our identity? How are we the church in the most faithful way?” Although discussions about tough issues can be tense at times, he is convinced that “[that’s] where we really make a difference.”

Part I | Part 2 | Part 3

Pre-Assembly Conference

A pre-assembly Minister’s Conference will take place on Thursday, June 4. “Nurturing a Vision for Engaged Congregations” is a one day event of worship and learning together for pastors, their spouses, and Assembly delegates who are interested in the subject matter. Dan Epp-Tiessen, Associate Professor of Bible at Canadian Mennonite University, will offer the keynote address.

During the workshop, three congregations will share how they are equipping their churches for ministry. In addition, there will be a separate workshop for spouses of pastors to explore their unique role. The spouse’s workshop will be led by Audrey Mierau Bechtel. She is currently a chaplain in Saskatoon with pastoral experience and she is the spouse of a pastor.

Greening it up

Mennonite Church Canada is taking a few more steps toward “greening” for Assembly 2009.

As in the past, delegates are being encouraged to bring their own coffee mugs or drink bottles, but this year, disposable cups will not be available to those who forget. Instead, volunteers will have thrift shop drink ware available for sale.

For the second year in a row, on-line registration and payment is being made available to save paper, time and postage. Another paper-saving effort is being made through the online only editions of the Assembly Daily Newssheet.

To really “step” toward a greener environment, lodging is being provided on the University of Saskatchewan campus and at the Park Town Hotel. It’s all within 20 minutes walking distance of the Education building where Assembly events will take place.