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Church Matters celebrates 5 years
February 3, 2012
Winnipeg, MAN. — Does the church matter in today’s world? Five years ago, Mennonite Church Canada launched the radio podcast, Church Matters, in response to that very question.
“There was a confluence of opportunities,” says Dan Dyck, Director of Communications and host of Church Matters.
“Mennonite Church Canada was looking for another channel to convey a unique message about the value of church in a cultural environment that claimed church as irrelevant. At the same time, there was a growing interest in podcasting, and a broadcast slot just happened to open up with the Golden West Southern Manitoba radio network.”
Together, those factors gave the national church an opportunity to “boldly claim that in fact, the church does matter, and it matters a great deal. Imagine what social services in Canada and beyond would look like if churches vanished and support stopped for food banks, homeless shelters, disaster and relief aid, and so on.”
Dyck says that the basic organizational infrastructure of the church at all levels – congregational, regional, national and across denominations – is critical to training disciples of Christ for service within the wider community.
He points to the impact a relatively small denomination like Mennonite Church Canada can have. “In retail language, Mennonite Church Canada has more locations across the country than Best Buy and Future Shop combined. That’s a lot of Christian service infrastructure – providing we can faithfully form disciples in service to Christ.”
Dyck, now the sole host of the program, originally shared the position with Janet Plenert, then Executive Director, Witness. Episodes are recorded live or in Mennonite Church Manitoba’s studio with the help of Grant Klassen, sound engineer and Mennonite Church Canada Webservant.
Live recordings of Church Matters are a particularly highlight for Dyck, who finds energy in audience presence and challenge in steering an interview through key points, while keeping the guest on track and staying within the 15 minute broadcast time limit.
Some of the episodes Dyck says he found most moving include interviews with church leaders of Canada’s indigenous people. “It’s remarkable to learn about God and ‘Jesus, the Waymaker’ from an aboriginal perspective. It really broadens one’s understanding of this God we can claim together.”
An interview with a recent Colombian refugee seeking asylum in Canada from death threats was an eye-opener. “He had to leave his wife and children in Colombia, at great risk to them, not knowing when or if he might see them again,” Dyck says. “While I grew up hearing stories like this of my Mennonite ancestors, that seems rather distant. There’s a whole other dimension to faith in hearing such a story in a contemporary context.”
Downloads of Church Matters have just topped 7,000. The most popular episodes include those with a peace focus or with high profile guests, like the interview with Stuart Murray, author of The Naked Anabaptist (Herald Press, Scottdale PA, 2010), available at www.mennonitechurch.ca/tiny/1726.
Although Dyck says there is currently no way to ascertain the demographics of the podcast audience, approximately 20,000, age 50 plus listeners tune into each radio broadcast of Church Matters.
For the next five years of Church Matters, Dyck plans to continue focussing on tough issues facing the church and to attract high profile guests from beyond Mennonite circles. “We need to hear voices from beyond ourselves that God is using to speak to the church. That said, we have a limited budget and have to rely on guests who happen to be passing through Winnipeg. I welcome suggestions from listeners and readers for topics and guests.”
For a complete list of Church Matters episodes, go to www.mennonitechurch.ca/tiny/158 or subscribe through iTunes. You can hear Church Matters at 8:45 am CST on the third Sunday of each month. It is broadcast via the Golden West Southern Manitoba radio network on CFAM 950, Altona, AM 1250, Steinbach, and CJRB 1220 Boissevain.