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National church consults young adults

   
 


At one point during a consultation between young adult and national/area church leadership on Sept. 28, 2012, young adults were drawn into the centre of the circle to share their understandings of the church without comment or interruption from the leadership. Circle of youth from far left, clockwise: Rebecca Steiner (MCEC), Kate McIntyre (MCM), Krista Loewen (MCBC), Kathleen Bergen(MCA), Ben Bourne (MC Sask), Brent Retzlaff (MCA), David Penny (MCEC) and Brittani Gifford (MCBC).

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The consultation between young adults and national/area church leadership sparked conversations and laughter. Brittani Gifford, Associate Pastor at Peace Mennonite Church in B.C. and MCBC young adult representative, and Kathleen Bergen, MCEC young adult representative, continue their discussion during a coffee break.

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Kate McIntyre (MCM)

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Ben Borne, young adult representative from MC Sask (left) and Dan Graber, Executive Minister, MCA.

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Mennonite Church Canada
October 2, 2012
-Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, MAN. — Young adults have a lot to say about the future of the church—and the wider church is listening.

Mennonite Church Canada and the five Area Churches invited 8 young adults from across Canada to Winnipeg for a Sept. 27 and 28 consultation about the future of the church. Betty Pries of Mennonite Church Canada’s Faith and Life Committee facilitated discussions. Participants explored “Why” the church is important in the 21st century, “How” God might be inviting the wider church to structure the support of that vision, and “What” God might be calling the church to do specifically to bring that vision to life.

Consultations were held in confidence to encourage uninhibited conversation. From participant Krista Loewen’s perspective, that confidentiality was importan. The Canadian Mennonite University student says that sometimes young adults are cautious about what they say because they are concerned about the judgement of others. “We’re younger and not as experienced with life. We don’t want what we say taken out of context.”

David Penny, a young adult pastor for youth at First Mennonite in Kitchener, Ont. noted that the confidentiality factor created a challenge about how to more broadly share the ideas and comments made during the sessions. In the end the group decided to provide a discussion summary at a later date. Young adults will process the discussion further via teleconference.

Although young adults shared different reasons for attending the consultation, each expressed concern for the future of the church.

Brittani Gifford, a young adult Associate Pastor at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond, B.C., says she grew up in the national church and understands it. “I’ve also seen things that aren’t working. I decided I either had to sit on the sidelines and be critical, or step in and do something.”

Penny’s curiosity about how the church works at national and provincial levels prompted his attendance. “It was enlightening to see the way consensus is built at the executive level of the church and to see how decisions are made,” says the youth pastor at First Mennonite in Kitchener, Ont. “It is enlivening to know that our voices are being heard.”

Willard Metzger, Mennonite Church Canada Executive Director, said Area Church Moderators and Executive staff felt that strong young adult engagement was critical to discussions about the future of the church. “It didn't seem to make sense to us to try and imagine what the future of the church will look like without including those who will be living out and leading that future reality.”

Loewen appreciated being invited into the consultation. One disappointment for her was the fact that she knew other young adults were interested in attending, but space was limited and they weren’t sure how they could become involved. She added that she has a number of friends who have no connection with churches, even though they have faith.

 “I’m encouraged by the fact that the church is a dynamic entity,” Loewen said. “While it struggles to rethink dogmatic practices, leaders are trying to ask ‘what’s going on?’

In addition to the young adults, and Metzger and Pries, the following church leaders also participated: Hilda Hildebrand, Moderator and Aldred Neufeldt, Assistant Moderator, Mennonite Church Canada General Board; David Martin, Executive Minister, and Carol Penner, Moderator, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada; Ken Warkentin, Executive Director, and Peter Rempel, Moderator Elect, Mennonite Church Manitoba; Patrick Preheim, representing Mennonite Church Saskatchewan; Dan Graber, Executive Minister and Ernie Engbrecht, Moderator, Mennonite Church Alberta; as well as Garry Janzen, Executive Minister, and Karen Heidebrecht Thiessen, pastor and Area Church representative, Mennonite Church British Columbia.