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Mennonites to descend on Lethbridge

   

Winnipeg, Man.—Over 600 Mennonites representing 255 churches and 37,000 members across Canada will descend on Lethbridge next week as the annual sessions of Mennonite Church Canada begin on Wednesday, July 19. The sessions will be held at the University of Lethbridge.

This year's meeting, dubbed Lethbridge 2000, marks the 97th year the group has met to discuss country-wide church issues, process business, and worship and celebrate together.

General Secretary Dan Nighswander says Lethbridge was chosen as this year's location because of its proximity to the rural Mennonite communities of Coaldale, Taber, Rosemary, and Pincher Creek, and others. "There are over 3,600 Mennonite Church Canada members representing forty congregations across Alberta, from the south on up to Grande Prairie and beyond," says Nighswander. "We move the conference around Canada. The last time we met in Alberta was 1996, at Calgary," he adds. Since 1903, the annual sessions have been held ten times in Alberta.

Mennonite Church Canada members are Anabaptist (they practice adult baptism) Christians who strive to put their faith into action through peaceful relationships with others and helping those in need.

The annual conference includes a youth program. This year youth delegates will be volunteering at several Lethbridge area agencies including Chinook L'Arche Society, Mennonite Central Committee Thrift store, Streets Alive shelter and drop-in, and the Samaritans crisis phone centre. They will be helping with a variety of clean-up, yard work, and painting tasks.

In addition, youth will provide musical entertainment at nursing homes and Lethbridge Regional Hospital, and puppet entertainment for children at Whoop-Up days. They will also have the opportunity to join members of Christian Peacemaker Teams in an event to raise awareness about the effects of violence in children's toys and video games, and will spent time with First Nations people at the Blood Reserve and the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Centre.

Adults will hear about a variety of church program reports as well as participate in development workshops.

Local media and residents are welcome to find out more by calling the on-site Lethbridge 2000 phone number at 380-7290 (from July 19 - 23). Locals are also invited to join the group for a joint worship service on Sunday, July 23, at 10:00 am in the gymnasium at Lethbridge University. A newsletter will be published each day at the conference and will be available on the world wide web at www.mennonitechurch.ca.

Mennonites are spiritual descendants of Menno Simons, who broke away from the 16th century European Catholic church during the reformation and began practicing adult baptism on confession of faith, pacifism, and stewardship of resources. Mennonite Church Canada is affiliated with Mennonite World Conference, which represents 84 churches in 49 countries on five continents.

There are over one million baptized members representing dozens of cultures around the world who claim the Mennonite name and express the core values of their Mennonite faith in a variety of ways. Mennonite Church Canada also includes congregations of Aboriginal, French, Asian, and Central and South American descent.