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Resources Commission Peeks into the Future

   

Winnipeg, Man.—While wild turkeys roamed the grounds outside, participants in a September 7-9 workshop here were encouraged to "think wild."

The Resources Commission of Mennonite Church Canada hosted the workshop at Villa Maria, a retreat centre near Winnipeg, to dream about the future. Participants included area conference representatives, board members, MC Canada executive members, and staff. Cheryl Nafziger Leis of Elmira, Ontario, facilitated proceedings.

The overall theme was "aligning our purposes with the purposes of God," said Justina Heese, Resources Commission executive secretary. Discussion focused on "how the church can effectively identify the resources its people are calling for, and serve them in ways that encourage learning and growth."

In an opening address, Jack Suderman, executive secretary of MC Canada's Ministry Commission, noted that the challenge is how to become a denomination in a time when "the populace is trending toward anti-institutionalism." He encouraged participants to consider the aging baby boom generation, and how this group's needs will affect the delivery of resources to congregations.

Kuaying Teng came to change perceptions of what ethnic diversity means to Canadian Mennonites. Teng is a Resources Commission board member and a co-pastor at Lao Christian Fellowship in St. Catharines, Ontario. "We need to pay more attention to ethnic groups," he said.

Erin Morash, youth pastor at North Kildonan Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, wanted to know more about resourcing young people in her church.

"We've got frustrated college and career age people looking for opportunities in service," she said. "They have no problem with technology, and diversity is an accepted fact. They are impatient with long conversations; they're more action oriented and tribal than their parents are.... They're asking, 'What use is a broad vision when we're not partnering with a downtown church that works with drug dealers and prostitutes?'"

The topic of technology and the Internet surfaced repeatedly, but Ilene Bergen (Christian education minister, Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada) cautioned that while technology may be part of a solution to the distribution challenge, it does not solve the overall communication challenge.

Some dreamed on an IMAX movie scale of a North American publishing effort and a lay leadership training institute; others put specific handles on their dreams, noting needs like inter-generational worship and parent nurture.

Perhaps the most meaningful picture was painted by a small group that worked on how to equip future leaders.

"Put 13 people in a van with a tank-full of gas. Wherever they run out of gas is where they serve," said Erin Morash on behalf of the group, noting that many historic monasteries were founded this way, led by small boats carrying earnest disciples.

Supplement: Retreat proposes Canadian publishing entity

Mennonite Church Canada should form a Canadian publishing entity under its Resources Commission. That was one of the proposals coming from the September 7-9 retreat hosted by the Resources Commission (see accompanying story).

The commission will ask the Canadian Program Transformation Team of Mennonite Church Canada to consider such an entity. Currently, publication needs for the Canadian church are handled by two binational agencies based in the United States: Faith & Life Press in Kansas and Mennonite Publishing House in Pennsylvania.

Binational cooperation will continue, said Naomi Unger, commission chair, but the focus will be on "what are Canadian needs that we can do in Canada."

The commission will also propose to the Transformation Team that a Nurture and Education Council be established. This subcommittee of the Resources Commission would be responsible for Christian education and materials for children's, youth and family ministries.

The commission also took actions to support the work of Mennonite World Conference. It will budget $1,000 next year for translating the World Conference newsletter Courier into French, and will continue to encourage congregations to join the conference's Global Peace and Justice Network.-Daniel Rempel