About the Taskforce

On November 1 & 2, 2007 the first meeting of the Mennonite Church Canada Taskforce on Pandemic Preparedness and Response took place at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. This was followed by a second Taskforce meeting on February 1-2, 2008.

The Witness Council of Mennonite Church Canada, with the support of Mennonite Disaster Service, was commissioned to call the taskforce into being. This came about as a result of a recommendation to all member churches from the National Advisory Group on Emergency Preparedness of the Canadian Council of Churches, where MDS represented MC Canada. The participants—who represented primary and community/public healthcare, seniors care, regional healthcare, national health policy, congregational and denominational ministry, communications and promotion, chaplaincy/spiritual care, human resources, and disaster management—brought their expertise to the table and task.
The taskforce members agreed that:

  • This is important, urgent agenda for the church
  • This is much bigger than a pandemic response, this is the church’s response to how we are in the world and how we care for each other; that is, we are God’s instruments in spreading healing and hope to the world.
  • Congregational and community care of this kind is important, regardless of whether a pandemic or other threat is imminent.
  • The resulting plan can practically equip congregations to respond to crises of all kinds.
  • Churches need to work in cooperation (wherever possible) with government and other public health plans.
  • Care needs to be provided on a spiritual and emotional level, as well as a physical one.
  • Pastors and other leaders in the congregation can use this pandemic response plan to help and inspire their congregations to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Taskforce members:

  • Janet Plenert, Executive Secretary for Christian Witness, MC Canada;
  • Abe Ens, Binational Director, MDS;
  • Rita Friesen, Public Health Nurse;
  • George Neufeld, retired, Health Care Chaplaincy;
  • Janet Bergen, Resident Care Manager, Menno Home;
  • John Longhurst, Director of Communications, CMU;
  • Kirsten Schroeder, Director of Human Resources, MC Canada;
  • Pam Driedger, Director of Spiritual Care, Eden Mental Health Centre;
  • Dr. Randy Gesell, Medical Officer of Health, Manitoba Health;
  • Reg Toews, Executive Director, Eastman Education Centre and organizational consultant;
  • Sven Eriksson, Denominational Minister, MC Canada (retired);
  • Gord Friesen; MDS Binational Director/Secretary (Facilitator and Chair).

These members were later joined in their work by:

  • Lois Nickel, MDS Director, Region Relations & Special Projects;
  • Val Pankratz, Executive Assistant for Witness, MC Canada and
  • Dan Dyck, Director of Communications, MC Canada.

 A special note of appreciation to Dr. Tim Foggin, Vancouver Family Physician and member of Willingdon Church, and  Marg Pollon, Executive Director of Bridges of Love Ministry Society, for their vision, passion and dedicated work to motivate and equip Christian churches in Canada to answer Jesus’ call to help our neighbours in need during a public health emergency.