MCM Fall 2021 Update

MCM Fall 2021 Update

Greetings, Mennonite Church Manitoba! As summer turns to fall our attention turns to fall activities. It has been exciting to see and hear about our congregations cautiously moving to in-person worship services and programs. I am grateful for the care that has gone into our “re-opening” plans, especially our ongoing concern for the most vulnerable among us including our unvaccinated children.

It has been six months since our Gathering 2021. I thought it would be good, then, to provide a mid-term report for you highlighting a few things mentioned at our Gathering which we were anticipating for this year.

COVID continues to impact the work that we do both as individual congregations and collectively as MCM. Ideas for a fall gathering of some kind were left aside for another year. We hope to plan something for fall 2022 in addition to our regular Gathering in early March. Through most of the year MCM staff have not been traveling to congregations in person, though these opportunities are increasing this fall. We have had to find creative ways to hold virtual events or safe, small, in-person events. A good example of the latter is our upcoming October 26-28 Pastors and Leaders retreat led by our Spiritual Director in Residence, Laura Funk.

We have begun the process of listening to each other around LGBTQ+ recognition and inclusion, a commitment we made together following the 2016 Mennonite Church Canada resolution to create space for congregations to explore these things. In March and April I met with our MCM pastors to hear how the Spirit was moving among us in this. On October 16 the next step of listening will take place, with two representatives from each church invited to participate in a listening circle. The goal of this event is simply to hear from each other how our congregations have worked through questions around the recognition and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people among us in recent years.

In my Gathering 2021 report I mentioned the need for MCM to work together around pressing issues like climate change and reconciliation with our Indigenous neighbours. Two MCM working groups are being formed around these two important matters, with a third potentially forming around issues of poverty and systemic violence. These working groups, along with our current Palestine-Israel Working Group (now MCM Palestine-Israel Network), allow interested MCM-ers to collaborate regionally to assist MCM staff, facilitate education in our congregations, and encourage advocacy and justice work in Manitoba related to these issues.

At our March Gathering we passed a deficit budget for 2021, knowing that our Camps with Meaning program would be especially hit hard by COVID realities. This has indeed been the case, though I am happy to report that it does not look like we will experience a worst-case scenario. Camp registrations were limited by needing to work within day camp restrictions, but within those restrictions registrations were high. Dorothy Fontaine has also done well in successfully applying for COVID stabilization grants from the Winnipeg Foundation, and Camp supporters within MCM and beyond contributed generously to our COVID-relief campaign, Ring Up the Cash. We also had several generous donors give toward our MCM Capital Fund to offset capital expenses related to the MCM offices in Winnipeg. When a Hallmark film crew wants to use your building for a scene at a “run-down community centre,” then you know it’s past time to redo the siding!

This coming Saturday the MCM Board will be meeting for an all-day working retreat at Camp Assiniboia. There we will be discussing, among other things, a renewed emphasis within MCM on congregational health and vitality. Pray for us as we discern together how we can best support our congregations toward wholeness and fullness of life in our worship, our fellowship, our leadership, our learning, our congregational care, our service, and our participation in God’s mission of peace in our communities, in our province, across Canada, and around the world.

God is at work among us! Thanks be to God.

Michael Pahl, MCM Executive Minister
September 14, 2021