Reflections from Celebration 2010

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We posted daily reflections from Celebration 2010 participants. Entries are posted from newest to oldest so you can scroll down if you want to read from the beginning. Or you can select an entry of interest to you. You can also visit www.mycelebration2010.ca for the MB Herald coverage of this week of historic events.

Entries:

Renewing Identity and Mission (RIM) Monday Plenary Session — by Barrie McMaster

RIM Monday Plenary Session — Gerald Hildebrand

RIM session: MB Church as Global Community (Abe Dueck presenting) and Modern Mission Movements (Randy Friesen presenting) — by David Chow

RIM session: Boards of Faith and Life — Gil Dueck

RIM session: The Emerging Generation (Jules Glanzer presenting) — Jon Mair

RIM Tuesday Plenary Session — David Warkentin

Binational reporting session — J Janzen

Binational reporting session — Jeremiah Betron

Conection 2010 opening session — Connie Faber

Celebration 2010 Friday evening — Connie Faber

Celebration 2010 expectations — Jeremiah Betron

Experience Vancouver Saturday — J Janzen

Saturday — Experience Vancouver

By J Janzen, MB Herald editor

Celebration 2010 came to a close today. About 5 full buses worth of MBs from Canada and the US spent time touring Vancouver, visiting some of the various church plants that are in process. Vancouver is a unique and challenging city. After London, UK, Vancouver has the largest Sikh population outside of Asia. After San Francisco, Vancouver boasts the largest Asian population in North America. Downtown Vancouver also happens to be the most densely populated neighbourhood in North America outside of Manhattan. To top it all off, Vancouver is one of the most expensive places to live in Canada, yet also has the poorest neighbourhood in the country.

Aside from those opportunities, the high cost of living combined with very little interest in Christianity makes it particularly challenging to be the church in Vancouver. Even so, the B.C. MB conference is forging ahead, doing its best to tell people that Jesus loves them and wants to be their friend.

Below are just a few quotes I overheard as I wandered about…

  • “In the Dunbar-Point Grey neighbourhood, you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a lawyer. And then get sued.”—Andrew Stanley, Urban Journey church planter
  • “You have your worship gathering, but where do your kids go?”—Adam Wiggins, pastor, Pacific Church, discussing the problems of finding space in downtown Vancouver
  • “To buy a warehouse for our needs would cost about 10 or 11 million dollars. We’re about 10 or 11 million short right now.”—Norm Funk, pastor, Westside Church
  • “Everything’s high rises, so there’s no door to walk up to and say, ‘Hi, would you like to know Jesus?’”—Adam Wiggins, pastor, Pacific Church
  • “The Holy Spirit works through Google.”—Kris Martens, Reality Vancouver church planter, describing how people come to their worship times as a result of internet searches
  • “We felt like family – we came without an invitation.”—Ed Boschman, executive director, USMB
  • “Churches work too hard at offering that which people already have while hiding that which people need the most.”—Norm Funk, pastor, Westside Church

Celebration 2010 Expectations

by Jeremiah Betron, pastor of Bethel Church in Yale, SD

I?m an outsider. I didn?t grow up in a Mennonite Brethren church. Rather, I grew up in a Lutheran Church and later, while in college, became a member of a non-denominational church. I don?t have a last name like Friesen, Neufeld, Klassen, or Wiebe. In fact, my
last name is French, not because I am French, but because my grandfather was adopted into a French family. It might even interest you to know that the first time I heard the words “Mennonite Brethren” was only a year and a half ago.

Despite these things, I am now committed to the Mennonite Brethren denomination and way. I am now serving as an MB pastor at Bethel MB Church in Yale, South Dakota and support the USMB statement of faith. I am an outsider and I am new, but I am excited
to belong to this denomination that is making a mark in this world in the name of Jesus Christ.

Because I am an outsider, I have spent a lot of time this past year getting to know more deeply the denomination into which I have been adopted. I have been reading books like Family Matters. I attended the New Pastors Orientation this past Spring in Phoenix,
Arizona. And, as I write this, I am finishing up a week with the MBs in Vancouver, B. C., at Celebration 2010.

As I prepared to attend the Renewing Identity & Mission part of Celebration 2010, I had some expectations of what I would hear. I knew going in that someone was going to talk about peace-making, and they did. I also knew that someone would make a presentation about the tradition of MBs dating back to the Ukraine, and they did. And, I was fully aware that we would talk about the mission of the MBs throughout the world, and we did.

But, there were some things that I did not expect. For one, I did not expect Alfred Neufeld?s encouragement for MBs to become “friendly with theology.” When we engage with Scripture as “people of the Word,” we are “doing” theology. Theology, in its purest
form, is the study of God. Secondly, I was astonished to hear the phrase, “people of the Word” repeated over and over. I?m ecstatic that MBs love God?s Word, but I would also encourage us to be students who are regularly engaged with the Word. Finally, it took
me by surprise that so much of our time was focused on the past. I understand that this was a celebration of the past 150 years, and we can celebrate that, but we also must look to the future, seeking God?s direction for the next 150 years!

I had many expectations for this Celebration 2010 gathering, but am pleased that it exceeded my expectations.

Friday evening — Celebration 2010 service

by Connie Faber, CL editor

Delegates from the U.S. and Canada gathered again at Chandos Patterson Auditorium for an evening of worship. The focus on the global Mennonite Brethren family continued, as did an emphasis on the ways in which local North American congregations are impacting the lives of individuals and communities for Jesus Christ. The service closed with a communion service led by David Wiebe of the Canadian Conference, Ed Boschman of the U.S. Conference and Victor Wall, representing the International Community of Mennonite Brethren. 

Reviewing my notes of the stories shared this evening by Mennonite Brethren pastors and church planters and thinking back on the stories I heard last night at the U.S. gathering, I saw a unique thread weaving through many of the stories. In contrast to many of the stories I hear of lives changed when men and women encounter Jesus, this thread has been around the block a time or two. I'm talking about stories of folks retirement age and older who are finding that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is more fulfilling than they had always thought it would be.

This evening we heard of an Ethiopian man and his wife in their 70s who ended up in the hospital while visiting family in the United States and both found Jesus Christ thanks to the friendships they formed with people from a U.S. Ethiopian congregation. We heard about a 65-year old man with a zest for life, who has devoted much time to studying religion. He is befriended by a MB church planter. While this story of transformation is not yet complete, it taught this church planter that God uses non Christians to open the door to ministry in a community. The church planter remains convinced that his new friend will someday find that Jesus is the answer to the questions he has been chasing.

To see older adults change because of the Good News is a unique experience, according to one of the speakers. "I see young people, Muslims and atheists come to Jesus," said pastor Hailed Tamirat of Ethiopian Christian Fellowship, Sacramento, Calif., "but old people — it is almost impossible to tell them about new life." And yet these stories illustrate that God can break through the barriers presented by extended life experiences. We just need to have faith that "nothing but the blood of Jesus" can bring peace to our neighbors, regardless of their age.

Thursday evening — Conection 2010 Opening Service

by Connie Faber, CL editor

Brightly colored table settings and a stage decorated with hanging paper lanterns and a colorful PowerPoint slide welcomed U.S. Conference delegates into the gymnasium/sanctuary of Gracepoint Community Church in Surrey, BC, for their biennial convention.

Following a delicious meal, the group of about 175 people worshiped around the theme of "Life Transformation." Following a time of singing, the evening was filled with stories of how God through his people has changed the lives of men and women and their families through Mennonite Brethren congregations. After each transformation story, a piece of black paper was torn from the front display, illustrating the shift from darkness to light. The audience heard from pastors about

  • Amber, a young woman and a beautician in the Midwest who became a Christian thanks to two young women who came to her as clients;
  • "Miss Luetta," who came to a Mennonite Brethren church because of two friends who regularly invited her and became a follower of Jesus on that first visit; 
  • Alex, a Midwest teenage who came to faith because he prayed to see Jesus;
  • A church plant core team member who was transformed as he began to serve others
  • A pastor who preached a "lousy" sermon only to see 10 people come forward for salvation because the Holy Spirit was working that morning;
  • A Mormon Catholic hippie who found Jesus and was baptized this month.

Paul Robie, pastor of South Mountain Community Church in Utah, described the unique church planting approach he and other Mennonite Brethren pastors in Utah are taking to reach their Mormon neighbors. He described the religious environment of Utah to show why it is important to "belong before you believe" when it comes to church life. 

The evening closed with the participants gathered around representatives of the five U.S. Conference district conferences and the various storytellers, praying for them and the congregations they serve. 

Thursday afternoon session — "Endurance"

by Jeremiah Betron

Ten years from now, when I think about the events of Celebration 2010, the 150th Anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren, one image will come to mind. It?s not the image of men and women from Canada and the United States coming together in one place to
worship our one Lord. And, it?s not the stories presented by our MBMSI missionaries scattered throughout the world. The greatest moment of Celebration 2010 wasn?t even the shared fellowship among Christians from all over the world. All of these things were
amazing, but they were not, for me, the image I will remember of this event.

Instead, I will remember the presentation given by Dr. Lynn Jost, president of MBBS. He stepped onto the stage wearing his black ceremonial robe and hood, a symbol of higher education, and stood behind the clear, plexiglass lectern. Then he began to
speak. His message wasn?t about the changes happening at the seminary or a report about its students. His message was about endurance.

This message of endurance was centered on Pastor David Manuel of South Abbostford MB Church. As Dr. Jost began to speak, a small group of people descended down the ramp on the right side of Chandos Pattison Auditorium. They located their seats in the
front row, cameras in hand. As they looked up to the stage and listened intently to the words flowing from the lectern, Pastor Manuel moved onto the stage, also wearing his black robe. Every word was about his ministry. His accomplishments; his servant?s
heart; and his passion to reach a specific group of people in British Colombia with the hope of Jesus Christ. He has done this for years — and with vigor, determination, relentlessness. It was a message of endurance — hanging on to faith, even when life gets tough.

When his message concluded, Dr. Jost conferred upon Pastor Manuel the degree of honorary doctorate. He endured the race and received one of the highest honors possible this side of heaven. Pastor Mauel stepped up to the lectern and, after a long
pause, said, “I am part of a group of people…” His words moved me.

We are called to endure. Celebration 2010 was about the first 150 years of Mennonite Brethren. It took endurance to reach this milestone. It will take endurance to reach the next 150 years. Every one of us belongs to a group of people — the church. We must
spur one another on to love and good deeds. Together, we must serve the Lord. Together we must endure. 

Thursday morning and afternoon — Binational session

by J Janzen, editor of MB Herald

During the day, Canadian and US Mennonite Brethren met to hear stories and reports from our foreign missions agency (MBMSI) and our seminary (MBBS).

As I wander around, there is a sense of excitement that the church continues to grow across North America and around the world because of Mennonite Brethren efforts to cooperate with God’s work both locally and globally. There was also a sense that we are determined to go forward even though we as a church face many challenges.

Enjoy the “verbal snapshots” below…

“I heard you say you are people of the Book, but I noticed very few of you carrying the Book.”—Danisa Ndlovu, from Zimbabwe and president of Mennonite World Conference.

“I don’t know. Ask Randy.”—An East Asian mission worker’s response to leaders who asked if they would be allowed to join the Mennonite Brethren church.

“We are now in every Arabic speaking person’s living room without their permission!”—A Middle Eastern mission worker reporting that a Christian television program produced by Mennonite Brethren is now broadcast on state channels.

“I baptize 40 people every week. We don’t have room for them. Can you ask Jesus to stop this for awhile?”—A North African church leader speaking to an MBMSI worker.
 

“I am simply overwhelmed: the honor is huge, and too heavy for a small man.”—David Manuel on receiving an honourary doctorate of christian ministries from MBBS in recognition of his work in the East Indian community in Canada and abroad.

Tuesday evening: Panel discussion

Reflection by Ed Willms, campus pastor for Southridge Community Church's North End congregation (formerly Gateway community church) in St. Catharines, Ont.

Tuesday evening an already rich day concluded with four personal stories.

As we began I wondered if any of us noted the incredible contrast of values playing out in our world at that moment. Earlier in the morning, the brash and controversial boss of the New York Yankee’s – George Steinbrenner – had died from complications of a heart attack. Having taken over the fabled Yankees 37 years ago he single handedly turned them into a billion-dollar business. Indeed his exploits are a vivid picture of everything this world has to offer.

In contrast to this image of money, power and prestige we heard stories of the Kingdom of God advancing through simple and sacrificial mission efforts.

Cesar Garcia (right) began the conversation with personal reflections from Columbia. He began by showing the complexities of serving Jesus in a context of crime, corruption, poverty, and brokenness. Indeed only 5 churches are self-supporting but find ways to support another 35 churches. In fact they are learning to be missional not only in their context but around the world.

Nzuzi Mukawa spoke of the witness of God’s love in the Congo. He began by the touching gesture of introducing the missionary couple who led him to Christ. Into his war torn, poverty-stricken country, where there is so much brokenness and pain the message of Jesus has created a growing and thriving church. Often stronger in the urban contexts, this church is attempting to learn what real discipleship looks like. He challenged us that nothing will happen without the power of the Holy Spirit.

John Shankar Rao spoke from the perspective of the largest MB denominational family – the Indian family. Today, in many provinces there is a price tag to following Jesus. Persecution is very real, emotionally, physically, financially, and relationally. He challenged us to consider “what if 150 years ago, the first MB missionaries had chosen the luxury and comfort of their world and had not obeyed God’s call to India?” Will we be as faithful in the years to come? Will we too answer the call?

Johann Matthies gave us the European perspective. In a continent that is filled with many cathedrals there is such a small witness. It has become one of the least reached regions in our world. But he offered much hope that God has not forgotten his people in Europe and there are signs of a great breakthrough coming.

At this 150-year marker we can celebrate many of our missionary efforts. But moving forward we will need a global team to reach the global needs in our world.

Tuesday — A reflection on a presentation by Jules Glanzer about the emerging generation

by Jon Mair, administrative coordinator with Jericho Ridge Community Church in Langley, B.C., who is attending MBBS-ACTS, pursuing a MTh after earning his MDiv in 2009.

Jules Glanzer (president of Tabor College) presented about how the missional church movement fits closely with the Mennonite Brethren heritage. Setting this up, Glanzer spoke about how the church has been facing the need for a facelift in order to correct some flaws. One of the ways this has begun to take place is through the emerging church, whose goal is to partner with God in his activities in the world. Glanzer said that over time this group changed their identification to the missional church. This new term brought great excitement as this term seemed new and brought a renewed sense of purpose. For MBs this term is not new and simply reflects the original purpose and goals of the MB church.

The MB church began with a strong sense of mission and this reality has defined it ever since. From the mid-80s until only a few years ago, as Glanzer has observed the MB church from the outside, he saw a distraction from this missional perspective. During this time he saw the MB church begin to look at how it could be attractive to the world around it. In this time period he also saw the MB church begin to struggle to find its identity as a group, this was a result of the shift from being missional.

Glanzer indicated that as the MB church recovers its historical roots as missional it has the opportunity to significantly influence the next generation and contribute to the missional movement. One of the desires of the next generation is doing life together and they are looking for community, something the missional church has as a core aspect. The MB church by renewing its missional roots can offer this to the next generation. It can also come along side the missional movement and provide it with some history and experience in order to mentor and coach it along. As Glanzer indicates the MBs have a history that is rich and has the potential to offer strong help to move the broader church forward missionally.

Tuesday — A reflection on the Boards of Faith and Life question and answer seminar session

by Gil Dueck, instructor in theology at Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask., and member of Hepburn MB Church

The last afternoon session of the day was set aside for a question and answer session with representatives from both the Canadian and American Boards of Faith and Life. I went in a little unsure of what to expect. Would there be fireworks as delegates raised around some of the hot-button theological issues that tend to haunt these conferences? Would people feel the freedom to express their views honestly? Would there be a genuine commitment to listen to one another? Would we leave with answers to our burning questions on the faith and life of the MB family? It turns out that some of the most provocative questions came, not from the floor, but from the members of the BFL themselves. It became evident that more clarity is needed regarding what exactly the churches expect from their leaders in areas of theological and ethical disagreement.

There were a number of relevant and interesting issues raised from the floor – from homosexuality, reproductive technology, church discipline, biblical illiteracy, aboriginal relations, to a host of others. In each case we ended up talking, not about the issues themselves, but about the process we use to talk about these issues. Was this or that issue the domain of the national or the provincial/district BFLs? What kind of response would be helpful for the churches? Should the BFLs be generating edicts on various issues or see their role as more consultative in nature?

These process questions felt a little frustrating even as I came to recognize that it is hard to get beyond them in the absence of answers to more fundamental questions. These questions include: What is the glue that holds us together as an MB family? Are we united around our confession(s) of faith (both the joint North American confession of faith and the more recent ICOMB confession were discussed)? What level of adherence to these confessions do we expect? How should our confessional consensus (however fragile) be maintained? How do we talk about our differences together? And in the midst of all of these questions, what specific role do we envision for leaders such as those who sit on our boards of faith and life?

So I left this session without any additional clarity regarding where we were “at” as a conference on various theological and ethical issues. I left, however, encouraged that our leaders are asking the more basic questions that probably need to be answered first. I hope that we as a community can commit to the exciting and risky task of seeking the mind of Christ in these areas.

Tuesday — A reflection on seminar papers: The MB Church as a Global Community: Unity and Diversity with Abe Dueck and Modern Mission Movements: Learnings, Applications, and Areas of Need with Randy Friesen.

by David Chow, lead pastor at Killarney Park MB Church, an intentionally intercultural congregation in Vancouver

I love family reunions. It’s good to learn about my family history, the events and people who have shaped who my family is, and ultimately, who I am today. I like to know what’s going on within the family, what they’re up to, and how they’re doing. I’m learning that as I get to know them better, I also better understand myself.

I’m thankful for family historians such as Abe Dueck (Interim Executive Secretary for the Historical Commission) for helping me, a relative new-comer to the family to orient me a little more along the way. I like getting to know more about the relations that cross national boundaries, and about the relations that go deeper than biology. It’s also comforting to know that our family cares about unity and has taken the time to craft a Confession in which we (as a global movement) all agree and subscribe to.

Abe Dueck gave us some good questions to consider: As our developing world brothers and sisters in Christ continue to have a growing impact on our international family, how will that shape us internationally? What can we, as North American brothers and sisters, learn from our younger Indian, Congolese, Southeast Asian and South American brothers and sisters?]

Randy Friesen (General Director for Mennonite Brethren Missions and Services International) shared with us a number of exciting stories as we learned of new births in unexpected places all over the globe. He mentioned that many of our births happen in places that are tough and dangerous to raise families, some births happen on the fringes and outskirts of society, especially in places that are hostile to Jesus’ Way. It’s always encouraging to know that the Holy Spirit is at work bringing new children into the world.

Randy’s stories made me think about how we take our faith and faith heritage for granted in lands of peace and prosperity. How shall we live, when we don’t face persecution for our beliefs and way of life? Are we living lives that declare our allegiance?

Randy challenged us as North American family to consider how we steward our wealth and opportunities and how we share the resources we have with our younger siblings. Isn’t that what family is for?

Our Celebration and family reunion is a time of celebration, but it should also be a time of thoughtful reflection as we look forward to another one hundred and fifty years.

Monday evening: Alfred Neufeld

Reflection by Gerald Hildebrand, lead pastor at McIvor MB Church, Winnipeg, Man.

Alfred Neufeld of Paraguay introduced the “Renewing Identity & Mission” consultation with an insightful and inspiring reflection on the historical and theological beginnings of the Mennonite Brethren Church (1860) and invited us to consider how we may embrace the “a phenomenon of renewal” (JB Toews) today.

While providing an overview of historical and theological interpretations of MB beginnings, Neufeld offered his reading of 1860, suggesting that MB’s wanted to recover the: essential nature of the church, existential dimension of salvation and trans-cultural mission of the Holy Spirit. In short they desired to recover their apostolic identity and calling. Our identity is first and foremost in Jesus Christ – redeemer, savior and King; and our calling is to live “between the times.”

He reminded us that, despite their idealistic beginnings, renewal movements are not 100 percent clean; and are a “contextualization of their time” (Hiebert). Our brokenness, misdirected idealism, and pride remain and cloud our perspective. Therefore ongoing contextualization must always be critical of our traditional values and forms we have inherited and the culture we live in.

Neufeld spoke into our context with inspiration and clarity. His references to life in the church (ecclesiology), salvation (soteriology and Christology) and the work of the Spirit (pneumatology) and mission capture the essence of the theology he invited us not to fear. His freedom to name and address issues we collectively face is a wonderful reminder of the gift that our global partners bring to our shared theological and historical conversations.

While our own context requires an ongoing contextualized articulation of faith, we must also ask how we express Christian faith in the global context. It has become apparent that we, in North America, have a limited and narrow understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We need the assistance and perspective of our global sisters and brothers to recognize our calling and become followers of Christ together. Rather than “exporting” a North American gospel, we do well to sit together with our friends from around the world and discover what it means to be devoted followers of Jesus Christ. And for this gift I say a heartfelt thank you to Alfred Neufeld.

Monday Plenary Session

— Barrie McMaster, MB Herald staff member

I have long thought that what defines an effective leader is that person’s ability to see, to define a situation accurately and well. It requires not only sight but wisdom. Its result is a double dose of “aha” – first, acknowledging that this is indeed what is happening, and second, agreeing that the course of action to be taken in response to the situation is the right course.

The start of our week of celebrations on Monday evening was strong. The huge dining area in Trinity Western University’s student centre was packed with Mennonite Brethren leaders. Each will return home with a heightened sense of who we are as denomination, of who we are as a little family of God. Each, it is hoped, will be ‘seeing’ with more clarity in terms of MB focus, MB identity, and MB mission. Not bad fruit from one night, and we have the rest of the week still to come.

Some North American church people argue denominations are dying, becoming irrelevant. But, as we found out in the opening session, we are indeed a ‘family’, we are vital, and as members of a larger body, we need each other in living out our Christian relationships.

Our task – as Alfred Neufeld, our main speaker suggested — is to recover our apostolic and our prophetic identity anew. As good leaders, may we see that our context to embrace that recovery is always now.

CL Archives
This article is part of the CL Archives. Articles published between August 2017 and July 2008 were posted on a previous website and are archived here for your convenience. To report a problem with the archived article, please contact the CL editor at editor@usmb.org.

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