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Alberta convention 2009

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New structure approved unanimously

While the Liberal party of Canada gathered in Vancouver to officially recognize Michael Ignatieff as their leader, two provincial MB conferences were also holding their annual conventions, in Abbotsford, B.C., and at College Drive Community Church in Lethbridge, Alta., May 1–2, 2009.

Willy Reimer, Sunwest pastor and interim moderator, chaired the convention.

Alberta’s convention kicked off with three sessions for pastors and leaders with guest speaker David Parker, pastor of Desert Vineyard in Lancaster, California. (Ninety-eight people were registered for the main convention, 49 for the pastors and leaders day.) Participants caught Parker’s enthusiasm for “Spirit-led and mission-minded” churches and walked away with plenty to think about. “I feel like I’ve read four books today,” said Elsie Quiring of Dalhousie Community Church, Calgary.

Parker also spoke twice during the regular convention sessions. He called delegates to a life of mission, urging them to “grow a gathering heart.” Those who do not gather with Jesus, who do not follow his example in mission, scatter, he said, quoting Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23. Following Jesus inevitably means following him into meaningful mission – mission that challenges, but shares God’s heart for the needs of people and the potential in every situation, said Parker. Jesus’ call to partnership is not only with himself but also with each other in the church.

A church cultivates a sense of belonging and of sharing by eating together, said Parker, and in that spirit, faith and life commission chair Dennis Wiens led the congregation in communion on Friday evening. “We often take an individualistic approach to communion, focusing on Christ dying for our sins,” he said, but the celebration also anticipates eating together in true community. Delegates served and shared communion in small groups.

New structure

“A year ago, we were in a different situation,” said interim moderator and implementation team leader Willy Reimer, referring to the previous year’s low convention turnout and call for a structural overhaul. This year’s delegates had few questions as they affirmed 6 resolutions, including adoption of the proposed new structure, and hiring an executive director. Feedback from pastors and leaders in RCOCL (regional council of church leaders) meetings held in Calgary, Edmonton, and the south, last fall and winter resulted in “the most processed” change, said Reimer.

In the new structure, an executive director (charged with seeing to strategic and tactical plans, rather than primarily pastoral care) reports to both the executive board (informed by governance, relationship review, and financial audit committees), and the management team (informed by faith and life, leadership development and care, church health and reproduction, and financial and administration teams). Sig Janzen, Kerry Dyck, Bob Thiessen, Kevin Carruthers, Elroy Senneker, Brent Miller, and Daniel Beutler were affirmed for one-year terms on the inaugural executive board.

Willy Reimer (left) and Dennis Wiens (faith & life comission chair, far right) pray for the newly appointed executive board (l-r) Daniel Beutler, Kevin Carruthers, Sig Janzen, Elroy Senneker, Bob Thiessen, Brent Miller.

Bob Berg presented the financial report. The administrative team, like many of the provincial commissions, underwent changes over the past year, but has emerged with new members and a healthy financial picture. Despite the downturn in the economy, the Alberta conference enters the 2009-2010 year with a financial surplus that will make it possible to proceed with plans to hire an executive director in July or August, and an administrative assistant. Sherri Feenstra assumed the role of bookkeeper, donating much of her time from her work at Sunwest Christian Fellowship.

The faith and life commission lost most of its members in the past year through term endings and resignations, but enters the new year with remaining members Wiens and Nelson Senft, and new members John Willems and Menghis Menghistu. Under the new structure, the faith and life team will be responsible to the executive director.

Leo Siemens is alone on the church extension commission for another year. He advocated again for a new initiatives coach and expressed a hope that “many will come to know Jesus Christ.” He reported that the church plant Sema, in Calgary, closed.

Camp Evergreen

The sun is beginning to shine at Camp Evergreen again. The camp was in a crisis situation last year with questions about its viability, but now has a full board and complement of year-round staff, including new director Kerry Precht. Three of the convention’s 6 resolutions treated the creation of Camp Evergreen as a separate society.

Donna Janz of Medicine Hat (Crestwood) and Len Fehr of Edmonton (Sunrise) share communion.

Camping commission chair Bob Thiessen and Precht emphasized the role of camp in the spiritual development of children, and gave glory to God for his work through the camp. School and other guest groups at the site year-round contribute not only to the coffers, but also to summer registrations. Forty percent of summer campers report no church affiliation.

“There’s something different here,” several guest group evaluations have remarked.

The board’s goal is to begin renewal of facilities. Cabins will be replaced by 2010, staff housing replaced as donations allow, and a new lodge projected for 2013 will coincide with the camp’s anniversary.

Conference-affiliated agencies presented highlights of their ministries, including Bethany College touring team Point of Impact, which gave a dramatic recitation from 1 John. At the Canadian conference informational breakfast Saturday morning, Willy Reimer shared about Ministry Advantage, a curriculum-based weekly coaching program that matches a pastor with another full-time pastor mentor.

Surpassing the goal to end on time, the convention wrapped up early with thanks to College Drive for gracious hosting and Gary Burke’s invitation to next year’s convention in Linden, Mar. 19–20, 2010.

—Karla Braun

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