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Alberta convention 2011

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National church planting partnership launched in Alberta

Sunrise Community Church, Edmonton

“Staying on TRAC (trajectory, replenishment, awareness, choices)” was the theme for the March 18–19 gathering of Alberta MB congregational representatives at Sunrise Community Church, Edmonton. Yet the theme might have very well been “A new normal.”

During Friday evening’s worship time, keynote speaker Terry Walling, author and president of Leader Breakthru, noted there is a sense of disorientation, dislocation, and fragmentation in contemporary Western culture. He added, one doesn’t get to see “God work without community.”

Walling encouraged the 80 delegates from 19 of 22 Alberta churches to work together at bringing clarity to their lives as individuals, congregations, and a provincial community. The church requires a “new normal” – centered on mission. Drawing from Mark 2, Walling asked, “What would it look like if Alberta streets were filled with stretcher-bearers who get people to Jesus?”

Follow-up remarks by Willy Reimer confirmed that a “new normal” is emerging. Given his work as a pastor and conference leader, it has been normal for Alberta MBs to hear from Reimer over the past 14 years. This time, however, Reimer spoke as the newly appointed executive director of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches.

Reimer reported on an unprecedented openness and desire among Canadian MB leaders to work together to see Canadians come to Christ. “It’s a level of partnership I did not think I would see in my lifetime,” observed Reimer.

C2C signals shift in church planting

The Friday evening presentation by Gord Fleming (director of Church Planting BC) and Mark Burch (associate director of Church Planting BC), followed by Saturday’s church reproduction team report illustrated the “new normal” of partnership. As director of church planting at the Canadian MB conference, Fleming unveiled the C2C Network.

The Network has a vision to see churches planted coast to coast, Fleming explained, and is looking to partner more closely with church planting efforts in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Elroy Senneker, pastor at Vauxhall MB and the church reproduction team leader, explained that as a result of prayer, consultation with national leadership, and conversations with the Alberta MB executive board in the previous four months, the following decisions were made:

  • plans to hire a provincial church extension director were abandoned,
  • the church reproduction team was disbanded,
  • a new task force, under the auspices of the C2C Network and Gord Fleming’s direction, would “pursue new initiatives and new church planting opportunities.”

Although details related to funding and accountability were unclear, there was only one question from the floor. Brad Huebert, pastor at Dalhousie Community Church, Calgary, wondered if the C2C-led effort was a shift away from the previous philosophy of “healthy churches planting churches.” Daniel Beutler responded that both congregation-initiated and conference-initiated church plants were desired.

Kerry Dyck, Alberta MB conference moderator, invited prayer for the new Church Planting Alberta collaboration, saying, “We don’t know quite what it will look like, but we’re excited in faith.”

Work of the conference moving along normally

In other business, the executive board had no new motions to present. The previous year had been spent implementing the decisions of earlier conventions. The new constitution and bylaws were filed, an MB Foundation was established, and the process of transferring land and equipment from Camp Evergreen into the MB Foundation continued to move forward.

Daniel Beutler, executive director of the Alberta conference, reported that despite a $22,000 deficit, the conference paid off Camp Evergreen’s $315,000 debt as part of its transfer to an independent society.

As leader of the Alberta faith and life team and member of the national board of faith and life (BFL), John Willems, pastor at Crestwood MB Church, Medicine Hat, noted that the Canadian Conference BFL is in the early stages of discussion on developing a national credentialing process – together with provincial BFLs – to make it simpler for pastors to transfer from one province to another. Willems added that the Canadian Conference BFL has engaged a lawyer to review the pastors’ credentialing questionnaire to make sure it meets various legal requirements.

News from strategic partners

Delegates heard reports from their conference’s strategic partners, including MB Mission, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Bethany College, Canadian Mennonite University, and Teen Challenge.

Camp Evergreen’s executive director, Kerry Precht, noted that significant steps have taken place toward a “new normal.”

  • As the camp becomes an independent society, the board is looking to add four new members.
  • Evergreen’s constitution and bylaws have been filed with the provincial government.
  • After two years of consultations with county and provincial regulators, the camp has submitted its development applications and is hopeful that permits will be granted, allowing Evergreen to proceed with cabin construction.
  • The number of campers and guest groups continues to grow.

During the Friday evening session, Precht described a conversation a  summer camper had shared with a counsellor. “I get that Jesus is the Rock,” the child had said following a chapel session; “I need to build my life on him.” With numerous stories of that kind inspiring their prayers and imaginations, leaders and delegates were sent home encouraged to be people who invite Albertans to experience The New Normal.

—J Janzen

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