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Saskatchewan MBs ask unsettling questions and evaluate structures

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What needs to die in your life and ministry to support new life?” plenary speaker and Forest Grove (MB) Community Church lead pastor Bruce Enns challenged 123 registered participants and other attendees at the Saskatchewan Mennonite Brethren annual convention, “Healthy Heartbeat: an inward look,” Mar. 9–10.

“It starts with the courage to ask hard questions,” he said. Referring to the speck and the plank in Matthew 7:3–5, Enns encouraged delegates to become aware of their blind spots.

Drawing from Colin Marshall and Tony Payne’s book The Trellis and the Vine, Enns turned the inward look corporate, and spoke of the need for “trelliswork” (development and maintenance of structures) to allow “vines” (relationships, ministry) to grow and flourish. Both the Saskatchewan and the Canadian conferences are reviewing and clarifying their structures, vision, and strategic plans.

“We have so little control over helping people grow,” he said. “We can only tend the environment and build good structures.”


Harvest Saskatchewan, a volunteer team led by staff member Dwayne Barkman, provides funds for church projects that reach into the community, facilitates discussion groups and ReFocusing, supplies bursaries for internships, and encourages exploration of missional outreaches from congregations. Highlights of last year’s activities include:

♦ In 2011, five Bethany students served internships in local churches or parachurch ministries under the direction of a mentor. Budgeted funds were doubled for 2012.

♦ Two satellite or sister congregations were planted in the last five years. The Gathering (out of Forest Grove, Saskatoon) is currently accessing Harvest Saskatchewan’s “missional centre” funding. Pastor Don Froese described “Lindsay” – typical of the de-churched young, educated, creative people drawn to The Gathering – whose enthusiasm for Jesus spills onto her many friends and

♦ Canadian conference director of church planting Gord Fleming presented the C2C vision. “We as a Saskatchewan conference agree to continue to partner with the Canadian conference in church planting efforts and to do so by joining together as partners of their C2C network,” said Barkman. “Details of how this partnership will look are yet to be worked through.”

Director of church ministries Ralph Gliege interviewed board of faith and life members “under his umbrella” at a patio table on stage:

♦ Interim pastor Gary McKay’s time in Herbert has stretched into two years, but he is energized by helping the church define the role of a new pastor. “You’re bringing in a pastor not just to lead, but you’ve got to minister to him as well,” McKay said.

♦ Kevin Koop (Blaine Lake) reported that the policy and procedures committee is drafting a guiding document for pastoral sabbaticals.

♦ Bridgeway (Swift Current) pastor Bob Capelle shared the unsettling words he took home from attending the Church Planting Congress in Winnipeg in November 2011 – that we have reshaped God’s call of “come and die” to “come and buy.” Materialism’s antidote: reclaim value of hospitality.

♦ Bethany College’s winter semester service learning trips to First Nations reserves have resulted in good relationships with band councils and four First Nations students attending Bethany. Academic dean and BFL member Rick McCorkindale gave delegates a glimpse into one student’s story of “God being at work in the awful stuff.”

Ross Hardy of the board of management declared the conference “financially secure; very strong” before launching into a “bold budget” for 2012 with overall increases in funding for Harvest Saskatchewan and the board of faith and life. The conference “norm” (church’s per member contribution) will increase from $60 to $65.

Moderator Todd Hardy says he has the gift of faith – and it was exercised the past year with vacancies on operating boards, including the roles of assistant moderator and executive secretary. Citing a “need to work cohesively together” within Saskatchewan and with the Canadian conference, Hardy is exploring structural adjustments and constitutional revisions so the executive board/policy team and the ministry team relate more directly to churches. Pastors and moderators will preview changes at the November leadership forum and the convention will vote in 2013. The slate of nominations was approved by acclamation. Vacancies remain on the board of management and the executive board.

News from partners

♦ Good news dominated Bethany College’s report. Enrollment is at a 10-year high. A mentoring program for students is reaching into the Hepburn community to fulfill the demand for mentors. Fundraising for a kitchen renewal project exceeded its goal. On a more poignant note, the college bids farewell to director of donor development Rob Neufeld and ministry arts director Paul Woodburn at the end of the school year.

♦ Like Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, Redberry Bible Camp director Jeff Siemens “can’t stop talking about what God is doing.” The camp served 950 children in 2011, with a growing percentage coming from non-Christian homes. Westbank Bible Camp still has capacity for more growth, but it’s starting a satellite location on Lake Diefenbaker. Director Jerry Dennill challenged pastors and youth pastors to get involved in camps: “Your churches are the only follow-up program that will work.”

MCC Sask. director Claire Ewert Fisher used her time for an impassioned plea for MBs to attend the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “Reconciliation happens in a lot of small ways; now is the time to listen.”

—Karla Braun

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