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Vision 20/20: Next Steps Apr 24, 2019

posted 5 Jun 2019, 21:20 by June Miller, MCA Communications

Vision 20/20: Next Steps

Prepared by the MC Alberta Reference Group, April 24, 2019

Background

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner) What is MCA’s deep gladness? What is the world’s deep hunger?

As seasons change and one generation makes space for another, the deep hunger of the world also changes. What is the world’s deep hunger today? What we know is this: We are living in what is believed to be the loneliest time in history; mental health issues are on the rise, and the yearning for inner rest is profound. The world’s deep hunger can be summarized as a longing for meaning, purpose and belonging. This longing is not just in the world “out there,” it is also a longing in our pews!

Alongside the world’s deep longing, we are observing a fresh openness to wonder and mystery. The world’s longing is a profound and even urgent missional moment for the church: Meaning, purpose and belonging have been at the center of the church’s deep gladness. We believe in a God to whom we belong and in whom we also belong to one another! This gives meaning and purpose to our lives. What would it look like for MCA to claim (or re-claim) its sense of meaning, purpose and belonging? What would it look like for each congregation in MCA to do so? How would this reclaiming define our congregations and drive our relationships with our neighbours near and far? What would happen when our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger would meet?

As MCA, we have been on a renewal journey entitled Vision 20/20. All renewal journeys are first and foremost spiritual journeys; they are a time of deepening and coming close to God. This has also been true for us: Over this year we have listened for the place to which God is calling us. We have sought to understand both the world’s longing and our deep gladness. The following report shares where we have been, where we are at on the journey so far and where we are headed.

Where we have been

The MCA Vision 2020 journey began in September 2018 with a survey. The closing summary of the survey results stated the following: In summary, we love the church and see many signs of hope. We enjoy worshipping and fellowshipping together. We appreciate the diversity within our congregations and within MCA. We value relationships, the care and support we show each other, and the sense of belonging we find within our congregations. We are energized by service opportunities and projects, and are encouraged to see young people engage with these. We are filled with hope by stories of how the good news is transforming peoples’ lives, and we look for more ways to spread the gospel. We affirm the MCA priorities to equip congregations and train leaders, and build more connections between MCA congregations. We recognize the importance of the Camp Valaqua ministry, and see this as a main point of connection for MCA churches.

We also recognize the challenges facing our congregations, MCA, and the wider church in the context of the current time we are in. We have questions about how we will sustain MCA ministries within the new MC Canada structure. Nonetheless, our commitment to the church is strong and we continue to trust in God’s Spirit to guide us. Rooted in Anabaptism, we are committed to the gospel and willing to following in Christ’s footsteps, wherever they may lead. As one person stated:I firmly believe the church is the body of Christ visible and active in the world today. I believe that life within the church can be difficult, but life outside the church is not what Christ envisioned.”

We followed the survey with a gathering in November 2018. During that event we considered the role of the church in the context of the world’s deep longing in the midst of 21st Century dynamics. We explored the discipline of prayer, the rhythms of renewal and with MCA pastors, ten indicators of thriving congregations for the time we are living in. Many found this event worshipful and inspiring. Each person was sent away with an invitation to pray and to listen for how God was calling MCA. When we gathered again in March 2019, we wrestled and discerned together. We concluded that MCA and its people are being called to pursue five essential themes:

1.      Prayer & Prayer Practices (Scripture reading, leaning on God’s love for MCA; noticing where God is at work)

2.      Core Commitments + Engagement with Deep Longings (love of God & neighbour, place to ask questions & bring real issues, study MWC core convictions)

3.      Deep Community (sheltering tree and adoption imagery for inclusion; multi-age, multicultural, youth, camp; ecumenism)

4.      Character (kindness, forgiveness, welcome; claim who we are)

5.      MCA Ministries (Camp, Muslim-Christian dialogue, pastor supports; share stories between congregations; share prayer needs, learnings, struggles)

We also brainstormed many different ideas for how MCA can lean into these themes.

Where we are going

As congregations, we are inviting you to continue in prayer over the coming months. As an overarching theme, we ask for prayers for guidance as we discern God’s calling together. More focused requests for prayer related to our identified themes will be sent out in coming months.

The Reference Group will be working with the outcomes of the collective discernment in March and wrestling further, asking, “What does it mean to live into the themes we have discerned?” You will be hearing more from us over the summer and in the fall in this regard.

Our next Vision 20/20 event will be November 1 (evening) and 2 at Calgary First Mennonite. All of MCA is invited to come to celebrate our commitment to one another and to God, to affirm directions for MCA and, most importantly, to practice together the discipline of being the people of God together. Please plan to have representatives present from your congregation.

We thank you for your ongoing prayers, engagement, and participation in our Vision 20/20 process of renewal. May God allow us to see clearly the way ahead!

In Christ,

The MCA Reference Group:

Debbie Baergen, Tracy Brown-Ewert. Kate Janzen, June Miller, Paul Neufeldt, Tim Wiebe-Neufeld, Betty Pries

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