By Gerald D. Reimer, Director of Youth and Discipleship
For some students and leaders Abundant Springs 2019 will be remembered as the weekend when they gave their lives to Jesus, they committed to reading their Bible more faithfully, they won the basketball tournament, they worshipped Jesus with thanksgiving, they confirmed in their hearts a desire to get baptized, and so much more. Continue reading Dozens of God Moments Bring Tears of Thankfulness→
I think the EMC has a rich history and a solid present reality that we need to talk about. In terms of diversity, we have members who speak Spanish, Mandarin, or Tagalog as well as English, Low German or High German. Numerous EMC churches work with Indigenous people on neighbouring reserves. We have churches that range from being quite conservative in practice and worship to those who would be less conservative and more contemporary in worship. We have a conference that works together in relative unity within that diversity of culture and language. Continue reading Why I’m Glad to be an EMCer→
by Earl Unger, Vice Chair, Canadian Church Planting Task Force
Reporting on church planting is like a Jets fan talking about his young, but improving hockey team. Following them still hurts sometimes, but increasingly their swift skating, fancy stickwork, and deft puck handling thrills even the most jaded heart.
So, it is regarding our efforts at extending the Kingdom through church planting. Here’s what I mean.
We currently have ten church plants and outreach ministries, in varying degrees of maturation, stretching across Western Canada.
We have church plants in Redcliffe/Medicine Hat and Two Hills, Alberta, both reaching into what are primarily Low German-speaking communities.
Among our other church starts, we have two Spanish churches in Calgary and Dauphin. The latter has not had a full-time church planter since January 2018 because of a lack of growth and sustainability after four years of ministry.
Meanwhile, Iglesia Emmanuel of Calgary, a young church itself, is working hard at establishing another Spanish church in the city of Airdrie, just north of Calgary. We also support a Spanish outreach project emanating from the Aberdeen EMC in north Winnipeg. This is currently led by Angel and Blanca Infantes. It has grown to around 60 people.
These are all exciting ventures, but there are more. The Many Rooms Church Community in the Spence community of Winnipeg continues to grow, effectively reaching the inner city through a network of six house churches.
A further indication of God’s blessing is the recent addition of the Logos Church of Winnipeg, a Chinese church plant. They have hired Jabez Lee as their pastor. They are receiving significant support from our Fort Garry church, as this is where the Logos church meets; and associate Pastor Len Harms is mentoring Pastor Lee and the church leadership. Len also preaches there monthly.
It should be noted that the Canadian Church Planting Task Force also provides funds to Fort Garry EMC to support an outreach project, led by Pastor Len, on the campus of the University of Manitob.
Another exciting outreach project we are supporting is the work of Simon and Joy Kim, members of the Pelly church. They are actively reaching out to two nearby First Nations communities, Keesekoose and Cote. This began through the vision of Pastor Frankie Kim at Pelly Fellowship Chapel.
Beyond the ten ministries already mentioned, we are also excited about what is happening at Ste Agathe, Manitoba. For the past number of years the Rosenort EM Church has been reaching out to this neighbouring community. This work is progressing and Pastor Scott and Debbie Dyck of the Rosenort EMC are praying about relocating to Ste. Agathe to aid these efforts.
As you can see, the church planting efforts under the EMC umbrella are expanding and increasing in influence. I hope this report has provided an increased understanding of the exciting, ethnically diverse, and ever-evolving scope of our church planting in Canada. We are looking and praying and seeking the Lord to send us more workers because the need for people to know Jesus is huge (Luke 10:2).
We know you care. But still you may be wondering how you can do more to assist in this important work. Here are a few suggestions. For one, you can pray. Pray for our church planting coordinator Charlie Koop and our Church Planting Task Force, but, most importantly, pray for these churches and ministries and the people who lead them.
And secondly, if you would be so led of God, consider financially supporting the work of the Canadian Church Planting Task Force through giving to the Church Planters and Training Fund.
A bit of sad news was shared during conference council: the Cornerstone Fellowship Church was closing in June 2017. While we accept this reality, we prefer to focus on and thank the Lord for the congregation’s many years of ministry.
The congregation began services in 1958, formally organized in 1962, and closed in June 2017. It originally began as the Swift Current EMC, an extension of the Wymark EMC located at nearby Chortitz that was started through a revival among Sommerfelder Mennonites in 1958.
When some people affected by the revival moved to Swift Current, they began to hold Thursday night services at the rented Southside Hall in 1959. In August 1959 the former Mennonite Brethren church in Swift Current was purchased and a Sunday School, in German, was started. The first Sunday morning service was on 29 November 1959.
There was a desire to establish a church in Swift Current for the many people who were relocating into the city from the rural churches in the area. From the outset, the church provided biblically based teaching to many people from Low German background. The congregation provided a witness and a place for people to grow in their Christian faith.
K.P. Unger was the first worker, being sent in 1960, with the outreach being jointly that of the Wymark EMC and the EMC Board of Missions. The church became formally organized and autonomous in January 1962 within the Evangelical Mennonite Conference.
Through much of its history the language of worship was English; the transition from German occurred in the 1960s. For at least two decades the congregation provided a manse for their pastor.
After forming, the church enjoyed an extended period of spiritual and numerical growth, moving from their original building into a larger facility to provide for the expanding ministries. Many EMC missionaries and pastors originated from the Swift Current and Wymark churches, and some were still serving as of 2017.
Eventually, the congregation relocated to the former Swift Current Bible Institute campus, which was the location of the 2002 EMC Convention. Unfortunately, the campus required extensive repairs and maintenance and became a drain on the church. It was sold in 2012.
Several attempts to revitalize the church were unsuccessful. In 2003 the congregation decided to rename the church to the Cornerstone Fellowship Church. In the last several years, they have had two pastors on staff in an effort to reignite the church in the community. They have provided a vibrant children’s program in the past several years.
In March 2017 the congregation made the decision to shut down operations as of June 30, 2017. The EMC General Board was made aware of this decision and accepted the decision of the church with sadness. While it was disappointing to see a church close its doors, there was gratitude for the many years of vibrant ministry of the Cornerstone Fellowship Church in the community of Swift Current. The ministry of the Cornerstone Fellowship Church of over 57 years had a positive impact for the Kingdom of God and for that God is praised.
Resources: Canadian Mennonite (Aug. 22, 1958): 1; Unpublished history, 2 pp. Mennonite Historical Society of Canada collection, Mennonite Archives of Ontario; Tim Dyck interview with Rev. Lester Olfert, 2017; D. K. Schellenberg, “Swift Current Church Profile,” The Messenger (Sept. 23, 1983): 5-7.
K.P. Unger, 1960-1961
Ben and Henrietta Friesen, 1962-1965
Dave and Lydia Dueck, 1965-1972
Milton and Gladys Fast, 1972-1977
Cornie Kehler, lay minister, 1977-1978 (interim pastor)
John and Tina Toews, 1978-1989
Lester Olfert, 1975-78, 1989-1992 (associate, senior)
John Taylor, 1992-1997
Mel and Mary Koop, 1999-2003
Randall and Faith Krahn, 2004-2009
Bryon and Janice Bezanson, 1999-2017 (youth, associate, senior)
Michael Vanderswaag, 2015-2017 (associate)
Cornie Janzen, 1963-
Jake Funk, 1975-
Note: This article is partly based on an earlier article by Marlene Epp (GAMEO, 1989).
by Kimberly Muehling, Paul Walker, and Jessica Wichers, EMC Worship Committee
In the Apostles’ Creed, we agree that we belong to the “holy catholic” church. What does this mean? Are we saying that we are part of the Roman Catholic Church? What does “catholic” mean anyways?
Let’s unpack the grammar first.
Written in Latin sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, “holy” and “catholic” are adjectives (descriptive). Church is the noun (the thing). So, the church is holy: devoted to the service of God and morally and spiritually excellent, and catholic: including a wide variety of things; all-embracing (see Oxford Living Dictionary).
The exact origin of the Apostles’ Creed has been rather lost to the haze of history. By the 9th century AD, when Charlemagne imposed the version we use today, it was already accepted throughout Christendom. The earlier (AD 381) version of the Nicene Creed uses the phrase “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” As there was only a loose conglomeration of churches at the time, many with differing theology, the council of Nicaea could only have meant the universal church.
Even Martin Luther spoke of and to the church as one general group as he experienced it. While he directed criticism to the Pope and traditional practices, the church was simply the general population. Theological barriers have since gone up on all sides and we now identify ourselves as members of specific church groups, but it is important to recognize that we are still one (albeit messy and often dysfunctional) family in Christ. Karl Barth explains, “The church is universal because it is not limited by any barrier, either of state or of race or of culture” (The Faith of the Church, Wipf and Stock, rep. 2006, 117).
So, reading “holy” and “catholic” as adjectives is very different from agreeing to believe in the Catholic Church. If you capitalize the words, you are implying a proper noun, which would mean the actual organization known as the Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly, within the Roman Catholic Catechism both the adjective and the proper noun are employed. In direct discussion about the Apostles’ Creed, they use the adjective. However, later in the additions from the Second Vatican Council they use the proper noun (Catechism, 1993, see sections 750, 816-819). This change came about gradually as part of the Counter-Reformation.
As the use of catholic is not common in everyday language, some churches have moved to the use of other synonyms in its place, such as global, universal, or diverse. The current Lutheran Service Book uses “holy Christian Church.” While in Living in God’s Kingdom uses “holy catholic church,” EMC churches are free to use different phrasing at their own discretion. After all, we are all translating.
So, however we use the Apostles’ Creed, with our handy lowercase letters, we can freely and confidently agree to participating in the holy catholic church alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ “from every nation, and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev. 7:9 NRSV).
Kimberly Muehling (Fort Garry), Pastor Paul Walker (Roseisle), and Jessica Wichers (EFC Steinbach) serve on the EMC Worship Committee under the authority of the Board of Church Ministries. See the Worship Committee’s article Using the Apostles’ Creed in Worship (Jan. 2017).
The Vision Statement of the EMC specifically states that we want to focus on urban areas for church planting. That’s a bit of a departure from our usual way of doing things. To help us make it happen the Church Planting Task Force has been pursuing a relationship with C2C, and an official agreement has just been made.
C2C is a church planting organization with extensive experience in urban church planting. It has staff in all the major Canadian cities who are available to support EMC church planters. They also work with prospective church planters to help them assess their abilities for church planting and to coach them in growing those abilities.
Another benefit of our association is the annual gatherings organized by C2C. These are a tremendous boost for church planters as they are able to network and learn from each other as well as enjoying the teaching provided. Our agreement with C2C has been in the works for a number of years so we are very excited about arriving at this point.
Along with that development we are also hearing God call us to join his work in a number of communities.
One of these is our growing association with a Chinese group meeting at Fort Garry EMC. Fort Garry is supporting and assisting this young church of approximately 20 believers and another 20 or so seekers. It is really exciting for us to think of having our first Chinese EMC church!
We are also thrilled that God has answered our prayer and brought a church planter couple to Two Hills, Alta. John and Helen Froese, who recently returned from ministry in Bolivia, have committed to a two-year term serving as pastoral couple to this young church group. There are six committed couples at Living Faith Fellowship with a lot of energy to grow this church and be involved in their community.
Another ministry opportunity has developed in Airdrie, Alta., where the Emanuel church family has been leading a Bible study. It has developed to the point that they are prepared to launch this church plant in fall of 2016. There are five committed families in Airdrie, including two leadership couples from Emanuel. This will be a real challenge for Emanuel both financially and in the “loss” of leadership.
There are additional possibilities developing in Winnipeg and communities around Winnipeg so stand by for more to follow.
Seeing new church plants develop like this generates a lot of enthusiasm for us. If it draws you, why not go to c2cnetwork.ca and find out if you’re called to be part of church planting or call me for information specific to the EMC.
We’d also love to have you partner with us financially by contributing to the Church Planting Training and Support Fund through the EMC office; and always, of course, continue to pray that God will grow his church in Canada and the world, and that we can be a part of this.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference