MENNVILLE, Man.—We are thrilled to welcome and also introduce to you our new pastor, Michael Vanderzwaag. He comes to us from the Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Swift Current, Sask.
It is heartwarming to hear the story of his journey and how God called him into ministry and then how that led him to Mennville. He has been with us for only a short time, but it is truly a blessing to see how he fits so perfectly into our lives. We are thankful for his youth and enthusiasm and his willingness to work alongside the present ministerial in our church.
The Installation Service was held on Nov. 12 and it was such a special morning for all of us here. He had his parents Pete and Gloria here as well as Grandma Lorraine for support. Michael, Gloria, and Lorraine also did special music during the offertory. It was beautiful. Thank you so much for that! We also affirmed Michael into the membership during the service.
One of the ministers here, Barry Barkman, chaired the service, and he said there were people to thank for getting us to this point. Thank you to the Pastoral Search Committee who worked hard to find someone and started the process of hiring someone. Thank you to the EM Conference who helped us connect with Michael and guiding and encouraging us. Thank you to the Mennville church family who prayed for this to happen. Thank you to Michael who obeyed the call from God to pursue this small country church called Mennville. Thank you to Layton Friesen, conference pastor, who helped us with the service. It is always a blessing and privilege when he “comes home.” Thank you to God who saw who and what we needed here and opened doors.
Although our numbers have declined in the last number of years because of post secondary schooling and families relocating to bigger centres, we are alive and well and trying to be a light in these troublesome times in our corner of the world.
May you have joy and peace as you serve Him in your corner wherever that might be!
Since 2014 our household has purchased three used cars (one was a victim before its first oil change). Overall, the style of the salesperson we dealt with displays lessons from which young pastors might learn.
When Mary Ann needed a car, she found one she liked. I met her at the dealership. As the salesperson shook my hand, he said, “Hi, I’m Darrell.” I replied, “Hi, I’m not.” A nearby salesperson overheard and laughed.
Darrell was undeterred. Pastors, too, sometimes deal with gruff people who don’t want to be sold something. And perseverance can pay off. (I later told him that if I were hidden in the Himalayas, he would send a person on a yak, or a Sherpa, to pitch a deal.)
Further, he represented a line of products, but when Mary Ann said, “I’m a Chevy girl,” he switched lines and she soon had a car of her choice. Darrell knew the central goal. Similarly, most pastors know the goal is for people to follow Christ with others, not secondary matters.
Finally, during one sale there was a slight discrepancy on a number. Darrell noted and adjusted it. Salespeople and pastors best serve with integrity and credibility. Pastors mustn’t say that believing and following Christ are easy, that all problems will be solved now, or brush aside the failings of the Church.
STEINBACH, Man.—Ralph Unger is serving as EMC Conference Pastor on an interim basis. The Board of Leadership and Outreach appointed him on Sept. 23, 2016, to serve four days a week. Ralph is willing to continue in this role until June 2017 or until a full-time Conference Pastor is appointed.
Ralph is well known within the EMC, having served as a pastor in Winnipeg (Crestview), Birch River, Ridgewood, and most recently as an interim pastor at Rosenort EMC. He has also been the EMC moderator for four years in the mid-nineties. Ralph and his wife Mary Lynn currently attend the St. Vital EMC. We are delighted that Ralph has agreed to serve as Conference Pastor and believe that he will be an encouragement to EMC churches.
The Search Committee is continuing its search for a full-time Conference Pastor. The committee is still receiving applications for this position. Anyone interested is encouraged to submit a resume to Erica Fehr.
“Individual congregations retain full privileges of self-determination within the framework of the Conference Constitution. However, membership in the Conference implies the responsible support of resolutions and programs developed together” (The Constitution, 20). “Self-determination within the framework”—here is the dance between local autonomy and national direction.
Listening to some people talk about self-determination (autonomy), I get confused. Who decides on what it means in practice?
Churches choose their pastors. To be nationally recognized and to vote at national ministerial meetings, though, pastors are to go through the BLO’s examination process. Some churches and pastoral search committees seem unconcerned about the examination process—despite its being designed, in part, for their protection.
Other matters are footwashing, war and peace, women in ministry, baptism and membership, and fundraising. Some will be clarified through the Statement of Faith review. The General Board will guide processes where needed.
Local decisions have an impact. During a joint ministerial meeting in 1941, Prairie Rose announced that only its brethren would vote to select its ministers (Harvey Plett, Seeking to be Faithful, 149). Prairie Rose chose self-autonomy.
Dr. Plett speaks of how this “led to greater autonomy in the local church.” What isn’t mentioned is the precedent’s implication: a local church can move in a direction not yet recognized by the wider body. Other EMC congregations have since followed Prairie Rose’s example, deciding internally about various matters.
The General Board plans to look at conference structures. Perhaps this will clarify the meaning of “self-determination within the framework.”
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference