Tag Archives: Winnipeg

Jocelyn R. Plett: Scandalous

by Jocelyn R. Plett

The Author of life writes scandalous stories. Human expectation of God—zeal for God’s name even!—is often turned it on its head, frequently to the deep consternation of His most fervent followers. It seems to me that, when God is leading, even 180-degree turns and paradigm shifts (perhaps more accurately, paradigm shatters!) are not only not abnormal, they should be expected!

Think of a virgin bearing the Christ child (Matt. 1:23). A devout Jew eating unclean foods (Acts 10:1-23). A zealous-for-God Pharisee (Acts 22:3) switching from “breathing murderous threats about the followers of Jesus” (Acts 9:1) to becoming their most fervent leader. The King of the Universe dying a criminal’s death. These are stories of God doing things in a way that went against His own followers’ expectations.

What is the implication for me within this realization? It’s the bothersome revelation that perhaps a comfortable life doing the good things is not what God has planned for me. I’m convicted that I might be following the expected and acceptable methods of doing His will and not actually following Him.

Because, Church, what if Jesus asks me to do things I perceive are unwise, or not in keeping with being a good steward? What if Jesus leads me down a path that I feel is scandalous? Will I be willing to follow?

I must look for Christ and trust that where He leads me, through new and uncomfortable reading of Scripture, being in tune with the Spirit within me, trusting He will bring me to revolutionary new places of His glory. Unless, of course, I prefer my comfortable “this is the way we’ve always done it” theology.

One thing I’ve learned in my term abroad is that the risks of following Jesus down scandalous paths are worth it because it’s these risks we take for His name that display to us His greatest glory.

In our search for a new church here in Winnipeg we seem to have been led to one which does things in ways, I confess, I would previously have disdained. Yet we sense the Spirit saying to us, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). Do I listen to what I believe is the Spirit, or to my old understanding of the way church “should” be done? I’ve been convicted to step out into new and disquieting territory and expect God to reveal Himself there in new and disquieting ways. Thrilling ways!

jrplett
Jocelyn R. Plett

We made our move from Madagascar with great petition for the Lord to reveal the place He wanted to plant us. I believe He has done this. It is at once unfathomably lovely and disturbingly different than what I expected! So, what exactly were my expectations built on?

Lord, let me not be afraid to follow You rather than the methods and expectations I’ve become comfortable with. Give us the courage to listen to the Spirit of Truth within us, to steep in Your Word, and walk the path You call us to despite the perception of scandal.

Andrew Reimer: Journeying in a Good Way

by Andrew Reimer

WINNIPEGCan a person be both fully Indigenous and fully Christian? What does that look like? Are there legitimate boundaries to contextualization? If so, who sets those boundaries? How can Christian ministries present Jesus in a good or better way?

The Ma’wa’chi’hi’to’tan: Journeying in a Good Way conference in Winnipeg this February was an opportunity to journey together with Indigenous leaders who have faced these and other questions. The event was geared for First Nations Christians and for non-Indigenous ministry practitioners among First Nations people.

Ma’wa’chi’hi’to’tan is Plains Cree for “let us gather together.” About 230 people, representing over 60 different organizations and including Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, spent two days together learning, sharing, crying and laughing. Several EMCers attended the conference and others volunteered in the kitchen.

Leaders from Indigenous Pathways were invited to present at this conference. It is an Indigenous-led community of ministries (NAIITS, iEmergence, My People, and Wiconi) supporting Indigenous people and raising awareness among non-Indigenous people (indigenouspathways.com). The presenters were Terry Leblanc (Mi’kmaq/Acadian), Ray Aldred (Cree), Cheryl Bear (Nadleh Whut’en), Wendy Beauchemin Peterson (Red River Métis), and Howard Jolly (James Bay Cree).

Plenary and workshop topics included Indigenous Values and Teachings, Contextualization: How Christianity Translates into Cultures, and Mentoring and Role Modelling Leadership while Respecting Indigenous Peoples. The weekend included a Blanket Exercise (an experiential learning activity about the history of colonization in Canada), times of storytelling, music, culturally contextual worship, and a feast.

The event was sponsored by Inner City Youth Alive and hosted at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church in Winnipeg’s North End. I had the honour of leading the planning and organizing of this gathering together with our executive director Kent Dueck, another teammate, and a partnership of leaders from First Nations Commnity Church, North End Family Centre, Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, and Indigenous Pathways.

As a planning committee we saw the need for Christian ministries to become more intentional about how we minister among Indigenous people and as we walk with friends who are wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus as an Indigenous person. Given Christian mission’s harmful legacy with Indigenous people, how can we engage in evangelism, pastoral care, worship, faith community, discipleship and nurturing leadership among Indigenous people in ways that are reconciling and liberating? How can Indigenous people find healing freedom to follow Jesus in culturally meaningful ways?

In the months leading up to the event the response was overwhelming. Clearly, these questions and issues have struck a chord among evangelical Christians serving among First Nations people as well as First Nations Christians themselves.

The presenters tackled difficult issues with both heart and skill, drawing from their extensive ministry and theological experience. They incorporated their personal stories as well as key missiological principles and deep theological engagement. The teaching was stretching for many attendees and uncomfortable for some. Attendees came away from the conference encouraged and equipped with new insights as well as with some unanswered questions that require further reflection and dialogue.

Many attendees felt that this was a conversation long overdue. There was a strong desire to continue the conversation and spread these insights to others in the Church. An Indigenous woman who attended the conference said, “For the first time, I see a stream in the church where First Nations people can walk.”

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) is a community minister with Inner City Youth Alive.

Andrew Reimer, Winnipeg: Changing My Mind

by Andrew Reimer

Winnipeg—Like many of you, I grew up not knowing many Indigenous people, having absorbed the stereotypes and superior attitudes most settler Canadians consciously or unconsciously hold towards our Indigenous neighbours.

However, over the past 15 years living and serving in Winnipeg’s North End, a predominantly Aboriginal inner city neighbourhood, my wife Amie and I have been blessed by wonderful friendships with our neighbours who have entrusted us with their life experiences, hopes, joys and sorrows.

When we begin to see our First Nations neighbours as friends and family, it becomes much more difficult to distance ourselves from their grief and pain.

I have been invited to sit and pray at the hospital bedsides of friends in their times of vulnerability.  I have grieved with families at wakes and funerals, sometimes of beloved elders or of loved ones who died too young.  Teen gang members in jail—guys judged, condemned and written off by pretty much everyone—have entrusted us with their stories and their longings for God to help them change.

Residential school survivors have shared with me experiences that they have only begun to talk about after 50 years. Meanwhile, most of the youth and young adults I know are experiencing the intergenerational effects of the trauma their grandparents suffered.

Some of our friends have expressed disconnection, confusion and even shame about their Aboriginal identities, while some are holding onto and reclaiming their cultural identities, values and traditions.  I have listened as friends have voiced sadness anger about the injustices and continued oppression and suffering of their people.

Questions come up about where God is in all this.  I have talked with people who are struggling to reconcile faith in Jesus with their Indigenous identity.

I have had the privilege of learning from First Nations leaders what the Good News of Jesus sounds like from an Indigenous perspective. I have discovered the good news of a colonized, rejected and suffering Jesus who identifies with the experience of Aboriginal people.

Friends of mine have modelled trust in God and love for Jesus and have made courageous, against-the-flow choices because of their commitment to Christ. Indigenous youth have been amazing examples of compassion and generosity.

God has been changing my mind about First Nations people. Changing my mind means taking a posture of humility and prioritizing relationship, facing my paternalistic impulses to see people as problems that I need to fix, asking uncomfortable questions about who has the power in our relationships.

It means listening in order to understand and to value a different way of life, to laugh at myself, to not excuse the fact that my people thrive while my Aboriginal friends struggle.

I am saddened by the great rift of pain, mistrust, and misunderstanding that still exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Settler people tend to value “solutions” and “results” but too often rush towards our idea of solutions to First Nations issues when what we really need to do is take time to develop relationships and build trust with First Nations people. For me, this has meant humbly coming near to Indigenous neighbours listening, grieving, learning and relating on the level of our common humanity.

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) serves as a community minister in Winnipeg’s North End with Inner City Youth Alive.