CAMP CEDARWOOD, Man.—I’ve had multiple opportunities to attend retreats in the past; they’ve always been something to look forward to. Retreats have always given me chances to unplug, relax, and focus on my relationship with Jesus that don’t always occur otherwise. I’m happy to report that I, as well as many others that I spoke with, were able to do the same during TRU 2018.
TRU is the biennial youth leaders’ retreat for our conference, and this year included groups from as far away as Alberta and B.C. I personally had not been involved in youth ministry since 2010/2011 and had never attended TRU before. Together we met at Camp Cedarwood to share meals, times of worship and knowledge with one another in the form of Saturday morning workshops, as well as informal times spent in conversation.
Lloyd and Carol Letkeman (MB Mission), whom many might know from their work with SOAR Heartland, a youth missions program in Winnipeg, were kind enough to spend the weekend with us, sharing on the theme Are You Thirsty? Both Carol and Lloyd taught during our daily sessions, inviting us to revisit passages in John when Jesus spoke about living water.
In John 7:37-38, Jesus invited people: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Carol challenged us on Friday night, asking, “What do we need to lay down, in order to receive, so that we may then give to others?” It was a question for the weekend ahead, but also for the coming year of youth.
On Saturday morning we had the opportunity to learn from local leaders and speakers in our conference on topics such as Surviving Life with Annoying People and Blind Spots in Ministry, to name a few. I chose to attend the workshop on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury as well as Experiencing God. In our work with youth, there are occasions when we need to support students through mental health issues that could result in them self-injuring. Heidi Dirks was able to walk us through some of the underlying issues and give us advice on how to best support our youth in those difficult times.
Through my conversations with my own church team as well as others, I found that many of us had similar goals for the weekend. We had all looked forward to the time to bond with one another; on youth nights we are often so busy leading and talking to the youth that we don’t have much time to get to know one another. The time to rest, relax, talk, and play games with others was very valued.
The time was also useful for sharing between other groups, to find the similarities and differences of how they run their youth nights, and even to compare how different our demographics are depending on location. That time spent in community was certainly a highlight for me, as well as the opportunity to refocus our goals for the youth this coming year.
Caitlin Dyck is a volunteer youth leader at Steinbach EMC.
MacGREGOR, Man. – Several factors led to a workshop on mental health taking place at MacGregor EMC on April 28. Pastor Russell Doerksen is a member of the EMC Board of Church Ministries (BCM), which decided to provide a focus on mental health during 2018. Consequently recent issues of The Messenger featured articles on the theme.
At a ministerial meeting the pastor introduced the idea of sponsoring such a workshop in our church. The ministerial readily approved, as did the church board. Contact with the BCM resulted in their offering to provide workshop leaders for the event.
Pastor Russell opened the workshop, welcoming the 41 persons present, almost half of whom were from outside our church. Daniel Dacombe, the first of four presenters, led an informative session relating the ABC’s of mental health issues. He noted a rather alarming trend among Canadian youth, stating that an increasing number of Canadian teens are experiencing symptoms of mental illness.
Peter and Irene Ascough followed with a helpful session focusing on tips and activities to maintain one’s mental health. Their comments, based on their training and experience, demonstrated that preventing an illness is preferable to trying to cure one.
Following a lunch break of pizza, salad, and fruit, Heidi Dirks’ session for adults only dealt with mental imbalance among youth that can lead to incidences of self-harm. The day closed with group discussions, using case studies to develop strategies to talk to troubled youth and seek help for them.
Those participating in the workshop agreed it was a day well spent. Already there is talk of holding more such workshops elsewhere in the community.
MacGREGOR, Man.—Some ministers, leaders, and members from EMC churches in south-central and south-eastern Manitoba gathered at MacGregor EMC on May 26, 2018, to discuss how we hear from God.
Abe Bergen, EMC moderator and moderator of the event, welcomed those gathered. Russell Doerksen explained that the event was co-hosted by EMC churches in MacGregor and Blumenort to explore how we discern God’s will. It came in the aftermath of SBC’s decision to cancel the Leadership Conference where Dr. Phillip Cary was scheduled to speak. Discussion remained needed.
The afternoon was peaceful and a valuable sharing of opinions. Though Cary was rarely mentioned, his position formed a backdrop to the event.
A Cacophony of Voices
Jeff Thiessen, a former church moderator and a former pastor, and currently a deacon (MacGregor), spoke of how there is a need to discern together in light of Scripture to pick out the voices that are unbiblical and unfaithful. It’s wrong to say “the Lord told me” as though that ends the conversation. Relatives, co-workers, and friends influence us. Some voices oppose God while clothed as angels of light or quoting Scripture; others oppose God openly. Neither he nor Cary is cessasionist—a form of dispensational theology. They believe in the active work of the Spirit.
We do not move beyond the experience of Jesus who, after baptism, was in the wilderness 40 days where he heard a scripture-quoting voice who was not God. Post-Pentecost we need to be discerning as the Spirit’s still small voice exists among other voices. There is a constant cacophony of voices in the Church. Cancelling the Leadership Conference, an event of discussion, was wrong.
Scripture and God’s Initiative
Alain Reimer, a minister at Blumenort, drew upon 1 Tim. 6 to remind those gathered that God dwells in unapproachable light and we are to avoid irrelevant babble. God speaks through His Word, the biblical canon. There is concern when young people read Scripture and yet think they have not heard from God—a misconception. Scripture is the mode of communication that trumps all others.
God speaks through his people. Prophecy continues as the proclamation of God’s acts through speech to others. It did not end with the apostolic age or the closing of the canon. God speaks through dreams, visions, and internal promptings, though Scripture does not make this the usual way. In Acts 16 Paul received a vision of a call to Macedonia and, in decades of ministry, had God speak to him in a dream only four times. Paul did not wait for revelation before acting. Most times he chose a sensible route of missionary travel influenced by geography.
Dreams, visions, and internal promptings are based on God’s initiative and are clear. They come on God’s initiative, not sitting and waiting for God. We are to say, “Here am I” when God speaks, not speak to God and expect Him to reply.
Consider Broader Theology
Garry Koop, senior pastor at Steinbach EMC, distributed copies of the EMC Statement of Faith and a hand out with questions. He then was silent for 30 seconds before wondering what went on inside the heads of those gathered. Who’s talking? Does God have a voice? Does he speak outside of the Bible? What do we expect him to say? Is our internal life part of his domain? In Matthew 5-7 Jesus brings out that our internal life is at least as important as our external life.
Doctrine is needed before application. There is a need to consider our views of Scripture, Trinity, Christ, salvation, and the Spirit. Under what conditions is it possible for our doctrines and beliefs to change? In looking at EMC statements of faith from the 1950s until today, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is fairly consistent. Yet we get stuck. How many sermons do we hear on the Holy Spirit in the EMC? There are lots of sermons on Jesus. There is fear of extremism, of Pentecostal stuff. The Holy Spirit gives strength, convicts, and illuminates. He speaks generally and to the children of God. Discerning the Spirit requires prayer and humility.
Moderator Abe Bergen summarized the three views as presented through “different lenses”: Jeff Thiessen focused on the need to discern in community, Alain Reimer concentrated on the biblical text, and Garry Koop emphasized theology. At CMU Bergen learned the skill of “listening for other languages.” He uses language as an Anabaptist-Mennonite Evangelical yet found other traditions say the same thing in different words. If we don’t listen beyond the words, we miss the meaning and people talk past each other rather than with each other.
Question and Answer Periods
After each presentation there was a time for questions and comments by listeners and presenters. After the coffee break, there was a general discussion. Here are some questions and comments:
How do discern together as a church? (Small groups are needed.)
How do we recognize whether people who say, “I have a calling” might be mentally deluded? (The community of faith is needed to discern.)
Can we diminish the Holy Spirit if we not prepared? How important is the posture? (Paul does not wait; he serves. God can break in for a specific direction.)
It is damaging to use listening prayer among people who are not mature in the faith; they might wrongly think others are better.
There is concern that personal preference can be confused with God’s will.
Get moving. God can close doors.
“The Lord told me” has been used to break up an “old boys club.” Discernment should not be used to squelch dissent.
Feeling an urge, applied to missions organizations and a northern school board which did not reply; when a door opened, walked through it.
In Acts 16, when Paul heard from the Lord, the church talked about it.
Didn’t have a problem with Carey’s article even after rereading it. Felt led to study at SBI; it resulted in a change of life that, 60 years later, isn’t regretted.
Language is an issue; vocabulary is an issue. Being filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom are not opposites. In John 14 the Holy Spirit highlights Jesus.
Grew up in a Pentecostal church where there was much taught on the Spirit, less on Christ. Has observed caution within the EMC about the Holy Spirit.
The Jerusalem council of Acts 15 used the language of “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” that did not dictate certainty.
Closing Thoughts By Moderator
Abe Bergen said the Church has grappled with how to discern hearing from God throughout history. We develop responses based on what happens to us. Don’t be afraid of someone saying, “God told me,” but discern what it means. Some people will hear from God more than he does. He’s okay with that. He does not want to diminish or quench the Holy Spirit in their lives. This has been a really good conversation with conflicting points of view, and more views will come out in Theodidaktos, “and that will be fantastic.” The moderator thanked Barry Plett and Russell Doerksen and all involved for this event.
Note: Some of Jeff Thiessen’s position is presented in Theodidaktos (June 2018), though the Journal’s contents and the MacGregor-Blumenort event were planned independently. The presentations by Jeff Thiessen, Alain Reimer, and Garry Koop will be available on the MacGregor EMC website.
MACGREGOR, Man.—Want to talk about mental health or how to help struggling young people? Then a workshop on Sat., April 28, co-sponsored by the MacGregor EMC and the EMC Mental Health Initiative 2018, will interest you.
A Mental Health Workshop: Promoting Wellness and Helping Youthwill be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the MacGregor EMC, in MacGregor, Man., 90 minutes west of Winnipeg. The cost for the event is $20 (lunch included). No pre-registration is required.
The morning sessions, to which everyone is welcome, focus on Mental Health For All Ages. Dan Dacombe will speak on Youth and Mental Health Issues, and Peter and Irene Ascough will lead on Soul Care and Your Mental Health. The afternoon sessions, restricted to adults, will focus on Mental Health and Youth. Heidi Dirks will lead a session on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Youth and a group discussion will be held on Strategies to Talk to Youth.
This workshop is part of a year-long Mental Health Initiative (MHI) within the Evangelical Mennonite Conference that is focused on promoting mental health. The MHI Committee consists of Peter and Irene Ascough, Irma Janzen, Dan Dacombe, and Heidi Dirks. All are involved in counselling, pastoral, or nursing ministries.
People from no church and all denominations are welcome to attend. For information, call MacGregor EMC at 204-685-2293 or the EMC National Office at 204-326-6401 or see www.macgregoremc.com/events
Note for Church Bulletins
A Mental Health Workshop: Promoting Wellness and Helping Youth will be held on Saturday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the MacGregor EMC, in MacGregor, Man., west of Winnipeg. $20 (lunch included). No pre-registration required. Topics include Youth and Mental Health Issues (open to all), Soul Care and Your Mental Health (open to all), Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Youth (adults only) and a discussion on Strategies to Talk to Youth (adults only). It’s part of a year-long EMC Mental Health Initiative. Everyone welcome. For info, 204-685-2293, 204-326-6401,www.macgregoremc.com/events
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference