Church may be ‘on to something’

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During ‘Sabbath rest’ Whitewater Mennonite discovers ‘just how few things are really necessary’

By Canadian Mennonite Staff,

It’s been six months since Whitewater Mennonite Church in Boissevain, Man., laid aside its committee work, to rest, read Scripture, and engage in prayer and fellowship with one another as part of the congregation’s year-long “Sabbath rest.”

“All decisions or work that is deemed ‘nonessential’ has been deferred for the year and all other necessary issues and decisions are discussed at monthly congregational meetings,” explains pastor Judith Doell.

“In Leviticus 25, God’s people were instructed to observe a year of jubilee; a year of Sabbath rest away from the regular work of getting ahead, and a year where freedom and release became the main activities of the community,” she says, adding, “We at Whitewater Mennonite Church wondered what a year of jubilee might look like in our context. What would it look like in our context to stop our regular church work, and seek a new sense of freedom and release in our life together?”

A year ago, Doell told Canadian Mennonite that the decision to explore a new approach was because the church structure had become too cumbersome.

Since the year of jubilee was proclaimed last September, work that the congregation mutually determines as “essential” is accomplished through voluntary sign-up sheets.

“Our motto through all this is: ‘If no one signs up, we just don’t do it,’?” Doell says. “This is accompanied by: ‘No judging!’ If someone is not volunteering their gifts this year, we will assume they need a Sabbath rest.”

To the congregation’s surprise, Doell says Whitewater Mennonite is discovering “just how few things are really necessary.”

“We might actually be on to something,” she suggests. “Didn’t Jesus say to Martha, ‘You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her’ [Luke 10:41-42]? We are trying to learn what it means to sit at the Lord’s feet.”

From a release by Whitewater Mennonite Church and files from Manitoba correspondent Evelyn Rempel Petkau.

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