As one who is preparing for the upcoming Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Calgary, I have had the theme, “Reclaiming Jesus™: Gladly wear the name,” on my mind for months.
As well as organizing and collaborating with a wonderful team of volunteers in Calgary, my colleagues and I have been on a spiritual journey with Colossians 3: 15-17. As we’ve listened to those ancient words from our current context, a context that can be described as an “age of persuasion,” marketing and branding, we’ve been particularly drawn to verse 17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
What does it mean for us to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus? Set, as this verse is, in a paragraph about clothing ourselves with Christ’s values of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and love, we couldn’t help but think about wearing the name of our Lord Jesus. After all, the name of Jesus represents all those values, and more.
Are we growing into Jesus’ clothes? Is wearing Jesus what “doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” means in an age of marketing and branding? Is the name of Jesus something we can gladly wear on our sleeves? Can it help us “engage the world with the reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ,” as MC Canada’s purpose statement proclaims? We know the world does not always associate the church with these attributes, but this is the identity the church is called to reclaim and grow into.
We look forward to growing into these clothes as a church. Helping us will be a textile art exhibit called “Acts of peace, art for peace.” Planners hope that all ages will participate.
In the children’s assembly, great group leaders with a passion for camping and a core of enthusiastic children will renew old friendships and make new ones. Each year, these children eagerly anticipate the assembly as a family experience.
We are also planning two entirely new components for this year: junior youths will get to participate in intergenerational worship, leadership training and recreational activities; and we are inviting congregations to shoulder tap, encourage, and mentor senior youths from their congregations to attend as youth ambassadors. Youth ambassadors will have mentors and floor privileges during the discernment sessions, as well as getting to participate in some of the recreational and creative activities of the junior youths and young adults.
All ages will have the opportunity to participate in an extensive array of workshops; worship; and discern what it means to be a faithful church in the world today, what it means for seniors and youths to be part of the same church, and what it means to reclaim and gladly wear the name of Jesus as our brand.
Elsie Rempel is MC Canada’s director of Christian education and nurture.