During the Second World War, guided by the leadership of Pastor André Trocmé, the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and surrounding regions hid Jews who were fleeing from the Nazis. A less well-known story of that era comes from the small Muslim country of Albania, where both the people and the government protected their own Jewish citizens and Jews fleeing from other parts of Europe at all costs. While the world was at war and the Nazi and Fascist regimes made scapegoats of their citizens of Jewish descent, these communities lived a different imagination. They resisted.
Closer to home, our indigenous neighbours live within the matrix of despairing communities of poverty and hopelessness—even as greater numbers of them reclaim indigenous spiritual and cultural practices as paths to individual healing and communal well-being. With growing strength they are calling us, as schools and church, to become partners in the arduous journey towards developing a new imagination for how to live together as treaty people.
In the face of possibility and challenge, imagination is the open door before us, just as it has been for previous generations. And for those of us who identify with Mennonite Church Canada, cultivating imagination for what God is calling us to involves listening to God, listening to one another and listening to our neighbours.
This summer, youth and adults will gather for Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon with significant time focussed on discussion and decision-making about our future direction and the restructuring of our church body, as well as the Being a Faithful Church process. Just as important as any decisions we arrive at, is the question of how we will be God’s people going forward after decisions are made. Worship and plenary teaching times will invite and challenge us to consider how God is creating a covenant community that bears God’s compassion in the way we make peace and do justice within the faith community, with the world beyond the faith community and with creation.
Safwat Marzouk, a professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, who will present two plenary sessions, says, “Although the story of the Old Testament centres on God’s relation with the people of Israel, the story also involves Israel’s neighbouring nations. . . . Through studying the biblical witness to the complex relation of inclusion and exclusion . . . and analyzing how these traditions have influenced our theology, the church will better understand its identity, ministry, mission and relation with those who are seen as outsiders.”
So make plans to attend Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon from July 6 to 10, 2016, and join your brothers and sisters from across MC Canada for worship and learning, discussion and decision making, eating, conversation and laughter—all practices for cultivating an imagination to live as a faithful people of God in the 21st century.
Karen Martens Zimmerly is executive minister of formation and pastoral leadership for Mennonite Church Canada.