Many of the stories in the pages of this magazine reflect the dreams of the people in our church family. There are stories of successful ministries, families reunited, young voices full of energy and hope. We also read stories of broken relationships, unanticipated outcomes, and of God at work in miraculous, unplanned and unexpected ways.
These stories of personal achievement, defeat, hope and surprise are also the stories shared by the wider church.
In 2000, we organized ourselves as Mennonite Church Canada. We dreamed of new possibilities for ministry. It was an exciting time. There were many brainstorming sessions. There were detailed planning teams. Optimism was in the air. We envisioned dynamic new ministries.
Hopes ran high. Many volunteers and leaders were appointed. New programs were created and new staff hired to lead them. Everyone was fully engaged and deeply passionate about the future. Many good people did excellent work. They persevered and dedicated themselves in every sense.
However, what we dreamed never fully gained sustained flight. Our dreams were impacted by significant culture shifts. There were some tough financial years. Controversial matters and differing perspectives on how to be faithful required our focus. We soared at first, but over time our dreams began to slowly sink like a helium-filled balloon. Eventually, we landed on hard ground. Our dreams no longer seemed probable.
This could feel like defeat. It shouldn’t, though. Coming together as MC Canada required us to be vulnerable to God’s leading. That’s a good thing, even if the best laid plans did not work out as we hoped. The pages of this magazine have carried many, many stories of how MC Canada ministries touched and changed lives “from across the street to around the world.” Each one is cause for celebration.
But we now find ourselves in a different place. It is important to name this emotional space. Those who recall and invested heavily in the early days of MC Canada may be grieving and lamenting that certain dreams were never fully realized.
Meanwhile, a younger generation, less invested in the past, is eagerly peering ahead. They are imagining and dreaming of a church that is freer and less encumbered by historic patterns and processes.
We are living in a different time, and for this time we need to explore ways of being and doing that may look different from our past. We are being asked to make ourselves vulnerable again, and, in doing so, make our hearts and minds fully available to the Spirit’s leading. Perhaps we are being called to dream differently. Maybe we are to be open to new dreamers. That can make us feel vulnerable.
But we can, and should, be confident in our vulnerability. God has made us confident in Christ and competent ministers of the gospel (II Corinthians 3).
No one knows what God has in store for our church at Special Assembly 2017, Oct. 13 to 15 in Winnipeg, but, as God’s people, we can always dare to dream again.
Willard Metzger is executive director of Mennonite Church Canada.
To read more about the future of the church and Special Assembly 2017 see:
What is the Spirit saying to our churches today?
‘We need to learn to dream as a church’
A new song for Special Assembly 2017