Author: Neufeldt, Erna
Date published: May 17, 2010
"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
These words by Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen remind me of the "cracks" that Mennonite Women Canada experienced with the folding of Women in Mission organizations in British Columbia and Manitoba in 2008 and 2009. Without representation from those provinces, we realized we were missing key partners in our unique contributions to the national and international church, so we knew it was time to discern the next steps in how to encourage the "light" to keep coming in.
To that end, a task force of eight women was established in 2008 to help explore and set a future direction. It prepared a comprehensive survey inviting feedback from readers online and provided print copies to almost all Mennonite Church Canada congregations last September. The report, released in February, noted that 1,131 women responded, which, according to experts, is an extraordinarily high response to a voluntary survey.
This high response is very encouraging and suggests that being salt and light matters to Mennonite women in Canada. Also, the responses indicate that many women feel it is important to:
* Be connected to each other locally, nationally and globally;
* Celebrate good times together;
* Support each other in difficult times;
* Deepen our understanding of what it means to be people of faith; and
* Assess and hone our responses to the physical and spiritual needs at home and abroad.
Clearly, women want to use their unique gifts in family, church and society. Light is coming through the cracks!
All the responses, including those that critique and challenge, are an encouragement to the MW Canada executive to continue in its task of seeking to help build a national organization that would draw in many of the 17,000 women who are part of MC Canada and beyond. Imagine the light that could be!
With that goal in mind, two recommendations for change to the MW Canada constitution relating to "membership" and "executive" will be brought to our annual meeting on July 1 during the MC Canada assembly in Calgary:
* All women who are part of a Mennonite women's organization or participate in a Mennonite congregation in Canada are welcomed by MW Canada; and
* In order to include regional representation, the executive may appoint a representative in consultation with the area conference when there is no provincial/regional member organization or women's ministry active there.
Survey responses also indicate that communication is lacking among women. Therefore, a communications committee is being established. If you have a particular interest in communicating by web, blog or newsletter, please contact the author at email@example.com.
To conclude, the MW Canada mission statement encourages us to nurture life in Christ, to hear each other, and engage in service/ministry. With this as our foundation, can we:
* Build bridges with our sisters of all backgrounds at home and abroad- perhaps even in places like Manitoba Colony in Bolivia, where Mennonite women and girls have endured much suffering this past year, as reported in the international and Mennonite media?
* Consider building more partnerships in addition to our current partners, the MC Canada Witness Council and Mennonite Women USA? and
* Seek to be a stronger prophetic voice?
To learn more about MW Canada, the task force's recommendations and comments, and the executive's response, visit mennonitechurch.ca/mwc.
Erna Neufeldt is president of Mennonite Women Canada. The MW Canada page is coordinated by Leona Dueck Penner, who also took the flower photo above.