“Mennonite” - A Word of Opportunity

“Mennonite” - A Word of Opportunity

“Mennonites? Aren’t they the ones who ride in horse-and-buggies”? This is just one of the many common misconceptions I have come across when I tell them that I attend a Mennonite Church and/or work for Mennonite Church Alberta. You’ve probably heard them too.

At first, these sorts of comments made me try to avoid the topic. I could easily leave out the word “Mennonite” when I talk to people. All I would have to do is say that I attend a “church” and work for the “church”. Easy enough, but something just doesn’t sit right with me when I do that. So, instead of avoiding the topic, I have tried to lean into the misconceptions, and boy have I been surprised by the engaging conversations doing this has created.

For example, just a few months ago I was running errands in Airdrie. While there, I decided to go for a short a prayer walk through a local park. While walking my attention was drawn to someone fishing in the pond in the middle of the park.  I was surprised and so, as someone who loves fishing, I decided to ask him what he was fishing for.

“I don’t know. I don’t normally fish here”, he responded almost defensively, as he assured me that he was just killing some time while visiting family. “Normally, I fish north of Edmonton.”

We went back and forth a little about fishing spots in Alberta, when finally, he asked me, what I do for a living.

“I work for the church.”
“Oh, which church”, he asked.

I paused for a moment. Then, almost apprehensively, I responded, “Mennonite” and braced myself for the onslaught of stereotypical remarks that so often follows this admission. He did not disappoint.

With a sincere look of confusion on his face, he looked around the park and asked, “Oh, how did you get here? I didn’t see any horses.”
“Nope, I came in the Caravan over there,” I said as I smiled and pointed to my white van sitting in the parking lot.
“Really”, they replied, “I didn’t think Mennonites were allowed to drive cars.”
“Actually, that is a common misconception,” I replied, “in fact, there are many misconceptions about Mennonites. I too had many mistaken beliefs about Mennonites, until I got to know them.”

That said, I spent the next hour sharing with this gentleman about my experience getting to know the Mennonite communities.
I shared about the warmth of love and welcome that I have experienced in each congregation I have visited. I shared about the diversity of cultures and races represented within the Mennonite community. I even got to share Jesus, and the way of peace.

By the end of the conversation, the person turned to me and said that I made it sound like he should go visit sometime. I encouraged him to do so, and then we shook hands and went our separate ways.

I don’t know what happened to him since then, but I am confident he left challenged in his faith and in his perceptions.  And to think, this conversation would have never happened had I left out the word “Mennonite.” 

Press Release:
After a time of careful discernment Church Engagement Minister Steven Giugovaz and his wife Emily have decided to move back to Ontario where they will be closer to their extended families. Steven said, “It has been such an honour and blessing for my family and I to serve alongside the individuals, congregations, and ministries that make up Mennonite Church Alberta. Even as God calls us back to serve in Ontario, MCA will always be family to us, and your impact on our lives will forever be a part of our ministry.” Their move coincides with Emily beginning a job with Campus Living Centres, which runs campus programs for approximately 30 colleges including many in the Greater Toronto Area. Steven will be seeking a new ministry role within the Mennonite church.

Steven has served with MCA since September of 2021, during which he has shared deeply about his personal experience of God’s presence in his life. In his role he sought ways to connect congregations and individuals to each other and to the ministries we share as the broader church. Executive Minister Tim Wiebe-Neufeld said, “I have appreciated working with Steven as together we lived into what was a new position for MCA. We will miss his contribution to our MCA faith community, and I wish him and his family well as they make this transition.”

Steven will be concluding his role on July 31. Plans for a farewell are in the works.