MCBC Mennonite Church British Columbia Mon, 19 Jun 2017 19:51:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sto:lo Nation Cultural Tour with Elder/Cultural Historian Sonny McHalsie Mon, 19 Jun 2017 19:35:31 +0000 June 2017 saw both Mennonite Church of BC and some local members and staff from the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster collectively involved in a Cultural Bus tour hosted by Sto:lo Nation Cultural Historian and Elder Sonny McHalsie. We wish to thank Justine Chang for his article and Karen Urquart for the photos.

Stolo Bus Tour 2017 Fish Camp

We have also left a link to the original article.

This is great work by both local denominations in wanting to learn more about our Indigenous Coast Salish peoples. My hands are up to all the put this together and attended, not to mention our host Sonny McHalsie. All my relations, Brander Raven McDonald – Indigenous Relations Coordinator Mennonite Church of BC

Justin Cheng writes:

“On Saturday June 10th, a group of Mennonites and Anglicans were led by Sonny McHalsie, Stó:lō cultural historian on a nature tour of the Stó:lō territory encompassing parts of Hope and Chilliwack. Sonny began his narratives with “This is our land, we have to take care”, a succinct statement expressing the indigenous’ history and theology of living in right relationship with the land. Throughout the tour, we visited different mountains, lakes, streams and other natural features of the area. Along the way, Sonny told narratives explaining the indigenous names of these natural features. In contrast to how European settlers would name a mountain, for example, in which the person who “discovered” the mountain would name it after himself as a statement of ownership, I learned that the Stó:lō’ name of a mountain would be based on a story. The story might be connected to an ancestor and/or usually impart a specific ethical lesson or moral example.  The features of the land: the mountains, the rivers and the streams become ways for the Stó:lō to transmit their cultural narratives across generations. As well, by connecting story and natural feature, the land is understood to be under the stewardship and care of the entire community, rather than owned by specific individuals.

In several of the stories that Sonny told us, transformation play a significant role. Human characters would change into animals, fish, mountains, and lakes and vice versa. What I learned is that transformation signifies kinship between humans and other creatures, plants, and natural features that some may see as inanimate. In the Stó:lō narrative, I learned that there is no natural object or feature that is truly inanimate or devoid of life or value. Transformation suggests connection between human beings and creation as opposed to separation. A mountain or a tree is not separate from me, if I understand that it could be an ancestor or a revered tribal leader. The sacredness of the land and the sacredness of the ancestors thus, are intertwined together.

Conservation was another major feature of Sonny’s stories. In one story, he told us about the origin of the sturgeon as a fish that was prohibited to eat by the Stó:lō. Not only was this story compelling, but it served as a motivation for the conservation of the sturgeon as a fish for future generations. In another story, Sonny talked about the people who lived under the sea who suffered from a form of leprosy. The leprosy was caused by humans spitting in the water. Both stories teach the necessity of living in right relationship with creation, with careful sensitivity and awareness of our human impact, and commitment to preserving the beauty and vitality of nature. While there was no explicit mention of the political issues of pipelines and resource extraction, I wondered if how we approached these issues are determined significantly due to our narrative or theology of the land. For the Stó:lō, conservation and environmental stewardship are wedded to the very stories that are passed down from each generation.

In addition to the cultural stories that he told, Sonny talked about the impact of settler control on the Stó:lō. At one point, he explained that the criminalization of the Potlatch ceremony was based on a profound misunderstanding of the First Nations’ understanding of gratitude and exchange. At another point of the trip, he explained the impact of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans when it issued fishing licenses to individual Stó:lō fishermen disrupting the long held understanding that ownership and care of fishing areas were owned by families and not owned by individuals. Both examples, the criminalization of the Potlatch would take place in the 1800s and the DFO example in the 1900s; testify to the harm that settler control causes to indigenous culture and community based on racism and closed-mindedness to indigenous ways.

This trip was aimed to open minds and hearts to indigenous ways of doing and perceiving, a suitable follow-up to our learning at the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster held May 26 and 27 which focused on indigenous knowledge and understanding. It involved learning that the mountains, the rivers, and the land had names and stories before European conquest and control. It involved learning about conservation and stewardship as tied to indigenous identity and spirituality, and it involved learning about the deleterious impact of settler control and influence on the region.

In my opinion, the learning we experienced on this trip was an important small step towards the continual journey of reconciliation.”

Sto:lo Elder/Cultural Historian Sonny McHalsie Sto:lo Cultural Bus Tours June 2017

Sto:lo Elder/Cultural Historian Sonny McHalsie Sto:lo Cultural Bus Tours June 2017



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Cultivating Thankfulness Thu, 15 Jun 2017 20:40:18 +0000 by Aften Thiessen

Over the last season of my life, I have had the privilege to preach in a number of churches. The prayers of Paul have always been an inspiration (and challenge) to me, and so they have been the basis of a number of my sermons. Paul’s prayer for the church in Colossians has always been a favourite probably because the letter to the Colossians is also a favourite. Paul wrote to this small community of new believers while he was in prison. It was a group of people he did not know personally and a community that was struggling to find the truth of Christ amidst competing philosophies and religious beliefs. Amidst the struggles both in Paul’s personal life and in the life of this community, the theme of thankfulness emerges.

It is so easy to grumble and complain about life; it’s so easy to compare our lives to others – who seem to have it better than us, and social media has made these negative human tendencies even easier! Seriously if you are looking to be thankful or even just content then don’t go to Facebook.

Yet something I have become convinced of as I have journeyed along this road of faith now for 20 years is that thankfulness is one of the true markers of someone who knows God. It just seems to radiate off of some people. I think of my Grandma, who had real hardships in life – living through the great depression, the dust bowl and having to leave the family farm and connections, having a still-born child, and an abusive husband – and yet I don’t remember her ever expressing anything but gratefulness to her Heavenly Father for all the blessings he had given her. She was always singing, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

So much of how we deal with life is based on perspective. Are we going to choose to see the good things or are we going to dwell on the difficult things. For me, I often need help to see the good; the darkness can so easily overwhelm me. Still in the midst of the hardships, the questions, the darkness – we are called again and again to give thanks to God.

Here are just some of the things Paul has to say to the Colossians on the subject:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

We are called to be overflowing with thankfulness, not because God necessarily needs to be constantly thanked, but in thanking we ourselves are forced to see the good things God is doing in our lives. Sometimes life can be genuinely dark, but we are still called to give thanks – even if it’s just thanking God that He is there or thanking God that he has good plans for us that will someday come to fruition – even if that fruition will only take place in the Kingdom to come.

Thankfulness is not just something that springs up naturally for most of us; rather it is something we have to cultivate. We have to work the hard soil of our hearts to soften them. We have to pluck out the weeds and the rocks and the thorns. And then the beautiful flower of thankfulness can be planted – whose root is the good news that we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of the Son.


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:9-14

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Thriving Congregations Thu, 15 Jun 2017 20:37:53 +0000 by Betty Pries (foreword by Garry Janzen)

As MCBC congregations, these 10 Characteristics of Thriving Congregations are worthy of our consideration. These have been put together by Betty Pries.  May God be with us as we seek to thrive as beacons of the love of Jesus in our congregations, our neighbourhoods, and around the world.


1. Empowered and Empowering Leadership  
• A leader people want to follow
• A leader that can go to the hard places and into the tough questions
• A leader who loves the people unconditionally
• A leader who can read the Bible and the times in which we are living
• A leader who awakens and nurtures the gifts of the congregation

2. Passionate Spirituality
• Spirituality that plumbs the depths: Faith that speaks to head, heart, will
• Spirituality that allows for questions, invites people on a journey
• Spirituality that is rooted in reading the Biblical story with fresh eyes
• Spirituality that boldly and humbly makes claims about who God is, what Jesus was about, what the Spirit is doing…

3. Loving and authentic Relationships  
• Engaging in conversations that matter – the freedom to be real with one another
• Healthy interpersonal relationships
• Creating a sense of belonging – “this place cares about me”

4. Sense of Values, Identity, Purpose
• Clarity of fence posts – naming what the congregation is clear on (core values/identity)
• Listening for God’s leading
• Keeping a sense of purpose in front of the congregation
• Talking about our values, identity, purpose to ourselves

5. Effective Structures and Appropriate Resources
• Structures that are driven by a sense of mission, values, identity and purpose
• Structures that are flexible, clear, efficient and effective
• Meeting spaces, finances and resources that allow a congregation to flourish without allowing the congregation to become complacent

6. Inspiring Worship
• Worship that awakens people to their identity as God’s beloved
• Worship that invites encounters with God’s presence
• Worship that occurs on Sunday mornings or not on Sunday mornings

7. Holistic “Smaller” Opportunities to Connect within the larger Whole
• Inviting participation in our programs/ministries
• Encouraging smaller opportunities to connect as locations for encountering God’s presence and for loving and authentic relationships
• Placing leadership energy to build connections and support faith development within cohort groups
– Age cohort groups:  Children, youth, young adults, seniors
– Gender cohort groups
– Service-based cohort groups (choirs, outreach groups)
– Needs-based cohort groups (support groups)
• Placing leadership energy to build connection opportunities between cohort groups and the larger community (outreach)
• Talking about our programs/ministries to ourselves

8. Gift-oriented Ministry
• Making space for a wide range of participation
• Inviting people’s gifts to share in the ministry of the church
• Asking more of people not less
• Leaning into, celebrating and deepening the areas God is already blessing among us

9. Need-oriented Engagement with the World
• Engagement/action that emerges from the intersection point between the congregation’s gift/call (identity, values, purpose) and world’s need
• Engagement/action linked to a sense of God’s activity in the world
• Engagement/action that follows the action/reflection cycle
• Engagement/action that is humble – all, including those in the congregation, are on a journey of transformation
• Courage – the congregation may be called to take risks, do great things, go to uncomfortable places
• Talking about our engagement/action to ourselves as a way to solidify the tie between mission and identity, values and purpose and as a way to encourage participation

10. Marketing/Action-Reflection
• We pay attention to and tell the story within our congregation of how God is alive in our community and congregation.
• We watch for moments of surprise, grace, calling, blessing and pay attention to how these moments are forming who we are and to what we are being called.
• We “market ourselves to ourselves” – talking about our successes and our failures so that we may draw others in while also paying attention to the places where we might shift our action.
• We engage the action-reflection discernment cycle, paying attention to questions of identity and purpose.
• We share our stories of transformation with the world around us – both personally and through our vehicles of community engagement

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Update on Brander Mcdonald: MCBC Indigenous Relations Coordinator Thu, 15 Jun 2017 20:30:05 +0000 As has been reported to our congregations Brander McDonald, MCBC’s Indigenous Relations Coordinator (IRC) has had serious health issues since early July 2016 and has been unable to work since that time. His health has been getting increasingly better and his doctor has said that he is able to begin work again in June but starting at 30% time (1 ½ days a week) and working from home. If his health continues to improve he will be coming back into his role of 3 days a week (60%) beginning in August 2017.

As Brander prepares to come back into his role as IRC, Leadership Board want to give an update on Brander and his work: Below are three items:
1. Brander’s vision for his work
2. Expectations for the IRC Position
3. Resolution passed at the February 25, 2017 MCBC Annual general meeting

1. Brander’s Vision for this ministry of MCBC: Introduction by Brander McDonald

Tansi neechewam- “Hello my good friends”

As a Cree First Nations believer in Jesus I am delighted to be given this opportunity to join with MCBC in relating the First Nations Cultural mindset and of what it means to carry the Jesus Walk.

MCBC has had the extraordinary courage and vision to embrace an Indigenous person to relate the First Nations protocols and bridge building leadership to its members in local native communities. This is a truly exciting time!

I am excited to join in the vision and goals for this reconciliation work to our native peoples and church families, as both an Aboriginal leader and a fellow traveller in the Jesus Walk!

With this opportunity that MCBC has made available I feel honoured, privileged and excited to be able to share some key cross cultural understandings to help bridge this communications gap.

1. The passion I hold is speaking into the question of what it means to be a First Nations cultural man and to be fully engaged as a lifelong follower of Jesus. Not the Jesus of residential schools of the past, not of government policy, but the Saviour represented in the gospels and even of Anabaptist traditions. I have a passion to share what it means to carry this cross-cultural heart for the healing of my native peoples and the church community to which I grew up in.

2. The second passion associated with this is in regards to being a singer songwriter who can share these same stories and lessons through song and speech.

Finally, I believe God has placed me here for this unique time to speak to this need of what it means to be a bridge builder and agent of change. Sharing what it means to be an Aboriginal and a follower of Jesus and how both the native community and church family of God are ready for meaningful dialogue.

“All my relations” – (respectful honouring of all our families and connections)
In Creator Redeemer Jesus,
Brander “Standing Bear/Strongraven” McDonald

2. Excerpt from Brander’s ‘Memo of Understanding’ Expectations:
– Encourage healthy churches by equipping them to bridge barriers of understanding and acceptance in their own communities – to be ambassadors of the ministry of reconciliation. (II Corinthians 5.18,19 and Ephesians 2:11-22)
– Challenge and inspire MCBC congregations and individuals to develop meaningful relationships with Indigenous people.
– Identify relevant peace and justice activities and invite congregations to be involved in them especially as it relates to the ongoing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
– Develop resources for MCBC pastors and congregations that can be used to cultivate a healthy interaction with people of other cultures, starting with Indigenous people.
– Exemplify the Gospel of Jesus Christ in “word and deed” as understood by the MCBC Confession of Faith.
– Model Christian unity by learning from and encouraging Christians of other cultures, especially in the Aboriginal community.

3. Resolution accepted by delegates at the February 25, 2017 MCBC annual general meeting

The MCBC Board recommends that we extend the Memo of Understanding (MOU) with Brander McDonald for another year to February 28, 2018. During this coming year, once Brander’s health has improved, MCBC will work on evaluating and projecting how best to continue this work of reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Meanwhile, we will continue with the work Brander is doing to fulfill our ministry objectives as MCBC.
Three priorities identified for the coming year are:
– to be available for congregations when there is a request to speak, teach or be present in a local church
– to create, build and support relationships of healing and reconciliation through dialogue and community involvement locally within the Sto:lo peoples and other Indigenous communities of the Fraser Valley
– to organize (three) bridge building/cross cultural workshops that will provide opportunities for MCBC members to gain knowledge and skills focusing on the 94 Calls to Action coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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Squeah is Calling Thu, 15 Jun 2017 20:25:34 +0000 There’s Room for You at Squeah!
With the weather suddenly turning from wet and cold to hot and dry, it’s a sure sign that summer is on its way, and we are almost ready to welcome a new season of staff and campers – and there’s room for you!

A summer of service
If you love spending time with your Creator in the great outdoors and sharing that love with campers, then we’ve got the perfect opportunity for you. We have a few staff spots still available in our MUD and Go Beyond camps. We’re also looking for a canoe instructor for the month of July, someone with an unrestricted, class 4 driver’s license. And if you love food and making great meals, then we’d love to have you join our kitchen staff! Check out the details when you visit:

A bunk with your name it
Our camp registration has been filling up but we’ve still got a few bunks available in some camps. We’ve also got a new camp this year: Go Beyond Family Camp for families with teenagers who want to experience the great outdoors together, under the leadership of our experienced outdoor staff. Don’t hesitate– sign up for your Squeah experience today at:

Always gratitude
If you can’t join us this summer, please know that we always appreciate your prayer support and notes of encouragement. And if you want to support a camper whose family can’t afford to send him or her to camp, you can support our Campership program and make a camp experience possible ( For all the ways you support us, we are truly grateful! We look forward to hearing from you – or call 604-869-5353 x102

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Meet Mary Barg: New MCBC Leadership Board – Secretary Thu, 15 Jun 2017 20:21:48 +0000 Mary has been attending Eden Mennonite Church since she married Duane in 1995. She has been involved in various ways at church, and over the years her awareness of the importance of the work MCBC does has been growing. Mary says, “There has been a shift in my appreciation for the work the conference does as I have seen them reach out to congregations and facilitate conversation around being the Body of Christ together. It is apparent that there is a desire for unity that allows diversity and this requires work; God-glorifying and rewarding work, but still work.”

Over the last few years she has been attending more MCBC meetings and learning more about the work that we do. She was considering how she might be supportive of what she calls the “good and sometimes difficult work that the conference is doing,” and then she discovered that our Leadership Board was in need of a secretary; she felt like she didn’t have much to offer, but that she could fill this role.

In her own words, Mary says, “As I learn the workings of the conference (the acronyms alone are a learning curve!), I hope to see more ways I can support the work we do. I see my heart aligning with the work of MCBC in that I desire to continue to work out my faith and to grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ – it seems that the purpose of the conference is to facilitate that corporately. My hope and prayer for MCBC is for us to have wisdom and peace as we navigate how to ‘encourage one another to love and good deeds.’’’

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Kelowna First Mennonite Church Turns 70 Thu, 15 Jun 2017 20:19:52 +0000 Kelowna First Mennonite Church (KFMC) will be celebrating its 70th anniversary on Saturday, July 8, 2017. KFMC is located at: 1305 Gordon Drive, Kelowna, BC V1Y 3E7.

For more information contact Helen Wieler at:

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“Wrongs to Rights” by MC Canada allows for healing conversation & journeys Wed, 14 Jun 2017 20:43:09 +0000

Dear MCBC friends,

Although this looks like only an Anglican article i have to say this whole booklet and topic was spearheaded by our Mennonite Church of Canada National Indigenous Relations Coordinator Steve Heinrichs, “Wrongs to Rights- How churches can engage the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. So this work is catching on in other church denominations because of MC Canada.

These meetings included various regular attendees from our own MCBC Service Peace and Justice as well as some congregants elsewhere.

This highlights the exact nature of following my earlier recommendations regarding keeping momentum from the past Vancouver Truth & Reconciliation and journeying together in a healing process with our Aboriginal neighbours. It is a great example of 1. Talking About to 2. Talking with to 3. Walking with our Indigneous neighbours and allowing them to share their stories and healing with us. It means finding/creating a safe space and working out what it means to find fellowship. It means putting aside preconceptions and meeting humanity to humanity to exemplify a faith of humility and lifestyle Jesus Walk.

This group is looking forward to extending to dealing with another MC Canada Intotemak booklet called “Quest for Respect- The Church and Indigenous Spirituality” conversation. Please stay posted for further updates.…/all-saints-parish…/…/wrongs-to-rights-book-st…
“This is a wonderful article sharing what some of our non Indigenous neighbours are doing/have done so far, to help build relationships with us as First Nations. Simply courageous. Talking About Indigenous Issues, Talking with Indigenous to gain knowledge, perspective and relationship formation, and finally being invited into relationship with Indigenous peoples to walk out this journey of healing together. It involved a local parish, a willing non Indigenous ears, a call to conversation, food, traditional songs, Indigenous elders and wisdom and lots of shared stories. It has become a place of safety to share healing. In all my years i have never seen such tenacity, love, healing, and hard work in reconciliation and dialogue. There were medicine wheel teachers, pipe carriers, ecumenicals, and various church denominational folks willing to be challenged and finally lives being shared, and best of all personal journeys being heard. My hands are up to this group. They are doing a review of their walk together to be presented later and also planning future meetings in September 2017 that will discuss the book called “Quest for Respect” put out by Intotemak by Mennonite Church of Canada. Come join this healing work and journeying together to walk out the talk of reconciliation. Please keep your ears open to their next discussions and continued good healing journey. ALLLLLLL MY RELATIONS”, Brander Raven

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Brander health update Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:11:20 +0000 Dear friends,

Last year i contracted and fought a near fatal diagnosis of the C-Difficile bacteria late June 2016. It became unmanageable during that week and when i came home to the mainland it was almost fatal. I was hurried to the hospital a quarinteened and medicated. I was immobile for 7 months and also quarinteened with no real contact with others. I had 4 reoccuring bouts that left me with intestinal, heart, weakness and associated issues. It meant many visits to doctors and various medications to get it under control and to manage the physical disaster it left my body in. Early 2017 saw me starting to strengthen and now this June i am returning to work part-time of my part-time arrangement with MCBC as Indigenous Relations Coordinator. My physcian is monitoring my progress and hopefully i will be back to more regular working hours as before. Its been a long year but good to be moving around again and seeing what MCBC has been doing with Indigenous Relations. I wish to strongly thank those that have been in prayer for me and thank the Creator Redeemer for His grace regarding my health. Looking forward to being around more often. All my relations, Miigwetch, Brander (Strong Raven/Standing Bear McDonald) Indigenous Relations Coordinator MCBC

Brander Raven McDonald Indigneous Relations Coordinator MCBC

Brander Raven McDonald Indigneous Relations Coordinator MCBC

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Unpacking MCBC’s Future Direction Tue, 04 Apr 2017 16:55:16 +0000 by Garry Janzen, MCBC Executive Minister

My thoughts for this article are reflective of my talk at the MCBC Annual Gathering and of the Future Directions presentation made by Keith Regehr. The picture of the aspen grove is intriguing, where we are bound together as one tree at the roots, even though it looks like a forest of many trees. This root system keeps the aspen grove alive through all calamities that happen above the ground.

There are five emphases that contribute to our future direction as a church locally, regionally, nationally and globally. The one to focus on for MCBC is the third one – the Regional Church, but let me draw brief attention to them all. The first emphasis is Vision: The Mennonite Church vision is, “God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit to grow as communities of grace, joy, and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.”

The second emphasis is the Vitality of the Congregation as the primary place of mission and worship. It is the place where we learn to live as followers of Jesus in a community of faith. The third emphasis is the Vitality of Regional Churches. The fourth emphasis is the Vitality of the National Church. An important point here is that the national church does not exist apart from the partnership of the regional churches. A central part of this is building the sense of a national peoplehood. The fifth emphasis is International Witness. International witness will be changing, in recognition of: the growing maturity of the global church, financial constraints, and a move for stronger connection between congregations and the work of witness. The global family of Mennonite World Conference will be a major player in our future international witness.

So getting back to MCBC as a Regional Church. What kind of church do we want to be? We value being identified as Anabaptist, a Jesus-centred people who are a beacon of hope in changing and uncertain times. We want to be a people of Reconciliation, engaging the mission of God across the street and around the world. Thirdly we want to Build Healthy Connections within and among our congregations (our theme for 2017). We have hope that our relationships will have integrity, and that we continue seeing the best in each other. Let us engage each other with a spirit of inquiry, curiosity and humility. Ultimately, let us be a people where God’s love leads the way, causing to rise within us: our love for God, for each other, and for the world.

Congregations covenant together to form a Regional Church for a variety of purposes such as: learning, strengthening each other, shared mission and ministry, to be part of something bigger, to be part of a larger family. A crucial part of the work of MCBC is strengthening congregations, providing resources to congregations and leaders, supporting congregations and leaders in being communities of healing and hope.