Der Bote Celebration Comments
by Dave Bergen,
Executive Secretary for Christian Formation for Mennonite Church Canada
October 13, 2007
My name is Dave Bergen, Executive Secretary for Christian Formation for Mennonite Church Canada. I live in Winnipeg; oversee the publication of Der Bote and a number of other programs that support the life of our congregations-- ministries that develop pastors and other leaders, make resources available to enrich the life and ministry of our church.
It is a pleasure to be here--to meet face to face some of the wonderful people who are part of the Bote family and part of the larger Mennonite Church Canada family - a church with 33,000 baptized members and over 24,000 children and youth, in 225 congregations and 5 area churches across Canada.
I’m pleased to be able to be with you this evening as we take time to reflect on, and celebrate Der Bote and to give thanks to God for its ministry these many years.
The Life and legacy of Der Bote has been rich. Over 84 years in print, it began in 1924 as a way for Mennonite people who had emigrated from Ukraine and Germany to Canada and the United States, to stay in touch with each other. Through this paper, many people were able to establish a sense of community and connection in this strange new country. Over time Der Bote also became a way to share the stories of family and friends who were displaced or lost through the cruelty of war and revolution,. And for some Der Bote was the vehicle by which lost loved ones were relocated after many years, and through which happy reunions took place.
Der Bote has been a source of spiritual teaching and nourishment over the years, through the study and devotional materials it has carried in various forms. And, it has brought important news about the work of the Mennonite Church in Canada and around the world, news of important happenings within our congregations, but also of the outreach and mission work of the church in many countries around the globe.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention another kind of story-telling role this paper has had. I’m referring of course, to the “Heimgegangen” section which carries the obituaries of saints below, who have died and gone on to join the company of the saints above. Each account of the passing of a life presents an occasion to remember not only the life itself, but the presence and work of a faithful God in each life; in each of our lives. The remembering of life stories in the obituaries is a reminder that our God is a God who never abandons us, no matter how difficult life may have been, or what life may yet bring; that the God who has upheld us in dark and stormy times, and who has sustained us to this day, will also keep us unto our life’s end, and will receive us in love, as one of his children. As we look over the history of Der Bote, there is much for which we can be thankful. And for this we praise God.
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes says that “there is a season for everything, a time for every purpose under heaven.” He goes on to give an account of the many kinds of things which come and go, in their season. There’s…
‘a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak
a time for war, and a time for peace. -Eccl 3
…and a time for many other things as they come and go - a time for everything in its season..
And on this occasion today, as we celebrate the ministry, and mark the approaching end of Der Bote, we need to add: there’s a time to publish, and a time to cease from publication.
As you well know by now, Der Bote will end publication next year, at the end of March 2008. This was not an easy decision to make. In fact, it is a decision that was a long time in the making. For at least the last 12 or 13 years, the Bote Editorial Committee, the various editors of the paper, and the overseers of this program have been aware that the paper had a limited lifespan.
But God has been good, and much to the surprise of all, we have been able to continue publishing for a good many years beyond what was thought to be possible. About 2 years ago, after taking a careful look at the financial picture of the Bote, and the undeniable reality that the number of subscribers was continuing in a steady decline, the Editorial Committee and the Christian Formation Council came to the difficult decision that the paper would close in 2008.
As with all endings, this ending comes with significant feelings of loss and grief. There are some who have wondered if enough efforts were made to seek alternatives that would have averted this decision at least for a while.
Could we not have joined forces with the Rundschau? In fact at two different times such explorations took place, and the conclusion was that this was not feasible for a variety of reasons. One of the more significant, I believe, was the fact that there was quite a bit of overlap in the readership of the two papers, and joining forces would not have made a large difference in the overall number of subscribers.
Some fear that closing Der Bote is somehow a message that the church no longer values your passion for the church, or your service which has helped build the church, or your stories of faith and life which continue to enrich the church. I want to assure you that quite the opposite is true. Your stories of faith, your devotion to the work of the church, your steadfast support of God’s work is highly valued and deeply treasured. In fact, as the Editorial Committee agonized over making this decision, they were clear in saying that this paper which has been close to so many of you, should not be allowed to fizzle out until it could no longer hold up its head. Rather, they chose to plan carefully for its conclusion so that all could recognize the important place of this paper, and the people it has represented, in the life of the church and in its work.
In keeping with the desire to end strong and well, a number of celebration events have been planned to honor the legacy of Der Bote. This is the first. Others will take place in Abbotsford, Winnipeg and St. Catharines. Beginning in November Der Bote will carry a number of specially requested articles from past editors, supporters and readers, reflecting on the impact of the paper, and of the generation it represents.
In addition, the Editorial Committee has made sure that the stories in Der Bote will be properly preserved in the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives, where researchers, students, family members, and others will be able to read and learn, and be inspired by the faith and life of this important part of the church.
So while Der Bote as a paper will close, the story it tells and the church it represents will go on as a beacon and guide for the generations of the church that will follow.
On behalf of Mennonite Church Canada, I also want to say that we will not forget you. We want to continue to be in touch with you. We thank you for your faithfulness, for the acts of service you do, for the gifts you give, and the love you share. Your faithfulness builds build up the church, and enables God to work through the church, to bring hope, peace and reconciliation to our world.
The church continues to need you. We need your ministry of prayer and support for the work God is doing through his church, whether here close to home, or farther away from home. May I invite you and urge you not to grow weary in your praying and support of the work of the church and in your love for all God’s people.
I leave you with a prayer from the apostle Paul:
15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
May God bless and keep you all.
See also Der Bote Farewell - by Vera Falk and Verner Friesen
Making History - a Devotional by (Rev.) David Neufeld at the 2020 AGM
Connecting Mennonites - MHSS AGM - March 6-7, 2020
Peace Perspectives - November 11, 2017
2017 Annual General Meeting; Singing by the Numbers
Blacks and Mennonites as Good Neighbours in Saskatchewan (Peace Event 2016)
2016 Annual General Meeting - March 5, 2016
Stories of Peace 4 Storytellers shared Pacifist experiences - November 15, 2015.
John-J-Friesen-Presentations.pdf - given at Annual General Meeting, March 2015
2015 Annual General Meeting & Mennonite Migrations - March 6, 7, 2015
Walter Klaassen's Translated Book Launch - March 9, 2014
2014 Annual General Meeting - GAMEO, - Archives - March 1, 2014
Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (History) - February 28, 2014
Book Promotion: It Happened in Moscow - November 8, 2013
Peace Stories - November 9, 2013 (at Mount Royal Mennonite Church)
By Whatever Name Book Signing September 8, 2013.
Successful Book Launch - "The Fehrs" (June 9, 2013)
2013 Annual General Meeting Report - a full long page with lots of photos.