Mennonite organizations cancelling events, making adjustments in response to COVID-19

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March 13, 2020 | Web First
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Mennonite churches and organizations across Canada are cancelling or postponing services and other events in response to COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus.

Here is a list (last updated at 12:45 p.m. EST on March 19), broken down by region. 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Mennonite Church British Columbia - In a letter sent to MCBC churches on March 13, the MCBC executive recommended the cancellation of all congregational activities (worship services, meetings, etc.) until the coronavirus situation improves. Details: bit.ly/MCBC-COVID19. “We are all trying to make the best decisions in light of the faith we have, the hope we confess and the love we express in this challenging and interesting time,” Gerry Grunau, MCBC’s moderator, wrote in the letter.

Mennonite Heritage Museum - The museum and the Mennonite Historical Society of B.C. are closed the week of March 16-21.

Columbia Bible College - On March 15, CBC made an announcement that included the following: Effective March 16 through March 22, all classes will be paused; classes will resume remotely on March 23; all Thursday-morning chapel services have been cancelled for the remained of the semester; resident students are encouraged to make plans for moving off-campus prior to March 23; all face-to-face exams are cancelled; and all graduation events, including the commencement service, have been postponed until further notice. Details: columbiabc.edu/campus-alerts.

MEI Schools - The Abbotsford schools remain open at this time. As students head into a two-week spring break, MEI has cancelled a number of international trips and is giving careful consideration to those scheduled to depart later this spring. MEI is following the lead of B.C.’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education in all considerations in regards to potential school closures.

ALBERTA

Mennonite Church Alberta - MC Alberta’s 2020 Assembly & Annual Delegate Sessions, scheduled for March 20-21, have been postponed. The sessions will now take place via an online meeting on Saturday, March 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Details: mcab.ca/event/8809-2020-03-28-rescheduled-mca-delegate-session

Menno Simons Christian School - All classes are cancelled and the school is unsure when they will resume.

SASKATCHEWAN

Mennonite Church Saskatchewan - MC Sask’s 2020 Annual Delegate Sessions, which were scheduled to take place March 13-14 at First Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, have been postponed. “In my head, I thought we could probably go ahead [this weekend],” Ryan Siemens, MC Sask’s executive minister, told Canadian Mennonite, “but my pastoral heart told me we’d better take care of those who would attend.” The sessions will now be divided into a business session, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 25 (location to be determined, or it may happen online), and a “mission and worship” event the weekend of Oct. 2-3.

Rosthern Junior College - RJC is suspending all field trips and scheduled off-campus events that include students from now until April 9. The school is exploring alternative formats for its upcoming parent-teacher-dean interviews. Visit rjc.sk.ca/about/news for updates.

MANITOBA

Mennonite Church Manitoba - Visit mennochurch.mb.ca/virusresponse for updates from individual MC Manitoba congregations.

Canadian Mennonite University - All classes across the university’s Shaftesbury campus are cancelled on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17. Classes will reconvene online on Wednesday, March 18. Makeup classes for March 16 and 17 will occur on April 6 and 7. There will be no in-class final exams. Details: cmu.ca/covid-19 “Let us pray for all, and especially those who are vulnerable, unable to imagine a future with hope, and working front-line and back-room to constrain the virus,” Cheryl Pauls, the university’s president, said in a statement. At the university’s Menno Simons College campus, all in-person classes and labs are suspended for the remainder of the current term, and all discretionary events on campus currently scheduled until May 1 are postponed.

CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre - The physical store, located on campus at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, is closed. It remains open to emails, phone calls and website orders. Visit commonword.ca.

Mennonite Collegiate Institute - The independent high school, located in Gretna, Man., is closing its dormitory as of 7:00 p.m. CST on Thursday, March 19. Classes are suspended as of Friday, March 20, and will resume on Monday, April 13. “Thank you for your patience, and grace as we figure out this new reality,” the school said on Facebook. “This is a very fluid situation, we’ll keep everyone updated as new information arises. We’re in this together.”

Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery - The gallery is closed, and all events are cancelled or postponed until at least April 15. Visit cmu.ca/gallery for updates.

Westgate Mennonite Collegiate - In accordance with the Province of Manitoba, classes will be suspended for three weeks, starting on Monday, March 23 until Friday, April 10. In the meantime, Westgate has suspended classes on Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18 as teachers prepare lessons that will be available to their students online. The school will be open to students on Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20. “Parents may choose to keep their children home Thursday and Friday to take advantage of the remainder of this week without contact with groups of students and staff,” the school posted on Facebook

EASTERN CANADA

Mennonite Church Eastern Canada - In an email they sent out to constituents on March 17, MCEC leadership said that, following provincial recommendations, it is strongly urging the cancellation of all congregational activities until March 31—regardless of the size of a church’s congregation. “We will continue to reassess this recommendation as new information emerges,” the email said. “Canceling our gatherings for a short time increases the health system’s ability to deal with any outbreaks by slowing down transmission. We believe cancelling congregational activities is a faithful response for this time.” MCEC is updating its website with links to livestreaming worship services, worship resources, pandemic preparedness resources and webinar announcements here: mcec.ca/whats-new

Conrad Grebel University College - The University of Waterloo and Conrad Grebel University College are suspending all activity for on-campus courses from March 14 to March 23. Details: uwaterloo.ca/coronavirus. Visit Grebel’s events page for cancellation notices: uwaterloo.ca/grebel/events.

Mennonite Central Committee Ontario - Most face-to-face programming provided by MCC has been cancelled and wherever possible, the organization is using technology to facilitate continued connections. All in-person events and fundraisers are being cancelled until April 5. At MCC Thrift Shops and rePurpose Centre, MCC is asking its volunteers to stay home until April 5, and hours of operation have been reduced to 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily from Monday to Saturday. At MCC Offices (Kitchener, Niagara, Timmins and Toronto), leadership has directed any staff who can work remotely to do so. For roles where working from home is not possible, the organization is implementing as much social distancing as possible. Details: http://bit.ly/38T5QKV 

Rockway Mennonite Collegiate - All classes, sports, school events, and rentals are cancelled until April 5. Details: rockway.ca/coronavirus-updates-resources

UMEI Christian High School - In response to the Ontario Ministry of Education announcement to close all public schools from March 14 to April 5, UMEI in Leamington is following suit and suspending all on-campus learning.

NATIONWIDE

Mennonite Church Canada - MC Canada has updated web resources it offered to congregations during the flu pandemic of 2009-10. Visit mennonitechurch.ca/outbreakresources for suggestions for how congregations can implement pandemic preparedness—from worship planning to continuity plans for how giving can still be maintained. In a statement released on March 13, Doug Klassen—executive minister of MC Canada—wrote that while it may not be advisable to be physically present with vulnerable people at this time, “our hearts can still reach out.” He continued: “Through phone calls, texts and other messages we can continue to engage and serve in the name of Jesus. We can plan to ensure that the loved ones of those affected are cared for and supported, and we can imagine ways to help those who don’t have care networks available to them.”

Abundance Canada - The organization formerly known as Mennonite Foundation of Canada has closed its four regional offices to the public. All face-to-face meetings are cancelled until further notice, as are all in-person workshops and seminars. Abundance Canada clients can still make donations to their gifting funds. Details: http://bit.ly/2QngKCk

Canadian Foodgrains Bank - “The Foodgrains Bank is carefully monitoring the changing situation and adjusting plans to do our part to help stop the spread of the virus and keep people safe, including our staff and everyone around us—especially the most vulnerable in our communities,” Jim Cornelius, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement on March 18. “As responsible citizens in this unprecedented global crisis, we all have a role to play.” Details: foodgrainsbank.ca/news/responding-to-the-coronavirus-pandemic-from-the-desk-of-the-executive-director

Christian Peacemaker Teams - CPT is consulting with its partners and assessing the best way in which it can carry out its work, whilst minimizing its own contribution to the impact of COVID-19. “CPT recognizes that we work with vulnerable communities who could be severely affected by the spread of the coronavirus,” the organization said in an email and social media post on March 12. “As our priority is to our partners and the communities where we work, we are responding accordingly. We will update you as new information is made available.”

MCC Thrift Shops - Some shops have made the decision to temporarily suspend operations or reduce hours. Details: thrift.mcc.org/mcc-thrift-response-covid-19

Mennonite Central Committee Canada - “MCC is carefully monitoring the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting plans as needed to do our part to help mitigate its impact and keep people safe,” the organizations states on its website. “MCC staff in most offices have been instructed to telecommute from home as they are able. They have also been asked to cancel or postpone travel where possible.” For a list of local events or gatherings that have been cancelled or postponed, visit mcccanada.ca/get-involved/events/cancellations.

Mennonite Disaster Service - MDS has closed all of its project sites. Projects will remain closed at least until April 24. All volunteers in the U.S. and Canada scheduled to travel to service locations in the U.S. have been told to cancel their plans and stay home. Details: mds.mennonite.net/mds-closes-projects-covid-19. “I realize the virus isn’t a problem everywhere in the U.S. and Canada, but it is spreading fast,” Kevin King, MDS’ executive director, said in a statement. “We don’t want any of you to become sick or bring back the virus to your homes and communities where others—especially the elderly—might be put in danger.”

Mennonite Economic Development Associates - Starting March 16, MEDA adopted a work from home preferred protocol for North American offices, and a work from home option protocol for its country project offices. Details: meda.org/news/meda-news/1056-keeping-our-employees-and-partners-safe-during-covid19.

This page is being updated. If you have a tip, send it to: submit@canadianmennonite.org

—Updated March 19, 2020

Related stories:
MC Canada offers pandemic preparedness web resources for congregations 
Mennonite World Conference cancels event, meetings in B.C.
Coronavirus: Prayer encourages Chinese church leaders
Coronavirus: MC Canada requests prayer

(Image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay)

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