Heartland Regional Newsletter March 2021

Reflections on Reconciliation

By Mark Doerksen

In February, most of Canada celebrated Family Day, but in Manitoba, this holiday is called Louis Riel Day. We experienced the Polar Vortex on the prairies this past week and a half, which is another phrase for “unbearably cold”—combined with the restrictions of COVID-19 , it meant that our family did very little to celebrate Louis Riel Day. Keeping warm was the main objective of the holiday this year.

Louis Riel can be a polarizing figure for some, and his history is—at the very least—important and interesting. Our house is located not too far from his birthplace, and if you drive the streets of Winnipeg, you’ll see names of some of the folks that were important for the founding of Manitoba and who had interactions with Riel. This is the birthplace of the Metis nation, and Winnipeg is located on Treaty 1 land.

Part of my work includes participation and leadership on the Justice and Mercy Network of the CBWC. This committee gets together to talk about ways to animate churches on justice topics, should churches so desire. One of the topics that we’ve spoken about, and that we continue to pay attention to, is that of Indigenous issues. To that end, I have enrolled in a free, online course through our sister denomination, the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada. The course is called Walking in a Good Way with Our Indigenous Neighbours, and you can access it here. The course takes about 20 hours to complete. You can do so at your leisure, as it is always accessible, and it is free of charge. I travel less due to COVID-19, and I have happily been able to insert courses like this into my calendar.

I have not completed the course, but it is quite clear that much harm has been done to Indigenous people in our country, and some of this harm has come by way of the church. It’s easy to say that Canadian Baptists were not as involved as other denominations in residential schooling for instance, but relationships between Canadian Baptists and Indigenous people have not always been what they ought to be. For example, according to an article by David R. Elliot, William Henry Prince worked alongside Alexander Grant, stationed at First Baptist Winnipeg, for some time in the 1890s. Unfortunately, this work amongst Indigenous people in Manitoba all but ceased by the time of the First World War. Prince was the first missionary to the Indigenous people of the region. Jodi Spargur has also written a paper on this called Baptists and First People’s of Canada 1846-1976: A History. If you would like to hear the latest update on this, you can contact Jodi at spargurj@gmail.com. I am also sure that if you want to fund her doctorate so she can write a book on this topic, she would be happy to connect.

I understand that this history can be difficult to hear, and difficult to know what to do with. Yet I also understand that I have a lot to learn when it comes to understanding the history of Indigenous people in Canada, and how I can be a part of reconciliation moving forward. I wish to do so within a biblical and theological framework, and this course helps me with that. So, if you’ve got a bit more time on your hands and you wish to know more about this topic, please consider enrolling.


A Journey to Life in Ministry

By Pastor Mandi Hecht

My name is Mandi Hecht, and I am currently serving as the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Saskatoon, SK. I have lived nearly all of my life in Saskatchewan; and most of that was spent in the city of Prince Albert, where I grew up. It was there, while I was about 14 years old, that I felt the call to vocational ministry. Still, life is full of surprises, and it was not a straight line for me from call to ministry.

Following high school, I went to Baptist Leadership Training School. In fact, I was a member of the last class to attend that denominational institution! It is also there that I met my husband, Ian. After a year in Calgary at BLTS, I moved to Regina and studied Social Work at the University of Regina. Ian and I were married in 2000. When Ian finished his degree in education, we moved to Prince Albert as he took up his first teaching post.

Shortly after the birth of our first child, Caleb, I began to study with Carey Theological College in hopes of further pursing the pull I felt towards ministry. In 2004, I began with Carey a program called “Diploma of Ministry.” A few years later, I switched to a new program that they were offering, the “Master of Pastoral Ministry.” I took classes by distance where possible, and in person where I could get to them. In this way I studied while at home with Caleb, as well as his sister, Grace, who came into the world in 2005. As I studied and volunteered at our church in Prince Albert, the CBWC became interested in offering support for churches to enhance ministry to children and families. I came on staff with the denomination during this time as the Coordinator for Children and Family Ministry in the Heartland area.

I had nearly completed the Master of Pastoral Ministry when Carey was approved to offer a “Master of Divinity” degree, and so I joined that program. Only 4 classes shy of earning the MDiv, I discovered I was pregnant with our third child! So, I completed the last 2 classes of that degree with an infant in tow. The birth of Noelle also meant that I gave up my position with the denomination to care for my growing family.

I graduated with my MDiv (finally!) in 2011. That June, I started as a part-time pastor of Faith Community Church in Wakaw. With a pastoral role and an MDiv in hand, I spent a couple of years balancing work and looking after my young family. I was ordained by the CBWC in 2013. However, in 2014 an opportunity presented itself that was too good to pass up! I was accepted into a Doctor of Ministry program at Northern Seminary, which enabled me to study with New Testament scholar and author Scot McKnight. I began classes there in 2014 and graduated in 2018. A highlight of this program was a trip to Israel with my classmates, professors, and any family and friends who wanted to come along.

A new chapter in our lives kicked off when I received and accepted the call to the role of Pastor of First Baptist Church Saskatoon in the summer of 2020. The transition to a new city has been

stretched out over time for us. I am working in Saskatoon, my husband continues to teach in Prince Albert until the end of the school year 2021, and our kids are at three different schools in two different cities. While we had planned on a bit of chaos in this season of change, we have had some unplanned difficulty as well. Our son, Caleb, began to feel sick this fall, and this led to a two-week hospital stay around Christmas. Fortunately, he is no longer in the hospital, but unfortunately, he continues to have the same symptoms, and a diagnosis (up until this point) has proven elusive. One of the beautiful things about bride of Jesus Christ, however, is how we care for one another. I am very thankful for my church family at First Baptist Saskatoon, who have both accepted the care that I have offered them, and who have stepped up to “pastor” their pastor as my family goes through this season of challenge and transition.

Although the road to and through ministry (and through life) has not ever been the straight line that I expected it might be, I am grateful every day to the Lord for walking with me through the highs and lows of this journey, and for allowing me to walk alongside God’s people as an under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd!

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca