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Portable CMU

About Portable CMU

As 'a university of the church in the world,' CMU is committed to resource and nurture the vocation of the church. This includes resourcing both leaders and laity, thereby extending the imagination, faith, and life of diverse faith communities. Please consider how best CMU might serve and strengthen your congregation's witness and mission.

Portable CMU offers you the benefits of university instruction in your own local setting! This page describes short courses on a range of topics our faculty members have prepared to deliver in a variety of contexts away from CMU. 

Each Portable offers three or four sessions delivered flexibly to suit your congregational or retreat setting and need. Please imagine a structure that works best for you. We hope you will also consider collaborating with other congregations in your vicinity to create a richer opportunity for exchange around one or more of these topics, with several churches in an area promoting a fall or winter learning opportunity. One of the structures that has worked well for some congregations begins with worship (or the Christian Education Hour) on Sunday morning. This can be continued with a pot luck lunch and session following that. Depending on their teaching schedule, faculty members may be able to conclude with a session on Sunday evening.

Portables can be structured in some combination of the following ways:

We hope you will also consider collaborating with other churches in your vicinity to create a richer opportunity for exchange around one or more of these topics. Perhaps several churches together could promote a fall or winter learning festival bringing together two, three, or more diverse topics in order to attract wide participation.

Workshops (available in Manitoba)
While some workshop topics are listed, any portable can be requested as a one or two session workshop (in consultation with the instructor).

Sermons (available in Manitoba)
Congregations may wish to have a guest speaker on a Sunday morning for a topical emphasis or when the pastor is not available. Faculty and some staff can be invited to preach or to do a series of sermons.

Costs to the Congregation

For further information or to make a reservation, please contact:

Joyce Friesen
Canadian Mennonite University
Phone: 204.487.3300
Toll-free: 877.231.4570
Fax: 204.487.3858

Please call early to make a booking since some offerings will be in high demand. We welcome bookings both by individual congregations and by two or more congregations working together.

Click here for a downloadable listing of the courses and workshops outlined below


Portable CMU Courses (2016-17)

Living Ethically in a Complex World

Paul Doerksen, Associate Professor of Theology

The Christian practice of ethics is often understood as a matter of being good at making decisions. How might our approach to ethical living be different if church practices such as corporate worship, baptism, communion and prayer generated the way we pursued moral questions? This portable seeks to consider ethics in a way that keeps the church and the Bible central to the discussion. It will consider several moral issues in light of the centrality of the church for Christian ethics.


Being the Church Even When We Disagree

Wendy Kroeker, Instructor of Peace & Conflict Transformation Studies and Co-Director of Canadian School of Peacebuilding

Conflict is an inevitable part of congregational life, and yet it is avoided rather than dealt with. Conflict can emerge from changing times, diverse expectations, differing styles of leadership, or disagreement over theological issues. This portable will examine some of the root causes of conflict and the impacts of interpersonal conflict within communities. As well, various models for working through and transforming conflict will be presented, including approaches for handling difficult persons and conversations.

This portable will include a lecture, participatory activities, and small/large group discussion.


The Problem of Prayer 

Pierre Gilbert, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology

Prayer can be a very confounding practice. Why do we pray? Why do we often have the impression that God doesn't answer our prayers? Does prayer really make a difference? We will explore this question by first examining the Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6:9–13. Second, we will look at the flipside of the issue and consider what happens when God does indeed answer our prayers, but in ways we didn't expect. Habakkuk, a seventh-century prophet, once received an answer to an urgent prayer. But God's response shocked him... beware what you pray for... 

Matthew 6:9-13 and the book of Habakkuk will provide a foundation for understanding more adequately the nature of prayer and will give us some insights into the basic principles we need to take into account as we anticipate God's response.


The Life Work and Thought of Martin Luther King Jr.

Brian Froese, Associate Professor of History

In addition to surveying the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., the course will explore the theological and historical context within which he worked. Emphasis will be placed on the intersection of this theological thought concerning the church and society adn the social-historical setting of America in teh 1950s and 1960s. 

  1. Background to teh Civil Rights and King up to the 1950s
  2. Love
  3. War and Labour
  4. "I have a dream;" "I many not get there with you"
Science and God's Universe

John Brubacher, Assistant Professor of Biology

God’s Universe is an autobiographical reflection on Christian faith and science, written by retired Harvard University astronomer Gingerich. In these sessions, we will use the book as a springboard for discussions of various topics: scientific reasoning, the cosmic significance of humanity, science and scripture, evolution, and ways of explaining the world, of which are important themes in Gingerich’s thinking. Though reading the book provides helpful background, it is not necessary to purchase or read it in order to participate in the sessions.

Joyful Wrestling: The Art of Reading Scripture

Gerald Gerbrandt, President Emeritus and Professor of Old Testament

It is the faith of the church that through Scripture God speaks to us.But all too often when we read scripture we hear ourselves rather than God. A fundamental need in the church today is to learn again how to read Scripture. The church must learn “afresh to acknowledge the Bible as the functional center of life, so that in all our conversations, deliberations, arguments, and programs, we are continually reoriented to the demands and promises of the Scriptures.” (Ellen Davis).

This Portable CMU will consider what factors and assumptions undermine hearing the God of Scripture, and how we might read it again with integrity and effect, keeping in mind two themes:

  1. that reading the Bible can be a delight and joy, and
  2. that at the same time, it inevitably is a struggle, or wrestling match.
A Living Faith: Discipleship and the Letter of James

Sheila Klassen-Wiebe, Associate Professor of New Testament

Even though Martin Luther called the letter of James an “epistle of straw,” this book of the Bible continues to be a favourite for many Christians. With its vivid imagery and straightforward instruction, the letter of James seems to make Christian faith practical and relevant for daily life. And yet, living out the vision of Christian discipleship set out by James is anything but easy or simple. Many Christians wrestle with where to find grace and where to find Jesus in this short instructive letter. In this Portable we will begin with an overview of the book and a look at its historical context and literary background. Most of our time will be spent studying a selection of some key themes in the letter: speech, wealth, perfection, tests and trials, wisdom, friendship with God, anger, prayer, and faith in action. Our aim will always be to reflect on how this letter can and does shape faithful Christian discipleship today. In the process we will find Jesus in the letter as well! 

(available September to December 2016)


Learning About Islam

John Derksen, Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies

What is Islam? What does the Qur’an teach? What do Muslims believe? What does Islam have to do with 9/11? How shall we relate to Muslims? Islam is the world’s fastest growing major religion, and Christians the world over, including in Canada, find themselves with Muslim neighbours. These sessions will introduce Islam’s origins and development, its scriptures and teachings, and its presence in the modern world. We will also discuss how Christians may relate to Muslims.


Death, Dying, and the Trinity

Justin Neufeld, Instructor of Philosophy and Theology

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on physician assisted suicide (physician assisted dying), ruling that the ban violates the right to life, liberty, and security of the person granted by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this portable we will engage some of the issues surrounding physician assisted suicide through an unusual route: the doctrine of the Trinity. We will explore what has led the church to characterize God as three and we will examine what this characterization has to do with the values of life, liberty, and security of the person.


Without Rings–Without Strings: Couples Living Together

Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology

Understandings and practices of marriage have shifted considerably in the past century. Increasingly couples choose to live together either instead of/or before getting married. This CMU Portable will reflect on this contemporary reality. Why are couples increasingly choosing to live together? How does living together shift an understanding of marriage? How does the church minister in light of these contemporary realities?


Love (All) Your Neighbours

Delmar Epp, Associate Professor of Psychology

Today’s churches seek to build community in the face of increasing diversity, both within our congregations, and in our broader contexts. Yet there often exists an anxiety over opening our doors to change, and our culture promotes a need for protection and isolation from those outside our circles. Working from a social-psychological perspective, we will explore the origins of prejudice, the variation in people’s prejudicial attitudes and behaviours, and the potential to transform relations among people who differ.

Possible sessions: 

Meditation: "Who is my neighbour?


Questions of Identity: Why Anabaptism?

Karl Koop, Professor of History and Theology

The North American religious landscape seems to be in constant flux. Should we hold fast to tradition or participate whole-heartedly in the latest trends? What is Anabaptism and why is it important? Why are a wide range of churches and denominations interested in embracing Anabaptist theology? What are the core convictions of Ana baptism that can provide direction for our lives today? How do we understand these convictions in the context of Christian diversity or religious pluralism? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in a session on Anabaptism, or in multiple sessions.

Learning to Swim in the Waters of Baptism

Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology

Baptism is an important Christian practice and at its roots it has been the practice that gives witness to our faith and brings us into the Christian community. The act simply involves a pouring of or immersing in water in the name of the Trinity yet in the history of Christianity it has been a defining act—how do you know if someone is Christian? Are they baptized? Despite its central role throughout time, Christians have had to consider anew the meaning of the practice for both those being baptized and for the church.

This Portable will dive into the waters of baptism and explore the Biblical and theological story that shapes the practice. It will focus on contemporary issues connected to baptism: why are so many self identifying Christians not baptized? What makes it hard to receive baptism? While historically baptism has always had a close relationship to the practice of communion and to church membership, today there is frequently tension between them—what is the nature of the tension and how do we negotiate it? Should baptism be understood more as an expression of God's claim upon the person vs. a sign of participation in the body of Christ, the church? These are just some of the questions that could be considered in the portable.

Specific topics and themes connected to baptism can be negotiated according to a group's interests and concerns.

Pacifism: Can We Still Believe (Live) It?

Harry Huebner, Professor Emeritus of Theology and Philosophy, and Director of International and Inter-Faith Theological Initiatives

These sessions will focus on how to understand Anabaptist/Mennonite pacifism. We will ask whether it is still believable or whether we need to make adjustments in light of our new best insights. The first session will review the Anabaptist/Mennonite understanding of the peace position in general; the second will focus on the current challenges and the biblical political theology presupposed by pacifism; and the third will look at how pacifists might live today in light of our violent society. How can we make a difference? Although some parts will be in the form of theological reflection many stories will be told drawing on the presenter’s experiences of peacemaking. The Sunday morning sermon will be entitled “Peace: The Desire of God.”

You had to be there: A History of Humour, Laughter, and Comical Christianity

Brian Froese, Associate Professor of History

Laughing, joke telling, cartoons and humour in general has played a vital part of human history for entertainment, teaching, fomenting revolution, dismissing opponents and for many other reasons. In this portable we will explore four selected episodes in church history that underscore the role of humour in the development of Christianity in terms of theology, day-to-day experiences, and critique. Humour may be the best medicine, but it is fine history too.

  1. Introduction, and "What have the Romans ever done for us?" Humour in the Early Church Era
  2. An Early Modern Late Show: Erasmus, Jn Praise of Folly
  3. Mere Mirth: C.S. Lewis and Laughter
  4. A Comical Gospel: Sarah's Laughter and Foolishness in Corinth
Living Faithfully in a Media Age

David Balzer, Assistant Professor of Communications and Media

We live in a  media-saturated society, from personal smartphones to home-theatres sized TVs, to 24/7 internet connections, to church-based Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. All of these provoke us to adopt, adapt, or reject technology and media. This portable examines the opportunities and challenges of living in a mediated society. Is there a biblical mandate to engage new technologies? How do we discern the media messages that shape our reality? How might individuals, local churches, and families foster media-related practices that are life-giving?

Human Sexuality, the Bible, and the life of the Church

various CMU faculty

Many congregations desire sound Biblical reflection and honest conversation about human sexuality, particularly given teh church's strain related to LGBTQ questions and issues. Several CMU faculty have addressed these themes from various perspectives and in different contexts. These faculty are willing to walk with congregations in a portable or workshop format focused on how understandings of Scripture, Confessions of Faith, the Church, Family, Relationships, and Gender can inform our own convictions and questions about sexuality.

Congregations may choose to invite one or more faculty based on the issues and questions most relevant to their context. Please communicate your congregational interest and to the extent possible, CMU will work with you to shape a portable or workshop most appropriate to your setting and need. 


Congregational Workshops

Some workshop topics are listed below, however, any portable can be requested as one or two session workshops (in consultation with the instructor).

Speaking of Jesus: Bearing Witness to Our Experiences of Jesus Christ

Andrew Dyck, Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies

Participants will be guided into a conversation about the pitfalls and possibilities of speaking about Jesus with friends, neighbours, and colleagues. The following questions will be considered. What are our own experiences of knowing Jesus? Where and when do we hear people talking about Jesus? What can we promise to people who trust Jesus?

Being with God: Living Attentively


Andrew Dyck, Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies

Christians have often emphasized having a personal daily "Quiet Time" for reading the Bible, reflecting, and praying. A Quiet Time can, however, become so filled with activity that it no longer includes quietness for paying attention to God's still small voice. People reasonably ask whether it is possible to hear God's voice, or whether God still communicates to people. This workshop can help set you on a path towards a conversational relationship with Jesus by means of teachings from scripture and experience, and by practicing stillness and "sacred reading" of Scripture (i.e. lectio divina).

(suitable for a workshop of up to 5 hours)

Ecology, Environment, and the Church

Rachel Krause, Assistant Professor of Biology

Climate change, soil degradation, air and water pollution, natural resource depletion, biodiversity loss... At this time in history, humanity faces a multitude of inter-connected environmental crises. Using an ecological, place-based framework, this workshop will begin by exploring some of the ecological concepts underpinning our understanding of these issues. It will then move into discussion about the role of the church in addressing these complex issues.

Through the use of participatory activities, we will explore together the marvel that is the created world, using this as inspiration for a hopeful conversation about God's call for Christians to care for God's good creation.

The "Oh my God" Project: Exploring a Phrase's Cultural and Biblical Meaning

David Balzer, Assistant Professors of Communications and Media 

This interactive session is designed to intrigue and inspire youth to investigate a relationship with the living God through an exploration of the "Oh my God" phrase so common in Canadian culture. We believe that a deeper exploration of this phrase can invite youth to consider the nature and character of God. The session includes a screening of the short (1 Om in.) documentary film "When was the last time you said, Oh my God?" and other video segments from the Outtatown program. If you find yourself intrigued by one of Canada's most popular phrases, this session is for you.

(suitable for a 60 to 75 minute session, youth event or Sunday School format)


CMU's Mission Statement

Canadian Mennonite University is an innovative Christian university, rooted in the Anabaptist faith tradition, moved and transformed by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Through teaching, research and service CMU inspires and equips women and men for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation in church and society.

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