Events News Releases

CMU, community orchestra to celebrate the Reformation at special concert

The public is invited to a concert at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) celebrating the Protestant Reformation.

CMU, in collaboration with the Mennonite Community Orchestra, will present “Reformation 500” this coming Sunday, October 22 at 3:00 PM in the Loewen Athletic Centre (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.).

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students, and are available at the door. Children 12 and under receive free admission.

The orchestra, under the direction of conductor Neil Weisensel, will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, also known as the Reformation symphony.

Dr. Janet Brenneman, Associate Professor of Music, will lead a choir made up of CMU alumni, the orchestra, and soloists in performing J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 79 and Cantata No. 80.

Soloists include acclaimed Winnipeg singer Rachel Landrecht, as well as three members of CMU’s faculty: voice instructor Rose van der Hooft, political studies instructor James Magnus-Johnston, and music lecturer Matthew Pauls.

The concert is a way for CMU to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation through music, says Dr. Dietrich Bartel, Dean of CMU’s School of Music, who will host Sunday’s concert.

The Reformation was sparked on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther sent his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the Archbishop of Mainz.

“My hope is that we can celebrate the Reformation as part of the story of the church, while also being careful to make sure that we also are critical of the story,” Bartel says.

He adds that the three musical pieces that will be performed are linked. Each significantly quotes “A Mighty Fortress is Out God,” one of Luther’s best known hymns.

“I always thought we should be putting our CMU choirs and the Mennonite Community Orchestra together,” Bartel says of the collaboration, adding that the rehearsals for the concert have gone well. “Everybody’s pretty excited about how things are coming together.”

“Things are sounding really great,” he adds. “It’s going to be grand.”


About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program.

For information about CMU visit

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | Ken Esau (video)

Born and raised in Coaldale, AB, Ken Esau was planning to become an engineer before studying at MBBC led him in the direction of becoming a teacher.

Since 1991, Esau has been part of the Biblical Studies faculty at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, BC.

At CBC, Esau has taught Marriage & Family, Introduction to Psychology, Modern Western History, World Religions, and courses looking specifically at a number of Old Testament books.

It’s his Old Testament survey course, however, that he says has most defined him. Esau has taught the course 90 times.

Ken Esau
Ken Esau, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Formerly a high school teacher, Esau holds undergraduate degrees from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Lethbridge, as well as graduate degrees from the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, CA and Regent College in Vancouver, BC.

Esau is committed to Jesus, Jesus’ church, and the Kingdom mission that Christians are invited to participate in.

As a teacher, his first main goal is to encourage young believers to become disciples who are similarly committed to Jesus, the church, and that Kingdom mission.

His second main goal is to encourage students to become life-long learners; passionate people who think critically and are strong communicators.

“There are many others you could have easily named,” Esau says of receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award. “It’s an honour to be recognized for what is, in many ways, a quiet occupation.”

Esau and his wife, Karen, have three adult children. They attend The Life Centre.


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | Joanne Thiessen Martens (video)

Joanne Thiessen Martens is an agricultural research technician in the Plant Science Department at the University of Manitoba (U of M) in Winnipeg.

For the past 13 years, Thiessen Martens has worked on ecological and organic agriculture research, including a wide variety of projects like cover crops, integrated crop-livestock systems, soil fertility management for organic farms, and more.

Joanne Thiessen Martens
Joanne Thiessen Martens, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

What Thiessen Martens most enjoys about her work is that it involves “all the steps in the knowledge-generation process,” from discussing theoretical ideas, to conceptualizing experiments, to conducting those experiments, and analyzing the results.

“We’re doing everything from the ideas to the nitty gritty of collecting the samples,” she says.

Thiessen Martens grew up on an 800-acre mixed farm in Austin, MB.

After finishing a degree in theology at CMBC, Thiessen Martens began studying science at the U of M. She became passionate about agroecology, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in the field. Thiessen Martens and her husband, Myron, spent 2000-2003 serving with Mennonite Central Committee in northeastern Brazil, where she worked with organic and vegetable farmers.

Thiessen Martens has also travelled to Malawi, where she developed curriculum for local farmers.

Additionally, Thiessen Martens co-authored the third edition of the Organic Field Crop Handbook (2016), which is used in university courses around the world. She is also the co-editor of the Canadian Organic Grower magazine.

Thiessen Martens and her husband have two children. They attend Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship.


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | Henry Neufeld (video)

Henry Neufeld has spent more than six decades building positive relationships among Mennonite and Indigenous peoples.

Born in Moscow, Russia and raised in Leamington, ON, Neufeld studied theology at CMBC.

He and his late wife, Elna, began working as teachers in Indigenous communities in Manitoba in the early 1950s. From 1955 to 1970, they lived and taught 280 kms northeast of Winnipeg in Pauingassi First Nation.

Henry Neufeld
Henry Neufeld, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

After serving two years as pastor at Springstein Mennonite Church in Springstein, MB, Neufeld—who is fluent in Ojibway—began visiting northern communities as a travelling pastor. Since then, he has made more than 600 trips. After 65 years, Neufeld’s work still is not finished. This past spring, at the age of 87, he participated in Mennonite Church Canada’s Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights. Participants walked 600 km. from Kitchener to Ottawa in support of the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“I know our celebration on Canada Day was for 150 years, but if we look only at the past 150 years, then we are doing a real injustice to Indigenous peoples, because they have been here for 10,000 or more years,” Neufeld says.

“Even though our cultures are radically different, our backgrounds are radically different, we need to recognize and respect each other,” he adds. “If we respect each other for who we are and what we have to offer, then we can prosper.”

Neufeld has five children, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He attends Springstein Mennonite Church.


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | John Longhurst (video)

John Longhurst is a communicator, marketer, author, editor, columnist, and media relations specialist in Winnipeg.

In his current role as Director of Resources and Public Engagement at Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Longhurst is responsible for the overall communications, marketing, and fundraising efforts of the organization.

Foodgrains is an ecumenical organization, owned by 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies.

John Longhurst
John Longhurst, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

“I find that endlessly fascinating,” Longhurst says, “because I get to interact with so many different people with so many different points of view.”

Originally from St. Catharines, ON, Longhurst has had an indelible influence in the Mennonite world and beyond throughout his 35-year career.

He has overseen marketing and communications work at Mennonite Publishing Network, CMU, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, and Mennonite Central Committee Canada.

Since 2003, Longhurst has written a weekly faith column for the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2006, he shared his expertise in the book, Making the News: An Essential Guide for Effective Media Relations.

“I was just always curious about why people did the things they did, how things happened, how decisions were made, how the world ticked—endlessly fascinated with it,” Longhurst says of why he became a writer. “I wanted to tell stories and kind of interpret the world.”

Today, one of Longhurst’s greatest joys is mentoring the next generation of communicators.

“I like working with younger staff, helping them find joy and meaning, watching them grapple with a completely different communications world,” he says.

Longhurst attends St. Benedict’s Table. He and his wife, Christine, have two adult children.

Events News Releases

Menno Simons College to host public lecture on interfaith peacebuilding

Menno Simons College is pleased to present Dr. Jan Bender Shetler in a public lecture on interfaith relations in the city of Harar, Ethiopia, later this month.

Dr. Jan Bender Shelter
Dr. Bender Shetler of Gsohen College will speak at the University of Winnipeg on October 19.

The result of an eight-year collaborative research project between Dr. Bender Shetler and fellow academic Dawit Yehualashet, the lecture explores how Muslims and Christians have been able to maintain relatively peaceful relations in Harar over the last century, despite close and potentially volatile interaction.

“We like to examine conflict, to understand more deeply what happened and why, but spend less effort to understand peaceful relations,” says Neil Funk-Unrau, Associate Dean of Menno Simons College. “In a time of rising interreligious tensions, it is more important than ever to see how centuries of peaceful Christian-Muslim relations can be possible and sustainable.”

Over the course of the lecture, Dr. Bender Shetler, Professor of History at Goshen College in Indiana, and Chair of the History and Political Science Department, plans to show how this peace was achieved, despite the odds, why it was effective, and how these insights might be applied to our own context.

The lecture will take place at 7:00 PM on October 19, in the University of Winnipeg’s Convocation Hall.

For more information about the lecture, visit or contact Neil Funk-Unrah at

Menno Simons College is a program of Canadian Mennonite University, affiliated with the University of Winnipeg.

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program.

For information about CMU, visit:

For additional information, please contact:

Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 2N2


In darkness, dwell

By April Klassen, 4th-year Interdisciplinary Studies: Community Development

This past semester I had the opportunity to walk with the Bear Clan Patrol as the practicum for my Community Development degree. The Bear Clan Patrol embodies an Indigenous-led, community-based approach to crime prevention activated by patrolling the streets of Winnipeg’s North End five nights per week. It began as a response to the tragedy of our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The Bear Clan Patrol has many different responsibilities, including collecting needles, handing out care packages, providing safewalks, and being a friendly and positive presence.

April Klassen and the Bear Clan Patrol
CMU student April Klassen with a group joining the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg’s North End.

The Bear Clan Patrol is often requested to marshal various memorials or marches. I recently participated in one such memorial, this time a candlelight vigil and march held in honour and memory of Marilyn Rose Munroe. Rose was found murdered one year ago and her death remains a cold case to this day. The vigil was hosted by Rose’s family and friends, who shared stories and sang songs as we held candles and walked the length of the North End neighbourhood.

I had never participated in a vigil before, nor do I know anyone who has been murdered. I have never had to fear for my life, nor the lives of my family and friends, and I have no reason to think that this should ever be a part of my reality. Yet as we walked, in silence, holding candles in the darkness, I thought about what this experience must be like for my fellow patrol members.

I looked at Sara, the quiet, funny, smart, young Indigenous woman walking next to me who is about my age and lives in the North End. Statistically speaking, Sara has likely been to many vigils and probably knows more than one person who has gone missing or been murdered.

As we walked I wondered what it was like for her to participate in such an event, knowing that it is not out of the realm of possibility that someday she might hold a vigil for her sister, her mother, her daughter—or that one might be held for her! Or, what was it like for her boyfriend and his buddies, who walked just a few steps behind us? Did they fear for the women in their lives, for their sisters and mothers and daughters and partners, or have people become so accustomed to the horror and tragedy that it has become normalized? Did bystanders see the vigil as a sign of resistance, of resilience, something to be celebrated or, was it simply a visible reminder of the pain and death faced by so many families in the community?

The strength that it takes to face the darkness, to stand on the sidewalk and acknowledge the hurt of your community, of your people, of your nation—this is a strength to which I aspire. It would be a vast understatement to state there is darkness in the North End. The history of Canada and of its Indigenous people is very dark, and its legacy continues today. If we are to seek reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, we need to step into that darkness. For me, that step was literal, as I spent six hours of each week with a flashlight walking the poorly lit North End streets.

This darkness is a hard place to be in, and it can be scary at times. One incredible thing I’ve learned is that communities like the North End, and all the diverse Indigenous people and nations of this land, already live in this space. That particular night we walked in darkness because a member of that community had been murdered, and as a community, we created a light that pushed against that darkness.

A first step toward reconciliation will be releasing our tight grip on our comfortable, safely-lit lives and stepping into the darkness. When we get there we will realize that we do not dwell in the darkness alone.

The longer we spend there and the more often we return, the more we will find ourselves becoming a part of the community, welcomed by their embodiment of God’s transformative power, to participate in the redemption of this world.

Articles Student Profiles

CMU student records announcements for the Canada Summer Games

CMU student Jason Friesen recorded PA announcements for the Canada Summer Games.

If you attend the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg this summer, chances are good that you’ll hear Jason Friesen’s voice.

This past spring, Jason recorded announcements that will be broadcast over the PA systems at venues throughout the games, which start tomorrow (Friday, July 28).

The announcements endorse the companies and organizations that are supporting the games, and also let spectators know things like where they can buy merchandise and how they can connect with the games on social media.

Jason, who completed his fourth year at CMU this past April, has some prior recording experience, thanks to taking the Media Workshop class with David Balzer, Assistant Professor of Communications and Media at CMU.

The class teaches students how to research, write, and record interview segments for broadcast on the radio and internet.

Jason worked with Balzer, recording engineer Darryl Neustaedter Barg, and Canada Summer Games Host Society media relations consultant Monique Lacoste to record the English version of the announcements at the studio in Mennonite Church Manitoba, which is located next to CMU’s Shaftesbury campus.

CMU students Emily Hamm, Jason Friesen, Thomas Friesen, and Canada Summer Games Host Society media relations consultant Monique Lacoste pose for a picture in the recording studio.

Recording the announcements was a fun experience, Jason says.

“It feels like a different level when it’s going to be broadcast in venues across Winnipeg and people from across Canada will hear it,” he says.

“It really makes you focus on what you’re saying and how you’re saying it, that you’re doing it right and doing it in a way that grabs people’s attention while they’re at these venues.”

Jason, who is majoring in Communications and Media, is an avid sports fan and a member of the CMU Blazers Men’s Volleyball team.

“Watching sports, you always hear these announcements going over the loudspeaker,” Jason says.

“That will be me now, I guess. It’s a dream come true in some senses—not one I had set my mind to, but it’s neat to take advantage of (the opportunity).”

CMU student Thomas Friesen has spent the past year working as one of five sports and venues coordinators for the Canada Summer Games.

The opportunity came about as a result of Thomas Friesen (no relation to Jason), a CMU student who has spent the past year working as a sports and venues coordinator for the Canada Summer Games Host Society.

In addition to coordinating the venues and volunteers for the volleyball, golf, basketball, and triathlon competitions, Thomas’s work has involved producing the content that will be broadcast over the PA systems at the games. (Read more about Thomas’s experience working for the Games here.)

Like Jason, Thomas is majoring in Communications and Media. He took the Media Workshop class during the winter 2016 semester, which sparked his interest in getting CMU involved when it came time to recording the announcements he needed for the games.

Thomas knew that working with David, Darryl, and Jason would result in a professional recording.

“Just to get CMU involved in that way seemed like a great idea,” Thomas says. “They did an awesome job. They sound great. It’s pretty cool to think we’ll have (a CMU student) being the English voice of the games.”

This year’s Canada Summer Games will include 16 sports and 250-plus events featuring more than 4,000 athletes.

Over 7,000 volunteers were recruited to make the games possible, and more than 20,000 visitors are expected at the events.

The games start this Friday and go until Sunday, August 13. It’s the 50th anniversary of the games.

For Thomas, a lifelong sports fan who has played soccer and volleyball with the CMU Blazers, working for the games has been a dream come true.

“One of the best things about it is just working with people in sport,” Thomas says.

He adds that the passion he’s encountered from his supervisors, colleagues, and the volunteers is palpable.

“That’s probably the coolest thing,” he says, “always seeing that passion everywhere we go.”

Articles Student Profiles

Graduate student explores his Mennonite roots at CMU

“What does it mean for me to be a Mennonite?”

That’s the question that brought Daniel Rempel to CMU. Rempel is finding the answers to that question as he works toward a Master of Arts in Theological Studies in CMU’s Graduate School of Theology and Ministry.

Daniel Rempel
Daniel Rempel, student with CMU’s Graduate School of Theology and Ministry: “You come together with people who have similar goals and a similar desire to better understand God.”

Rempel’s question first occurred to him while he was earning an undergraduate degree in Biblical and Theological Studies from Providence University College in Otterburne, MB.

“While I was there, I got introduced to a whole host of other denominations,” Rempel says, including Anglicans, Baptists, and Pentecostals.

“Being introduced to all these other Christian traditions caused me to really start thinking about what it means for me to be a Mennonite… Is it something I identify with because I believe in it? Or is it something I identify with because I don’t know anything else?”

Studying in the Graduate School of Theology and Ministry, where the professors are approaching topics from an Anabaptist perspective, has stoked Rempel’s interest.

“Coming to theology from that perspective has been enriching and made me want to learn more about my tradition,” Rempel says.

Halfway through his degree, Rempel is enjoying his time at CMU. The academics are rigorous, but professors are always available to support students and help them succeed.

“Pretty much every professor that I’ve had has just been fantastic,” Rempel says. His fellow students are also fantastic.

“You can’t learn in isolation, and so I’ve always found the classroom to be a life-giving place,” Rempel says. “You come together with people who have similar goals and a similar desire to better understand God.”

In his classmates, Rempel has found people he can be friends with, bounce ideas off of, and continue the conversation with once class is over.

“That’s been helpful and beneficial,” he says.

The affordability of tuition and the availability of bursaries has also made studying at CMU worthwhile, Rempel adds.

“Compared to other schools it is very affordable, and I’ve been fortunate to be on the receiving end of some very significant bursaries from some very generous donors,” he says.

Rempel is preparing to write a thesis that will explore how the church can be more welcoming and inclusive toward people with disabilities. His interest in the topic stems from working in group homes for the past two years.

“I’ve been really enlivened by that work,” Rempel says. “My eyes have been opened to the world that people with disabilities are living in… (It) has led me to ask some of these questions, and I’m looking for theological answers to my questions.” Rempel is considering doing a PhD after he finishes his Master’s.

“I’m definitely trying to keep that door open, but ultimately what drives me in my studies is that I want to do theology in a way that benefits the church,” he says.

In the meantime, he’s happy at CMU.

“I’m very thankful for the people here and for what I’ve learned so far,” Rempel says. “I’m about halfway through my degree now, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.


Youth invited to explore ‘reconciling relationships’ at new CMU peace event

In the spirit of its popular Peace-It-Together event, and together with a range of ministry partners, CMU is launching a brand-new gathering for high-school youth this fall.

Titled sixpointeight: equipping peacebuilders, the event takes place from 2:00 to 8:00 PM on Sunday, October 15, 2017. Youth in grades 9 to 12 from across Canada are invited to gather around the theme, “Reconciling Relationships in the Way of Jesus.”

Six Point Eight Promotional ImageIn addition to featuring keynote addresses by Kathy Giesbrecht, Associate Director of Leadership Ministries at Mennonite Church Manitoba, and Lloyd Letkeman, Mission Mobilizer at MB Mission, sixpointeight will feature worship, inspiring workshops modelled after TED talks, and diverse opportunities for youth to reflect on, and respond to, what they have learned.

“This event extends CMU’s commitment to educate for peace-justice,” says Terry Schellenberg, Vice President External and head of the sixpointeight planning committee. “As with many of CMU’s initiatives, we’re gratified to bring together a diverse range of church, church school, and service agencies to offer this significant peace-equipping youth gathering.”

Planned to coincide with Mennonite Church Canada’s Special Delegate Assembly in Winnipeg October 13-15, sixpointeight takes its name from Micah 6:8: “…to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Together with CMU, MB Mission, Mennonite Church Manitoba, Mennonite Brethren Church Manitoba, Mennonite Central Committee, Westgate Mennonite Collegiate, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, and Mennonite Collegiate Institute are all co-sponsoring and planning the event.

Sixpointeight will replace the long-running Peace It Together conference, which was held for the last time in 2015.

Visit for more information.