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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Irma Fast Dueck

Dr. Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, began her teaching career at Canadian Mennonite Bible College, one of CMU’s predecessor colleges, in 1991.

What do you love about your work here?

I love the students and I love my colleagues. I also love the fact that we’re a small enough university that we can’t develop silos. Theology spills into music, which spills into math, and so on. Our lives don’t fit into neat categories—most of our lives are this muddy, murky in-between—and we have a university that embodies that.

06 - Irma Fest Dueck (July 2016) 02

What did you teach this past year that most excited you?

Theologies of Power. It’s an upper level course in theology, and students come from all over the place, including business and communications. It was fascinating to teach them a concept in thinking of power, and then watch them take that concept and read it through their discipline. Power is so insidious—it’s everywhere. For these students to recognize that and work in this interdisciplinary way was awesome to watch.

What are you researching and writing right now?

I’m working on a book about baptism, which I’ve been researching and writing for three years now. The big question that I’ve been wrestling with is: Why aren’t young adults getting baptized? I’ve noticed in my tradition, Mennonite Church Canada (MC Canada), many young adults are actively involved in church organizations but aren’t baptized. Why is that? Why are they hesitant to make commitments to the church? What’s going in in terms of how they interpret the meaning of baptism?

What are you reading for enjoyment?

I just finished reading Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, about a marathon runner who becomes a refugee. And, I’m always reading poetry, so Mary Karr and Kei Miller are two poets that I’m working through right now. Someone introduced me to them when I was on sabbatical in Scotland. I read a poem a day by each of them.

What do you most long for in your work?

What I long for is that love is at the core of who students are, even as they are aware of the complexities and problems of life, and deal with very real fears. I hope that in spite of the complexities, they don’t slide into cynicism or despair, but that they still love—they love God, they love creation, they love the wonder of this world, they love each other, and they love those who are different from them.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

I just finished the Listening Church project with my friend, Darryl Neustaedter Barg, where we interviewed Mennonite LGBTQ people about their experiences in MC Canada congregations and created a video. That was a great project—it gave me a sense of hope for the church. Right now, I’m on the steering committee put together by MennoMedia, MC Canada, and Mennonite Church USA that is overseeing the development of a new Mennonite song collection. We are trying to figure out what congregations need and how the church can resource them for their singing and worship. I’m excited about it.

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Face2Face: On Campus – Community in Conversation Uncategorized Video

Face2Face | Cohabitation: The Question of Living Together Before Marriage (video)

Context
Increasingly, our faith communities, pastoral leaders and families are encountering the broad, cultural reality of cohabitation. Bringing deeply held theological convictions into conversation with practices outside of these persuasions can be challenging. Dialogue and conversation are vital.

Focus
What clarity might we gain on the Biblical, theological, sociological / cultural, and relational dynamics that underlie the reality of cohabitation? What makes this practice challenging to openly discuss within our church communities, as families and with young adults we know and love? How can we best resource and learn from one another?

Panel Members

Recorded February 2, 2016

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Events News Releases

Discussion series to explore cohabitation

‘How do we minister to couples who are part of our churches and living together?’ prof asks

Cohabitation is increasingly a reality in Canadian society. How ought the church respond? That’s the question behind an upcoming event at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

The community is invited to “Cohabitation: The Question of Living Together Before Marriage,” CMU’s latest Face2Face discussion, on Tuesday, February 9. The event starts at 7:00 PM in Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.). Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend.

Cohabitation is a difficult topic that many people are hesitant to address, which makes it ideal for the Face2Face series, says David Balzer, Assistant Professor of Communications and Media at CMU, who will moderate the discussion.

He adds that a discussion about cohabitation is inevitably a discussion about what commitment and marriage mean in 2016.

“We’re really unpacking the question of what a marriage covenant looks like in society today,” Balzer says.

This event will focus on three main questions:

  • What clarity might we gain on the biblical, theological, sociological/cultural, and relational dynamics that underlie the reality of cohabitation?
  • What makes this practice challenging to openly discuss within our church communities, as families and with young adults we know and love?
  • How can we best resource and learn from one another?

Face2Face_Feb2016Participants in the discussion include Dr. Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology; John Neufeld, lead pastor at The Meeting Place; and Rebecca Steiner and Paul Peters, two CMU staff members who will represent the diverse voices of young adults.

Dueck, who has researched cohabitation and presented on the topic to church leaders throughout Canada and the United States, says the reality today is that the way to marriage for many young people is to live together first.

“There is huge pressure for our young adults to live together before they get married – even sometimes from parents,” Dueck says.

She hopes the conversation on February 9 goes deeper than exploring whether cohabitation is right or wrong.

“The question is, how do we minister to couples who are part of our churches and living together?” Dueck says. “What does living together do to our theology of marriage? How do we talk positively about marriage amongst people who have seen their parents get divorced? How do we keep valuing it and keep putting it forward as an option amongst people who are living together?”

Steiner believes it is important for the church to be talking about cohabitation.

“It’s one of those awkward topics we don’t know how to address in the church,” she says. “Sometimes it feels good to engage those topics that are tricky or taboo. It can be difficult or challenging, but I’m excited for the conversation that will happen at the event.”

Balzer says that when he and his fellow organizers discussed the event recently, no one in the room could think of a time when they heard cohabitation being discussed in a public way in their respective church communities.

“There’s a sense with this event that we’re trying to open the conversation,” Balzer says. “If we accomplish simply starting a conversation, then we’ve hopefully made a contribution.”

Started in 2013, Face2Face is a series of conversations organized by CMU, designed to engage the community on a wide variety of current events and issues at the intersection of faith and life.

“Cohabitation: The Question of Living Together Before Marriage” is the third of four Face2Face events CMU will host during the 2015-16 school year.

For details, visit cmu.ca/face2face.

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 www.cmu.ca.

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

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Events Lectures News Releases

CMU Discussion Series Explores Young Adults and the Church

Exploring assumptions goal of third Face2Face event of 2015-14 school year

Many young Canadians have stepped away from institutionalized religion, a trend that has been growing for the past 25 years. An upcoming event at Canadian Mennonite University will explore why.

face2facefeb1015CMU’s Face2Face community discussion series continues on Tuesday, February 10 with “You Lost Me: The Church and Young Adults.” The event takes place in Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.) on CMU’s campus. Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend. The event starts at 7:00 PM.

Face2Face is a series of conversations with CMU faculty, designed to engage the community on a wide variety of current events and issues at the intersection of faith and life.

Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, and Peter Epp, a student in CMU’s Graduate School of Theology and Ministry, will co-host the discussion.

The diverse panel of young adults contributing to the conversation includes Kirsten Hamm-Epp and Lukas Thiessen, who are alumni of CMU, as well as Danielle Morton and Mike Wiebe, who are currently students at the university.

Dueck was inspired to create the event after encountering an increasing number of students who are Christians, but who either don’t belong to a church or are not baptized.

“They’re very committed Christians, interested in social justice, prayer, and everything, but they’re nominally involved in church,” Dueck says.

Epp’s interest in the topic stems in part from his experience teaching Mennonite Studies at the high school level. He witnessed his students getting passionate about the topic as they learned more about it.

At the same time, they didn’t argue with Epp when he suggested that statistically speaking, it’s very likely they would leave the church as young adults.

“I think that contrast with students can get really interesting,” says Epp, adding that his interest in the topic also comes from having close relationships with a handful of friends who have left the church as young adults.

Questions the panelists will explore include: Is the church not listening, or do young adults no longer care? Has the church lost touch with the issues about which young adults are most passionate? How significant is the church’s worship to the participation and involvement of young adults? Do young adults feel any responsibility in keeping the legacy of the church going? What does it mean for the church to be “faithful” in this time and place?

The goal of the event is to explore the assumptions young people have about the church, as well as the assumptions people in the church have about young people.

“I’m just hoping to wade into the complexity of the questions and dispel some of the stereotypes we have around this issue,” Dueck says.

Epp agrees.

“My hope is that people in the church would walk away with a deeper understanding of the complexity of the situation, so that they can better address it,” he says. “On the flipside of that, I hope young adults might be able to step back and consider their own engagement with the church in potentially new ways.”

“You Lost Me: The Church and Young Adults” is the third of four Face2Face events CMU is hosting during the 2014-15 school year. For details, please visit www.cmu.ca/face2face.

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, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury Campus and in its Menno Simons College and Outtatown programs.

For information about CMU, visit: www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:

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

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Audio Faculty interviews Sunday@CMU Radio

Irma Fast Dueck – A Passion for Teaching

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“An H1N1 teaching moment…”
Irma is Associate Professor of Practical Theology at CMU and was born and grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has been a university chaplain and a pastor before beginning her teaching career at CMBC (a predecessor college of CMU) in 1991. She received her Doctorate of Theology from Victoria University at the University of Toronto, a Masters of Divinity from the University of Winnipeg, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo.

When not hanging around CMU or travelling, Irma hangs out with her two favourite guys, husband Ken and son Zachary—who, among other things, love canoeing and wilderness camping. In addition, she enjoys cycling, is an avid novel reader, quilts with her sisters and unabashedly loves all food and social functions (preferably together). She and her family are actively involved with the saints at Bethel Mennonite Church.

Contact:  ifdueck@cmu.ca