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

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

General News News Releases

CMU Recognizes Distinguished Alumni with 2014 Blazer Awards

Winnipeg – A woman who has spent more than 30 years working for justice in Israel-Palestine, the executive director of an organization that serves low-income people in need of support, a pastor-turned-TV producer who volunteers with people who have Alzheimer’s, and a Congolese immigrant who helps newcomers to Canada are the recipients of Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) 2014 Blazer Distinguished Alumni Awards.

CMU President Cheryl Pauls is pleased to present the awards to Kathy Bergen, John Neufeld, Lorlie Barkman, and Odette Mukole on Saturday, September 27 during the Opening Program ceremony at the university’s Fall Festival. blazeraward.jpg

The Blazer Awards are presented annually to alumni from CMU and its predecessor colleges: Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) and Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC)/Concord College. The awards celebrate alumni who, through their lives, embody CMU’s values and mission of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society.

“We are humbled and inspired by the honour and care all four of these alumni extend to people who are often marginalized,” Pauls says. “We give these awards to thank them for the example of their lives.”

Pauls will present the awards during CMU’s Opening Program at 7:00 PM on Saturday, September 27 in CMU’s Loewen Athletic Centre as part of CMU’s Fall Festival.

Earlier that day, the public is invited to meet and interact with Bergen, Neufeld, Barkman, and Mukole during an event at 4:00 PM in CMU’s Laudamus Auditorium. During this hour, the award recipients will reflect on their personal and professional journeys. There will be time for questions and interaction.

Information about the 2014 award recipients:

  • 2014-08-29 - Blazer Award Winners 2014 [1] - Kathy Bergen editedFor the past 32 years, Kathy Bergen (CMBC ’72) has dedicated her life to working for justice in Israel-Palestine. Bergen lived in Jerusalem from the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 until after the Gulf War in 1991, working with MCC. Her career includes seven years as the program coordinator for the Friends International Center in Ramallah, a Quaker ministry in the West Bank, and 12 years as national coordinator of the Middle East Program of the Peacebuilding Unit for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that works for peace and justice around the world.
  • 2014-08-29 - Blazer Award Winners 2014 [2] - John NeufeldA 1995 graduate of CMBC, John Neufeld earned a Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto and worked for 11 years in foster care. After completing a Master of Business Administration at Wilfrid Laurier, he took on his current role as executive director at House of Friendship, a Kitchener, ON-based organization whose mission is to serve low-income adults, youth, and children in need of support. “I think it’s critical to our common humanity that we all feel we belong, so I want to be engaged in work that makes people feel they belong,” he says.
  • 2014-08-29 - Blazer Award Winners 2014 [3] - Lorlie BarkmanPastor and television producer are two titles on Lorlie Barkman’s resume. Barkman (MBBC ’90) spent 15 years with Family Life Network, a communications arm of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba, where he co-created a family TV series called “The Third Story” that aired across much of Canada. Before and after his time in TV, Barkman worked as a pastor. Now retired, Barkman enjoys volunteering in seniors homes, where he does a form of art therapy for people with Alzheimer’s by drawing pictures of memories that they share with him. “The Lord has kindly provided many mercies – guidance, forgiveness, encouragement, love,” Barkman says. “I’m very grateful to God.”
  • 2014-08-29 - Blazer Award Winners 2014 [4] - Odette MukoleConcern for her family’s safety motivated Odette Mukole to move to Canada from the Congo with her three daughters in 2000. She graduated from CMU in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Social Science and currently works as a case coordinator at Family Dynamics, a not-for-profit, community-based agency in downtown Winnipeg that helps newcomers to Canada adjust to life in a new country. “I really like what I’m doing, helping people and making sure they get what they need,” she says. “And when I talk to clients, it’s from my own experience.”

About CMU A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as two graduate degree programs. CMU has more than 1,700 students, including Menno Simons College and Outtatown students, and is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) For information about CMU, visit: Media contact: Kevin Kilbrei, CMU Communications & Marketing Director; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621 Canadian Mennonite University 500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 2N2