Magazines 2018 Mar - Apr Question and Answer: With Cheryl Pauls

Question and Answer: With Cheryl Pauls

21 March 2018 By Cheryl Pauls

Educating For Vocation


◼ What is at the heart of CMU’s mission?

At the heart of our mission is educating for vocation. Often the term vocation is used to mean either calling or career in ways that are disconnected. We are working to restore the term through bringing together calling and livelihood. By "calling" I mean formation of faith and character, and discernment of purpose and direction as heard from God, God’s people and through your own gifts and convictions. By "livelihood" I mean something bigger than simply a career. Discerning vocation and becoming both disciplined and discipled in that calling is vital to the lives of individual students, and also to the life of collective bodies of church and community. We often speak of CMU as a learning community that inspires and equips students toward voluntary commitments and relationality throughout their lives.

◼ What role does CMU and schools like yours play in the life of the Canadian Church?

We are deeply committed to strengthening and awakening the love students have for the Church, not just as an idea, but in the Church’s living, breathing, messy, beautiful forms. We go about this through Spiritual Life initiatives (chapel, fellowship groups, Pastor in Residence weeks, Office for Ministry Inquiry, facilitating involvement in local churches, etc.), as well as formal requirements. All students are required to take a minor in biblical and theological studies. It is our conviction that the Bible is heard most soundly through time when people from many walks of life discern it together, and not just ministry leaders. We also sustain a formal relationship with our founding Mennonite denominational bodies, even as the ecumenical range of our students and the churches we connect with represent the full diversity of the Church in Canada. We model to students that any question that can be asked in a discipline other than Bible and theology is not too big for God.

◼ What is the leadership advice you offer most often to emerging leaders?

I quote my predecessor Gerald Gerbrandt. As he left office he blessed us with Joshua 1:9 – "Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." He pointed out this verse doesn’t say, "You’re great, you’re the best," but rather infers you’ll do some things well, mess up on others, some conditions will be in your favour, others strained and difficult. It’s not about you being more right, intelligent, better or pious than others, but about finding your courage, humility and insight in the recognition that God’s presence sustains and awakens you.

◼ What feeds you as a leader?

The institution itself. I’m amazed at how many students don’t just repeat what they’ve learned, but offer insights that take church and society forward in ways far beyond what I could have imagined.


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Cheryl Pauls is president of the Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg, Man., a Christian university that inspires and equips women and men for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation.