Grebel’s mission is to “Seek wisdom, nurture faith, and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society.” After graduation, alumni who desire to serve the church find a multitude of pathways to fulfill this call: in lay leadership roles, in pastoral vocations, or in leading church-inspired non-profits. The following profiles highlight a small sampling of alumni who are currently involved in church leadership, church institutional leadership, and church-related non-profits, either as a profession or as a passion. We asked three questions: What are one or two ways you are contributing to the church or its organizations as a leader? How has this involvement or service enriched your life? And how did Grebel inspire this path?
LUKE JANTZI (WLU 2006)
MCC Rep. to Nepal, Mennonite Central Committee, Nepal
I am currently working as MCC’s co-Representative to Nepal, with my partner Kaitlyn Jantzi. In this role, I help to manage all aspects of the work of MCC here in Nepal. We have projects focused on food security and sustainable livelihoods (FSSL), health, and education, and we’ve also been able to provide emergency responses as needs have arisen due to the effects of the pandemic.
Being able to directly walk alongside marginalized communities as part of my employment is a blessing, and motivates me even when the work is of the not-so-interesting variety like editing a 40-page report. The opportunity to live in and learn from a new culture is one I really enjoy, and one that I hope will also be beneficial for our young children. Seeing the Himalayas from our rooftop and having the chance to trek near Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) is a nice bonus.
Through religious studies courses and other programming, Grebel helped me to further define the importance of walking alongside marginalized communities and working toward a more just society. In large part, it is this belief that led me to the work of MCC.
MARY-CATHERINE PAZZANO (BA 2010)
Professional Vocalist, Music Diretor, Music Educator, Waterloo, ON
As Knox Presbyterian Church’s Music Director in Waterloo, I lead the Chancel Choir, oversee the Praise Band, and coordinate Knox’s Music Scholar program for Undergraduate Music students. I believe that the act of making music is in and of itself an act of service. My soul is richer whenever I see others reveling in the joy of making music, or a congregation enjoying the gift of music-making during worship. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to participate in and witness music as community.
The Grebel Music program, and Grebel as a place in general, is “community” defined. When I was part of the Chapel Choir, I saw first-hand how valuable music is as a means of expression, for both choristers and those who attended Chapel services. That feeling of collaboration and community is definitely one I have sought in all areas of my music career, and definitely inspired the path that I now help to lead at Knox.
HANNAH REDEKOP (WLU 2011)
Communications Associate, Community Peacemaker Teams, Camman, Jordan
I’m working with Community Peacemaker Teams (formerly Christian Peacemaker Teams) as a Communications Associate. We’re engaging with themes of Christian hegemony and decolonization, working to understand the Church’s calling to build a community of love, while also holding the Church’s history of violence and oppression. We live out the prophetic call to peace through our accompaniment with local activists and organizers around the world.
Working with CPT is a life-giving vocation. It’s a practice of imagining and building into existence healthy ways of being in relationship with one another. I have had the immense opportunity of worshiping together with faith communities in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Palestine in our work towards collective liberation. Building these partnerships with local peace initiatives gives me hope for the day we will create a world without war.
Grebel’s emphasis on community prepared me for team life and relationship-building in CPT, and being a part of Grebel’s Chapel Committee gave me the tools to offer spiritual accompaniment. Grebel’s global vision for peacebuilding inspired me to cultivate a broader understanding of what peace means and to actively live out our individual and collective responsibility for justice.
KYONGJUNG KIM (MTS 2018)
Pastor, Preston and Wanner Mennonite Churches, Cambridge, ON
I am trying to help people in theology, culture, and institutions move beyond an exclusive focus on Mennonite identity to focusing more on the gospel of Jesus Christ through preaching, teaching, and guidance in prayer. I encourage people to open their hearts to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and work for unity amid diversity. I am grateful for congregational support and prayers. It is very humbling as I continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.
Grebel inspired me to grapple with Scripture and its practical implications and discover God’s longing for our church today.
REUBEN JANZEN-MARTIN (BASC 1999)
Virtual Choir Director, Project Manager, Waterloo ON
Participating in a virtual choir is something that has always interested me since I heard Eric Whitacre’s 2010 recording of Lux Aurumque. The start of the pandemic prompted me to try my hand at creating one myself. The mix of musical, technical, and leadership skills required to create a virtual choir piece is a great fit for me. In the past two years I’ve been involved in organizing, recording, editing and/or singing in approximately 20 different pieces with Waterloo North Mennonite Church, Menno Singers, and others.
For me the technical side of organizing and editing was a wonderful challenge—one that inspired me to learn new things. Every time, it amazed me how well things came together. I would listen to each individual singer separately and the sound seemed so small, tentative and lonely. But the first time listening once all the tracks are synced up reveals an amazing transformation! The final result is so much greater than just the sum of the parts. So many people have told me how much they have enjoyed participating and listening to the virtual choir work. I feel blessed to be able to contribute in this way.
How did Grebel inspire this path? I think there are three different skills that are important in this work. Leadership: The Grebel community was a safe, friendly and supportive place for me to build self-confidence, to learn how to be my own person and to expand and practice leadership skills. The mix of first-year and upper-year students in the residence provides a natural setting for leadership to emerge. Musical: Singing in Chapel Choir was a significant highlight of my time at Grebel which allowed me to sharpen my amateur musical skills. My only regret is that I didn’t take Len Enns up on his offer to assist with the audio mixing of one of the Chapel Choir recordings, choosing instead to study for an upcoming engineering exam! Technical: Earning an engineering degree allowed me to both stay current with computer and other tech skills, as well as put me on a path to a paid job which eventually led me to my current role as a project manager. So much of life is about planning, organization, and management. The same is true for creating a virtual choir piece. The video recording and editing is only a small piece of the puzzle.
LEAH REESOR-KELLER (BA 2008)
Executive Minister, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Kitchener, ON
I serve as Executive Minister with Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, a regional church body of over 100 congregations and church plants across Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. I work with an incredible team of colleagues within MCEC and nationwide through Mennonite Church Canada to support and resource congregations and ministry leaders, and to witness together to Jesus’ way of peace.
One of my favourite parts of my role is visiting congregations all across eastern Canada and getting a glimpse into the diversity of our community of faith. MCEC congregations worship in 20 different languages and have diverse theological perspectives and worship practices within the broader Anabaptist-Mennonite family of faith. I love getting a flavour for the uniqueness of each worshiping community.
While I was working on my joint major in Peace and Conflict Studies and Political Science, I took a number of Religious Studies courses at Grebel “just for fun.” My Mennonite faith values inspired my undergrad and later MA studies related to how people work together for positive changes and social justice in communities and broader society. The educational and leadership opportunities I had as a Grebel resident and PACS student helped me bridge my faith background and my academic interests. My time at Grebel inspired me to hold faith and action together, which I am privileged to do serving the church in a leadership role.
SCOTT BRUBAKER-ZEHR (BES 1985, TMTC 2013)
Pastor, Rockway Mennonite Church, Kitchener, ON
I’ve been a Mennonite pastor now for over 30 years, with 22 years at Rockway Mennonite in Kitchener. I’ll start at Erb St. Mennonite Church in September. My earliest pastoral experience was in Colombia, South America. The pastoral vocation has not always been easy, but it has been meaningful. My life has been enriched through relationships in the church community where we seek to be faithful to the deepest truths we know.
Grebel was the place where I became interested in exploring Christian faith. It was an atmosphere that inspired me to be curious. Dorm conversations and religious studies courses were a big part of this. Grebel valued both the mission of the church and the university, and I was encouraged to serve the church with an open heart and mind.
LORI GUENTHER REESOR (BMATH 1991, MTS 2008)
Author, Speaker, Stewardship Consultant, Mississauga, ON
I’m very involved at my local church, Hamilton Mennonite Church. I’m Council Chair, which is aptly titled, as it involves lots of sitting down and typing emails. In my work as author, speaker, and stewardship coach, my circles are much more ecumenical. In my 15 minutes of ecumenical fame, my article on “Joyful Generosity” is the cover story of Canada Lutheran magazine earlier this year. I also wrote a book called Growing a Generous Church: A Year in the Life of Peach Blossom Church. It’s a hopeful story for churches who are scared to talk about money. I believe it’s the only theology book with an illustration of a snowblower! My stewardship work includes sermons and meetings with local church leaders, online events with book clubs, denominational webinars, and research projects.
I continue to meet wonderful people who care about generosity. A big shout out to Abundance Canada, who sponsored my Doctor of Ministry research into Christian giving. I could not have predicted that all that time spent in church basements would lead me to be part of an interfaith fundraising trio—Jew, Christian, Muslim—speaking at an international fundraising conference in Las Vegas, of all the unlikely places.
The irrational generosity of a Grebel donor changed my life. I describe in the intro of my book how a Grebel bursary for a Math student to volunteer teaching English with MCC in Egypt led to a total vocational change for me. www.lgreesor.com
TIM O'CONNOR (MPACS 2018)
Teacher, Board Member for Camp Micah and The Ripple Effect Education, Saint Marys, ON
As a Catholic educator in the Catholic school system, my understanding of principles of peace and social justice have led me to work with our school’s Social Justice Club. That connection with young people who wish to be activists in a Catholic school setting has led me to join our school board’s Equity and Diversity Committee, where we work on developing a more intentional plan for promoting inclusion and equity for LGBTQ2+ youth. It is our hope that our school will raise the Pride flag this coming June and start up our first Gay-Straight Alliance.
The young people who are part of our school’s Social Justice club are very inspiring to me—and they drive the motivation to speak truth to power. Sometimes, in my experience, racism, homophobia, sexism, and other social ills come disguised as traditional church values. The more I work with young people, the more admiration I develop for their passion for peace and justice. Faith development that is strictly centred on piety leaves a void for them, and I find working with them to be most enriching.
Grebel courses that were centred on work for Peace and Social Justice included thoughtful dialogue around how these values resonate in various faith traditions. Those conversations certainly inspired my teaching of World Religions. The fact that I was able to sit at the table with such a diverse group of people from so many faith backgrounds was very inspiring. I liked the fact that faith could be tangibly connected to principles of faith and peace. In my own tradition, the Catholic Social Teaching principles do offer a strong foundation for young people who wish to work for justice and peace. I also learned at Grebel about the work of many social justice activists who were able to speak truth to power. It is my personal belief that my church needs those voices desperately at this time in history.
STEVEN REESOR REMPEL (BA 2010)
Business and Operations Director, Shalom Counselling Services, Waterloo, ON
In my role as Business and Operations Director at Shalom Counselling Services in Waterloo, I am passionate about providing organizational stability and opportunities for the people within the organization to make a positive difference in the world. Additionally I serve on the Board of Directors for MennoHomes. I have been provided the opportunity to connect with many inspiring people who are striving together to make a positive difference in our community. I am encouraged by the stories of hope that are shared with me.
At Grebel, professors and peers encouraged creativity, community, and problem solving. This experience inspired me to recognize the importance of people, community, and healthy conflict resolution as part of my leadership journey.
LOUISE WIDEMAN (BA 1985)
Pastor, Vineland United Mennonite Church, Vineland, ON
I have served as a pastor in the Mennonite Church – both the US and Canada -- since 1994. My role as pastor has provided opportunities to serve on boards and committees, such as the Mennonite Church USA Leadership Commission, the Central District Conference Ministerial Committee, and the planning team for the St. Louis ’99 conference. I have just completed two terms with the Leadership Council for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and am now a board member with Grebel.
As a young girl, I never imagined becoming a pastor. I am grateful for all the people, places and the Spirit of God that gave shape to this calling. My faith has certainly stretched and grown. I continue to embrace the learning on this journey through life, and I have been enriched by the broad spectrum of friends I have made along the way.
Grebel certainly helped to shape my life’s trajectory. President Ralph Lebold encouraged me to be a pastor and Dean of Students, Gloria Martin Eby was an important mentor. Living in residence broadened my world—this sheltered Swiss Mennonite student interacted with people from a host of denominations and cultures. Serving as Don in my third year provided good leadership experience and my BA in Music has served me well in pastoral leadership. Involvement in planning and leading chapels also provided some good experience. The Grebel community—academics, community life, and leadership opportunities—provided a solid foundation as I moved into my adult years.
DAVID EAGLE (MPACS 2015)
Senior Director of Global Program Operations, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Waterloo, ON
As the Senior Director of Global Program Operations at MEDA, I am responsible for all the headquarters staff, processes, and support to our 15-18 international economic development projects and 250+ staff worldwide. I work collaboratively with our three Regional Directors to ensure that our projects are implementing and refining best practices for project delivery, adhering to program risk and compliance while supporting MEDA’s strategic goal of creating 500,000 decent work opportunities worldwide. The most significant change that I am contributing to is towards MEDA’s “Towards an Equal World” vision, which is ambitiously tackling historical mindsets and structures in international development that evolved from a colonial mindset. I, along with my colleagues, are transitioning our ways of working with a “North/South shift” to build and implement our work from the bottom up where those in the “South” have the voice, accountability, and leadership while those of us in the “North” provide support.
Working at an organization like MEDA really allows me to live my life and use my skills in ways that align very clearly with a bigger purpose (than simply a job and a paycheck). MEDA’s mission of creating business solutions to poverty is that higher purpose for me.
I started with MEDA as my internship for my MPACS program in 2014. My studies at Grebel helped to open my eyes and ears to new worldviews and recognize that I don’t hold on the answers myself. In fact, I hold very few! Grebel inspired me to search deeply and be open to hearing ideas and solutions from the people who are directly impacted and therefore know much more than I do.
SUE CAMPBELL (BA 1986)
Ordained Minister, United Church of Canada, Elmira, ON
I have the privilege of walking with the people at Trinity United Church in Elmira as their minister, as together, we try to “learn, love and live Christ’s teachings.” Each week, as I prepare for and lead Sunday worship, I try to create sacred space where the sermon, songs/hymns, prayers and liturgy hopefully work to deepen faith, perhaps raise questions, and offer both challenge and comfort.
For the last five years, I’ve tried to be a non-anxious presence as our congregation takes the many steps needed to redevelop our site. In order to live with a more sustainable footprint and use our resources like people, time, and money better, the current building will be replaced with a three-story apartment building with the church on the main floor so that we might better serve the community. This process has forced us to grapple with what it means to be the church in this time and place at a time when many of our members are aging and resources aren’t as abundant.
My years of involvement at Grebel helped shape me by fostering a climate where questions about community, faith, simple living, and what it means to be the church were welcome. I remember community retreats, chapel services, and conversations in the lower lounge where we wrestled with and explored these things. As a result of these experiences, I chose to live in intentional community for a year at Jubilee Partners in Comer, Georgia, do an internship at the Center for Action and Contemplation with Richard Rohr, serve with Mennonite Voluntary Service, and eventually, enter congregational ministry. I must also add that my love of music was nurtured through singing under Len Enns in the thirty-voice Chapel Choir and continues for me today as I sing with Menno Singers. My deepest friendships were made at Grebel and continue to be a blessing to this day. I’m grateful to Grebel for all it offered and how it shaped who I am today.
KENDRA WHITFIELD ELLIS (BA 2000, MTS 2004)
Minister of Pastoral Care and Youth Ministry, Waterloo North Mennonite Church, Waterloo, ON
The most rewarding aspect of church ministry, for me, is witnessing spiritual growth and wisdom in youth and young adults. Simply being in their company and “hanging out” together can move from the hilarious to holy. Coming out of this pandemic time, I am grateful even for Zoom that provided at times a place for sacred conversation. In church ministry you realize two things: God is bigger than you are, God is always at work, and you often receive far more than you pour into this work.
There are many ways that my involvement in specific and broader church work has enriched my life. One way is by providing connection to a large group of diverse colleagues that I can learn from. Another is by receiving grace and trust from a congregation as I learn. It is work that requires much from a pastor, but equally, much from a congregation: to enter into relationship, to develop trust, and to listen for God together.
My time at Grebel provided many invaluable tools for this path. In conversations with a diverse body of students, I found my voice. In the Chapel Committee, I found some confidence in my abilities. And in the MTS program, I found a nurturing community among professors, students from many church backgrounds, and a close-knit community where I could begin to test my skills. I am ever grateful for my Grebel experience and how it shaped me for my future work within the church.
CHRIS BRNJAS (BA 2012, MTS 2014)
Development Officer, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Waterloo, ON
In my work as a Development Officer at MEDA, we are often invited into the conversation of how the church connects with the workplace and the business world. My role has me speaking at different churches, discussing how business can be a holy calling and a force for good in the world. Encouraging people to be generous at heart is a key piece of the conversation. As someone who is passionate about bringing different worlds together in dialogue, I enjoy bringing difficult or rarely discussed topics into focus in church settings.
I’ve been able to meet some fantastic people who ask brilliant questions and challenge me in my perspective. The conversations I’ve been privileged to have with MEDA supporters have enriched and challenged me in ways complementary to how I was enriched and challenged at Grebel.
Living at Grebel gave me the idea that difficult conversations could be ground for new possibilities. I always liked being a bit of an instigator, but Grebel helped me to channel that energy in more constructive ways. I encountered this both in my studies and with my peers in residence.
SHARON TAM (BA 1989)
Pastor, New Hope Community Church, Toronto, ON
I am pastoring a small local church in Toronto called New Hope Community Church. I have also taught at Tyndale University in the past. It’s exciting and a blessing to watch people grow spiritually in their relationship with God or come to know Jesus for first time.
The chaplain at Grebel inspired me to complete my bachelor’s degree prior to pursuing a Master’s in Divinity. I have been inspired by Grebel’s culture of trust, love, acceptance, creativity, social justice, music, and spirituality, and I endeavour to cultivate similar environments in the faith communities where I serve.
DIANE LICHTI (WLU 1979)
Retired Teacher, Executive Council of MCEC, Tavistock, ON
I have often held positions in my congregation at Tavistock Mennonite Church. The position of Church Council Chair has impacted me and led me to where I now serve, allowing me to actively participate and help my congregation through a number of transitions. As Chair, I often felt a needed to document and set policies so we would not have to ask: “What did we do in the past?” Some of the most critical things I helped develop for our congregation, alongside the support of many others, have been a Policy and Procedure Manual for our council, a Student Aid Policy and a Sabbatical Leave Policy. For a time back in the ‘90s, I also produced a small church newsletter. Through the role of Church Chair, I helped hire, created job descriptions, set salary guidelines, conducted salary negotiations (under MC Canada guidelines-our TMC policy), and completed exit interviews with pastors and other positions within our congregation.
Currently I serve on our Staff Relations Committee at Tavistock Mennonite Church—sometimes known as a pastor-congregation committee. Our church has a history of refugee sponsorship and I was blessed to help the team from East Zorra MC with the settlement of a Syrian family in 2019. That has been life-giving (pandemic aside) and a number of individuals at TMC are actively working with MCC to bring more family members. I am also currently serving on the Executive Council of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and am excited by the love of church I experience on that council.
I was often encouraged and appreciated by members of my congregation—especially after annual meetings and often by elderly women. That too has encouraged me! One pastor, in particular, reminded me that it is important to do that which is life-giving. I think it must have been because I continued to serve in other capacities.
I am not sure if it is a calling or just something I feel I have skills in. I do find church life interesting. If we wish to maintain the community of fellowship we have with each other to care for each other in that way, then we also have to participate in “running” of the congregation and the conference we support. I am not a passive by-stander. If I have something about which I am unhappy, then rather than complain, I choose to offer suggestions and alternatives and participate.
As a student at Grebel, I enjoyed the intramural sports teams and friends I made. I do recall that I needed to complete a Grebel Mennonite History course. For one assignment, I chose to research and write about the history of my own congregation. That course may have inspired my path because when I returned to this area after being away at another university, I found employment close to my home congregation. I was married in that congregation and we have a home close to it. Our children experienced Sunday School and youth activities there. For me, it is valued community of faith, fellowship, and friends.