Alumni Profiles

MTS grad shaking hands with President of UWaterloo at Convocation

Just as students come into the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program from a variety of backgrounds, graduates go on to be involved in many different things throughout their lives. These stories from a few of our graduates tell how the MTS has been formative for each of them.

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Peter Kim ('19)

Peter Kim

Peter pursued a Master in Theological Studies as a step along his journey towards medical school at the Univeristy of Toronto. During his studies at Grebel, Peter had the opportunity to take two Supervised Experience in Ministry courses engaging in ministry with the Korean Christian Fellowship at University of Waterloo.  Peter noted that this experience “was incredibly valuable and meaningful to me. There were so many learning outcomes that I came to appreciate and utilize both in my ministry and now in my medical training.”

As a future doctor, Peter believes that many of the skills he developed in the applied stream of the MTS program are essential to becoming a caring physician. “Recognizing the broad range of patient needs, actively listening to their concerns, and responding with empathy and compassion are all something I will use to help become a good doctor who walks alongside his patients in their journeys.”

Rachel Wallace ('19)

Rachel Wallace standing in front of Eigenheim Mennonite Church

Rachel graduated from Grebel’s MTS program in April 2019. She grew up in the Baptist Church but now works as a pastor at Eigennheim Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan. “Pastoring is rewarding in so many ways. It is an incredible privilege to be invited into people’s lives and bear witness to the ways they are struggling or celebrating,” reflected Rachel. She noticed that her experience in the MTS program gave her the tools she needed for ministry. “Each week I find myself drawing directly from things taught in my courses at Grebel.”

While she did not come to the program with Mennonite roots, as Rachel learned about Anabaptist and Mennonite history at Grebel, she found that the Mennonite Church and community resonated with her. “I discovered that they lined up well with my own theology and that I appreciated the ways Mennonites do church and life together.” After completing her degree, she found her faith now fit best within the Mennonite Church context.

Jonathan Brubacher ('16)

Jonathan Brubacher sitting in a pile of balloons

“My journey to ministry began with a seed of an idea planted in my mind when I finished high school, but left dormant at that point,” explained Jonathan Brubacher. Describing it as a winding path towards his job as Associate Pastor of Youth Ministries at Elmira Mennonite Church, Jonathan first studied wildlife biology, worked in environmental consulting and on a chicken farm, and spent some time traveling before starting his MTS degree at Grebel. “God began presenting open doors for ministry in the church through involvement in my home congregation of Zion Mennonite and then increasing roles at Elmira Mennonite. My choice to walk through those doors came in part because of people watering the seed that had been planted years earlier, through encouragement and then affirmation at each step along the way. God has been faithful through the journey!”

Jonathan had not planned on a degree beyond his undergrad, but as he began exploring a ministry career, he realized that having some theological training would be an asset. “It felt like a gift to study part-time while working in ministry part-time. As new insights came up in class and discussion, I could pair them with my experience in the church,” said Jonathan. He also found that the Biblical courses and pastoral care courses helped build confidence in his own pastoral identity and confidence.

Thinking back to his first term in the MTS program, Jonathan felt that he had entered a world that was quite out of his comfort zone. Soon he realized that “I was part of a beautiful mosaic of folks who came to the MTS with different goals and very different back stories. I wasn’t the only one feeling like I had stepped into a new realm of learning.”

Inspired by the youth he works with, Jonathan loves seeing them make discoveries about themselves and God. “I love when they try something that pushes them a bit beyond their comfort zone and then find joy in the experience. Jonathan appreciates their desire to connect with each other, explore, and ask questions. “I hope that in some way God will work through me to reveal to youth how loved they are as children of God, and the beauty of living life in relationship with God.”

Chalsi Campbell ('16)

Chalsi Campbell

Chalsi came to the MTS program after completing her undergraduate degree at Bluffton University, a Mennonite liberal arts college in Bluffton, Ohio. For Chalsi, the most meaningful part of her degree was studying under Professor Alicia Batten: “I took an independent study with her, focusing on non-canonical texts. This course shaped my thoughts for a thesis project that Alicia advised. I learned so much from her, and working with her is among one of my favorite experiences of my life.”

Since graduating, Chalsi and her husband, Tyler Campbell (MTS ’16) have been living in Ohio. Chalsi taught English, Math, Science, and Social Studies at Dayton Islamic School for a number of years, and is now the campus pastor at Bluffton University. When reflecting on her MTS experience, Chalsi believes that experiencing Grebel’s commitment to diversity and community has helped her in her career as a teacher at an Islamic School and as campus pastor.

Zac Klassen ('15)

Zac Klassen

After completing his Master of Theological Studies at Grebel, Zac pursued a PhD in Religious Studies at McMaster University. Zac appreciated the small seminar style classes he experienced at Grebel and which encouraged academic learning in a collegial environment and provided opportunities for leadership. Zac credits his experience in the MTS program, including working on a master’s thesis, as establishing a strong academic foundation for his PhD research.  He completed his PhD in fall 2020 with a dissertation titled "Theologies of Israel and Judaism After Barth".

Zac is currently pastoring at Bloomingdale Mennonite Church in Bloomingdale, Ontario.

Bethany Tulloch ('12)

Bethany Tulloch and her child in the bakery

While moving to Northern Ontario and opening a stone hearth bakery may not seem like the most natural next step after completing an MTS degree, Bethany Tulloch’s reasons are compelling. Opening the bakery with her husband Nicholas Higgins was their way of attempting to make a living from the place they live and becoming highly interdependent with their community.

Soon after beginning her MTS degree, Bethany realized that her dream of becoming a prison chaplain was unrealistic, due to government budget cuts. But she stuck with the program for personal  exploration in “how now to live and of what an ethical and holy life looked like for me in this time and place. Doing my MTS was like having a very wise companion join me on that journey: pushing me to ask deeper questions, have more grace, keep working out my salvation,” recalled Bethany. “What I learned from the things I read, the conversations I had, the thinking I did, and the people I met is so thickly braided within my spirit, my MTS degree has had and will continue to have an enormous impact on my life choices.”

Bethany notes that what suprised her most about her MTS degree was being "taken seriously, listened to, engaged with, and considered to be someone with a voice that should be heard... [the] moving combination of wisdom and humility in the professors there had a profound affect on my sense of self.  I would never have expected to be changed in such a personal way from my degree!"

Marta Simpson-Tirone ('10)

Marta Simpson-Tirone

On a 6-month volunteer term, during a visit to a Mother Teresa House, Marta Simpson-Tirone felt called to her current career. She had just finished an undergraduate degree at McMaster University and was volunteering in orphanages and schools in remote villages in Nepal. “Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity had created a safe space to die, in an area that is deemed sacred to the Hindus and Buddhists who live there. After visiting this home, I decided that I wanted to care for the spirituality of people at end of life. Regardless of what that spirituality was, I wanted to advocate to make sure that what was important to them spiritually at the most vulnerable time in their life, was granted.”

After she returned home, Marta applied to Grebel’s Master of Theological Studies program in preparation to becoming a Chaplain. She then completed a residency through the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care at St. Joseph’s hospital in Hamilton and is now an associate member of CASC and a Registered Psychotherapist. She is currently the Spiritual Care Provider or Chaplain for the McMaster Children’s Hospital.

“My MTS degree prepared me for my chosen career - it centered me. It gave me concrete tools to use within my practice,” reflected Marta. “I chose Grebel because I wanted a broader understanding of the Mennonite Community. I am Catholic and have studied Buddhism and Hinduism but felt that I was lacking in understanding of the Reform and Protestant traditions. I felt studying at Grebel would help to expand my understanding.”

While she enjoyed many courses in her program, such as Ministry to Dying and Grieving Persons, and Ritual, Marta’s favourite course was the Integration Seminar. “It helped me to challenge and eventually solidify my own view of my faith,” said Marta. “I wrote a thesis on spiritual care from the Catholic perspective and realized through my research that to be a Catholic providing spiritual care means caring for the soul of the other and providing spiritual support in whichever way the other needed it. I interpreted this to mean for example that if the Muslim patient needs to know the direction to Mecca or to have their bed face a specific direction, as they are nearing death, then it is my job as a Catholic and as a Spiritual Care Provider to help them to fulfill this.”

In her work, Marta especially enjoys hearing stories shared by patients and their families. “I always feel so honoured to be welcomed into such a private and vulnerable time and gifted with the stories they share.”

Sarah Kathleen Johnson ('08)

Sarah Kathleen Johnson

Sarah Kathleen Johnson (MTS '08) is Assistant Professor of Liturgy and Pastoral Theology at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. She completed a PhD in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2021, during which she was a Visiting Fellow at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre. Her interdisciplinary dissertation at the intersection of liturgical studies and sociology of religion is titled "Occasional Religious Practice: An Ethnographic Theology of Christian Worship in a Changing Religious Landscape." Anchored in ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Anglican tradition in Toronto, this study coins and develops the concept of occasional religious practice to better understand those who participate in religious practices occasionally rather than routinely and often in connection with specific types of occasions such as holidays and life transitions.

Sarah was ordained in Mennonite Church Canada in 2022 and has significant contributions to church and worship resources. She served on the editorial team for the hymnal and worship book, Voices Together and as editor of Voices Together: Worship Leader Edition and chairs the leadership team for the Together in Worship website. 

Greg Papazian ('07)

Alumnus Greg Papazian works at the University of Waterloo Centre for Extended Learning as a Learning Management System / Quality Assurance Specialist. As someone who has worked on the University campus for his whole adult life, Greg explained that he is a life-long learner with a high value for university education for others and for himself. “I am particularly interested and focused on the communication and transmission of knowledge, and how people vary in their interpretations of the material they encounter.” 

“I can trace a number of threads back to my studies at Grebel,” Greg responded when asked how his job relates to his degree. “In my work I am reading and writing all day. Words are my currency, tool and trade. I proof and review course content across a variety of disciplines and I get exposure to a number of interesting topics. I also need to ask good questions to interpret the meaning of the material I am addressing. During my MTS degree I developed a deep focus on understanding the interpretive process of biblical texts and of literature more generally. Additionally, my experience in the Grebel community helped me to appreciate the communal and social experience of interpretation and discovering or producing meaning from words. It can be easy to paint online learning as an individual or isolated 1-1 experience. But I always try to approach my work from a perspective that appreciates the social and communal process of learning in a variety of contexts.”

Randel Hamel ('95)

Randel Hamel (BA ’72, MTS ’95) states that on the surface there was little direct correlation between the MTS program and his profession in law as Senior Counsel to Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region. But he remarked, “I smiled to myself in acknowledging that the exegetical work with Professor John Miller was not completely unlike the statutory interpretation I would do before a court.”

Now retired, Randel found his job rewarding as he focused on child protection, custody, access, and adoption. “The relational parts of the job were the most fulfilling. I tried to put a human face on the court system for parties and witnesses so that acting ‘in the best interests of children’ would be more than a cliché.”

Randel was a part-time MTS student, taking one course per term for as many years as it took to complete the degree. “It supplemented my professional life by allowing me to ask the ‘big’ questions in a caring and supportive environment. The nature of the MTS program with its various academic requirements also forced me into areas that I would not have discovered on my own. In making me a better person I became a better lawyer.”

Looking back at his experience in the program, Randel said “I both enjoyed and respected the faculty and the students in the program. The alternative modelling for conflict resolution was a good counterpoint to someone trained in a traditional adversarial process. I was able to apply some of these skills in settlement negotiations and avoid the painful ordeals of a formal trial. My time at Grebel enhanced this direction of practice.”