Heeding the Call to Ministry

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

By Jennifer Konkle

The Master of Theological Studies program at Grebel draws students from a variety of backgrounds and faith traditions. Two current students, Kathryn Cressman and Laurel Rounds Fretz, joined Mennonite churches as adults and both felt a gradual pull toward ministry within their home churches.

Kathryn Cressman“Through volunteer work at my church and reflecting upon the energy I felt after leading in various capacities, I decided to consider ministry,” explained Kathryn, who originally trained as a teacher. “My spiritual director helped with this discernment and I felt affirmation from many in my church family.”

“I have been drawn to ministry since I was a teenager active in my United Church,” reflected Laurel, “but high school guidance counselors don't push you in that direction.” As she became more active in her Bloomingdale Mennonite Church congregation, she learned that all three pastors there had attended Grebel. 

Both Kathryn and Laurel found joy and purpose serving in progressively larger leadership roles at their churches. “For the past ten years I have been involved on various committees at Nith Valley Mennonite Church, predominately chairing our Worship Ministry Team,” noted Kathryn. “I truly enjoy leading.” She regularly leads worship on Sunday mornings, has led women’s Bible studies, and was part of her church team that worked with Mennonite Church Eastern Canada in the ReLearning Community initiative. “Since starting my MTS degree, my confidence has grown in my biblical knowledge and excitement to share what I’m learning.” Kathryn also completed a Supervised Experience in Ministry placement at her church which allowed her to “test the waters of ministry in a safe and familiar place.”

Laurel leading worship“I was very active in church as a youth sponsor and song leader,” shared Laurel. “Then I took on worship leader duties and offered some meditations at Christmas and other times.” Both women have started writing sermons in various capacities and continue to participate in worship planning. “It was actually working on a sermon on the book of Philemon that pushed me to apply to the MTS program,” added Laurel. “I knew nothing about Paul's letter to Philemon so had to do some research and I really enjoyed the process.” She currently serves on the elder team at her church.

“I have learned a lot about myself and felt affirmed in a call to some sort of ministry. I have felt encouraged to be creative in what that could look like,” said Kathryn, reflecting on the fact that she has just a few courses left to take. “It has been very valuable to study the Old and New Testaments, as well as taking an exegesis course, to have a stronger biblical foundation. It has also been valuable for me to study in a Mennonite institution. I was not raised Mennonite but now claim that identity and studying at Grebel has made it feel more personal.”

“I see a formal ministry role in my future at some point,” added Kathryn “but for now I feel content keeping this degree in my back pocket while continuing to be a stay-at-home mom on our family’s dairy farm. While the MTS degree may not be put to use career-wise right away, it will be helpful for my lay-leadership and my own personal faith growth.”

With plans to become a pastor or work with seniors in a chaplaincy position, Laurel is at the beginning of her degree and especially looks forward to learning pastoral care skills. “It is not a skill that is easily learned in a lay capacity. We all learn to care for each other as members of a faith community, but the pastoral role that is specific to the pastor of a church is something I look forward to learning.”

Both women expressed initial apprehension about returning to school after a break, but quickly discovered that their enjoyment of the course content and the practical aspects of the MTS program at Grebel have made for a rewarding experience as they explore vocations of ministry.

The MTS program at Grebel and the University of Waterloo invites students from diverse backgrounds and Christian traditions to form a learning community to study the Bible, theology, and ministry. All full-time students who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents receive full tuition scholarships. Courses are taught by full-time Grebel faculty members as well as guest instructors with a wide range of experiences and expertise.

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