Laura Funk is the first person to be ordained for the ministry of spiritual direction by Mennonite Church Manitoba. She is also the regional church’s first spiritual director in residence.
“I’m excited this ordination happened, to help people become more aware of the vocation of spiritual direction,” Funk says. She was ordained at Camp Assiniboia on June 27, enveloped by a robe covered in the handprints of her community, since they couldn’t all be present due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Funk discovered her love of spiritual direction when she was a leader in an ecumenical church, and a woman asked to meet regularly to talk about her faith journey, questions and doubts. “I didn’t realize how great it would be, and it turned out to be one of my favourite things in the whole world,” Funk says. “I realized what an amazing gift it is to walk alongside people in their faith journeys.”
When the time came to renew her ministry credentials, she proposed ordination towards the ministry of spiritual direction to MC Manitoba, together with Hope Mennonite Church, her home congregation in Winnipeg.
Funk says Christians should give more attention to their spiritual health just like they do their physical and mental health. “Maybe sharing [our experiences] with a trusted, confidential spiritual director can help us live more deeply into our calling as Christians,” she says.
“We’re excited because I think it really gives us another new and different way of ministry within the larger church that we really haven’t had before,” says Rick Neufeld, director of MC Manitoba’s leadership ministries.
Funk started her part-time position, which is currently set for one year, at the MC Manitoba office on May 1. She has already been busy, speaking in churches and connecting with pastors to hear how she can support them and their congregations. She also led a spiritual retreat, ran online gratitude groups, and offers introductory spiritual-direction sessions.
“I think what we’re finding, especially through the pandemic the past year, is so much tiredness and fatigue, not only on pastors but on congregations too,” Neufeld says. “We think [Funk’s gifts] can be a real benefit and a real way to nurture our congregations in areas of spiritual growth, spiritual disciplines, as well as our pastors who really are crying out for this kind of a resource.”
Funk earned bachelor of theology and master of arts in Christian ministry degrees from Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. She was trained in spiritual direction at St. Benedict's Retreat Centre in West St. Paul, Man., and has been working as a spiritual director through her private practice, Butterfly Journeys, since 2012. She has worked as a chaplain and ecumenical church leader and recently published a book of guided meditations.
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Laura Funk wore a blessing cloak made of more than 100 handprints at her ordination service, since COVID-19 prevented her community from gathering in-person for the laying on of hands. She received handprints from people aged six months to 93 years old, across three countries and at least five denominations and two faiths. (Photo by Gilbert Detillieux)