Ian Funk, pastor of Langley (B.C.) Mennonite Fellowship, anticipates graduating in 2023 from the Connect program of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) with a Master of Divinity degree. Students can complete the distance-friendly program online with weeklong visits to the seminary’s Elkhart, Indiana, campus once or twice a year.
What influenced you to study at AMBS?
Funk: When asked why I’m studying at AMBS, I often say that I need at least two good sermons, and I only have one. I’m only sort of joking; really, I only have one good sermon. I may tweak it or pad it with a new anecdote, but my sermons, at best, are a variation on a theme: God is love.
In 2015, I was a letter carrier with Canada Post by day and an opera singer in the evening, but then my church graciously invited me to be their pastor. When I answered the call, this singing mailman had to go back to school. I needed to equip myself to serve my community well—and I needed to find that second sermon.
I began my Master of Divinity at a local university. It was a fantastic school. The professors were excellent, and I found myself in a vibrant, diverse cohort of classmates. I soon realized, however, that as a pastor whose identity was intimately tied to my Mennonite community, I needed to attend a school that could guide me to be the Anabaptist pastor I was to become. I switched to AMBS in August 2016.
Tell us about your experience.
Funk: In AMBS’s learning community, I’ve felt like I shared a common practice, an understanding of how to gather and experience church, a sense of communal worship and discernment. This was familiar to me, and it’s been important for me to learn and grow in this context—in a place that makes sense to me and matters to me, a place that is warm, welcoming and supportive.
But it hasn’t all been familiar. AMBS is a diverse and increasingly global community that understands that there is no one way to be Anabaptist. This has made it an ideal place for me to do the difficult and gratifying work of learning where I fit within the Anabaptist mosaic and why Anabaptism matters to me, my community and the world.
I’m not sure I’ve found my second sermon yet, but I like to think that the sermon I now have is more rooted and resourced, informed, sensitive, aware and relevant. My years at AMBS have changed me and my sermon, and I feel blessed.