From postman to pastor

Seminary graduate recommends program

June 29, 2023 | News | Volume 27 Issue 13
Amy Rinner Waddell | B.C. Correspondent
Langley, B.C.
Ian Funk, pastor of Langley Mennonite Fellowship, recently graduated from AMBS. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

After eight years of study, Ian Funk was thrilled to finally receive his Master of Divinity degree in May, albeit in absentia.

Funk, pastor of Langley Mennonite Fellowship, completed his MDiv courses from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), located in Elkhart, Indiana, through the seminary’s distance education program, which combines online and hybrid classes.

He enthusiastically recommends the program, which brought together students from countries including Canada, the U.S., Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Thailand and Japan.

Funk, who grew up in Kelowna, B.C., studied theology at Canadian Mennonite Bible College (now Canadian Mennonite University) 1985-88. Later he worked as a letter carrier for Canada Post and performed opera on the side. After the Funk family moved to B.C. from Ontario in 2009, they became part of Langley Mennonite Fellowship, which called Funk to be pastor in 2015.

As a pastor, Funk wanted to improve his theological education. He first chose to study locally at the Vancouver School of Theology (VST), which has Anglican, Presbyterian and United Church roots. “I took a course called Pastoral Identity and Practice, where they talked about being a pastor,” Funk recalls during an interview at Langley Mennonite. “It was an excellent class, but I thought, ‘That’s not quite how my people do it.’”

Mennonites, he realized, had different ways of ministering and relating than what he was learning at VST. With the full support of his congregation, he decided to complete his master’s degree through AMBS. He began classes in 2015 while continuing pastoral work. Twice a year he would travel to Indiana to attend week-long classes in person, an experience Funk found rewarding, particularly for the relationships he formed.

“In a hyper-individualized society, people really crave connection,” he says. “When you study together, you make good, solid connections.”

By the end of the program, Funk felt “very comfortable” at the seminary.

“One thing AMBS does really well is hospitality; it’s very much in their DNA,” he says. “They really bring you in and draw you in to the community.”

Funk was able to participate in the graduation by watching an online broadcast of the ceremony on May 27, along with friends from his congregation.

Though it was challenging to be taking classes in theology, Hebrew, Greek, spiritual formation and ethics while continuing in his pastoral role, Funk said he had the advantage of being able to apply some of the learnings “instantly.” He appreciates the strong support from his congregation for the past eight years. “I am very grateful; I knew it was going to take some hard work on my part,” Funk says. “I think they’ve noticed how it’s shaped me to be the pastor I am now.”

For anyone considering the program, Funk says that if you want to study with people who want to see you grow into your vocation, whether as pastor or theologian, and if you want to learn from people who are interested in seeing you grow in your faith and in the acquisition of skills, then “seminary is a beautiful place to get into all the different dimensions of what your faith involves.” And if you want to do that “amongst colleagues who are also very sincere, AMBS is great.” 

Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in B.C.? Send it to Amy Rinner Waddell at

Ian Funk, pastor of Langley Mennonite Fellowship, recently graduated from AMBS. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

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