Unexpected Gifts

Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship ordains Stephen Reist

three women at podium distinced“The people of Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship help people to grow,” says Stephen Reist, former pastor. “I had the chance to grow and be encouraged by them. They helped me to develop as a pastor.”

Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship (MMF) is a church that supports and encourages each individual’s call to serve. The church does not have a building but instead invests in ministries and services of interest to their members. They have supported many places. In the early years, MMF did not hire a pastor. A committee served as worship coordinators and in traditional leadership roles. They eventually called part-time pastors to work in areas of spiritual nurture, growth and outreach.

Stephen Reist was one of those pastors. “I met Stephen when his wife, Carol, came to speak at Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship,” says John Hildebrand, member of MMF. John and his wife, Carol, invited Carol and Stephen home for lunch. That afternoon a relationship began between Stephen and Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship. It was not too long after that day that they called him as pastor.

"I wanted MMF to be the body that blessed and gifted me to serve the Mennonite Church." - Stephen Reist

For the next 13 years, Stephen served as pastor at MMF. However, participant numbers had been declining for many years. Families moved away for career changes, young people started careers in other communities and some couples moved away to be nearer their children and grandchildren. New families joined, but not in sufficient numbers to match the decline.

Stephen and three people working at a tableThrough his time at MMF, conversations with colleagues, and through participating in MCEC programs like Transitioning into Ministry and other events, Stephen realized that he did in fact wish to be ordained in the Mennonite church. “Through significant conversations and relationships, God planted seeds in me to bring me to the place where I felt that this was my theological home,” says Stephen. He had been ordained with the Church of Christ prior to his time with Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship. “For me being ordained was actually saying, ‘Yes, I have decided that I’m going to commit to being a part of this group of people - to put down roots and serve the Mennonite church.’”

Ordination is the expression of the local church commissioning a pastor to serve the larger church. “Stephen was very loved and appreciated at MMF,” says John. “It was part of our goodbye gift to him to go through the ordination process with him.”

On September 19, 2021, Stephen and the Mississauga congregation gathered for Stephen’s ordination. Marilyn Rudy-Froese, MCEC Church Leadership Minister, led the service, recognizing Stephen’s long affirmed call to ministry. Stephen says, “I wanted MMF to be the body that was a part of blessing and gifting me to serve the rest of the Mennonite Church.” Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship released Stephen the next month.

"[Mustard seeds] are seeds of faithfulness... they surprise us and bring us to places we had not expected." - Stephen Reist

Today MMF is seeking new ways of being church together, and apart. The congregation meets twice monthly on Zoom as opposed to every Sunday and were pleased to be able to bless Stephen forward even as they recreate themselves.

Stephen began his role as Regional Ministry Associate in MCEC in January 2022. It is in this role that he meets with pastors, providing support and care. He is also interim pastor at Danforth Mennonite Church in Toronto.

“The mustard seeds in our lives aren’t necessarily intentional seeds. They are seeds of faithfulness but we don’t always see where they are going,” says Stephen. “The seeds in one part of my life come to fruition and bear together to things that happen later. They surprise us and bring us to places we had not expected.”