Karen Martens Zimmerly returns to congregational ministry

Deborah Froese
May 8, 2017
Mennonite Church Canada
Karen Martens Zimmerly (right) and Terry Zimmerly (left).
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Karen Martens Zimmerly, Mennonite Church Canada’s Executive Minister, Formation and Pastoral Leadership, is returning to congregational ministry. She and her husband Terry Zimmerly will share a one-and-a-half time pastoral role at First Mennonite Church in Iowa City, Iowa, beginning this fall. She leaves Mennonite Church Canada on June 30, 2017.

Throughout her service, Martens Zimmerly has been deeply involved with pastors and the nuts and bolts of Christian Formation, connecting with leadership across Canada and the U.S.

As a member of Formation Council, Lisa Carr-Pries was one of the people who invited Martens Zimmerly to serve and affirmed her role with the national church. The two worked together for a number of years and Carr-Pries says it was a pleasure. “Karen is a wise, kind, compassionate and very grounded leader. She listened well and held space for everyone. She lifted others up and nurtured gifts in others so that they could grow deeper into their leadership gifts She was a calming presence in the sea of change.”

As Martens Zimmerly leaves her role, her husband leaves his position as lead pastor at Home Street MC in Winnipeg. Terry Zimmerly, an American, signaled his resignation from Home Street last fall and began searching the Mennonite Church USA website for pastoral openings. The couple had previously envisioned serving in the U.S. where Terry’s family still lives. With the proposed restructuring of Mennonite Church Canada national and area church entities, it seem like a good time to make the move.

For Martens Zimmerly, the move to Iowa City seems pragmatic and opportune. “There aren’t many pastoral openings in Canada, not like there were when I started with Mennonite Church Canada in 2008. We’ve had several conversations with the congregation and leadership of First Mennonite Church in Iowa City, and found that our perspectives on faith and life generally align. We’re looking forward to joining them.” She adds that sharing the role means she will be working less than full-time – something else that she is looking forward to. The couple’s sons and their extended family live in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ohio and California; a less intense work life will make it easier to visit.

For most of their working life, the couple have shared pastoral roles in congregational settings, most recently at Grace MC in Regina, Sask. That was prior to Martens Zimmerly’s role with Mennonite Church Canada. “Since then, we have done different things,” she says. And that’s been beneficial. “We have both grown and developed in areas we wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“Karen represented Mennonite Church Canada family with great integrity and sensitivity,” says Willard Metzger, Executive Director. “Her gentle spirit yet firm convictions have been greatly appreciated. Her caring and pastoral presence will be greatly missed.” 

What is Martens Zimmerly taking with her? “All sorts of relationships and networks,” she responds. “I’ve had an incredible opportunity through those relationships to get a more intimate and bigger picture of the wider church.” She also notes that her role at Mennonite Church Canada has also helped her build connections within Mennonite Church USA.

With a population of about 70,000 people, Iowa City is also home to the students, faculty and staff of the University of Iowa and the University of Iowa Health Care Centre. First Mennonite Church serves a large, inter-generational and active community.

“It’s a big move,” says Martens Zimmerly, “but we’re looking forward to it.”

Photo Credits: 
Ryan Roth Bartel