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Schellenberg leaves Portage Mennonite Church 0

Rob Swystun, The Daily Graphic
Staff photo by Rob Swystun -- Portage Mennonite Church Pastor Karen Schellenberg stands at the pulpit of the church Dec. 30 in Portage la Prairie. Schellenberg and her husband are leaving Portage, meaning after eight years she will be leaving the pastorship of the church.

Staff photo by Rob Swystun -- Portage Mennonite Church Pastor Karen Schellenberg stands at the pulpit of the church Dec. 30 in Portage la Prairie. Schellenberg and her husband are leaving Portage, meaning after eight years she will be leaving the pastorship of the church.

For Pastor Karen Schellenberg, her time at Portage Mennonite Church was all about making each event special for the people involved.

After eight years as pastor for the church, Schellenberg is stepping down.

She will always fondly remember the church as the place she learned how to become a pastor.

Schellenberg can still remember the first baptism she performed at the church.

"I remember coming in the night before or maybe two nights before and sort of practicing holding my notes in one hand and the water in the other and trying to figure out where the mic was going to be and all of those kinds of things," Schellenberg said.

Although she would go on to perform dozens of baptisms, marriages and funerals, she wanted that first one to be as special for the individual involved.

"I always wanted to pull it off in a way that was very personal and meaningful because for me there would be lots of baptism services but for her there was only one," an emotional Schellenberg said recently when she spoke with The Daily Graphic. "So, that was always my objective was that every special service I did, I tried to make it extra special for them."

Schellenberg was a member of the congregation for about nine years when she got the call to be the church's pastor.

"This church has a history of not having a pastor, for many years they did not have a pastor," she said. "We came to the place where we kind of grew and evolved and thought we really need a pastor."

Although the congregation, which numbers about 50 people, searched through the channels of the Mennonite Church, they could not find a pastor and concluded that God had prepared someone within their ranks for the task. Schellenberg turned out to be that person.

The outgoing pastor said she was in social work before becoming a pastor and felt it was a divine call to do the job.

And while she was reluctant to preach at first, eventually she did take on the bulk of the preaching at the church, although it still has guest preachers on occasion.

The Schellenbergs, moved to Portage in 1993 when Karen's husband Tony Schellenberg became branch manager of the Scotia Bank here and they liked the city so much they decided to stay.

Now that Tony is moving from branch manager to being a private banker, the couple is making the move to Winnipeg.

Schellenberg aims to pursue another pastor position with a Mennonite church in Winnipeg.

"I'll go right back at it, what I've been doing, in a different setting," she said.

While she's in between jobs, Schellenberg will continue her studies through Canadian Mennonite University to achieve her certificate in Christian ministries, which she will graduate with in April.

Outside of the church, Schellenberg was always involved with Portage's Habitat for Humanity.

Right from the beginning, the pastor was helping to organize the builds and choose the families that would get the houses.

Other fond memories Schellenberg will retain from Portage includes walking along the Crescent Lake pathway where she would write her sermons.

As for the church, they will now have to move on and find a new pastor.

"I think the congregation will be taking some time to kind of evaluate its situation, the resignation was somewhat sudden so we just need some time to sort of evaluate where we're at and how we move forward," church member Gerald Loeppky said.

The church is part of the larger provincial body of Mennonite churches in Manitoba and will receive help from that organization when choosing a new pastor, he said.

Loeppky said Schellenberg's resignation is a huge loss to the church and he enjoyed watching her evolve as a pastor.

rswystun@cpheraldleader.com


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