Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister for Mosaic Conference, will retire from her executive role on January 31; she will remain working as a Leadership Minister for three Mosaic churches.
Nitzsche’s journey to Mosaic Conference leadership has been full of unexpected calls, adjustments, joy, and fulfillment. She graduated from Goshen (IN) College with a degree in Elementary Education and taught for three years, including two years in a one room schoolhouse in Nebraska before moving to Elkhart, IN so her husband, Wayne, could study at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS).
While at AMBS, Mary worked part-time in the seminary library and enjoyed taking a few classes through a spousal discount. It was then that Mary felt her first sense of call to ministry, but instead, prioritized starting a family.
Although Mary enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom while Wayne pastored a church in Wooster, OH, she continued to feel drawn to ministry. Fortunately, Ashland Seminary was very close by. Three years later, she obtained her M.A. in pastoral counseling.
Just as Nitzsche earned her degree, she and Wayne were asked to serve as regional pastors (similar to Mosaic’s Leadership Ministers) for Ohio Conference. Mary had no pastoral experience at this time and felt “woefully inadequate.” But, “the Conference pastor firmly believed in me,” Mary recalled. As time went on, she found herself “being drawn into the conference work more than the counseling, which surprised me, since I went to seminary for counseling,” Mary reflected.
Mary had served as Regional Minister for Ohio Conference for over 12 years when Blooming Glen (PA) Mennonite Church called with an invitation to consider a pastoral role. Again, Mary felt inadequate, since she had never served as a congregational pastor. While Mary was intrigued, moving to a different state, without a job for Wayne, felt very risky. But together, they stepped out in faith. During Mary’s candidacy weekend at Blooming Glen, Wayne interviewed for, and eventually became, pastor of Perkasie (PA) Mennonite Church.
For ten years, Mary pastored at Blooming Glen, assuming she would retire there. But Steve Kriss, Executive Minister of Franconia Conference, called with an invitation to Mary to consider the role of Associate Executive Minister, starting in July 2017. “Mary’s pastoral gifts, deep wisdom, attention both to healthy relationships and to process are gifts that have strengthened our Conference communities in these last five years,” Kriss reflected on that call.
“I felt very fulfilled at Blooming Glen, thinking I would just gradually decrease my hours until retirement, until Steve approached,” Mary shared. “I’ve always been surprised with the calls that come to me out of the clear blue. It seemed like others noticed my gifts and had confidence in my skills before I did.”
During her years as Associate Executive Minister, Nitzsche has worked often with Conference policies. “Policies are really important, but they have to be flexible and backed up with relationship,” Nitzsche noted. As her relationships grew, she realized the importance of understanding other cultures. What is normative and appropriate for one group of people may not translate to another. As a result, Nitzsche invested a lot of energy into being more culturally sensitive. “I’ve learned to pay attention to those things and depend on people from other cultures to help shape those processes and policies. It is very rewarding and has enriched my life.”
Nitzsche will perhaps miss this interaction across cultures the most with her retirement. “I’m going to have to be more intentional to include cultural diversity as an ongoing part of my life,” Nitzsche said. “That has been a gift from the Conference.” She also will miss being a part of credentialing interviews—walking with pastors and hearing their stories.
Nitzsche is delighted that Marta Castillo will be stepping into the Associate Executive Minister role on February 1. “She has a great awareness of cultural diversity and speaks three Mosaic languages,” Nitzsche explained. “She’ll be wonderful in this role.”