The Unexpected Pastor (To Be)


So recently YAR has had introductions from the The Reluctant Christian and The Impossible Anabaptist. So in the spirit of things, allow me to introduce myself as The Unexpected Pastor (To Be). I say “unexpected” because I never expected that I eventually would work on my MDiv at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. I never expected that I would want to be pastor. And in the darkest days of my disbelief and disorientation, I never thought I would want to be a Christian. However, since I graduated from Goshen College six years ago, I’ve had these quiet tugs pull me into this direction. Is this God? Is this insanity? Is this proof that God has a sense of humor?

I live with my wife Maegan and the expected Baby Yoder in Baltimore. We attend North Baltimore Mennonite Church, which currently is experiencing a lot of change since our pastor retired at the end of December. I feel change is a good thing — we needed to shake up status quo. There are good people in this community, but there are a lot of problems and divisions as well. Like a lot of urban Mennonite churches, there is broad theological/political diversity in the congregation and we have to somehow find a way to get along together.

What else? I grew up in Berlin, Germany and Evanston, IL. I am an alum of Reba Place Church and was there from 1988 to 1995. Reba’s has had a significant impact on me and what I feel churches should strive for. We attended Reba’s 50th Anniversary last summer and I it felt good to reconnect with Reba’s vision.

I can be ornery and contrary. One of the things that I struggle with at EMS are the subtle pressures to conform to particular views on faith and the broader Christian church. I find that the seminary tends to underplay some of the “yucky” parts of Christian history — historical developments in faith movements and Church politics are taken on as face value. There is little attempt to problematize the checkered Christian legacy.

For example, my prof in my missions class, acknowledges the role that missions played in Western Imperialism, but I am not sure how it informs the material we are working through.

I find that the basic assumption at seminary is that the Church is “good” and the Bible is “good.” While I believe that aspects of the Church and Bible are “good,” they are also complicated and contradictory. The Church has hurt and abused; the Bible is not a perfect text. We need to find ways to acknowledge the bad or destructive aspects of both and hold them in tension with the “good.” I am concerned about power dynamics and hope that my ministry can help serve as a corrective to historical abuses of religious power.

Finally, according to my Meyers-Briggs personality test, I have a “fascination with the profane.” You’ve been warned.

I look forward to the future discussions.

Comments (9)

  1. Ric Hudgens


    I look forward to reading about your journey at seminary. Good questions make good beginnings.


  2. somasoul

    Jeremy is a horrible pastor to be and I hope to never hear one of his sermons again.


    (Of course, I’m kidding)

    Watching Jeremy and his wife grow into ministry is pretty cool. He can be challenging, wanting people to perhaps look and live outside the box. He challenges both mennonite culture and evangelical norms.

    He’ll probably lead an awesome ministry someday after he splits the congregation into warring factions.

    Good for him.

  3. JeremyY (Post author)


    I was a bit thrown by your post — it seems like you know me. But I figured out who you are and thanks for your comments. I think you’re joking about splitting the church, but I really hope not!

  4. somasoul

    Of course I’m joking. The splitting the church thing is kinda iffy.

    You’re a good guy and I recommended to the church that we choose you as our next pastor but someone in the church said the Yoders as a family we’re stingy and smelled like fried cod oil.

    I won’t mention any names but let’s just say the Grabers think they are real mennonites and you are not.


    (You know, of course, that I’m kidding)

    See ya in the morning.

  5. John Stoner

    I’d say you are asking good questions and challenging sacred cows which are unsteady on their feet (and should be). If we inside the church cannot be honestly critical of our history and our book, others will do it for us, and with far less patience or compassion than we have. The way I see it, Jesus was, above all things, an inside critic of his faith tradition. I don’t know how you could follow him without being and doing the same.
    I apologize (just joking) for not being young, and presuming to poke into this list. You all carry on, and make some waves.

  6. TimN


    Welcome to YAR! It’s great to have you posting here. Please don’t apologize for not being young, you’ve got plenty of anabaptism and radicalness to make up for whatever lack of lack of experience you may have. I hope you’ll comment here regularly!

    As far as your Jesus as insider critic, I think it’s amazing how few people seem to realize or remember that when Jesus railed against the Pharisees, he was talking to the leaders of his own church. And unfortunately, much of his critique translates all to easily into today’s church. Luke 11:33-57 comes to mind as a good example. Of course there’s always the log in our own eye to keep in mind.

  7. somasoul

    Hey, John, old people aer welcome here too so long as they don’t smell like mothballs or demand us to play scrabble.


  8. Nate Myers

    Yo yo Jeremy,

    You know what the fun thing about skewering sacred cows at seminary is? Folks won’t leave forever, because they’re paying for the classes.

    Skewer away.

    From the guy who sits behind you in the study room.


  9. Mark


    Mark Nielsen from Reba here. Glad to see you around lately.
    I’ve been telling and re-telling the story of you refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance as a Menno kid in public school for YEARS now. It was just a great, hilarious, instructive moment in time for me, when you (or was it your Dad… I think it was you, though…) re-told the story during open-mike time at church. I told my non-Menno parents that story once. They didn’t get it. Surprise surprise.
    I can’t recall if we said hi at the reunion, but it’s so great to hear you’re at EMS now. Work hard, procrastinate much, deconstruct whatever you come across, and you’ll do just fine.

    Greetings also to you, Ric H. I see you lurking there in the shadows, pretending to be “young” like me. (That’s *pretending* like me, not *young* like me… I’m old too. So now John can take that to the bank as well.)

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