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New church pastor follows a roundabout route to Elmira

Pastor Fanosie Legesse
Fanosie Legesse is the newest face at Zion Mennonite Fellowship in Elmira. He is the church’s new pastor and hopes his education and world experience can bring unique insight to the congregation.[Submitted]
Fanosie Legesse is the newest face at Zion Mennonite Fellowship in Elmira. He is the church’s new pastor and hopes his education and world experience can bring unique insight to the congregation. [Submitted]

Pastor Fanosie Legesse puts the emphasis on community at Zion Mennonite Fellowship

Although he’s the new face at the Zion Mennonite Fellowship, pastor Fanosie Legesse likes to keep the focus on the church and its congregation.

“I don’t have my own agenda. The church has its own mission, so my job here is to facilitate that,” he said. “I don’t see myself as top dog of the congregation, but I see myself among them equally as a believer. At the same time, my education and my gifts come together to help them accomplish their purpose of existence. They have been here for 28 years. They know better than me about the community and the context.”

Legesse has extensive education in theology and divinity. He holds a Bachelor of Theology and Masters of Divinity from Heritage Baptist Seminary in Cambridge, and is still expanding his knowledge, currently working on a Doctorate of Ministry in the Leadership Track program at the Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.

He was born in Ethiopia, but made his way to Canada with his wife, who is from Fergus. He attended the Mennonite church in Elora for over a decade before moving to the Zion Mennonite Fellowship in Elmira. Although he is learning a lot from his congregation, he believes his history and experiences bring a unique perspective to the church community on Arthur Street.

“Because I am from a different culture, I have that international value to add to the church,” he said. “Different colours and different connections. I have a lot to learn from them, but (my leadership) helps to discern how we can function as a community together, to love our neighbourhood and communicate Christ as we believe and interpret the Bible.”

Legesse strived for a role in church leadership after realizing he wanted to spread the word of Christ and promoting global citizenship.

“I decided to be a pastor out of my conviction to be like Christ in a practical way – preaching the good news of salvation to people, loving and serving people, extending peace and reconciliation to those who need it the most, proclaiming that we all are fellow citizens of the planet,” he said.

Just a small piece of his role as pastor, Legesse also teaches Sunday school and preaches on Sunday mornings, writing the week before a service to ensure that all talks are topical.

“(On a typical Sunday), we have Sunday school for an hour. Then, of course, we have the hymn singing and after that we have a band of singers with worship songs. They are very good,” he said.

After the music, Legesse preaches for 20 to 25 minutes on a subject affecting the world, or congregation members directly.

The congregation also likes to kick up their heels and have a good time.

“We have potlucks and a lot of fun,” he said. “Every third Saturday, it is just singing with guitar and we have a very nice professional drummer. It is just awesome.”

The church also hosts a coffee meeting, Java Junction, on Thursday evenings, offering games, social time and more. They also like to reach out into the community whether it is caroling during the holiday season or volunteering their time, being better neighbours to everyone regardless of creed.

“Our goal is to be better neighbours in every direction – not only spiritually, but also physically by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked or visiting prisoners and the sick. That is my training and I believe it from my heart,” he said.

He says he immediately felt at home in the Elmira congregation, noting the sense of community and practice of the tenets of Mennonite ideals and worship.

“The freedom in the church is just amazing. The church is a Mennonite church, so our pacifist theology is what we want others to know about,” he said “We are a tight community. We know each other’s challenges, each other’s joys and we pray and we rally behind those who are hurting and we rejoice with those who are rejoicing. I am not new to the Mennonite ideology, but more and more it makes sense.”

Two pieces of the Mennonite ideology Legesse takes seriously are pacifism and empathy. With the recent attacks in Paris, he looked at both sides of the situation rather than blaming a religion or group.

“In the world today, there is chaos left and right. I think the value that we uphold (in the Mennonite church) is that every being is created equal and God loves everyone despite our ethnicity, political background, gender, you name it,” he said. “Every bad guy deserves a chance to be good and that chance can only be given when you follow the path of pacifism and non-violence. It becomes difficult when you see someone killing your family member and you want justice to be served equally, but at the same time, you think about why that woman or man dared to kill someone like that. What was their motivation or ideology? So, you fight the ideology.”

The Zion Mennonite Fellowship meets every Sunday, with Sunday school starting at 9:30 a.m. The worship service begins at 10:45 a.m.

For more information about the church, visit www.thejunctionelmira.com.

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