Steiner, Susan Clemmer (1947-2019)

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Sue Clemmer Steiner speaking at the 25th anniversary of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada in 2013.
MCEC photo

Susan Derstine Clemmer Steiner: pastor, spiritual director, clergy coach and church leader was born in Souderton, Pennsylvania, USA on 22 April 1947 and died at Innisfree Hospice in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada on 26 August 2019 of metastatic lung cancer. Sue was the youngest of two children born to Lester M. Clemmer (11 October 1904-15 September 1991) and Martha (Derstine) Clemmer (4 July 1904-15 February 2003). Sue’s memorial service was held at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church on 2 September 2019.

Sue Clemmer was baptized in the Souderton Mennonite Church and nurtured in that community until she left for Goshen College in Indiana. After earning a BA in English, Sue immigrated to Kitchener, Ontario where on 2 August 1969 she married Sam Steiner, a college friend and Vietnam era draft resister, son of David Christian Steiner (4 May 1905-9 September 1986) and Kathryn Smucker Steiner (4 January 1901-8 October 2002). Together Sue and Sam made southwestern Ontario their home throughout their 50 years of marriage. They had no children.

Like many Mennonite women pastors of her era, Sue’s path to ministry was a winding one. After 10 years as a book buyer for Provident Bookstores, she began studies Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, and later at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana where she earned her MDiv degree in 1982. From there, Sue returned to become Youth Minister for Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec (MCOQ), the first of many pastoral positions she held in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC).

Sue Clemmer Steiner was ordained on Pentecost in 1987 at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church where she served as pastor until 1996, following which she became Lead Pastor at Waterloo North (1998-2005). Interim assignments included: Missions Minister for MCOQ; Chaplain, Conrad Grebel College; Nith Valley Mennonite Church in New Hamburg; Black Creek Faith Community in Toronto; Waterloo-Kitchener United Mennonite Church; and Riverdale Mennonite Church.

The wider Mennonite church benefited significantly from Sue’s gifts for nurturing faith through her writing: eight units of Sunday school curriculum for adults and youth, including three books, Joining the army that sheds no blood, Basic beliefs, and Flowing with the river: soundings from my life and ministry, as well as numerous workshops and articles in church magazines.

Sue served as a member of the editorial committee of Leader magazine (2003-2006), chair of the Christian Formation Council for Mennonite Church Canada (2003-2008), founding partner and Managing Associate of Associates Resourcing the Church (2006-2011) and Coordinator of Mennonite Spiritual Directors of Ontario (2006-2009).

Sue’s passion for equipping leaders led her into co-teaching the Integration Seminar in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program as Adjunct Faculty at Conrad Grebel University College. Training in Appreciative Coaching opened the door for Sue to be a coach for beginning pastors in MCEC’s newly minted Transition into Ministry (TiM) program. She served as a resource person for numerous pastoral reviews and congregational search processes.

Sue’s training with the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation informed her pastoral ministry and equipped her for offering spiritual direction, often with pastors, a private practice which she continued in retirement as long as health allowed. This calling found unique expression in her weekly blog called A nourished spirit which she began writing at her 70th birthday, continuing to “nourish the spirits” of readers while facing the reality of her declining health.

Co-leading a book club for inmates at the Grand Valley Institution for Women with Margaret Loewen Reimer and Kathy Waltner-Toews was a source of deep satisfaction for Sue. She shared her gifts of preaching and leadership on the Christian Formation Council at Rockway Mennonite Church where she and Sam were members after her retirement from pastoral ministry. In turn, she drank deeply from the rich streams of communal worship and support as she faced her untimely death.

In the Afterword to Flowing with the river, Sue posed this evocative question: “By what means do you and I expect God to speak – if we expect God to speak at all?” (p. 170). Sue freely admitted that hearing and bending with the wind of God’s spirit didn’t always come easily (p. 169). Yet she clung tenaciously to her resolve to listen for and follow God’s call, wherever it might lead, and to walk with others on that journey.

Books by Sue Clemmer Steiner

Steiner, Susan Clemmer. Joining the army that sheds no blood. Kitchener, Ont.: Herald Press, 1982.

_____. Basic beliefs. Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Press, et al., 1984.

_____. God has no favorites: Acts 1-12. Newton, Kan.: Faith and Life Press, 1989.

_____. Reveling in God’s love: praying with Psalm 36. Winnipeg, Man.: Christian Formation, Mennonite Church Canada, 2005.

_____. A goodly heritage: memories and dreams of a Souderton girl. Waterloo, Ont.: S. C. Steiner, 2008.

_____. Before e-mail and blogs: selected letters and writings of Jim and Sue’s forebears. Waterloo, Ont.: S. C. Steiner, 2011.

_____. Flowing with the river: soundings from my life and ministry. Kitchener, Ont.: S. C. Steiner, 2013.

_____. A nourished spirit: selected blogs. Kitchener, Ont.: S. C. Steiner, 2018.


Author(s) Muriel Bechtel
Date Published March 2020


Cite This Article

MLA style

Bechtel, Muriel. "Steiner, Susan Clemmer (1947-2019)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2020. Web. 6 Jun 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Steiner,_Susan_Clemmer_(1947-2019)&oldid=166762.

APA style

Bechtel, Muriel. (March 2020). Steiner, Susan Clemmer (1947-2019). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 June 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Steiner,_Susan_Clemmer_(1947-2019)&oldid=166762.




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