Saturday, 30 December 2017

Prayer Letter: January 2018

From all of us at ICS to you, our faithful friends and supporters, may God’s richest blessings of love, joy and peace be yours in 2018. We hope you enjoy our new format of the Prayer Letter for January 2018. Please join us in prayer before the Lord.

Monday, January 1 - Friday, January 5:

Please pray for our advancement and administrative team (Harley Dekker, Vidya Williams, Jeffrey Hocking, Kathy Lynch, and Pat Webb) as they perform the vital tasks that contribute to the execution of our mission. Pray for strength and joy in service.

We ask for your prayers this week for Senior Members (Ron Kuipers, Bob Sweetman, Rebecca Smick, Nik Ansell, and Gideon Strauss) as they prepare for the Winter semester classes beginning next week. Please uphold them before the Lord as they seek work out their calling as teachers and mentors.

Please pray this week for our Junior Members who are returning from their homes, some from far away, that they might have safe travels. We ask too for their encouragement in their studies as they start a new semester of classes next week.

Monday, January 8 - Friday, January 12:

Please pray this week for Bob Sweetman who will be teaching the first class of the semester in his course: “Individuality in the Franciscan Thought of John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham”. Pray too for the students as they begin this new semester of learning.

Please pray this week for the Inter-Disciplinary Seminar for this year which is titled “The Legacy of Seerveld, Hart, and Olthuis.” It meets on Tuesdays from 1:45-4:45. The IDS has Nik Ansell and Bob Sweetman as the instructors of record but Cal Seerveld, Henk Hart and Jim Othius will be attending and participating in as many of the sessions as possible, especially those sessions in which their own work is spotlighted. The January sessions will be dedicated to Cal's work under four rubrics: Systematic Aesthetics, History of Aesthetic Theory, Theory of Art History, Biblical Literary Criticism/Hermeneutics.

On Thursday of this week, the first day of the courses: “Birthpangs of the New Creation: Judgment unto Salvation in the Book of Revelation” with Nik Ansell and “Imagining the Word with Ricoeur: Narrative, Action, and the Sacred in Ricoeur's Hermeneutic Phenomenology” with Ron Kuipers. Pray for Nik and Ron and all the students who will be participating in these courses.

Please pray for Julia de Boer this week as she defends her thesis The Allusivity of Grammar: Developing Theory and Pedagogy for Linguistic Aesthetics on Thursday of this week. Julia is one of Bob Sweetman’s MA students and we also ask for grace and strength for both Julia and Bob, as well as the other examiners in this important session.

Monday, January 15 - Friday, January 19:

This week, the Distance Education course “Curriculum: Organizing the World for Learning” begins. Please pray for Doug Blomberg and Joonyong Um as they prepare and work together to teach this online course. Pray too for the students, especially for those for whom this is their first experience with this type of learning.

Please pray for the board this week as it meets for the first time in 2018. For most of the board members, this will happen via conference call as they are spread across Canada. Pray that all will go smoothly with the technology and that they will have wisdom and insight as they seek to provide leadership in the working out of the mission and vision of ICS.

Every year, CPRSE gives an emerging scholar the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary work through its Research Associate position. We pray for the CPRSE’s current Research Associate, Richard Gauthier, as he prepares to present the fruits of his work at ICS in the spring of 2018.

Monday, January 22 - Friday, January 26:

Plans are underway to host a second Undergraduate Workshop in the spring of 2018. Please pray for the success of the planning team’s efforts to make this workshop an annual event of ICS’ community outreach calendar.

We thank God for the response to our Advent Appeal, still ongoing, which has been marvellous. At this time of writing, we are doing well to meet our targets in most areas, and we encourage everyone to continue to give as they are able so that we can continue to sustain our mission in Christian graduate education. We are deeply grateful to God for His provision, and also for you, our faithful members and donors.

Monday, January 29 - Wednesday, January 31:

Please join us in giving thanks for all Junior Members involved in the production of Critical Faith, ICS’ recently launched podcast. Through this new media platform, ICS will effectively share the fruits of the work of Senior and Junior Members with the broader community. We pray that Critical Faith will become a space for learning, dialogue, and reflection

We give thanks this week for the new opportunity we have in our Wayfinding program. On Wednesday, January 31st, Gideon Strauss will teach the first class in our new format of Vocational Wayfinding. The course will be offered in a hybrid format consisting of weekly online work and five in-person sessions. The in-person sessions will be hosted by Toronto District Christian High.

Please pray for the upcoming ICS summer course offering: ART IN ORVIETO—an immersive exploration of art, religion, and theology. Join us in prayer for Dr. Rebekah Smick, Dr. Thomas McIntire, David Holt, and Dr. John Skillen as they prepare for this three-week in-depth study of Christian understandings of the arts. This course will run July 15 to August 4, 2018, and consists of a graduate seminar and/or artists’ studio workshop in beautiful Orvieto, Italy. The deadline for application is March 31st so please pray that those who are interested will contact ICS quickly.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Annual Report and Perspective Online Now

The ICS 2016-2017 Annual Report and the latest issue of our newsletter <i>Perspective</i> are now available for viewing and download.  This issue of <i>Perspective</i> celebrates ICS's 50th anniversary with twelve full pages of content including articles by Fred Reinders, Barbara Carvill, Henk Hart and Doug Blomberg.

View or download the Fall 2017 issue of Perspective at

View or download the 2016-2017 Annual Report at

Friday, 1 December 2017

ICS celebrates its Jubilee Anniversary

On November 11th, we celebrated 50 years of God’s blessing on the working out of the mission of ICS in Christian higher education to the academy, the Church, and the public sphere of civil society. Over 160 friends, staff, faculty, alumni, and students gathered at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville to worship and fellowship together. The Prayer and Thanksgiving Service, including the moving Meditation by Cal Seerveld, reminded us of the depth of God’s faithfulness over these 50 years; the fellowship around the tables at the Gala Luncheon in the beautiful atrium of King’s was a gift in remembering how good it is to be in community; and the Formal Program was a memorable weaving together of our “stories along the way” with contributions from ten speakers and a video presentation by Luke Seerveld. All in all, a wonderful reminder of what happens when a small band of God’s people take on a Kingdom endeavour.

Many thanks to the incredible staff at King’s Christian Collegiate who made it all work and to the many friends who joined us on the day and/or made a generous contribution to the expenses. And to our 50th Anniversary planning team--thank you for all your hard work in ensuring it was a day to remember!

ICS Launches Critical Faith, a Podcast Exploring the Contours of Religion in a Plural Society

In Critical Faith, ICS's new podcast, we will hear from researchers, activists, educators, students, and more as we try to think through what makes faith such a crucial component of so many of our lives. Along the way, we will also let ourselves be troubled by some hard questions about our own traditions, spiritualities, and communities.

To access Critical Faith click here.

In our inaugural episode, Neal DeRoo presents his paper, "Toward a Material Spirituality: Religion and Phenomenological Expression." The recording is the first of three parts, all from a Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Seminar hosted at ICS last September. Neal DeRoo is Canada Research Chair in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Religion and Associate Professor of Philosophy at The King's University in Edmonton, Alberta, and the author of Futurity in Phenomenology: Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida (Fordham: 2013).

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Prayer Letter: December 2017

Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”

December means Advent and Christmas, a time of waiting followed by a time of feasting in the old Christian calendar. Some of the stories that follow involve waiting, whether filled with anxiety or growing excitement. Others really deserve a toast in honour of accomplishment and bright prospects for the future. And that is the funny thing about life in a community -- waiting and feasting, anxiety and the delicious prickle of hopeful anticipation, they are all jumbled together. The pessimist can feel in his rights in saying that there are dark moments even in the brightest of days. But the optimist is equally within her rights to insist that it takes only a small light to transform darkness into light, however dim, by which to see. I tend toward the former; I am working to practice the latter. But the mixture of joy and sadness that calls out for your prayers just means at its most basic that the ICS community is alive, and that means the bearer of all the precious ambiguity that Life gives to life here between the “yes” and “but” this side of Christ’s Ascension, this side of the Eschaton. Read about a few of our joys and sadness, and, please, it would be one of our joys if you joined us in our prayers. Our best wishes go out to you in your waiting and feasting this December.
From Bob Sweetman’s book of meditations Changing to Stay the Same, Week One (Advent)

Friday, December 1:  Please join us in giving thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for the wonderful celebration of our 50th Anniversary last month. It was a time of great blessing. We regret that so many in our community who live far afield could not join us. We pray for God’s provision that we might have the opportunity to host an event in western Canada in the Spring of next year so.

As mentioned in the November Prayer Letter, Doug Blomberg is hoping to visit an ICS alumnus, currently in prison. Please pray all will go well on the morning of Sunday December 3 and that they will be able to spend a few hours together in fruitful conversation. This person hopes to transfer into our PhD program, so we ask you to pray also that the many details to be sorted out with respect to ICS requirements will proceed as smoothly as can be expected in these unique circumstances.

Monday, December 4:   Please pray for wisdom for Ron Kuipers, Bob Sweetman, and Harley Dekker, as today they embark on a series of meetings at The King's University in Edmonton in order to start determining the scope and nature of the proposed affiliation between ICS and The King's University.

Tuesday, December 5:  On November 30, CPRSE Director Ron Kuipers and Associate Director Hector Acero Ferrer submitted a Partnership Development Grant application to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The CPRSE is seeking $200,000.00 from SSHRC to fund a two-year research partnership with the Shalem Mental Health Network in Hamilton and the Centre for Community Based Research in Kitchener-Waterloo. The project, titled RESTORING JUSTICE: Restorative Justice as a Path to Building Healthy Relationships in Faith Communities, proposes to research the effectiveness of a restorative justice approach to the work of promoting justice and healing broken relationships in religious communities living through difficult situations. Please pray that the significant time and effort that went into developing the application will bear fruit, so that ICS can continue to engage the church in discussions concerning the relationship of faith and justice.

Wednesday, December 6:   Please take this opportunity today to pray for our Board of Trustees as they continue to serve in their oversight of the mission and vision of ICS. We pray too for our two new Board members, Lynnette Postuma and Marci Frederick. We give thanks for Matt Bonzo who has served so faithfully on both the ICS board and the FICS board as he now retires.

Thursday, December 7:   Please pray today for the success (so that it can be cleared for formal submission) of the latest full draft of Joshua Harris’s PhD thesis Neither Solitary nor Diverse: Transcendental Multitude in Thomas Aquinas. Joshua is one of Bob Sweetman’s PhD students, and the thesis is being co-directed by Wouter Goris (VU).

Friday, December 8:  Today Senior Member Gideon Strauss will be leading a 3-hour workshop on vocational wayfinding at Toronto District Christian High. The workshop is titled Your Next Five Years: Mapping the Adventure. Please uphold Gideon and those participating in your prayers.

Monday, December 11:  Please say a prayer of thanks for the formal submission of of Julia de Boer’s thesis The Allusivity of Grammar: Developing Theory and Pedagogy for Linguistic Aesthetics. Julia is one of Bob Sweetman’s MA students and we also ask for grace and strength for both Julia and Bob as they prepare for her defense scheduled for January 11, 2018.

Tuesday, December 12:  Today we want to give thanks for the successful launch of the CPRSE's new podcast, Critical Faith last month. The podcast explores themes related to the intersection of religion and public life, and is available for free on such platforms as iTunes and Google Play (see ICS News item November 23). Please pray for future episodes, including a 3-part discussion with Kate Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day and the author of Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty, a widely acclaimed book that is a family memoir, social history, and intimate biography of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

Wednesday, December 13:  We give thanks today for the Fall 2017 World-Viewing course and all of its participants, including the four ICS Senior Members who participated. Please pray for Gideon Strauss's Research Assistant Grace Carhart, who will be interviewing Nik Ansell, Ron Kuipers, Rebekah Smick, and Bob Sweetman during December for four forthcoming episodes of the new ICS podcast, Critical Faith, which will explore themes from this course.

Thursday, December 14:  Today is the final day of classes for the fall semester at ICS. As is our custom, this evening we will share in a time of fun, fellowship and good food at our annual Christmas Party. We give thanks for and celebrate the gifts we have in one another in this blessed community of learning.

Friday, December 15:  Please pray for Bob Sweetman’s PhD student, Benjamin Groenewold, as he continues the work of revising the full thesis draft of his thesis (as yet untitled) on Technological Creativity and Mystery in Light of the Technology of Reading and View of the Mechanical Arts of Hugh of St. Victor.

Monday, December 18:  Please add Chris and Elaine Gort to your prayers as they live out the reality of his ALS diagnosis this past June. If you wish to be added to the updates he sends out periodically, please advise Kathy Lynch at

Tuesday, December 19:  As the day of celebration of Christmas in the giving and receiving of gifts approaches, we thank God for our committed and faithful friends for their gifts of prayer and financial support. We pray each one of you will receive the amazing gifts of love, joy and peace this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 20:  Plans are underway to host another "Opening Frames" conference on religion and cinema in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival's Higher Learning program. Please pray for the success of the planning team's efforts to secure the keynote speaker services of an internationally renowned filmmaker, and also that this conference might become an annual event on ICS' community outreach calendar.

Thursday, December 21:  Please remember Gideon Strauss in prayer as he makes the necessary preparations for the Vocational Wayfinding and Meaning and Method courses he is teaching in the Winter 2018 semester. Pray too for the successful recruitment of students to these courses.

Friday, December 22:  Please pray today for the families of our staff, faculty and students as they spend time together at this special Christmas season. Some of our families are spread far and wide so we ask God for his protective hand on those who will be traveling. We also ask our Lord to comfort our loved ones who because of distance or health reasons will be apart from their families. The Christmas season can be a particularly trying time to be separated from those we hold dear.

Monday, December 25:  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours.

Tuesday, December 26:  In this Christmas week, we want to remember people who are suffering around the world in areas of conflict and war. We need to hear the angels' call for "Peace on Earth" and so we offer prayers that peace and joy can be realized throughout the world.

Wednesday, December 27:  We pray for stamina and enthusiasm for Senior and Junior Members alike, who are preparing to start their new courses in January, and for our administrative colleagues whose selfless service enables us to function.

Thursday, December 28:  Please give thanks for the Ask More Questions youth ministry training event of the Anglican dioceses of Montreal and Ottawa last month, for which Gideon Strauss facilitated a research workshop. Please pray for Gideon Strauss's continuing education work on everyday world-viewing and vocational wayfinding in collaboration with churches, schools, and other partner organizations.

Friday, December 29:  As 2017 draws to a close, we give thanks for another fruitful year of work at ICS and for all our supporters and friends who made that work possible through their prayers and financial gifts. We especially give thanks to God for the grace and wisdom he gave in bringing closure to the financial difficulties with 229 College. We pray for God's blessing upon our staff, faculty, and students as we work out our mission, in the classroom and beyond, throughout this next year.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

King’s and ICS to Begin Affiliation Discussion

For years, there has been talk about affiliating two Canadian institutions in the Reformed tradition: The Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) and The King’s University. King’s and ICS signed a Memorandum of Understanding on September 30 at the Board of Governor’s twice-yearly meeting at King’s.

"It’s been a long process getting to where we’re at, which is the very beginning," said King’s President Dr. Melanie Humphreys. "ICS operates under a Legislative Act in Ontario and we operate under an Act in Alberta, and it’s important that we maintain both of these."

The two institutions have a vision for accomplishing something bigger than either can accomplish on their own – a Canadian Christian university in the Reformed tradition offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The initial scope of discussion includes the development of conjoint degrees, a financial agreement, and a study of governance structures that may need to happen in order to give full effect and meaning to an affiliation. This would also contribute to King’s vision for a centre for Christian thought and action, a goal in the university’s strategic plan, Shared Vision 2020.

Outgoing ICS President Dr. Doug Blomberg initiated conversations some time ago to bring the two institutions together and affirms that he is "deeply grateful for this outcome."

"Our institutions align ideologically quite well, and it’s very exciting to envision what our affiliation could become, including imagining how it might extend our shared mission in Christian higher education" said Dr. Ronald Kuipers, new Provost at ICS.

"We have a lot of questions to answer and work to do in figuring out what will allow us both to benefit and build capacity," said Humphreys. "This is just the beginning of exploring what we can do to advance both our missions programmatically."

In the upcoming year, King’s and ICS will set timelines and processes in motion to be able to realize this vision.

This article is being jointly published in both Connection and Perspective magazines.