Thursday 15 August 2013

Sea to Sea Rides through Toronto

A big thank you to those who came out to the Humber Bay Arch Bridge in Toronto to cheer on the Sea to Sea cyclists, riding to address poverty, cheering them on with ICS, the Lighthouse, and Classis Toronto. This leg of their ride began in Ancaster and finished in Ajax Ontario, making Toronto a likely place to offer the cyclists snacks and water as well as encouragement.

We also wish the cyclists safe travels in their remaining two weeks before reaching the coast of New York.

To learn more about Sea to Sea, visit

Attention St. Catharines: Travelling Preacher (aka ICS President Tom Wolthuis) to Preach in a CRC Church near you

On Sunday, August 25, Tom will be preaching at Maranatha CRC, 301 Scott Street, St. Catharines.

Lambert Zuidervaart is Visiting Scholar at Calvin College

Senior Member Lambert Zuidervaart recently began a five-year term as Visiting Scholar at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Lambert and his household moved to Grand Rapids last summer, and he recently switched to a half-time position at ICS, where he will teach classes one semester per year until he retires in 2016. As a visiting scholar affiliated with Calvin’s Philosophy Department, Lambert has many faculty privileges, including full library access and IT and office support. The appointment gives him an institutional “home” in West Michigan. Lambert says he looks forward to interacting with colleagues at Calvin and beyond, especially during the months when he is in Grand Rapids.

Being Prayed-For . . . It Rocks!

I am one of those Christians who lives far too much in his head. I think complex and wonderful thoughts about many things, even about the parts of me that seem other and outside of my complex and wonderful headspace: body and emotion, intuition and even the unconscious (if I am treated to a conversation about psychic states of affairs with Jim Olthuis). But I don’t always go on to live as if those complex and wonderful thoughts have much to say about concrete body, emotional, intuitive or subconscious living. There is a tension I am ashamed to say, a lived dualism that is at times not very healthy.

An implication of living so much in my head is the need to figure things out, to be able to place everything within a mental map or picture, each thing in its rightful place. Prayer has long been one of those things, a riddle needing to be thought into its proper place. Armed with a proper appreciation of the absolute sovereignty of God and a sense of human effort as comparatively speaking of little account, how was prayer to be fitted into the pattern of the whole. In prayer I may talk to God but I sure wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know. I wasn’t going to be able to change his mind, was I? Surely that wouldn’t be appropriate to insist that a puny creature could affect the absolute Sovereign of the Universe? So what was I doing in and through prayer? Such was the way I approached prayer for just as long as I approached it as an intellectual puzzle to be pored over and mapped onto what I thought implicit within the contrast between a sovereign God and his subject creatures, particularly that subject creature I think of as “me,” for I know my own limits, my stubborn complexity, my habitual double-heartedness and so forth. What am I doing when I address my Maker and speak to him of the world as I see it, as I identify its need, when I intercede on behalf of those whom I love or acknowledge myself connected to in such a way as to include prayerful intercession? What indeed? And here’s the thing. Trying to answer such questions can be a replacement for the living reality such answers are an attempt to understand. Anyway that is what I have observed within myself.

But over the last five years of struggle and toil at work and with my health, actual living in the presence of prayer has changed the way I think about it. I had always thought about prayer as something I do in my attempt to respond to my Maker. It was not a helpful perspective, not for me; self-doubt and God-doubt masquerading as a proper reverence for divine sovereignty constantly muddied the waters. What changed is that I have had as never before the palpable experience of being prayed over and for, of being held up in prayer. And I have to say, experience of the prayers of others . . . it rocks! In the light of this experience the need to figure it all out, to put prayer in its place, pacify it so that it stays put within that great closet organizer I call a mind, seems beside the point. Prayer no longer seems like something that can be nailed down like that. It seems more like the Spirit, a principle of motion, flowing, blowing, surrounding, vivifying, a source of life. I respond to it differently when I think of it as sourced in the love and concern of others, blessed by the God to whom it is addressed. It will never stay put; that just isn’t its nature. The sort of curiosity that would pin it down and add it to the collection of things I have pinned once and for all on a high quality theological matte seems less and less appropriate. My inner cataloguer has been replaced, grid-lust giving way to wonder and gratitude.

It is a wonder and a source of great thankfulness, this experience of being prayed for. And of course with wonder comes a particular sort of desire. Imitatio was its name among medieval religious (monks, nuns, canons, friars, beguines) and theologians: the grateful desire to participate in the source of one’s wonder, giving to others the gift of being prayed for that one has received from others. In the process, one is reconnected to one’s own prayer life and receives it too as gift, beyond the corrosive reach of self-doubt or any other impediment to the approach of God. That too is a wonder and a joy, world without end.

Bob Sweetman

Thursday 1 August 2013

Justice is Not Just Us - Presidential Musing by Dawn

[Note: I thought I had such a clever title, when, come to find out, this is very close to the title of a book written by Gerald Vandezande. He wrote Justice: Not Just Us. That sounds like a good one to read.]

We have such good news that we want to be sure to pass it along: The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) has awarded ICS, through our Research Centre (CPRSE), a Partnership Development Grant to do a research project related to Justice and Faith. The CRCNA posted a news story on this development, which came out right before I posted my last musing.

We are SO excited!

Our Research Centre has been awarded $200,000 for a two-year project. Dr. Ronald A. Kuipers and Dr. Allyson Carr put considerable effort into developing this proposal, and we congratulate them on the success of that effort. Most of the funds will flow to our partner organizations on this project, the CRCNA and the Centre for Community Based Research in Kitchener, Ontario, to allow their staff to work with us on the project. The bulk of the remaining monies will fund two new Research Assistantships for ICS students over the next two years, allowing them to participate in the project and also to offset the costs of their ICS education. As is typical of SSHRC grants, the funds must be used directly on the research project itself, rather than for any operating costs.

The report from the pilot project, launched prior to the outside funding, is now online. We would love to see comments about it on Facebook (if you are on Facebook, please “Like” our Institute for Christian Studies page).

Justice can be an unnecessarily devisive topic in Christian circles. I wrote more about this topic, and we decided to turn that into a Ground Motive blog entry. The report from the pilot project (pre-SSHRC-funding) is a terrific start at bridging some of the gaps among Christians regarding justice. Thanks to all who participated in this initial effort. I look forward to the final report from this project.

Attention Oakville and St. Catharines: Travelling Preacher (aka ICS President Tom Wolthuis) to Preach in a CRC Church near you

On Sunday, August 4, ICS President Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at ClearView CRC, 2300 Sheridan Garden Drive, Oakville.

On Sunday, August 25, Tom will be preaching at Maranatha CRC, 301 Scott Street, St. Catharines.

University of Toronto Library System Ranks 3rd in North America

Reported by Margaret Wall, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has recently ranked the University of Toronto Library system as one of the top three library systems in North America. Harvard and Yale universities hold the top two spots in the rankings. ICS faculty and graduate students are able to make full use of the UofT Library research collections, including both print and electronic resource materials. The library at ICS is in the process of migrating our catalogue holdings into the University of Toronto catalogue. Read the complete article here.

Senior Member News

Congratulations to Dr. Shannon Hoff on her promotion to Associate Professor and the approval of her sabbatical proposal. In light of ICS's financial constraints, Dr. Hoff has graciously agreed to extend her sabbatical leave over a two-year period at 50% of her normal salary.

We congratulate Dr. Lambert Zuidervaart on the successful outcome to his review for continuing appointment. He has agreed to begin a phased retirement, entailing a reduced ICS salary and workload until 2016.

Look for news on what our Senior Members are researching and teaching this academic year when the Fall edition of Perspective comes out.

Prayer Letter: August 2013

Thursday, August 1:  Summer is here and many people are planning vacations. Many members of the ICS community will be traveling in the summer months to spend time with family and friends. We continue to pray for safe travel and that the time spent with loved ones would be rich and refreshing.

Friday, August 2:  We offer prayers of thanks for the many people who have presented ICS with gifts of prayer, money, and expressions of appreciation, especially in these quiet summer months. We are blessed with your interest and support.

Sunday, August 4:  Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at ClearView CRC, 2300 Sheridan Garden Drive, Oakville.

Monday, August 5:  Today is our Civic Holiday in Canada. We pray that it will be an enjoyable time for rest and relaxation with loved ones.

Tuesday, August 6:  We continue to pray for safe and pleasant journeys and we pray for rest and renewal for the Senior Members and Administrative Staff who are enjoying vacations this month.

Wednesday, August 7:  The summer months are often a time when Junior Members can give sustained attention to their Masters and PhD thesis projects. We pray for our Junior Members and ask for God's blessing and guidance on their research and writing.

Thursday, August 8:  We continue to pray for blessings and energy for ICS Presidents, Tom and Dawn Wolthuis, as they manage their many responsibilities.

Friday, August 9:  We pray for blessings for the Friends of ICS Board and all those who are doing advancement work in the US.

Monday, August 12:  The Sea 2 Sea Bike Tour is an annual event that is raising awareness and money to fight poverty around the world. You can learn more about this organization at their website: Today the Sea 2 Sea Bike Tour will be passing through the Toronto area, riding from Ancaster to Ajax on that day. We pray for energy and blessings for this group.

Tuesday, August 13:  Today we pray for God's help for those who are struggling with illnesses. We ask God for strength, patience and for good results from treatment.

Wednesday, August 14:  A group of alumni is working to set up an alumni network for ICS. Please pray for happy reunions between alumni and their alma mater, and also for a vibrant alumni association.

Thursday, August 15:  We celebrate the addition of nine new Junior Members to the ICS community this fall, and we remember them in our prayers as they make the necessary preparations and transitions over the summer in order to begin their studies in September.

Friday, August 16:  We ask for energy as we prepare for the new Junior Members who will be arriving in September.

Monday, August 19:  This week, Senior Member Doug Blomberg and Ren Siebenga (Executive Director of the Ontario Christian School Administrators Association) will be conducting a workshop on project-based learning at Houston Christian School, BC, with teachers from Bulkley Valley CS and a couple of other schools. We pray for a fruitful week of intensive interaction.

Tuesday, August 20:  We ask God to bless Senior Member Ron Kuipers as he continues his work as Director of our Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics.

Wednesday, August 21:  Today Junior Member Drew Van't Land will defend his MA thesis, titled  "The Rhetorical Roots of Radical Orthodoxy: Augustinian Oratory and Ontology in Milbank's Theopo(e/li)tics". We pray for energy and insight as he prepares for his defense.

Thursday, August 22:  We ask God's help and guidance for all those who are doing advancement work for ICS. Please pray that support for the vision and mission of ICS continues to grow.

Friday, August 23:  Senior Members often spend much of the summer developing course curriculum and giving attention to research projects. We are extremely grateful for the work of our Senior Members and ask for God's blessing on them.

Sunday, August 25:  Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at Maranatha CRC, 301 Scott Street, St. Catharines.

Monday, August 26:  The executive meets today. We pray for God’s wisdom to guide this meeting.

Tuesday, August 27:  We pray for stamina and wisdom for Senior Member Doug Blomberg as he continues in his role as Academic Dean.

Wednesday, August 28:  We pray for safe travel for all new and returning Junior Members who are coming to study at ICS this fall.

Thursday, August 29:  Following up on a number of discussions with stakeholders (teachers, administrators, schools and higher education institutions) concerning the need for educational leadership development in Ontario, ICS will conduct a survey to determine whether our Master of Worldview Studies could serve as a suitable vehicle. Please pray for numerous (and favourable) responses.

Friday, August 30:  We pray for guidance and energy for all those participating in the preparations for Registration and Orientation Week and the annual ICS community fall retreat next week.