Thursday 28 May 2015

Just Faith?, the Play, Featured in Christian Courier

The one-act play Just Faith?, a product of the CPRSE's research partnership with the Christian Reformed Church, has been featured in The Christian Courier. In an editorial entitled Pray for Justice?, Nandy Heule explains how the community dialogue following the performance helps people explore the role justice plays in their identity as people of faith: "Participants suggested churches can intentionally make justice part of their church's vision. They said we can do better when it comes to staying informed. Try to listen to those who experience injustices, they proposed. Others said we need to start with action.... In short, now is the time to pray for God's strength to stay focused on faith as a source of hope and motivation to do justice."

To date, the Just Faith? play and community forum has been held in five different locations: Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Agassiz, Toronto, and Ottawa. Plans are underway to for similar forums to take place in Edmonton and Calgary in the fall. Communities interested in hosting their own forum can contact ICS to receive a congregational toolkit that includes the play script and community dialogue guidelines.

Cal Seerveld in Grand Rapids

Senior Member Emeritus Cal Seerveld will be participating in a panel at the Christians in the Visual Arts Biennial conference, to be held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids on June 11 to 14. The conference topic is how to build bridges between the Church and the current art world.

Ethan Vanderleek in Surrey

Ethan Vanderleek, Junior Member in the MA program, has recently begun his new position of Christian Chaplain at the Multifaith Centre of Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey BC. He is already grateful for his education at ICS in a practical way as important discussions of religious pluralism and religious 'neutrality' have come up in Multifaith Centre discussions. His chaplaincy blog offers some spiritual and theological reflection on the questions he is encountering: The job looks to be an exciting way to implement some of the education he enjoyed at ICS.

Living Our Trust in the Face of Death

The resurrection of Our Lord that we celebrate at Easter marks our deep trust in the love of God. All the barriers that separate us from life-giving communion with our Maker, Redeemer and Enabler—they are all unmade by God’s surpassing love. We just know it in our bones, or wished we did, be it beyond all expectation, all calculation. No computer algorithm could be counted to pick that kind of love out from the jumble of ordinary existence, or allow us to predict the lengths that God’s love would go to remove the barriers splitting us off from God, leaving us bereft and love-lorn. The symbolic barrier of barriers, of all this absence-making, is Death herself: she whose varied movements are woven like threads into the very fabric of our existence. Death in such an image is that implacable, inextricable, last barrier between ourselves and the God who is Life. Her opposition to Life is powerful and persevering, life-long one is minded to say. Maybe that is why Paul’s witness to the surpassing love of God in Christ bespeaks a poet’s exaltation at Christ’s Easter triumph. “O Death where is your victory; O Death where is your sting”—whether sung or declaimed the words are dead familiar, buried deep within the loam upon which we stand in God’s living Presence.

“Halleluia!” we all sing in Eastertide, and “Halleluia!” we mean. But Christ’s victory does not mean our lives become all larks in the shadow of Death. We may fear no evil, or wish we did, but Death as I said is woven like threads into the very fabric of our existence. She is so much a part of us that St. Francis of Assisi urged us to think of her as “Sister,” and so to love and cherish her as one of us, she too a child of the God of Life. Thomas Aquinas did not often turn his hand to such poetic metaphors, but he knew what Francis meant. We are our bodies; creatures made of and made to walk the earth: mudmen and women, Spirit-breathed. Indeed, our bodies were fearfully knit together of all the elements of our earthborn universe, a delicate harmony of opposites held in productive tension, able to act as a whole, to love or hate, feel, understand, and all the other things that a body does. We are that delicate harmony. We are creatures whose beauty, whose original very goodness, is fragile. In and of ourselves, we are mortal. Our harmonies are all bound by time and thus only for a time. Everlasting life is not ours by right, as if by virtue of our constitution. The glory of endless communion to be received in Joy can only come as gift. For Thomas Aquinas, the gift was so huge and unimaginable within the confines of our present existence that he couldn’t even imagine it as Grace. No it had to be an even greater thing: surpassing love wrung from the very heart of Glory. We can put his intuition quite dramatically: But for God’s glorious extravagance we would live with Death woven into our sinews even to the end of the age.

The point is this. On some level death and life go together. In the eyes of Eternity it may be they go together like wheat and tares, but woe betide you if you try and separate them here and now. It is as if we living souls live our lives in Death’s embrace. Her kisses are cold, made from icy sorrow, wrung from our hearts like tears and prayers. She is a barrier, a last barrier separating the living from the dead and yet she is thread woven into the fabric of our mortal frame. There is no way of coming into God’s living triumph except through her. Nevertheless . . . “Halleluia!” We people of faith persist in our witness every Easter that God’s love in Christ refuses to accept that stubborn, last barrier; Christ’s resurrection manifests the potency of this divine refusal. Death is conquered, we sing, warmly, year in and year out. I have had cause to remember and trust in that love this past Easter Monday as I joined with my family and friends to reflect on the life of one of our own, newly and shockingly dead, marking our place between trust and sorrow with the sounds and sights of our prayers and tears.

I wonder if that experience doesn’t lay bare the very site of Joy in this life. We live in the Presence of God to our great Joy, but ever in the Face of Death. That is, we find ourselves somewhere between trust and sorrow in a gratitude marked by prayers and tears. It is not an easy place to be, but we are not alone or without help. May we all remember this in all that we are and do, at ICS, to be sure, but honestly wherever the Spirit leads us.

Bob Sweetman

Prayer Letter: June 2015

Monday, June 1: The annual Senate and Board meetings were held last month. We are grateful for all the work these people do for ICS, and for the talents and experience they bring us.

Tuesday, June 2: We offer prayers of celebration for the successful completion of the academic programs of six Junior Members, each of whom were recognized and honoured last month at ICS's Convocation ceremony.

Wednesday, June 3: We ask God to bless Patricia Webb, our Director of Advancement, as she manages her many responsibilities.

Thursday, June 4: The FICS Board meets today. We ask for God’s guidance and wisdom for this meeting.

Friday, June 5: Today we ask for God's help for those who are struggling with cancer and other illnesses. We pray for strength, patience and for good results from treatment.

Monday, June 8: We pray for God’s blessing for our alumni association. We ask that God will make it an instrument of his will.

Tuesday, June 9: There is a Board meeting this evening. We pray for God’s wisdom to guide this meeting.

Wednesday, June 10: We ask God to bless Senior Member Ron Kuipers, Director, and Allyson Carr, Associate Director of our CPRSE as they continue their work.

Thursday, June 11: Today we offer prayers for energy for our Senior Members as they enter what is often a busy time of grading.

Friday, June 12: Senior Member Emeritus Cal Seerveld will be at a conference in Grand Rapids this weekend. We pray for a safe trip and wisdom for the task.

Monday, June 15: We offer prayers of gratitude for the generous spirit that is always shown by you, our many supporters, who have encouraged ICS with gifts of prayer, money, and expressions of appreciation. We are constantly blessed with your interest and support.

Tuesday, June 16: We offer prayers of praise for the talents of Junior Member Ethan Vanderleek, whose chaplaincy position in Surrey is off to a great start.

Wednesday, June 17: Today we pray for blessings for the Friends of ICS Board and all those who are doing advancement work in the US.

Thursday, June 18: Today we pray for the general well-being of the ICS. We ask for blessings and energy for ICS faculty and staff as they work together to manage their many responsibilities.

Friday, June 19: We celebrate Father's Day on Sunday! We ask for God's blessing on all fathers, that they may spend a wonderful day with their loved ones.

Monday, June 22: Summer is arriving 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 pray for safe and pleasant journeys.

Tuesday, June 23: The summer months are often a time when Junior Members give sustained attention to their Masters and Ph.D. thesis projects. We pray for our Junior Members and ask for God's blessing on their research and writing.

Wednesday, June 24: 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.

Thursday, June 25: 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.

Friday, June 26: We pray for blessings for Doug Blomberg as he continues in his role as ICS President.

Monday, June 29: We thank God for all the applicants to our programs. We pray that the successful applicants will be able to join us in our mission.

Tuesday, June 30: We ask God to grant our Junior Members the time, focus and wisdom they need to complete their coursework for this semester and to complete their Masters and PhD thesis projects.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Just Faith?

You are invited to a lively evening of drama, discussion, and spiritual discernment on the role of justice in Christian faith and life. What does God’s call to “do justice and love mercy” (Micah 6:8) mean in our own lives and congregations? This one-act play and discussion is part of a collaborative partnership between the Institute for Christian Studies and the Canadian Ministries office of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Mark your calendars for:
Thursday May 28, 2015, 7 – 9 pm
Redeemer Christian High School, 82 Colonnade Road, Ottawa, ON
Please register by Monday May 25, 2015 to Sheila Murphy at or 613-838-3835.
Space is limited, register early to avoid disappointment.

Thursday 14 May 2015

ICS Presidential Inauguration and Convocation

The ICS community gathered this past Saturday afternoon in St. Joseph Chapel at Regis College to inaugurate our President, Dr. Doug Blomberg, and to hear his presidential inaugural address

"The earth will be filled with the glory of God": Christian scholarship confronting injustice and suffering.

• Watch Dr. Blomberg's address on Youtube.

• Download & read Dr. Blomberg's address.

We also gathered to recognize and celebrate the academic achievements of six of our Junior Members. Degrees were conferred upon Rachel McGuire (ICS PhD), Dianne Bergsma (ICS-VU Conjoint PhD), Matthew Johnson (MA), Stefan Knibbe (MA), Carolyn Mackie (MA) and Joanna Sheridan (MA). Congratulations to all our graduates!

• Download & listen to the closing prayer by Rev. Dr. Rachel McGuire.

Back Row:
Bob Sweetman, Doug Blomberg (president), John Kok (chancellor), Jim Olthuis, Shannon Hoff

Front Row:
Stephan Knibbe, Ron Kuipers, Rachel McGuire, Carolyn Mackie, Dianne Bergsma, Joanna Sheridan

Monday 4 May 2015

Shannon Hoff Accepts Position at Memorial University

ICS wishes to congratulate Shannon Hoff, Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy, who has accepted a position in the Philosophy Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NL, starting July 1 2015. We are grateful to Shannon for her many years of excellent service as a mentor, teacher, and scholar at ICS. We wish her God's rich blessing as she embarks on the next chapter of her impressive academic career.

Check out Shannon's recent article in Ground Motive.