Friday, 31 July 2020

“A child named ‘Charity’”

As both a faculty member and President of ICS, I have to move between the academic world and the very different world of philanthropy. From listening to and learning from my students and academic colleagues, I must move to listening to and learning from the wider ICS support community. Hearing people’s stories about why they support ICS—including what they hope and wish for from it—always ends up encouraging me in my sense of why ICS is important, and how it must continue to honour your support by making a meaningful and transformative contribution to the growth of wisdom in our chaotic and dangerous times.

In moving between these conversations, I am also struck by the overlapping concerns of the two groups: together we all act from the conviction that God in Jesus the Messiah calls us to be a healing and transformative witness to a good yet suffering world. Recently, ICS received a generous gift from the children of a supporter who has been with us since our earliest days, and who shares this conviction. The family let me know that the gift was made to honour the wishes of their recently widowed father, who had impressed upon them his love for ICS and its mission in Christian higher education.

When I called the father to thank him, I could not have guessed what he wished to say. “I have five biological children,” he told me, “but long ago my wife and I adopted a sixth child, whom we have named ‘Charity’.” It took me a moment to realize that he wasn’t talking about an actual adopted sixth child, but was rather providing me with a metaphor to explain his philosophy of giving. Simply put, he had decided to bestow upon his five, no six, children a pre-inheritance. Of that money, he instructed his children to divide the sixth portion between five charities that he and his wife had faithfully supported, one of those being ICS.

I’m still pondering with wonder this donor’s philosophy of giving. He could have simply held back the sixth portion from his children, and donated that amount to the charities himself. Instead, he involved his children, like executors of a living will, and directed them to reach out to the charities on their own. Doing so allowed me to have meaningful exchanges with these good folks, which graciously provided me an opportunity to form new relationships with them. I guess what strikes me most is the wisdom behind this gesture, to have the donation become a form of witness on many different levels—to ICS, to his children, and, through my telling, to you, ICS’s wider community of support.

This donor’s wisdom, finally, led me to ponder charity as a form of love. The English word ‘charity’, as is well known, derives from the Latin caritas, which was used in the Vulgate to translate the Greek word agape. In a world that relies too heavily on charity as a band-aid to cover the wounds of injustice, we must also not forget that, even so, charity remains an act through which we may become conduits of God’s never-ending love for the world. And whenever we receive these cheerful gifts, we feel that love, as well as the responsibility to extend it to everyone we serve. Thank you for your generous faithfulness, friends! Be well!

-President Ronald A. Kuipers

Prayer Letter: August 2020

Monday, August 3 - Friday, August 7:

On Thursday this week, ICS will be hosting its third virtual Open House for the Masters in Educational Leadership (MA-EL) program. This time we have invited potential students and other "champions" of the MA-EL program (e.g. principals and influencers) to attend. Edith van der Boom, our new Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Education and Practice of Pedagogy, and Director of the MA-EL program, will introduce herself and her vision for the program. EIizabet Aras, our Academic Registrar, will explain the application process and present the program design. Please pray for Edith and Elizabet, and all the participants, that the Open House will be an effective vehicle for promoting the program.

Please pray these next two weeks for those students wishing to begin the Masters in Educational Leadership program this fall. ICS is accepting applications until August 15 so please pray that the recruitment efforts that have been going on all summer will bear fruit with a strong third cohort.

The Critical Faith podcasting crew and our Senior Members are hard at work recording snapshot interviews about this fall’s courses—all of which will be offered online for the duration of the semester. With discounts available for first-time auditors and ICS alumni/ae, an array of course topics on offer, and the ease of a once-a-week online seminar format, this is an unprecedented opportunity for students to participate in an ICS classroom from anywhere in the world. Please pray for the crew and for our Senior Members as they continue to spread the word and prepare for these courses ahead of the coming semester. If you’re interested in knowing exactly what we’re offering this fall or if you want to encourage someone to try an ICS course for themselves, you can find details on our website at

In light of the growing unrest about systemic racism and violence, and as a first step toward deep and long term institutional reflection on the ways we at ICS are complicit in and benefit from systemic racism, the CPRSE will introduce a series of reflections on our Ground Motive blog beginning this week. The series will feature some voices from within the ICS learning community in a conversation that will expand through the inclusion of BIPOC communities and organizations, and diverse philosophers and theologians. Keep an eye on Ground Motive for the start of this series and pray for those contributing to it, that they might speak graciously and insightfully. Please also pray that these efforts will indeed be a first key step in examining and wrestling with the various forms of privilege and complicity at play within the ICS community, and in asking how we might continually learn to better love our neighbours in our day.

Monday, August 10 - Friday, August 14:

Please pray this week for our Registrar, Elizabet Aras, as she prepares for student registration and the virtual fall retreat to be held in the second week of September. As well, Elizabet and Gideon will be hosting a pre-registration meeting for program students who need to take courses in the fall term on August 11. There are myriad details to take care of, so we ask God for clarity and discernment in the planning and implementation of these important events at the start of our school year.

On Thursday of this week, ICS will host its fourth and last virtual Open House. The Open House will follow the same format as the August 6th one (see above). So once again, we ask you to pray for Edith and Elizabet as they make their presentations and for all the participants that it would prove to be an informative and inspiring event.

The month of August marks the official beginning of our Fourth Annual Undergraduate Workshop. This time, we will work remotely with undergraduate students from across North America as they reflect on the concepts of evil, resistance, and judgment through an interdisciplinary lens. Please pray for the ICS/CPRSE team as we engage this keen group of students in dialogue and help them hone their scholarship skills in these unprecedented times.

Monday, August 17 - Friday, August 21:

Please pray this week for Gideon Strauss as he leads the last course in our Summer Online Learning Initiative: Lead From Where You Are: Making a Difference in the Face of Tough Problems, Big Questions, and Organizational Politics. This is a one-week intensive designed to help students develop a leadership language and use a set of tools and frameworks to assist them with diagnosing and addressing the toughest problems experienced by organizations, communities, institutions, and societies. Pray for Gideon and the students as they work out fresh insights and new skills together in a workshop format.

The Master of Educational Leadership program starts up this week. Cohort 1, which started the program in September 2018 will be doing two guided readings. Cohort 2, which began in August 2019, will be enrolled in Lead From Where You Are, which is also running this week. Cohort 3, which comprises the new students in the program, will be taking the first course in the program, Finding Joy in Learning. Please pray for Elizabet as she administers the registration and online classrooms for these courses, for the students who will be participating, and for Gideon Strauss and Edith van der Boom as they lead the learning process.

We also want to pray for the various projects which our Junior Members are working on: theses, proposals, reading lists, dissertations, independent research, presentations and coursework. We pray that the summer season has been an opportunity for them to follow through on these projects and that it brings renewed inspiration and vigour for the upcoming school year.

Monday, August 24 - Friday, August 28:

We ask for your prayers this week for our administrative staff as they seek to ensure that all the pieces are in place for the beginning of the school year. Pray too for our faculty as they prepare their courses for online delivery this semester. We ask for God’s grace and wisdom as they work together, and for keen discernment in meeting the opportunities and challenges facing ICS at this time. We give thanks to God for sending each of them to serve the Institute’s mission with commitment and dedication.

Normally at this time we would ask for prayer for our Junior Members, both returning and new, as they prepare to come to Toronto to begin a new academic year. However, all our classes will be wholly online for at least the fall semester so we will only be able to see our students virtually. Please pray for our faculty and administrators as we prepare to provide the optimum learning experience online. And pray for both our new and returning students that they will have a fruitful online learning experience and that we will all find creative ways to build community at a distance. 

Monday, August 31:

Please pray today for Elizabet Aras as she flies to Sweden on September 2nd to be with her parents who have just recently been reunited after being separated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pray that the travel arrangements will go smoothly and that Elizabet will be at peace during the flight and when she arrives in Stockholm. We ask God to watch over her as she re-integrates into life with her family again and that the family will remain healthy.

As we take a moment to look back over the summer, please also join us in a prayer of thanksgiving for all the Summer Online Learning Initiative courses that were delivered over the last few months. We thank God for each of the many students that took part in the five courses that were offered, and for each of the course leaders for the gifts of their time and efforts spent crafting these individual courses and guiding students’ learning experiences. 

Friday, 10 July 2020

In Memoriam: M. Elaine Botha

by Gideon Strauss

Belovéd of God, Elaine Botha (1938-2020) rests in peace and will rise in glory. She was a pioneering scholar, a wise mentor and a dear friend to many, and a brave voice for justice and love.

As a scholar Elaine worked primarily on metaphor and the philosophy of the social sciences, and made innovative contributions to her own Reformational tradition. She completed two doctorates at the beginning of the 1970s, one at the then Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education in her native South Africa, advised by C. N. Venter, and the other at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, advised by Hendrik Van Riessen and André Troost. She taught philosophy at the Potchefstroom University (1969 to 1995) and served as academic vice president (1995 to 2000) and director of the Dooyeweerd Centre (2000 to 2004) at Redeemer University in Canada. In 2005 she was a visiting scholar of the Center for Semiotics at Aarhus University in Denmark. She also taught as an adjunct faculty member at the Institute for Christian Studies.

Many people can attest to Elaine’s kindness and hospitality as a mentor and a friend. My own experience of her as a mentor and friend began in the early 1990s, when Elaine and Craig Bartholomew co-founded the Christian Worldview Network. The CWN brought together academics in the Reformational tradition, artists seeking a Christian imagination, and activists working with a Christian democratic vision for the political and societal transformation of apartheid South Africa. The CWN invited South Africans towards an integral vision of Christian life in its gatherings and with its magazine, The Big Picture, and continues to influence Christians making art in South Africa through its 1993 manifesto, Christians and the Arts in South Africa. But perhaps to the most enduring effect, the CWN served as a context in which many of us then in our twenties could enjoy the wise mentorship offered by Elaine.

Much of Elaine’s courage was practiced quietly and privately. In public life, she worked against the racism, misogyny, and patriarchy of Afrikaner Christian-nationalism for decades, not least so at the Potchefstroom University where she studied and taught. She was a signatory of the 1977 Koinonia Declaration, denying a biblical foundation to the racism of apartheid political theology, at a time and in a place where making such a public statement came with a considerable cost, both professionally and socially.

Late in life Elaine married Bob Goudzwaard, the Dutch Reformational economist and politician, with whom she retired in South Africa.

Along with Elaine’s friends, students, and colleagues I pray for her rest in the embrace of God and look forward to continuing our conversations in the world to come.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

In Memoriam: John H. Kok

by Bob Sweetman (with gratitude to Calvin Seerveld)

On 15 June 2020, ICS’s Senate met via Zoom to engage in that precious act of “sober second thought” around ICS’s academic life. No one knew at the time that John Kok, second-term external Senator, was in trouble. He complained of foot pain that made it difficult for him to walk, but there he was looking little worse for the wear. So, we were shocked to hear of his sudden passing at 1am on 5 July 2020. Nothing prepared us for this “bolt from the blue”: a staph infection that resisted all treatment until his body was too weak to try more aggressive interventions.

ICS and the Reformational tradition of Christian scholarship has lost a lot in John’s passing. He came into adulthood in the late 60s and early 70s as an undergraduate at Trinity Christian College, during the years when it was an epicentre of the Reformational movement in North America. Calvin Seerveld, Peter Steen, Martin Vrieze, Thomas McIntire, Robert Vandervennen made up a significant portion of the then young college’s faculty, and provided a liberal arts education with explicitly Christian verve and excitement (dubbed the ‘high church party’ within Kuyperian Christianity by long-time Calvin University History Professor Ronald Wells). John was one of many students who came under the influence of Cal Seerveld (as well as Martin Vrieze) in those days, inspired by Cal’s charismatic and imaginative teaching which gave rise to a desire to go out and do likewise.

In 1971 John moved with his wife Sanneke to The Netherlands to pursue graduate work in philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam. There he was taken under the wing of Hendrik van Riessen and later Jacob Klapwijk. John began work on his PhD thesis in 1978 and finished it in 1992 under the dual direction of Henk Hart of ICS and Abraham Bos of the Free University. In the meantime, John took a position with Dordt University (then Dordt College) in Sioux Center, IA in 1983. He worked for Dordt from then until his retirement in 2014, and in several capacities. He taught in the Philosophy Department until 1997. From then until his retirement he would serve at the decanal level, first as Dean of the Humanities and later as Dean of Research and Scholarship. In addition, he was for a time the Director of the Andreas Center for Christian Scholarship, and settled into a role as Managing Editor of Dordt College Press, a position he continued to hold after he retired. For decades he represented the Society for Reformational Philosophy (based in The Netherlands) to its members in North America. Just before retirement he was recruited by then ICS President Doug Blomberg to serve on ICS’s Senate and he became its Chair and ICS Chancellor for a term (2014-2019).

Such was the institutional context for his service of the Reformational tradition, but it does not yet communicate the tenor and texture of that service.

John Kok was a man who embodied the most characteristic (and characteristically modest) ideal of Dutch Calvinism—to be useful in the Lord’s work. John was ever useful and never flashy. If he was once inspired to go and do like charismatic Reformational speakers and teachers like H. Evan Runner, Peter Steen, or Cal Seerveld, that did not turn out to be his calling. He was called to be useful in less flamboyant ways, and in this he succeeded quietly and steadily. His work for the Society for Reformational Philosophy is a good example, but there are so many others.

In his thesis, John took on the formative background of D.H.Th. Vollenhoven as a philosopher of mathematics and logic. This was archeological work in rock hard soil. This was not yet the Vollenhoven who along with Herman Dooyeweerd would found the Reformational tradition. And yet this was the core formation in philosophy that Vollenhoven would receive, and the habits of thought he would acquire in those early years would remain important to his later work. If one was to understand how Vollenhoven went about philosophizing as a Reformational philosopher one needed to have a sense of whence he came to the idea of Reformational philosophy, for that remained operative in so many subliminal ways. So John's book Vollenhoven: His Early Development (Dordt College Press, 1992) was an instrumental support for Anthony Tol’s far more ambitious analyses of the thought of Vollenhoven over the next two decades.

One should also not forget John's long efforts to support the work of Kor Bril, Vollenhoven’s most explicit successor at the Free University. John worked for years as a translator of Reformational thought, and his dual language edition of Vollenhoven’s Introduction to Philosophy (Dordt College Press, 2005) has been instrumental in introducing Anglophones to Vollenhoven’s thought. More useful service.

Under his management, Dordt College Press has become a central provider of Reformational publications in English. One thinks especially of the volumes of Cal Seeveld’s publications, including a six-volume set of his most important articles and book chapters and his just-released study of the book of Proverbs.

What equipped John to these many humble but crucial services was his capacity to knit a close attention to detail to the sprawling vision of God’s Kingdom that is so central to the Kuyperian and Reformational scholarly imagination and intention. It was this attention to detail that allowed him to patiently work through the mathematical and logical work of the early Vollenhoven, that supported his patient work as translator and as editor, that facilitated his administrative being as dean and director and managing editor. He was careful, even fastidious, conceptually, but that care was always in service of the Creation-wide Kingdom and always suffused with a deep love of the scriptures. Indeed, the latter love took form in his heart as a delight at the opportunity to exhort from CRC pulpits in his last years.

Here was a man who served his Lord well and truly, who was a true friend of ICS. And we remember him with gratitude to God for the gift that he was to us in life.

The memorial service for John is to be held on Wednesday, July 8, at 10 am CST. The service will be live-streamed on Facebook at the Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center, IA. If you wish to attend this service virtually, you will need to like their page to have access to the live-stream:

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

An ICS Update from Ron Kuipers

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the July ICS prayer letter! I hope you are healthy and staying safe, and if you do not find yourself in these fortunate circumstances, I hope you are receiving all the support, comfort, and rest you need.

I can’t believe we are moving into the heart of summer already! Tempus fugit, as they say. For me, time is flying because it has been a very busy past few months for us at ICS. Our new ‘Summer Online Learning Initiative’ is well underway, which has given me a chance to return to teaching, and our annual Board and Senate meetings are also now behind us. It has been a time to reflect on the year that has been, and to plan for the year that lies ahead. We thank God for his continued faithfulness as we conclude another academic year, and we pray that God will continue to bless our plans for the future.

Those plans just took a huge step forward, as at the end of June we successfully concluded our search for a new professor—or ‘Senior Member’—in Education to assume direction of the Educational Leadership stream of our MA program (MA-EL). I am pleased to announce that Dr. Edith van der Boom will join the ICS faculty as Assistant Professor in the Philosophy of Education and the Practice of Pedagogy beginning July 1!

Edith received her PhD in developmental psychology and education from the University of Toronto, and has also served as a sessional instructor of Education at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario. She most recently served as Director of Learning at John Knox Christian School in Oakville, Ontario. Edith brings years of classroom experience and a passion for ‘differentiated instruction’ (formerly known as ‘special education’) to her work at ICS, and is excited about this new opportunity to continue to serve the Christian school movement in Canada, as are we all.

We at ICS have not made the decision to grow our budget in this way lightly, especially given our current context of uncertainty. At the same time, the Leadership Team at ICS has determined that it is essential for us to invest in the MA-EL program in this way, so that it can enjoy the resources it needs to serve the Christian school movement in the robust way that we and our partners envision. We encourage you to join us in making this investment!

Scripture is full of stories of people stepping out in uncertainty, following what they discern to be the call of their Creator, to a place they do not know, all the while trusting that the Lord will provide them with everything they need to sustain them on their journey. Leading an educational institution into somewhat uncharted territory can feel that way at times, and so I take comfort in the many biblical stories of ordinary folks like Abraham or Mary who, in faith, find the strength to answer ‘Yes!’ to God’s call upon their lives. Theirs is the example we must strive to follow.
I wish you all God’s blessing and peace. Be well!

Ron Kuipers

Monday, 29 June 2020

Prayer Letter: July 2020

Wednesday, July 1 - Friday, July 3:

As we begin this new fiscal year, we give thanks for God’s grace and strength last year, and in particular, these past four months during the pandemic, as we worked together to accomplish our academic and fiscal goals. We have been blessed by the support of our ICS community and are encouraged in this new year to believe that God will continue to sustain us in our work.

Please pray especially for Dr. Edith van der Boom this month as she joins the ICS faculty as Assistant Professor in the Philosophy of Education and the Practice of Pedagogy. There will be many things to learn and see to in these first weeks and we ask God to bless her with the joy of discovery during this time .

Monday, July 6 - Friday, July 10:

This week, the Summer Online Learning Initiative continues with PhD candidate Dean Dettloff’s course: Set the Prisoners Free: Christianity and Prison Abolition. This completely online course invites you to imagine together what a world without prisons and policing might look like, paying close attention to issues made evident by the recent global protests against racially targeted police violence and incarceration. Please pray for Dean and all the participants as they explore throughout how Christianity funds both the ideology of mass incarceration and a spirit of prison and police abolition, asking what it might mean to proclaim release to the prisoners today.

Our second online summer course: World-viewing: An Introduction to Worldview Studies with Gideon Strauss which began on June 2nd finishes on July 9th. We continue to thank God for his grace during this time of adapting to all online courses, especially as the faculty, staff and students who are experiencing this learning opportunity for the first time.

Monday, July 13 - Friday, July 17:

Please continue to pray for the planning and execution of our Summer Online Learning Initiative taking place in July and August. Please pray for Gideon Strauss as he leads the academic program, for the staff involved in its administration and promotion, and for the faculty and students who will be teaching and taking the courses.

July being a month in which some of our staff and faculty take holidays, we ask that you pray that their time away will be refreshing and renewing. Some are travelling long distances so we ask God to grant them safe and hassle-free travels. For faculty especially, the summer months are also a valuable time for further work on research and writing projects, so we pray that this time proves fruitful for their efforts as well as their relaxation.

Monday, July 20 - Friday, July 24:

We would appreciate prayers this month as we ramp up our promotional and recruitment efforts for the Master of Educational Leadership program. This involves a series of online ‘Open Houses’ with principals and teachers in Ontario hosted by Gideon Strauss and Ron Kuipers. We are encouraged by the opportunities that have continued to present themselves this year, and are praying for a good intake of new students for the fall program.

Please pray this month for our Registrar, Elizabet, as she looks after the academic details in preparation for the beginning of the school year in September, such as new courses being approved, registration of students, course schedules, and working with the faculty to get all the course syllabi up on the website. Pray too as she works with the new students in their application process and decisions around course selection.

Monday, July 27 - Friday, July 31:

July 31st is the application deadline for ICS/CPRSE’s Undergraduate Workshop, “Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation.” We have made this event available in a multi-modal format and continue to receive applications from interested students. Please pray for the success of this initiative, as well as for all the students preparing the papers for presentation this Fall.

Over the next few weeks, the Critical Faith team will interview Senior Members in anticipation of their Fall courses. This will be an opportunity for the wider community to get a sneak peak into the exciting Fall course offerings at ICS, as well as to learn about the ongoing research and scholarship currently being undertaken by our faculty. Please pray for the Critical Faith team and for our Senior Members as they talk about these exciting and important topics.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Edith van der Boom Appointed as Senior Member and MA-EL Director

The Institute for Christian Studies is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Edith van der Boom to the position of Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Education and Practice of Pedagogy, effective July 1, 2020. In this position, Edith also assumes the role of Director of the MA (Philosophy) in Educational Leadership program (MA-EL). Her years of experience in Christian education in Ontario, her ongoing relationships with fellow K-12 teachers and administrators, and her research into diverse modes of learning all serve to make Edith a powerful new contributor to the ICS community.

ICS President Ronald A. Kuipers says of the hire: "Edith's appointment to this position has truly been an answer to our prayer that God would bring ICS a worthy candidate to serve us in this strategically important position, directing a fledgling and promising professional development program that seeks to serve the leadership training needs of the Christian school movement in Canada and beyond.”

Edith joins the ICS community after having spent many years with John Knox Christian School in Oakville as a special education instructor and, most recently, as the Director of Learning there. She has also spent a number of years teaching education courses at Redeemer University in Ancaster. Edith received her PhD in developmental psychology and education from the University of Toronto, specializing in reading comprehension and diverse learning styles. She has, since then, continued to research and publish in this area, leading workshops with local schools and churches in the field of differentiated instruction in Christian education.

Edith is committed to the project of Christian education, and to guiding other Christian educators in their own teaching and learning practices. In her own words: “My teaching is rooted in a belief that each person is God’s unique creation, made for a specific purpose to serve him and bring him glory. I believe that Christian schools need to be places of inclusive education where solid foundations are provided for all students both spiritually and academically.”

As we continue to develop our MA-EL program, the combination of Edith’s enthusiasm and experience will open up many new possibilities for ICS to serve Christian K-12 schools. As President Kuipers says: “ICS has a long history of supporting Christian day schools, and I am extremely excited and hopeful that through Edith's leadership of the MA-EL program we will continue this legacy in a bold new way."

We would like to warmly welcome Edith to the ICS community, and we look forward to her vision for an MA-EL program that continually “embraces a growth mindset in each student’s journey of learning,” and to the many other ways in which she will contribute as a Senior Member to the educational life at ICS.

Monday, 8 June 2020

A Statement Against Anti-Black Racism

From the Institute for Christian Studies -

The human condition as it has been given to us by our Creator includes the wonderful diversity of all people on earth. Whenever we treat entire groups of people as though they are superfluous, or as if their lives do not matter, we sin both against our own humanity and the God we are called to image. We sin, too, when we remain silent and inert in the face of such injustice and oppression.

Silence is deadly, and indifference is brutal. This is one of the lessons being taught by the outrage and collective grief currently rocking the United States and Canada in response to the longstanding reality of police violence and societal oppression against Black lives and bodies, and precipitated most recently by the brutal murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, among far too many others. It has taken multinational protests to bring these wrongs into the light of day—and that heaps tragedy upon tragedy.

We at ICS confess that we have not done all within our power to face these realities, and address and denounce these wrongs. Privileged not to “have to” say anything, we confess that we have not used that same privilege to amplify the cries of our Black sisters and brothers as they are subjected to targeted violence, suspicion, inequality, and oppression.

But we do so now. ICS stands not only with Black communities, but also all others who have suffered the unjust material effects of white supremacist ideology, including our Indigenous sisters and brothers here in Canada. We add our voice to theirs: we must repent of these injustices, and these injustices must cease.

With this call to speak, we recognize too that we must now do the work of listening. We, individually, as well as institutionally and societally, must learn to listen to the voices and experiences of people who are not white and who do not receive the benefits of being white. We therefore pray that we might hear these current cries in the streets as the cry of and for wisdom, begging to be heard. And we pray that these cries might shape our everyday lives and direct our actions in the world, so we can join in our Creator’s redemptive effort to turn this mourning into dancing.

Our mission as a school is founded on the conviction that the gospel's message of renewal shapes our pursuit of wisdom. So in this time of anger, despair, and grief, and in light of the need for both immediate and abiding action facing our communities and our world, we hold to this promise of renewal set forth in the life of Jesus Christ, who showed us how to love one another and to respect all our sisters and brothers. Conditions can change. Wrongs can be made right. And so we pray that justice and healing may come, and that we might join cooperatively in the long work of societal and personal transformation ahead of us in humility, in earnest, and in hope.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

An ICS Update from Ron Kuipers

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the June ICS prayer letter! I hope it reaches you in good health, and that you are finding creative ways to cope with the many interruptions and intrusions the global coronavirus pandemic has introduced into our lives. These are busy days for ICS, as we prepared for our annual meeting of ICS’s Board of Trustees (May 28) and Senate (June 15), and making programming and financial plans for the upcoming year. While we are still in the throes of determining the extent of the adverse impact the pandemic has had on ICS’s financial outlook, we remain hopeful and excited about our strategic plans, including the Educational Leadership stream of our MA program, an exciting initiative that enables ICS to help Christian schools in their efforts to become creative centres of deep and transformative learning.

Even in these dark times, we continue to experience moments of blessing and joy, moments that I have learned to call, following the philosopher Richard Kearney, “epiphanies of the everyday.” Today I was reading an essay by the political thinker Hannah Arendt, whose work I am currently teaching, in which she reminds us that each human being, as an unprecedented creature in the world, has the capacity to make small beginnings with unpredictable and boundless effects. “The smallest act in the most limited circumstances,” she says, “bears the seed of the same boundlessness and unpredictability; one deed, one gesture, one word may suffice to change every constellation.” Our unique actions join a wider web of human interaction which none of us control, a daunting and humbling thought, to be sure, but also a hopeful one, especially when we have become so used to thinking that nothing we say or do can have any effect on the world’s course.

In God’s hands, the smallest human act of kindness can flow through this web in wonderful and unexpected ways. We just don’t know how God will use our work and our action, but our faith tells us that he will. ICS is a very small school, relatively speaking, but that has not stopped God from using it to do very great things, even and especially those things we didn’t always plan for or anticipate. And in this spirit, we trust that God will continue to use ICS into the future.

Thank you for joining us on this—now more than 50-year-old—adventure in “beginning,” for backing this daring project in Christian higher education. We remain deeply grateful for your faithful support, for your constant willingness to pray for us and share your gifts as you can, especially in these times of uncertainty. May these gifts, too, be taken up into God’s economy where they can have boundless effect!

I wish you all God’s blessing and peace. Be well!

Ron Kuipers

P.S. Call for Photos! There is currently a retrospective archival project in the works to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first ICS Family Conference in 1970! If you attended any of the Family Conferences in the 70s and 80s, and have photos you would be willing to have included in this project (or know someone who does), please scan and send them to us digitally at along with written permission to publish them from all individuals depicted in the photos. Thanks!

During this time, if you would like to make a donation, the best way to do this is to go to our “Donate” page on the ICS website and make a donation online through CanadaHelps. If you’re in the U.S., you can similarly make an online donation through the Friends of ICS website.

You can also find the latest, periodically updated information on the steps ICS is taking to work through the current public health challenges on the News section of our website.
As we continue to roll out courses over the summer, we will make announcements and update our website with the latest information. Currently, you can find details about the three of our courses on this page, with more details coming soon! If you have any questions about current or upcoming courses, please contact our Registrar, Elizabet Aras at

Prayer Letter: June 2020

Monday, June 1 - Friday, June 5:

This week, the Summer Online Learning Initiative will continue with Dr. Gideon Strauss’ course: World-Viewing: An Introduction to Worldview Studies. This touchstone course for the ICS Master of Worldview Studies (MWS) program has been re-imagined for its online format as a highly interactive, self-reflective workshop-style course that invites you to explore how we humans make sense of our lives. Please pray for wisdom for Gideon as he leads this course, and for all the participants that they may benefit greatly from the opportunity to reflect deeply on what it means to find their way in the world, and make culture—and to consider their own vocation in accompanying others in their world-viewing, way-finding, and culture-making.

During the Summer months at ICS/CPRSE, we will continue to recruit participants for our Undergraduate Workshop, “Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made this event available in a hybrid format–with an ongoing virtual mentorship component and a closing gathering in the Fall of 2020. Please pray for the planning team, as well as for the workshop participants, as this wonderful initiative gets underway.

This May, we were able to creatively celebrate the convocation of now-alumna Danielle Yett, who completed her MA Philosophy degree this past year. Danielle wrote and defended her thesis on the dynamics of openness and normativity in the writings of ICS emeritus Calvin Seerveld, placing him in conversation with other contemporary thinkers in aesthetics. Her thesis was titled: “Making Sense: An Expansive Study of Imagination, Structural Metaphor, and Aesthetic Normativity with Calvin Seerveld.” Since her arrival at ICS as a Junior Member, Danielle has contributed to the community, dedicating her time, talent, and expertise to enriching our institutional life—which she now continues to do in her capacity as the ICS Communications Coordinator. Please join us as we pray in thanksgiving for Danielle and in wishing her all the best as she celebrates the completion of her MA program.

Monday, June 8 - Friday, June 12:

As we quickly move toward the end of our fiscal year this month, we would ask that you prayerfully consider sending in your financial support if you have not already done so. We are so grateful for the continued and generous giving of our support community and we pray God’s blessing on each one of you.

One of the impacts of COVID-19 has been the disruption to students’ study schedules. As a result, our students have had to apply for extensions to complete their course work. Please pray for these students that they will find the time and space to be able to finish writing their papers in June. Pray also for the faculty as they work on the assessments of the students in their classes, and for Elizabet Aras, our Registrar, as she processes the final reporting to the students.

Please continue to pray for the planning and execution of our new Summer Online Learning Initiative taking place May through August. Please pray for Gideon Strauss as he leads the academic program, for the staff involved in its administration and promotion, and for the faculty and students who will be teaching and taking the courses.

Monday, June 15 - Friday, June 19:

We had a very special event happen in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis -- one of our PhD students, June Moon got married! The name of her partner is Silvere Gangloff and they are truly thankful and blessed that this could happen even in the midst of this unsettling time. Due to the pandemic, the ceremony was held at a church near their home in Wisconsin with less than five people attending. June will be going back to Korea this month to spend her summer time there. Please join us in prayers and blessings for this happy couple that, despite the separation for a time, they will grow in their relationship and journey together.

On Monday, June 15th, the ICS Senate will convene for an all-day meeting by Zoom in three one and half hour slots. Please pray for wisdom and clarity of mind for the Chair and ICS Chancellor, Dr. Aron Reppmann, as he leads the sessions. Please also pray for all the external and internal senators as they consider the range of issues on the agenda concerning ICS’s academic programs. We also want to pray for both Gideon Strauss and Elizabet Aras as there is a lot to oversee during the meeting, particularly the use of the virtual meeting technology. Pray that all will go smoothly so that the meeting can be as productive as possible.

Also starting this week is our third course in our Summer Online Learning Initiative: Faith in Art: Spirituality and Lived Experience with Dr. Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin. This all-online course will explore the various ways in which art can act as a bridge to transcendence and/or a deep articulation of embodied human experience. Please pray for wisdom for Adrienne as she leads this course, and for all the participants that they might benefit greatly from the opportunity to reflect deeply on the intersection of faith and artistic practice to consider especially the ongoing contemporary relevance of these themes.

Monday, June 22 - Friday, June 26:

As the end of the fiscal year is upon us, we ask God for strength, clarity of mind, and encouragement for Harley Dekker, our Director of Finance and Administration. There is much to do at this time of year, such as preparation for the year end financial audit, getting the books in order for the new budget year, and preparing for the start of the academic year in September. We give thanks for Harley’s unflagging dedication to this work.

Please continue to pray for our dear friend, Henk Hart, as he continues to struggle with the effects of the cancer medications that he is on. Please pray that he will find some relief, especially from the way it affects his sleep and mobility. As well, Henk hopes to be well enough to start chemo again in the second half of June, so we pray that God’s grace will pour down on him with strength and healing

Monday, June 29 - Tuesday, June 30:

The month of June has been busy for faculty as they get caught up on their supervising and mentoring responsibilities and begin to prepare for the new academic year in the fall. Pray for the space and energy in their lives to work with the students in this important way.

Pray for the students who have been accepted into programs for this fall, as well as for those who are still undecided. We ask God to bless them with wisdom as they discern this important step in their life, and pray that God will provide the necessary funding for their studies.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

An ICS Update from Ron Kuipers

Dear Friends,

I hope this message finds you safe and well! Spring is definitely in the air here in Toronto, even while residents are being asked to refrain from public gatherings, such as the annual pilgrimage to High Park to witness the marvelous cherry blossoms exploding there this time of year. I don’t know about you, but after over a month of physical distancing measures, I am finding it difficult to embrace the turn into this new season, a time when our thoughts would otherwise bend toward themes of hope and renewal.

This year, my church’s Easter service came in the form of listening to a pre-recorded audio file, followed by live fellowship in the form of a Zoom meeting that over 60 families attended. While the service was meaningful and the digital gathering afterwards quite lovely, the whole experience made me realize how much I miss being able to gather in person. The traditional ritual at our church on Easter Sunday is for each person to approach a cross at the front of the sanctuary that has been covered in wire mesh, and insert a flower into it. By the end of the ritual this ugly symbol of Roman imperial torture is transformed into a sign of the new life we experience in Christ. I missed participating in that ritual this year, even as many of us made sure to have flowers beside or behind us for our Zoom gathering.

Is there a lesson in this strange Easter experience? I’m not sure. It has been hard for me to celebrate resurrection life when every time I turn on the TV I’m greeted by a mounting tally of disease and death, or when I hear terrible stories about people who are unable to be present for their loved ones’ final moments. Yet at the same time, like the flowers slowly yet steadily populating the cross, stories of resilience and hope also begin to percolate all around me. As I walk my dog through my East York neighbourhood, I begin to notice all the chalk messages inscribed on the sidewalk that my neighbours, and not just the children, are sending to each other. Simple yet profound messages of solidarity and encouragement. And I find myself encouraged.

In the midst of this pandemic, ICS is also continuing to look forward in hope. As we are learning how to host meaningful learning experiences from a physical distance, we are discovering that a powerful thoughtful discussion does not necessarily depend on people gathering in the same room. Could this be a way for students interested in ICS, but who for whatever reason cannot relocate to Toronto, to participate in ICS’s programs?

We have resolved to find out the answer to this question by launching what we are calling the “Summer Online Learning Initiative.” Beginning in May, ICS will be advertising a suite of courses that can be taken from anywhere. The initiative will begin with a six-week adaptation of my course on Hannah Arendt: Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Hannah Arendt and Religious Critique. These courses will serve current program students as well as, hopefully, new students who would otherwise not be able to join us at ICS.

In these and other ways, we are continuing to pursue the educational mission God has entrusted to us, while striving to remain open to the new possibilities that are emerging all around us, like all the tiny flowers in the cross at my church. Thank you for journeying with us, and for all you do to add flowers of your own.

Wishing you all blessing, health, and peace. Be well, my friends!

Important Notice: Over the last two months, our communications via regular mail have been severely limited due to the physical-distancing policies in place across Canada. Given this reality, we ask that you help us get this communication, and others to follow, into the hands of those ICS supporters in your immediate community who rely on regular mail to get information from us. As you are able and comfortable, please share ICS email communications with them, and encourage them to send us along any email addresses at which we can contact them.

To our faithful donors: If you have recently mailed in a donation and have not received a response from us, please don’t worry! We have not had access to our mail for over six weeks due to physical distancing measures at Knox College. However, we are happy to announce that as of Wednesday, April 29th, the mail has resumed delivery to ICS. We deeply apologize for this inconvenience and ask for your continued prayers as we process this backlog as quickly as possible.

During this time, if you would like to make a donation, the best way to do this is to go to our “Donate” page on the ICS website and make a donation online through CanadaHelps. If you’re in the U.S., you can similarly make an online donation through the Friends of ICS website.

You can also find the latest, periodically updated information on the steps ICS is taking to work through the current public health challenges on the News section of our website.

As we continue to roll out courses over the summer, we will make announcements and update our website with the latest information. Currently, you can find details about the Arendt course on this page, with details about more courses coming soon! If you have any questions about current or upcoming courses, please contact our Registrar, Elizabet Aras at

Thank you so much for your continued support!

Prayer Letter: May 2020

Friday, May 1:

For many around the world, the beginning of May is joyously celebrated as the height of spring and the promise of new beginnings. In the midst of this continuing public health crisis, may our eyes be open to the many blessings God bestows on us amid the revival of plant and animal life. And let’s pray for God’s grace, strength and the continued health of our ICS staff and faculty as we continue to live through this COVID-19 crisis.

In the theme of new beginnings, we also give thanks with ICS Junior Member Julia de Boer and her husband Sankalp for the birth of their son Theophil John de Boer-Lal on April 30. Mother and baby are both home resting from a long and stressful labour amid both complications and abnormal public health conditions. We ask for prayers for their continued recovery and Julia and Sankalp’s adjustment to a new pace of life as parents. We are overjoyed at the blessing of new life among the ICS community, and look forward to welcoming this new addition in person at the first possible opportunity.

Monday, May 4 - Friday, May 8:

We want to give thanks this week that we are finally able to receive our mail at ICS. Not being able to receive communications from our friends and supporters has made this time of physical distancing even more difficult. But praise God -- the mail has arrived!

We ask for your continued prayers for the Leadership Team as they work toward finalizing the draft budget for approval at the Board meeting at the end of May. This is proving to be a complicated process as it is difficult to assess the impact of COVID-19 on future revenue and expenses. Pray for grace and insight as we endeavour to make the wisest possible stewardship decisions.

Monday, May 11 - Friday, May 15:

On Tuesday, the Summer Online Learning Initiative will begin with a six-week adaptation of Dr. Ron Kuiper’s course on Hannah Arendt: Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Hannah Arendt and Religious Critique. Dr. Kuipers will be joined by ICS alum and recent University of Toronto graduate, Dr. Andrew Tebbutt, in the presentation of this summer online course which we trust will attract students and alumni from far and wide. Please pray for wisdom for Ron and Andrew as they lead the course, and for all the participants that they may benefit greatly from the opportunity to reflect deeply on the relevance of Arendt's very timely insights for today’s world.

We also ask for your prayers for the planning and execution of our new Summer Online Learning Initiative taking place May through August. Please pray for Gideon Strauss as he leads the academic program, for the staff involved in its administration and promotion, and for the faculty and students who will be teaching and taking the courses.

On Friday evening this week, the ICS community would have been gathering together for our annual Convocation. However, because of the physical distancing measures in place, Convocation 2020 had to be cancelled. We will greatly miss this time of giving thanks to God for sustaining and guiding us in our mission, and for the achievements of our graduating Junior Members. Despite the fact that we cannot gather together to celebrate in our usual way, we pray that we will remember with gratitude the diligence and insights each of our students has demonstrated these past years, and pray for them in the vocations to which they are called.

Monday, May 18 - Friday, May 22:

Please pray this month for our Junior Members as they wrap up their course papers, with some also working on their theses. It is an intensive period, with diligence and focus required. May God grant them clarity of mind and inspiration as they develop their insights in their writing projects.

Please pray this week and next for all the preparations that need to be made by the staff, Leadership Team, and Board members for the upcoming Board meeting at the end of the month. Please also remember to pray for Gideon Strauss and Elizabet Aras as they continue to prepare for the meeting of the Senate in mid-June.

Monday, May 25 - Friday, May 29:

On Thursday, May 28th, the Board of Trustees will meet virtually in two 90 minute sections, before and after lunch. Please pray for grace and wisdom for our Chair, John Joosse, and all our Board members as they deliberate together on the various matters before them during these unpredictable times. Pray also for ease of use of the virtual meeting technology so that the deliberations go smoothly with little or no disruption.

As we come to the last day of May, we want to express our gratitude to our supporters for all the ways you have encouraged us and blessed us during this difficult time.

Thank you for being there for us!

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

An ICS Update from Ron Kuipers

Dear Friends,

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly, and perhaps, permanently altered our everyday reality. For example, I am writing this letter as I work from my home, and am not sure when I will be able to return to the office. Like many other organizations, the ICS campus has effectively closed for the time being, so that we can follow instructions from public health officials to practice social distancing.

As you no doubt experienced, this situation has been evolving rapidly, and in the middle of a busy semester we at ICS have had to react suddenly and rapidly to this emerging health crisis by adopting measures like suspending in-person seminars and replacing them with remote-access delivery modes like video teleconferencing. Our faculty and staff are also figuring out how best to continue to work together during this time of social isolation.

While it hasn’t been easy, I am very proud of the resilience and flexibility the ICS community has demonstrated during this difficult time. Classes have continued with minimal disruption, and administrative staff have remained diligent in the performance of their assigned duties. While we miss each other’s company and the camaraderie we enjoy working in the same space together, we remain in good spirits as we continue to pursue the mission in Christian higher education that our Lord has entrusted to us.

In the days ahead, ICS leadership will be tasked with making many difficult decisions, and so we ask that you, the support community that undergirds ICS, pray for us. Pray that God’s wisdom will bless our deliberations, and that we may rise to the challenge of this moment with a spirit of innovation and creativity that enables us to recognize new possibilities for advancing God’s Kingdom that is ever in our midst.

Over these past weeks we have seen the impact that both the stress of uncertainty and the loss of social connections can have on us, and on the people we love, but we’ve also seen the power of community. Our staying physically apart for this moment in time is simultaneously an incredible act of social solidarity and an expression of love for the vulnerable. This fact alone gives me hope that together we will continue to bear each other’s burdens in the challenging days ahead.

As a supporter of ICS, I finally want to thank you for the continued trust you place in us, and it is my prayer that we continue to earn your trust through the difficult period we are only now just entering. So much remains unknown, and this creates anxiety. The only balm for this anxiety is trust. Through the trust we place in our Maker that even now he is leading us on the way we should go, and the trust we place in each other as we together strive to discern that direction, we gain the confidence to proceed step by step to build a strong bridge to a new reality.
I wish you all blessing, health, and peace. Be well, my friends!

Important Notice: During the next few months, our communications via regular mail will be severely limited due to the social-distancing policies in place across Canada. Given this reality, we ask that you help us get this communication, and others to follow, into the hands of those ICS supporters in your immediate community who rely on regular mail to get information from us. As you are able and comfortable, please share ICS email communications with them, and encourage them to send us along any email addresses at which we can contact them.

To our faithful donors: If you have recently mailed in a donation and have not received a response from us, please don’t worry! We are temporarily unable to access incoming mail due to the lockdown at the university buildings but are working to resolve this situation as soon as possible–all the while protecting the health and safety of our staff. We deeply apologize for this inconvenience and ask for your continued prayers as we devise a contingency plan for mail-in donations.

In the meantime, if you would like to make a donation, the best way to do this is to go to our “Donate” page on the ICS website and make a donation online through CanadaHelps. If you’re in the U.S., you can similarly make an online donation through the Friends of ICS website.

Thank you so much for your continued support!

Prayer Letter: April 2020

Wednesday, April 1 - Friday, April 3:

Once a month, the administrative staff of ICS gather together in one room to update one another and to provide support where needed on the various projects that everyone is involved in. This Wednesday is our April meeting day, and instead of meeting in one room, ICS will have its first virtual meeting via Zoom. Pray that as we gather together online we will experience the same support and camaraderie with one another that we have when we are together in person.

Just like last year, ICS will be holding this month its spring retreat for staff, faculty, and students -- but with a big twist! Gideon Strauss and Elizabet Aras have been hard (and creatively!) at work making a virtual spring retreat a reality. We’re grateful for their efforts and ask for prayers for their continued strength and inspiration in their work. We pray that this important culminating event in the school year will be uplifting and hope-filled as we build community and reflect on the various lessons, insights, and blessings in the past academic year.

During these trying times, we request your prayers for our Junior Members June, Abbi, and Theoren as they journey back home for the summer months. We pray in a special way for their health and safety in the journey, and for a joyous reunion with their families and loved ones.

Monday, April 6 - Friday, April 10:

We are requesting prayer at this time for one of our Junior Members, Julia de Boer, who is 35 weeks pregnant with her first child, immunocompromised via pregnancy, and has a history of respiratory illnesses. Thankfully, her husband, Sankalp, can work from home, and they remain fully sealed off from the world, likely for 4-6 weeks until baby arrives and some time afterwards. However, this state of emergency because of COVID-19 has created huge uncertainties and anxiety for them, especially as they contemplate the prospect of delivering in hospital in the midst of a pandemic, with little access to family or friends. Please pray that their isolation will be effective in keeping Julia healthy, that their little son will arrive just when he ought to, and that she will be able to deliver safely and without fear in hospital

This is Holy Week -- the most joyous time in the Christian calendar. It is a time of celebration beyond hope, because with Easter, hope is made real. Christ’s resurrection heralds the final triumph of life over death. Let’s pray together that despite the limitations of gathering together to celebrate, the Easter message of new life and hope will bring joy and wonder to our hearts.

Monday, April 13 - Friday, April 17:

As this semester’s classes wind down, please pray for our faculty as they continue to provide the teaching and mentoring to our Junior Members in these dramatically different conditions. We pray that the remote teaching will face as little disruption as possible, and that mentoring relationships can still lead to the flourishing of ideas and furthering of projects for our Junior Members.

We ask for prayer for the staff and faculty as we wrestle with the many decisions that need to be made regarding the scheduling of events that normally take place April through June, and into the fall semester. There are so many unknowns in the current environment that planning becomes an ever-changing activity, so we pray for insight to know how to make these decisions wisely.

Monday, April 20 - Friday, April 24:

Professor Emeritus, Hendrik Hart, has been receiving chemotherapy for his cancer during these past few months. The COVID-19 outbreak has required a review of Henk’s available options to either continue treatment or put it on pause. Both options have significant risks, but he has chosen to pause treatment for now, and will be carefully and frequently monitored by those who care for him at this time. Please pray for continued wisdom for the medical staff and for protection and peace of mind for Henk as he navigates these uncertain times.

The Finance Committee, along with the Leadership Team, are hard at work this month on the coming year’s budget. Please pray for them in their deliberations, that they might be granted insight, wisdom, and hope as they make stewardship decisions for the 2020-2021 budget year in the midst of a financial environment that is largely unpredictable, volatile, and constantly changing.

It is with sadness that we announce that ICS is cancelling Convocation 2020 as a result of COVID-19’s limitation on social gatherings. We will greatly miss the opportunity to gather with our community to honour our students and to celebrate with one another at this important annual event. We pray that over these next months that we will find grace and peace in the knowledge that God is ever present with us.

Monday, April 27 - Thursday, April 30:

We ask for prayer for our administrative staff as they continue to navigate the complexities of doing their work remotely. They need wisdom to determine the best ways to keep the information flowing to prevent the feeling of isolation and being siloed in the projects they are working on. As well, please pray for God’s hand of protection on each one that they will continue to be healthy and experience his peace and comfort during this unsettling time

We give thanks for our Junior Members who are such an important part of our community and have been a real blessing during this difficult time. We pray for them as they wind up their course papers over the next few weeks and try to make plans for their summer work and studies in the coming year. We pray for them that they might experience peace and comfort, and that they might continue to find many inspiring, exciting, and varied opportunities to explore their respective work and research interests.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Updated: ICS During COVID-19


ICS Leadership, staff, and faculty have been hard at work in past weeks monitoring the daily developments to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, strategizing, and discerning immediate and long-term ways forward for our programming, courses, and events. Today, ICS had to make a number of difficult decisions regarding quickly-approaching events, deadlines, and courses.

Unfortunately, in response to current public health recommendations and the enforced limitations on travel and public gatherings, we must CANCEL Convocation 2020, the honourary doctorate celebration of Dr. Barbara Carvill, and ART in Orvieto 2020. Lord willing, we will have the opportunity to revisit these celebratory and educational opportunities again next year. Thus, our current intention is to honour our 2020 graduates together with our 2021 graduates at our Convocation next May, and to likewise gather to celebrate Dr. Carvill at that time. We also intend to offer ART in Orvieto again during summer 2021.

We've also decided to adapt the original plans and deadlines for our Undergraduate Workshop, the summer course on Hannah Arendt, and admission to our MA-EL and MWS-ART programs. For this year's Undergraduate Workshop, we have tentatively rescheduled the event for Fall 2020 and extended the submission deadline until July 31. For our MA-EL and MWS-ART programs, we've extended our standard application deadline until August 1. And for the Hannah Arendt course, we're currently considering the possibility of the course being delivered remotely.

Given the unpredictability of current circumstances, ICS will continue to offer its courses remotely until further notice in order to remain as adaptable as possible in our efforts to make an ICS education readily available. So please stay tuned for more information regarding upcoming summer course opportunities currently in development, as well as increased possibilities for online education into the next school year. And, if you have any questions about these or any other ICS courses, programs, and events, please do not hesitate to reach out to us by phone or email!

We remain cautiously hopeful in these days and, as always, invite your prayers for students, staff, and faculty alike in their various callings and day-to-day lives.

MARCH 17, 2020 UPDATE:

Following the city of Toronto's increased social distancing recommendations, and the University of Toronto's closure of most of their library locations, ICS will close its administrative offices and library effective today until public health authorities declare it advisable to resume in-person operations. We greatly value the health and safety of our staff, faculty, and students--as well as our neighbours--and we consider this a small but important step to slowing the spread of this virus.

ICS staff and faculty will continue working regular hours remotely during this time, and may be reliably contacted by email if you wish to get in touch for any reason. We will continue to monitor the public health situation daily and will make any important updates (including the status of upcoming events and summer courses) known to you here as soon as possible. To that end, we also continue to invite applications to our Undergraduate Workshop in May, our course on Hannah Arendt in April-June, and ART in Orvieto in July-August. No fees for these courses/events will be charged until it is clear that the courses/events will in fact take place.

In the meantime, our Senior and Junior Members forge ahead with classes and projects, our staff go on planning and executing everyday operations, and we all pray for safety and swift healing for those affected by this health crisis. 


In light of the ongoing development of the COVID-19 virus, and in conjunction with our colleagues at the Toronto School of Theology and the University of Toronto, ICS has determined that it is appropriate to cancel all ICS in-person seminars for the remainder of the Winter semester (March 16-April 10). Junior and Senior Members have already been notified accordingly about how to participate in their respective seminars via teleconference during this time period.

Because we share a campus with both Knox College and the University of Toronto, ICS has committed to following the lead of Knox College, the Toronto School of Theology, and the University of Toronto with respect to the implementation of any social distancing measures deemed appropriate.

For the latest on these specific measures, you can read a message from the President of UofT here. For the latest on Canada's COVID-19 monitoring, national response, and prevention and preparation advice, please visit the Government of Canada website or the Toronto Public Health page.

Following campus measures, the ICS offices and library will remain open during this period, and we will continue with daily operations. We will keep you updated as to whether any of this changes, and about the status of upcoming ICS events as we continually monitor the state of affairs on campus, locally, and globally. We also request during this time that anyone who feels ill stay home and seek appropriate healthcare if necessary.

ICS is grateful for your patience and support as we adjust and attend to the unfolding situation day to day, and as we seek to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our students, staff, and faculty.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Honourary Doctorate to be Awarded to Dr. Barbara Carvill

The Institute for Christian Studies is pleased to announce that it will be awarding an honourary doctoral degree (D. Litt., honoris causa) to Dr. Barbara Carvill. Barbara's prolific and influential body of academic work, as well as her enduring commitment to ICS and its scholarly mission speak to the transformative impact of her love for learning, and make her an eminently worthy recipient of this award.

Barbara has been connected to ICS since the early 1970s, when she and her husband Robert first moved to Toronto. Since that time, she has taken on many official roles, serving twenty years as an ICS Senator, during which time she also served as Chancellor of ICS. She currently serves as President of the Friends of ICS, ICS’s US charitable foundation. She has also funded ICS's Carvill Student Award and the Robert Carvill Book Award in her late husband's memory, and has contributed to two ICS Master's thesis examinations as an external examiner.

Barbara's life and career beyond the walls of ICS also bear witness to a thoroughgoing devotion to the well-being of learners. She has taught German at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, MI since 1978, where she continues to teach as Professor Emerita. Calvin University has recognized Barbara's gifts as an inspirational teacher, giving her the Exemplary Teacher Award in 2003 and the Faith and Learning Award in 2011. With her colleague Wallace Bratt, she has also inspired alumni to fund the Students of Wallace Bratt and Barbara Carvill Scholarship for German majors and minors at Calvin—thus demonstrating the continued vitality of her legacy as an advocate for Christian education.

Throughout her career, Barbara has published numerous articles, reviews, and other publications on various topics in German literature of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. From this specialization and from her own nascent love of languages, her scholarship has played a significant role in fostering a Reformationally "integral" Christian perspective on foreign language learning. This integral perspective is most apparent in the book she co-authored with David Smith, The Gift of the Stranger: Faith, Hospitality and Foreign Language Learning (Eerdman's, 2000), and again as a co-author of Teaching and Christian Imagination (Eerdman's, 2016).

In addition to her teaching and writing, Barbara has a gift for organizing others around an integral vision for language learning. She is a key figure behind the formation of the North American Christian Foreign Languages Association and is a founding member of the North American Christian Foreign Language Teachers' Association (currently called the Christian Association of World Languages), where she served as President in the 1990s.

Taken together, the legacy of Barbara's thought and teaching presents a concerted call to see learning as, fundamentally, an act of welcome—a call she continues to make to this day. In short, Barbara's career has consistently modeled not only heroic support for ICS but also an effective way to carry the central intuitions of the Reformational tradition into the specific area of language learning.

ICS is both grateful and indeed honoured to be able to confer this degree upon Barbara. We hope you will join us for Convocation on May 15, where Barbara will deliver the keynote address, to celebrate her life’s work and the lasting impact she has had on all levels of Christian education.

Edit: Unfortunately, because of travel restrictions and health concerns surrounding COVID-19, ICS must postpone the conferral of this degree until our next Convocation ceremony in 2021. Once public health social-distancing recommendations slacken, and possibilities for gathering become clearer, we will invite Barbara to deliver a keynote address and celebrate her achievements along with those of our 2021 graduates. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

In Memoriam: Rev. Canon Scott McNaughton

It is with great sorrow that we share the news that the Reverend Canon Scott McNaughton passed away on February 17, 2020 after a battle against cancer.

Scott and his wife, Isabella Guthrie-McNaughton, graciously gave of their time, resources, and skills in service and support of ICS over many years. Scott was a steadfast and active member of the ICS community as, among other things, a dedicated reader of materials published by ICS and an avid fund-raiser on behalf of the school. He was also a reliable fixture at numerous ICS convocations, providing his vibrant piano-playing skills for the added enjoyment of students and attendees celebrating completed academic programs. This remains a fond memory for many ICS graduates, faculty, and staff to this day.

During Isabella's 13 years as ICS's Director of Library and Information Services, the available space for the ICS library was considerably downsized. She and Scott, in the face of that challenge, made possible the move of a large portion of the ICS library from our location in downtown Toronto to a storage location in Hamilton in the summer of 2009. It was Scott and his parish of St. Stephen-on-the-Mount Anglican Church that initially agreed to house the collection in the parish itself -- where it continues to be housed thanks to Scott and Isabella's indispensable efforts.

It was obvious to anyone who knew Scott that he had a servant's heart. This is evident both in and beyond his generous involvement in the work of ICS. Scott was a dearly beloved priest in the Anglican church for many decades, serving at a number of parishes across the diocese of Niagara during his 36 years in ministry: St. George’s in Guelph, St. Stephen’s in Niagara Falls, St. Paul’s in Jarvis, Christ Church in Nanticoke, and -- for the past 24 years -- at St. Stephen-on-the-Mount in Hamilton.

Details for services in celebration of Scott's life and ministry can be found here. Visitations will be held on Friday, February 21 from 2:00-4:00pm and 7:00-9:00pm at St. Stephen-on-the-Mount (625 Concession St., Hamilton). A memorial service for Scott will take place on Saturday, February 22 at 10:30am at Christ's Church Cathedral (252 James St. N., Hamilton).

The family welcomes your attendance to either of these services. They are also accepting donations in memory of Scott and his ministry: either to St. Stephen-on-the-Mount Anglican Church or to the Synod of the Diocese of Niagara - Children’s, Youth, and Family Ministry Fund.

We at ICS are grateful to have had Scott and his gracious spirit as a part of our own institutional life and to have borne witness to his life and broader work, though we are equally sad to have lost him so soon. In remembrance of the gift of his life, therefore, we both offer and ask for prayers of comfort for Scott’s beloved wife Isabella and son Sambath, as well as for his friends, colleagues, and parishioners past and present as they reckon with being parted from him in this life.

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Prayer Letter: March 2020

Monday, March 2 - Friday, March 6:

Please pray today, Monday, March 2, for the Board of Trustees as they meet this evening. We ask for guidance as they discuss the various matters before them, and wisdom in their decision-making. As this is the time of year when they begin to look forward to the next fiscal year and its budget, we ask God to give them clarity and understanding of the operational needs of ICS as it continues to work out its mission.

Recruitment is underway for the Fourth Annual ICS Undergraduate Workshop, titled “Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation.” We will host this year’s workshop at the University of Toronto’s Multi-faith Centre from May 28-30th. Please pray for the workshop’s planning team as they continue to promote the event among prospective participants so that deserving students will find their way to this workshop prior to the proposal deadline of March 16th.

Monday, March 9 - Friday, March 13:

Please pray for our Perspective production team as they work hard to finish compiling the content for the spring issue. Pray particularly for Danielle Yett and Héctor Acero Ferrer as they give leadership to the process, ensuring that all runs according to the timeline. We ask God to give the authors creative minds as they write and encouragement as they participate in this project together.

Please pray this month for ICS’s Art in Orvieto 2020 -- a three-week Residence Seminar and Workshop for writers, artists and graduate students interested in exploring the relationship between art, religion and theology, taking place in Orvieto, Italy from July 16 to August 6th. This year there will be both an artists’ and a writers’ workshop. The deadline for applications is March 31st so please pray that the required number of participants will sign up before that time.

Monday, March 16 - Friday, March 20:

Preparations for the meeting of the Senate on May 14th begin this month. We pray for those diligently at work on the materials necessary for this event, especially our Registrar, Elizabet Aras and our Academic Dean, Gideon Strauss. We pray also for the Senate itself, as it oversees the academic program of ICS, and for Dr. Aron Reppmann in particular as he provides leadership as Senate Chair and Chancellor.

The Finance Committee will begin the preparations this month for developing the 2020-2021 budget proposal for consideration by the Board at its May meeting. Please pray for each member of the committee, our Director of Finance, Harley Dekker and the rest of the Leadership Team as they plan and forecast for the next year.

Monday, March 23 - Friday, March 27:

We ask for prayers for those involved in this semester's Interdisciplinary Seminar: “Naming the Divine Within and Without.” This is an integral part of the academic work shared by the ICS community. We are thankful for the opportunity for Senior and Junior Members to work together in considering this topic, and we ask for prayer for Senior Members Nik Ansell and Bob Sweetman as they lead this seminar.

Please join us in giving thanks to Senior Members Bob Sweetman and Gideon Strauss for their generous contribution to our upcoming Critical Faith series on Reformational philosophy. Through this podcast series, the CPRSE aims to effectively share the basic pillars of the ICS philosophical tradition with our wider community of support. We pray that Critical Faith continues to be a space for learning, dialogue and reflection for all listeners.

Monday, March 30 - Tuesday, March 31:

The last day of classes for the Winter 2020 semester is fast approaching! Please pray for the students as they work hard to complete their assignments and study for their final exams. We especially want to pray for those students who intend to graduate in May, as well as those who are finalizing their theses or preparing for their defenses.

We’ve begun receiving applications for students wishing to start various academic programs next year! Please pray for those potential students as they discern whether they might make ICS their academic home, as they work to meet upcoming application deadlines, and as they plan for their immediate and long term futures. Please also pray that the Lord might continue to bring many more eager and insightful students through our doors.