Tuesday 22 December 2020

A Christmas Greeting from ICS

Dear friends and supporters of ICS

Last year, ICS hosted our second annual Advent concert, Creator of the Stars of Night, for our wonderful friends and supporters. This year, unfortunately, we were not able to host a third concert. Yet thanks to the efforts of last year’s performers, the non-profit charity Incontra Vocal Ensemble, we are able to offer you this Christmas greeting, with a beautiful rendition of the hymn “O Holy Night” by two of their soloists and Artistic Director Matthew Otto. Please enjoy this performance in the video included below.

On behalf of everyone at ICS, I wish you all a joyous Christmas, and a New Year filled with blessing. A light has shone in the darkness, and in that hope we venture into the New Year, guided by our Redeemer’s glory. May God give us all the strength and resilience to continue our earthly journey, and the ability and energy to respond to our Maker’s call upon our lives.

Shalom, my friends! Shalom!

Ronald A. Kuipers

P.S. There is still time to give to ICS before the end of the year. You can donate online via CanadaHelps. If you're in the US, you can visit the Friends of ICS page and donate via PayPal. If you have any questions about donating, feel free to email donate@icscanada.edu or call us at 416-979-2331 x223, or toll free at 1-888-326-5347 x223

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Living in Advent Hope

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

—Matthew 28:30

Jesus Christ came into the world over 2000 years ago, yet each Advent we prepare ourselves to receive him anew. Every Advent we look forward in hopeful expectation, a specific sort of expectation that our religious memory teaches us to have. There is something wonderful about this spiritual exercise, something that gets at the difference between the gospel’s time and our time. It reminds us that Christ comes to us in each moment, and that each moment presents us with the possibility of walking in his healing way—the way he revealed to us so long ago, and the way his Holy Spirit continues to reveal to us today.

When we walk this path, we follow our Messiah’s call to live into a different world and prepare for a different, transformed future. Living into that future, we are promised, will make the possibility of redemption real to us now, and will help us shape a world of justice and peace for those who come after us.

As we live into God’s future, then, we also leave our own spiritual legacy. Like a boat cutting into unknown water, we leave a wake that marks a path for those who come after us. As we let ourselves be guided by Jesus, our morning star, we trust that this path will also guide others to safe harbour. And when our wake recedes, our morning star has promised to remain in the sky to light our way.

Through its Christian witness in higher education and the wider public, ICS, too, strives to keep its sights set by our morning star (to echo the title of Hendrik Hart’s 1989 book on biblical interpretation). We trust and hope that our faithful efforts will cut a path that helps others in their attempts to do the same. All our ambitious plans, hopes, and dreams are bent in this direction, and without our morning star we would be lost. We are so deeply encouraged when you join us in our efforts. Through all the forms of spiritual and material support you give us, you enable us to continue to serve and to anticipate God’s kingdom, and to teach others to do the same. Thank you!

As we enter this Advent season, my friends, I wish you God’s shalom, and pray that you have a restorative and safe Christmas!

Ronald A. Kuipers

Prayer Letter: December 2020

Tuesday, December 1 - Friday, December 4:

Please take the opportunity this week to give thanks for our Board of Trustees as they continue to serve in their oversight of the mission and vision of ICS. Please pray for wisdom for John Joosse as Chair, and for Diane Stronks as Vice Chair in their leadership roles. We give thanks for each trustee for their faithful service to and support of ICS.

On December 4th, ICS, under the leadership of Edith van der Boom, will be hosting a virtual Q&A session for MA-EL students to answer their questions about the three upcoming winter courses. Please pray that God will establish the work of our hands as we reach out to potential students that there will be both interest and commitment to sign up for these courses so that our classes will be full.

HENK HART'S 85TH BIRTHDAY — A virtual event is being planned for December 12th to celebrate the life of Hendrik Hart on the occasion of his upcoming 85th birthday. If you wish to join this online event, or submit photos or a tribute to be shared with Henk, please contact the organizing team at henks85th@gmail.com.

On November 13th and 14th, ICS hosted its Fourth Annual Undergraduate Workshop, “Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation.” We pray in thanksgiving for our keynote speaker, Dr. Mary Jo Leddy, and for our guest undergraduates, Matthew, Tanner, Anna, and Tomy, who challenged us with their reflections, inspired us with their insight, and enlivened us with their engagement.

Monday, December 7 - Friday, December 11:

We pray for continued stamina and enthusiasm for our Senior and Junior Members as they finish out the semester and prepare to start their new courses in January. We pray for Gideon Strauss that he might have rhythm and creative energy in his administrative role as Academic Dean, and for strength and inspiration for all our faculty who are teaching in the winter semester.

We ask for prayer for Elizabet Aras, our Registrar, as she makes plans for the Virtual Christmas Party on December 19th. It isn’t always easy to creatively design a party such as this virtually -- this will be the first time that we have had our Christmas Party remotely. We ask for inspiration for Elizabet as she puts all the pieces together. 

During the month of December, ICS’s Hegel Study Group will continue to read Hegel’s seminal work The Phenomenology of Spirit under the leadership of Andrew Tebbutt, CPRSE Postdoctoral Research Associate. We pray in thanksgiving for Andrew, who has provided vital support to many of our learning initiatives and has brought much life to our community. 

Monday, December 14 - Friday, December 18:

On Monday, December 18th at 1:30pm, CPRSE will host ICS’s Fall Term Scripture, Faith and Scholarship Symposium, “Decoloniality, Hermeneutics, and Theo-Ethics: A Conversation with Dr. Néstor Medina.” Please pray for this event to be an opportunity for focused reflection and fruitful dialogue for our community of learning.

This Friday is the final day of classes for the fall semester at ICS. On Saturday, December 19th we will share in a time of fun and fellowship at our annual Christmas Party -- this time held virtually. Pray that it might be a wonderful evening of giving thanks for and celebrating the gifts we have in one another in this blessed community of learning at ICS.

As we look forward to next week which celebrates Christmas by the giving and receiving of gifts, we thank God for our committed and faithful friends for their gifts of encouragement and faithful support in prayer and financial support. We pray for each one of you that you will receive the amazing gifts of love, joy and peace this Christmas season and be filled with hope with what God will do in the new year.

Monday, December 21 - Friday, December 25:

Please pray today for the families of our staff, faculty and students as they find ways to celebrate the birth of our Saviour amidst the restraints of the pandemic. Most of our families are spread far and wide and so it won’t be possible to be together in person. Pray that despite the separation, families can find joy and inspiration in their virtual get-togethers. As well, we ask for special prayer for those families who may be suffering because of illness or grieving a loss in their family. 

May the blessings of love, joy and peace be yours as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour this Christmas week.

Monday, December 28 - Thursday, December 31:

We sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading our very special issue of Perspective and have been as inspired as we’ve been by the beautiful tributes to Hendrik Hart. For those of you who know Henk but have not received this issue in the mail or by email, you can follow this link (https://tinyurl.com/PerspectiveFa2020) to read the issue for yourself. If you would like to join in this spirit of giving before the year ends, you can find the letter that accompanied the issue and some additional information about ways to donate here.

The 2021 winter semester was scheduled to begin on January 3rd. However, prompted by the fact that the burdens imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic caused added stress, the University of Toronto (which determines our semester timing) decided to delay the start of the semester to January 11th. Please pray along with us that this extra week will enable all of us to rest and recharge, and make the most of the upcoming holiday break.

As 2019 draws to a close, we give thanks for another fruitful year of work at ICS and for all our supporters and friends who made that work possible through their prayers and financial gifts. We especially give thanks to God for the strength and wisdom he gave us in this pandemic year to steadfastly pursue our vision. We pray for God's blessing upon our staff, faculty and students as we work out our mission, in the classroom and beyond, throughout this next year.

Monday 30 November 2020

Join the Next Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium with Dr. Néstor Medina

Decoloniality, Hermeneutics, and Theo-Ethics: 
A Conversation with Dr. Néstor Medina

Monday, December 14th at 1:30pm (EST)

Zoom Details:

Meeting ID: 890 2734 4188
Passcode: Symposium

We would like to invite your to our fall semester Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium, which will feature a conversation with Dr. Néstor Medina at the intersection of decoloniality, interpretation, and theology. 

Dr. Néstor Medina is Assistant Professor of Religious Ethics at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto. He engages ethics from contextual, liberationist, intercultural, and post/decolonial perspectives. He explores the ethical implications of religious/theological debates, and how these shape concrete social structures and notions of ethnoracial and cultural identity. He also studies how lived religious experiences shape/transform people’s understandings of ethics on the ground, especially reflecting from Latina/o/x (Canadian and USA), Latin American, and Latina/o Pentecostal perspectives. For the last 10 years, he has been studying the ethical implications of interethnic and intercultural relations particularly in connection with indigenous communities in Canada and Latin America. He is the author of Mestizaje: (Re)Mapping ‘Race,’ Culture, and Faith in Latina/o Catholicism (Orbis, 2009), a booklet On the Doctrine of Discovery (CCC, 2017), and his recent Christianity, Empire and the Spirit (Brill 2018).

This event is sponsored by the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics.
- - -

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Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kcsaAwGatU

Wednesday 25 November 2020

COVID-19 Update: Delayed Start to Winter 2021 Semester


The following is an important change in the start date for winter term classes in January. ICS will be following the lead of the University of Toronto, Knox College, and the Toronto School of Theology by delaying the start of the Winter 2021 semester by one week. 

This means that classes for the winter term will now begin on Monday, January 11, 2021. For regular 13-week synchronous courses, final assignment deadlines will also be extended by one week. The dates for Reading Week remain the same (February 15-19, 2021). The Academic Calendar has been updated to reflect these changes, and a list of Winter 2021 courses is available here.

Below is a brief note from President Ronald A. Kuipers about this schedule change:

To quote President Gertler of the University of Toronto, these decisions are “prompted by the fact that we’ve all been under an extraordinary amount of stress for months now, because of the burdens imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.... [W]e care deeply about the wellness of each and every one of you. We want to make sure that you’re able to rest and recharge, and to make the most of the upcoming holiday break.”

Let me echo President Gertler's comments, and offer my own words of encouragement to the ICS community. The global pandemic has thrown many challenges our way, and has dramatically changed our daily working and studying routines. I deeply appreciate the efforts everyone has made to maintain community in the midst of our relative isolation. Let's continue to support, pray for, and reach out to each other. If you are struggling, please let us know, so that we can find ways to care for you or address any concerns that you have. Let us continue to bless each other as we have since this all began.

I wish you all God's strength and peace as we continue on this strange journey,


Please reach out to Elizabet, course leaders, or our Senior Members if you have any questions or concerns.

Monday 9 November 2020

Undergrad Workshop: November 13-14 with Mary Jo Leddy

On November 13th and 14th, the CPRSE will host ICS's Fourth Annual Undergraduate Workshop, "Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation" via Zoom. After many months of COVID-19 contingency planning, we have managed to put together a fantastic program.

This two-day virtual conference will feature four seminar sessions with visiting undergraduate students from across the world presenting their own research projects, and an ICS Junior Member panel where JMs will share their latest research as it connects with the topic of the workshop. 

The workshop will begin on Friday afternoon with a keynote presentation from Dr. Mary Jo Leddy, founder of Romero House, TST professor, and a member of the Order of Canada. Dr. Leddy's keynote is entitled “From Above and From Below: Hannah Arendt's Two Encounters with Evil,” and she is looking forward to engaging in conversation with members of the ICS community following her presentation.

We wish all the workshop participants well over the course of these two days as they discuss these weighty topics and consider their own research more deeply in community with one another. If you would like to attend Dr. Leddy's keynote address, you can find the Zoom details below. Please RSVP to haceroferrer@icscanada.edu if you'd like to join us for this event.

From Above and From Below: Hannah Arendt's Two Encounters with Evil
Dr. Mary Jo Leddy
Friday, November 13, 4:00-5:00pm (EST)

Zoom Meeting Link:
Meeting ID: 853 3969 1503
Passcode: Undergrad

A special thanks to Scarboro Foreign Missions for sponsoring this event.

Friday 30 October 2020

Grateful Notice

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

—Luke 17:15-16

Since Thanksgiving Day on October 12, my thoughts have often turned to the very idea of gratitude. Perhaps due to my philosopher’s tic, I have found myself asking, ‘what is gratitude, really?’ What is happening in us and through us when we find ourselves grateful for something? Why, moreover, do we find it important to stop and reflect upon what we are grateful for? 

In that perplexity, I have been struck again by the story of the Samaritan who turns back to thank Jesus for the healing he experiences. Why don’t the nine others do the same? One thing that I think is happening in this story is that Luke is trying to get us to notice the noticers, even and especially when they belong to groups we callously dismiss as not mattering. The healed Samaritan is such a noticer: “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back….” Were the other nine simply ungrateful, then, or might they have actually failed to notice that they had been healed?

While I’m not going to argue for that latter reading, necessarily, I do think it is interesting to entertain its possibility, for it sets up rather nicely the answer that Jesus gives to the Pharisees, recorded right after this story, when they ask him when he thinks the kingdom of God will come. To recall, Jesus gives the enigmatic answer that the kingdom cannot be observed, for it is already “among you” (vs. 21). But why, if it is already among us, do we have so much trouble noticing, or observing it? Why can’t we, like the Samaritan, notice when we are in the midst of healing and the possibility of being healed?

Jesus, as Luke portrays him in this chapter, wants his followers to become noticers like the Samaritan. That is why turning back in gratitude is such an important spiritual exercise: it accustoms us to notice, and even expect, God’s redeeming work in our midst. For healing to become actual, we must notice—with the ‘eyes’ of faith, or the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11)—that God’s healing power is at work among us and thus available to us. Recall Jesus’s words to the Samaritan, lying prostrate at his feet: “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well” (vs. 19).

In the spirit of the healed Samaritan, today I turn back to you and say, ‘Thank you for keeping faith with us!’ As we journey in faith together, may we both notice and become agents of God’s healing possibility—for each other and for everyone else.

Shalom, my friends!

Ronald A. Kuipers

Prayer Letter: November 2020

Monday, November 2 - Friday, November 6:

Please pray this week and next for our Perspective production crew, especially Héctor and Danielle, as they work with our designer and printer to meet the deadline for dropping the mailing in mid-November. This is always a hectic time so we ask for grace and strength for each one as they work together. May all enjoy a sense of accomplishment in the completion of this important and special project.

Please continue to pray for Harley Dekker this week as he works diligently with the auditors to finalize the annual audit of our financial records for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2020. We need to have the information in time for the AGM and the Annual Report so we ask that God would bless each one with grace and speed of deliberation. Once again, we are very thankful for God’s watchful care over us, especially in the second half of the year during the pandemic.

During the U.S. federal elections this week, we pray with our American friends, family, and supporters for a fair and peaceful election at all levels. We pray that those elected to offices across the land will seek justice, mercifully advocate for the oppressed and vulnerable, and strive to bridge the deep polarization that currently divides the U.S. population.

Monday, November 9 - Friday, November 13:

We ask for your continued prayers as we find more ways to communicate with our Christian educators about the Master of Educational Leadership (MA-EL) program. We have adapted the scheduling of the courses so that they are more accessible for working students. Please pray that this will result in a good number of students registering for the courses that we will be offering in the winter term.

On Tuesday, October 10, ICS PhD Candidate and Sessional Lecturer Dean Dettloff will hold the first session of his course, “God of Solidarity: Liberation Theology as Social Movement.” Please pray in thanksgiving for the gift of Dean’s presence in our community and for the many ways in which he contributes to the life of ICS. May all course participants receive in gratitude the fruits of Dean’s dedicated research, which he makes available to his students through engaging, timely, and innovative instruction. 

After many months of COVID-19 contingency adjustments, the ICS Undergraduate Workshop planning committee is thrilled to report that the Fourth Undergraduate Workshop, “Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation” will be held on November 13-14. Please pray that this edition of the workshop, in its new synchronous online format, will be an enriching opportunity for all those participating in the event. 

Monday, November 16 - Friday, November 20:

Please pray for Edith van der Boom as she does the important work of reviewing all of the courses in the MA-EL program in order to consider how best to adapt them so they are more deeply contextualized and relevant for educators. We ask for wisdom and insight for Edith as she leads this process.

During these pandemic times, ICS has worked tirelessly in improving its different communication platforms so that we can offer timely, comprehensive, and engaging information about the scholarship and programming produced by our Senior and Junior Members. One of our most effective means of communication is the Critical Faith podcast, which features conversations with diverse ICS stakeholders and partners. We pray in thanksgiving for the Critical Faith production team, as well as for all its interviewees and listeners. 

We would value your prayers this week as we work with our printer to get this latest very special issue of Perspective out in the mail to our ICS community. Last May, initially because of the restrictions about gathering together, we decided to outsource the preparation of the mailing to our printer. It saved much money and effort, so we decided to continue using this method for all our big mailings. We’re grateful for the expertise of our designer and printer, and pray that the many pieces of this process will come together in a smooth and timely manner.

Monday, November 23 - Friday, November 27:

On Friday, November 27th, the Board of Trustees will meet virtually in two 90 minute sessions, 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.

Our Annual General Meeting will take place virtually on Saturday, November 28th. Please pray for John Joosse as he gives leadership to the meeting and for all those who will participate in the presenting of reports.

In an effort to strengthen the coherence and appeal of our programs, the Educational Policy Committee and Academic Council have undertaken the task of revising the Junior Member handbook. The revised document will aim to present ICS in a way that is both up-to-date and inviting, while preserving what makes our institution and its work unique. Please pray for wisdom and clarity as the EPC and Academic Council bring this monumental task to completion. 

Monday, November 30:

As we quickly move into the end of the Fall term, we would ask you to please pray for our Senior Members (and adjunct and sessional faculty) as they teach in the final two weeks of classes, and as they prepare for their teaching in the quickly approaching Winter term. Pray too for our Academic Dean, Gideon Strauss, as he leads the faculty in their academic programming and policy deliberations.

We would also ask you to pray for our recruitment crew as they work with the faculty to promote the upcoming winter term courses. We ask for wisdom and creativity as we experiment with different ways to package some of our course offerings to make them more attractive and accessible to a wider audience.

Monday 19 October 2020

New Janet Read Exhibition and Online Opening

Artist and ICS alum Janet Read will be opening her new exhibition, High Arctic Light: Paintings and Bookworks, through the Propeller Art Gallery on November 7th. The exhibition will start before the opening, and run in person at the gallery from October 28 through November 15.

Please read more below for details about the gallery and a statement from Janet about the inspiration for the exhibition, and consider joining the virtual opening on Nov. 7th for yourself.

Artist Statement by Janet Read

My current body of work presents “landscapes of consciousness” from a month’s immersion in high Arctic geography. I visited Pond Inlet, Grise Fjord and areas of Devon, Philpotts, and Ellesmere Islands.

Paintings reference the artist’s “being” in the natural world and encounters with those for whom the high north is both wild and home. My paintings are reflective of my personal experience, always aware that Inuit voices must be heard to tell their own stories and history. My work tells the story of a visitor, a sojourner to a remote and sublime region of Canada.

My purpose is to highlight this region and the themes of "wilding and cultivation." These themes invite the viewer to unpack moral, aesthetic, and legal relationships to the land and the people for whom it is sustenance and spirit: landscape and home. The wild is evident in the land and sea. Cultivation is the sea as resource and garden.

Wilding and cultivation go hand in hand in this delicately balanced environment. My work explores these dualities to raise awareness of this fragile and beautiful part of our country through explorations of light, earth, and sea.

Opening and Artwork

Due to the pandemic there will be a Zoom opening on Saturday, November 7th at 2 – 3:00pm EST, rather than a physical onsite opening. To attend, please register with Eventbrite through the gallery by Friday, November 6th: www.propellerartgallery.ca

Janet's drawing, High Arctic: dark horizon #1, was awarded the Juror's Prize at the 2020 Carmichael Landscape Exhibition: Tradition Transformed, at the Orillia Museum of Art and History. [Oct. 2 - Jan.17, 2021] www.instagram.com/p/CGFDIlYlS3W/

Janet's experience with Adventure Canada, the impetus for this body of work, is also highlighted as part of the Mindful Explorers section on their website: www.adventurecanada.com/canadian-high-arctic-and-greenland/high-arctic-light-wilding-and-cultivation


Exhibition Details

Janet Read | High Arctic Light: Paintings and Bookworks
Propeller Art Gallery: Oct. 28 through Nov. 15, 2020
Wednesday through Sunday: 1:00 to 5:30 pm or by appointment
All Covid-19 protocols are in place at the gallery.

Propeller Art Gallery, 30 Abell Street, Toronto, ON
Phone: 416-504-7142 

A full e-catalogue of works will be available for viewing on the gallery website when the show opens, or you may email the artist at info@janet-read.com to receive a pdf.

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First image: High Arctic: the vernacular of light, 60x42, oil on linen
Second image: deep ice, deep sky #1, 18x18, oil on panel, 2020 
Third image: Ice #3, 5x5 inches, oil on duralar, 2020

Tuesday 29 September 2020

The Gift of Hendrik Hart

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them….
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
—Matthew 6: 1-5

“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.”
—Luke 8: 16-17

If you take a brief walk through the University of Toronto St. George campus, you will notice many buildings named after wealthy Toronto philanthropists. With Matthew 6 in mind, I often ponder the role that such personal recognition plays in these philanthropic efforts. Without knowing these people personally, I like to think that their motivation for giving does not rely on receiving such recognition, but rather that they want their giving to become a kind of public witness to the worthiness of the causes they support. In a similar way, we Christians, through our giving, may also bear witness to the worthiness of those causes we believe make a powerful contribution to our Maker’s redemptive work, and inspire others “to join us.” For such witness to be possible, however, the private act of charity needs to come into public light.

In this spirit, I would like to introduce a major gift that ICS recently received from Hendrik Hart, ICS Senior Member Emeritus and also ICS’s first faculty member. The context is poignant: Henk has been waging a battle with cancer for over 20 years. This past summer, he made the difficult decision to stop further cancer treatment, and instead enter into palliative care. At this point in his life Henk has decided to make a gift of $100,000 while he is still with us and to share with others his motivation for making such a gift, and tell us why he thinks ICS is a cause worth supporting. We at ICS are enormously grateful to Henk for this generous gift, and beyond that we thank him for his lifetime of service to ICS, and praise God for the gift of that life.

In agreeing to a public announcement of his donation, Henk invites you to read in his own words what motivated him to make this donation.

Be well, friends!

Ronald A. Kuipers

* * *

Why did I make a substantial end-of-life donation to ICS?

By Hendrik Hart

My earliest connection to what eventually became ICS goes back more than 60 years. I was a student then at what is now Calvin University and philosophy professor H. Evan Runner set out a spiritual direction in his teaching that I felt called to follow. I am now a Senior Member Emeritus at the institution that was Runner’s dream when I first took a class with him in January of 1956. And I still follow the spiritual direction he taught me, the same direction that has animated ICS from its beginning and still inspires it today. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

ICS was never simply a place of employment for me. Instead, it was the setting for my life, filled with challenges and blessings. There were periods of hardship, sometimes related to making ends meet, sometimes having to do with conflicts. But these times of stress did not tempt me to abandon my commitment to this unique community of scholars. Students and colleagues became lifelong friends. Our common bond was our focus on the spiritual roots of understanding our world. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

ICS has always been small and likely always will be. A free standing academic institution is not cut out to grow into the size of a university. But though small, a place like ICS can be significant. Canadian universities recognize this in their admiration for ICS. When colleagues from these universities read ICS theses as outside examiners, they usually express their amazement that a small underfunded and understaffed school can deliver results at such a high level. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

ICS is unusual not only in the quality of its work but also, and perhaps even more, in the character of that work. A graduate school with a focus on the spirituality of the academic enterprise does not easily fit into the prevailing secular mood of our age. That’s another reason for ICS’s small size. But it’s also a reason for how well it is respected and for why its graduates are teaching all over the world. ICS not only strives to maintain its academic excellence, but also its spiritual integrity. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

New Material on Ground Motive

We've recently kicked the Ground Motive blog back into gear with some fresh content!

Our new Uprooting Racism series presents a set of ongoing reflections in response to the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in May. We've begun by inviting internal reflection on how systemic racism plays out at ICS, and hope to use this series to foster deep and ongoing engagement on racism within our community.

Henk Hart has also added a heartfelt reflection on dying to his existing From Henk's Archives series. The Archives feature a series of previously unpublished writings from Henk, which are worth revisiting if you haven't already. This latest piece, however, is a new reflection on his current state. 

So if you haven't had a look at Ground Motive recently, you should go over now and keep up on the latest at http://www.groundmotive.net/.

Prayer Letter: October 2020

Thursday, October 1 - Friday, October 2:

We want to give thanks that our Registrar, Elizabet Aras, arrived safely in Sweden and, after a two-week quarantine, is now settled back home with her parents. As the summer and the relocation took its toll on her energy levels, she is also grateful for her vacation last week which allowed her to get caught up on sleep and visiting loved ones. Please continue to pray that Elizabet’s work as ICS’s Registrar will continue to go smoothly.

Edith van der Boom gives thanks for her position here at ICS and asks for prayer for wisdom and insight as she works on developing courses for the winter semester. In addition, she would add a request that the recruitment and leadership teams would have clarity around what strategic changes are needed so that new students will sign up for the MA-EL program.

We are planning on hosting a Writing Workshop sometime this month (date TBD). Please pray for creative wisdom on how to work this event into the calendar and the academic program. Please pray also that this provides a fruitful opportunity to build academic community and equip our Junior Members for their various studies.

Monday, October 5 - Friday, October 9:

On Monday afternoon, Benjamin Shank will defend his PhD dissertation, Resounding Empathy: A Critical Exploration of Paul Ricoeur's Theory of Discourse, to Clarify the Self's Reliance on Relationships with Other Persons. In this fascinating and original piece of interdisciplinary scholarship, Benjamin uses Ricoeur's understanding of the generative semantic power of metaphor to explore Ricoeur's philosophical anthropology. Specifically, Benjamin asks why Ricoeur's recognition of our essential reliance on others for our ability to produce and share metaphors does not carry over more strongly into Ricoeur's understanding of what it means to be a capable human person. In making his case, Benjamin innovatively explores the relevance of recent discoveries in the field of early childhood development for philosophical understandings of what it means to be human. In general, he concludes that philosophers working in the area of philosophical anthropology pay insufficient attention to the crucial role that the first two years of life play in shaping the kind of adult selves we become. In addition to his mentor, Ron Kuipers, the members of Benjamin's examination committee are Stephanie Arel (external, Fordham University), Henry Venema (external, Brandon University), Jeffrey Dudiak (Internal, cross-appointed to ICS from King's University), and Bob Sweetman (internal, ICS). All examiners have praised the quality of Benjamin's dissertation, and deem it ready for defense and ultimately the awarding of ICS's PhD. Benjamin has worked very hard to get to this final stage, and we congratulate him on reaching this milestone. Pray for Benjamin to have a calm mind and steady nerves during the exam, that the defense will be a productive and fruitful learning experience for him, and that everyone involved in the exam has an uninterrupted internet connection (as this is the first ICS PhD defense to be held completely online)!

Please pray with us over these next few weeks as we work with the contributors to our fall issue of Perspective. This issue is a very special one as it will pay tribute to Hendrik Hart and his amazing contribution to ICS and its mission. Pray particularly for our editors, Danielle and Héctor, as they ensure that all goes smoothly and timelines are met.

Please pray this week for the Academic Council and Educational Policy Committee as they resume their meetings and their work on the policy handbooks. Pray for clarity of thinking as they revise and update these handbooks to better serve Senior and Junior Members in their work, and as they consider together the shape of academic life at ICS.

Please pray for the Recruitment Committee as they spend the afternoon on Wednesday thinking long-term about promotional strategies and course planning. We learned a lot this past summer in the offering of our Summer Online Learning Initiative and we want to bring the best of those ideas and learnings to bear in organizing an interesting and accessible course lineup for next summer’s program and the 2021/22 academic year.

Monday, October 12 (Thanksgiving) - Friday, October 16:

This being the week of Canadian Thanksgiving, we want to join together and give thanks for the many answers to prayer this year. We have been blessed by our ICS community again and again as they faithfully supported us in our times of need; we have seen God’s hand of protection over all of us during the first wave of the pandemic and all its challenges; and we have been encouraged by the grace and strength that God has given us during the difficult times.

On Friday, Aron Reppmann, Daniel Napier, and Bob Sweetman will be giving papers at the 45th Patristic, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies Conference entitled Thought and Prayer, to be held virtually under the auspices of Villanova University. The papers to be read in the session, organized by Aron, entitled Egyptian Imaginaries in Patristic and Medieval Thought and Prayer, will be:
  • “The Alexandrian Jewish Origins of Immaterial Spirit” by Daniel Austin Napier, Independent Scholar

  • “Philosophy as Egyptian Woman in Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa” by Aron Reppmann, Trinity Christian College

  • “Aemulatio and the Egyptian Desert in Raymond of Capua's Vita of Catherine of Sienna” by Robert Sweetman, Institute for Christian Studies
Aron Reppmann is the Chair of the Senate and Chancellor of ICS, and Daniel Napier is an alum of ICS and the VU Amsterdam.

Monday, October 19 - Friday, October 23:

Remember back in the June prayer letter, we asked for prayer for Jueun Moon (PhD-Y2) and her new husband, Silvere Gangloff, who got married in Wisconsin and then had to be separated while Jueun returned to Korea. The happy news is that Jueun will be moving to France this month to reunite with her husband. Please pray for a safe and smooth journey toward this blessed reunion.

Various CPRSE projects and events will be starting up again this month, one of which is the Critical Faith podcast. After a brief post-summer break, we’re hoping to kick this semester off with a series of episodes on reading the book of Genesis with Nik Ansell. Please pray for clarity and creativity in the planning of these episodes, and that these conversations might reach a wide audience.

Monday, October 26 - Friday, October 30:

Monday marks the start of Reading Week for ICS Junior and Senior Members. Please pray for our students that they might have the creative energy and space to complete their writing and study assignments. Pray too for the faculty that God would graciously encourage and refresh them in their vocation at ICS.

Pray for ICS, and especially Harley Dekker, this week and next as he works with the auditors to finalize the annual audit of our financial records for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2020. We continued to see some positive financial developments this past year and we give thanks to God for his care of us.

Please uphold the Board of Trustees in their oversight of the vision and mission of ICS, especially as they plan for the Board meeting via Zoom on November 27th, and the AGM, again via Zoom, on November 28th. Pray for strength and wisdom for each one as they continue to provide support and leadership in the working out of God’s call to ICS now and into the future.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

In Memoriam: John C. Vander Stelt

by Lambert Zuidervaart (Senior Member Emeritus)

Pastor, scholar, teacher, and friend, Rev. Dr. John C. Vander Stelt died on September 19, 2020 while giving thanks for the love and the work of his life. His family had gathered in person and online to celebrate his and Sandy’s sixty years of marriage; his daughter Renee, a highly accomplished artist, had just shared her design ideas for the cover of John’s magnum opus in theology. Amid laughter and the tears of joy, John suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was 86 years old.

A Dutch immigrant to Canada and a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, John Vander Stelt received his doctorate in theology from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (VU). By then he had already served several key roles in the North American reformational movement: first as a Christian Reformed Church pastor at Bethel Community CRC in Newmarket, Ontario (1965-67); then as director of development and student affairs in Eastern Canada and the USA for the parent organization of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS), during the year when Hendrik Hart began to offer courses there (1967-68); and finally as a professor of theology and philosophy at Dordt College (now Dordt University), from 1968 onward.

Although I began my studies in philosophy and music at Dordt in 1968, I did not take a course with Professor Vander Stelt until a year and a half later. From then on he challenged, inspired, and encouraged me to become a Christian philosopher in the reformational tradition. It is thanks to John that I met my future mentor, Calvin Seerveld. It is thanks to John that I pursued my graduate studies at ICS and the VU. It is also thanks to John that I remain as committed as he was to a transforming vision of life and society.

When John eventually received his doctorate in 1978, Joyce and I were the among the first to congratulate him in person: after the graduation ceremony, John and Sandy drove to West Berlin, where I was doing my doctoral research, to visit us. Then they drove us all the way back to the Netherlands to welcome us, during our first time there, to the country where both of my parents were born.

John was as passionate as he was compassionate, a rare combination of charisma, intellect, and empathy. He cared about the whole person, not just the student or parishioner whom he was hired to serve. It is no accident that so many of his students pursued graduate studies at ICS in the 1970s. In fact, five of the first six graduates from ICS’s master’s program—Brad Breems, Harry Fernhout, John Hull, Don Sinnema, and I—had studied with Professor Vander Stelt at Dordt. Then all of us went on to faculty and administrative positions at Calvin University, The King’s University, Trinity Christian College, and ICS. I like to think John’s passion and compassion have rippled outward through the students, schools, and communities we and others like us have served.

In his later years at Dordt, and during his retirement after 1999, John provided tireless and visionary leadership for the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE), then headquartered in Sioux Center, Iowa, and now called the International Network for Christian Higher Education (INCHE) and hosted by Calvin University. Increasingly, however, he returned to his scholarly pursuits to write an expansive tome on Reformed theology and the reformational tradition. His doctoral dissertation, titled Philosophy and Scripture (Marlton, NJ: Mack Publishing, 1978), had already provided a thorough historical, theological, and philosophical study of traditional Presbyterian theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. The magnum opus of John’s retirement years brings the same sort of careful and wide-ranging scholarship to the history of Reformed thought, including the theologies of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, the philosophical contributions of Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven, and the work of four influential figures at Calvin College and Seminary: Henry Stob, H. Evan Runner, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Alvin Plantinga. Through it all, John develops a vigorous reformational vision of theology and the life of faith.

The last time I saw John and Sandy together was at a concert by the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids in the beautiful Basilica of St. Adalbert. Although tired and a little disoriented, John was obviously glad to soak in the glorious sounds and to support the group I sing with. I imagine him now at a different concert, where no coronavirus pandemic makes group gatherings dangerous, where no ailments hinder John’s passion and compassion, and where he, with a vast host of transformed singers, can embrace the beauty and grace of a completely renewed Earth.

Friday 11 September 2020

New Seerveld and Neo-Calvinist Aesthetics Publications

A brand new collection of essays has recently been published on the topic of Neo-Calvinist approaches to art and aesthetics, featuring many of the most prominent voices in the tradition giving fresh insights on what this tradition has to offer arts and aesthetics discourses today. Cal Seerveld has written the following about the volume:

* * * * *

Kunst D.V. is a handsome, hefty volume (374 pages, untranslated) in the Dutch language. After a succinct introduction there are four sections. The editors and Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin explicate the roots of the Calvinian faith-thought tradition toward the arts found in Jean Calvin, Abraham Kuyper, and Dooyeweerd. Then Hans Rookmaaker, E. John Walford and James Romaine exemplify how art history can be done in a perspective sensitive to a Christian world-and-life vision. Calvin Seerveld, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lambert Zuidervaart, and Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin show how their communal focus on aesthetic theory can contribute to understanding imaginative and artistic realities. Finally the "theology of art" tack is introduced by Wessel Stoker, William Edgar, and Victoria Emily Jones. The many colour reproductions are of excellent quality, the notes are substantial, and various of the authors take issue with the characteristic ideas of the other writers for a lively, open-ended, up to date introduction to the important contribution made by thinkers regarding art and aesthetics in the line of Reformational Christian philosophical reflection.

* * * * *

In addition to his contribution to Kunst D.V., Cal has also published two further volumes in the area of Biblical studies. Bewondering God's Dumbfounding Doings collects a series of meditations from Cal on the book of Revelation, which he delivered to a Toronto congregation over the course of two years. How to Read the Biblical Book of Proverbs--In Paragraphs offers a fresh translation of the book of Proverbs (as the title suggests) in paragraph form rather than as a series of disconnected aphorisms. Links to all of these books can be found below.


Publication Details and Links for Purchase

From Niagara to Now: Christian Courier Articles on ICS

Henry De Jong recently wrote an article in the Christian Courier in honour of the 50th anniversary of the first AACS/ICS Niagara Family Conference. In this article, he paints a vibrant picture of the impact those conferences had--and continue to have--on its attendees over the years. The article also serves to announce the website Henry has been studiously developing. Square-Inch.net intends to serve as an archive of materials related to these conferences throughout the years, and contains a wealth of content and reflections on these historic ICS events. 

In response to Henry's commemorative efforts, current ICS Board Chair John Joosse also contributed an article to the Christian Courier. In his piece, John reflects on how his own experiences at those AACS/ICS conferences, and the spirit he and others experienced then, is alive and well in ICS's current academic and societal callings.

You can read Henry's article, "A Legacy of Learning: Institute for Christian Studies Marks Milestone," for yourself on the Christian Courier website. And you can read John's article "What is an ‘ICSer’?" on the site as well. 

Go on over to Henry's Square-Inch.net website too for a load of photos, videos, articles, and archival materials related to the Family Conferences from 1970-1990.

Monday 31 August 2020

An ICS Update from Ron Kuipers

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

—Isaiah 43: 17-18

Recently I had the privilege of attending the “celebration of learning” at the Christian Teacher Academy, a one week summer session for educators and school leaders who desire to further their understanding and development of project based learning. I got to hear teachers describe the exciting projects they are planning for their students in the coming school year: a music teacher spoke of her attempt to overcome the challenges that remote learning poses to music teaching by having her students compose and record an original song online; a geometry teacher spoke about connecting students with local businesses to help design containers for commercial products; a geography teacher spoke about her plans to have her students upcycle a discarded item.

The aforementioned geography teacher went on to describe how her project not only helps students understand geography, but also helps them better understand themselves as God’s image bearers. Just as God is busy redeeming creation by making all things new, so can we, with biblical imagination, confront and address the ecological problems we have created. Scripture can help us see our unwanted items with new eyes, to see new possibility precisely in those places where we are tempted to see only trash. This is indeed beautiful work.

We hear daily on the news about the safety concerns of teachers, students, and parents getting ready to return to school. While we should not minimize these concerns, I admit it was refreshing and energizing for me to hear these teachers talk about their plans to do more than simply cope during the upcoming school year. As we at ICS also move into a new school year in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear these teachers talk about the coming year with hope and expectation.

This year, as ICS continues to deliver its courses remotely, we can take inspiration from these brave and faithful teachers. There is much to be hopeful and excited about. This year, we have students joining our digital classroom from all over the globe: Australia, South Africa, Korea, Indonesia, Seattle, and Edmonton, to name just a few places. While this reality presents logistical challenges, given the different time zones involved, it has also confirmed our intuition that remote access learning removes a major barrier to ICS’s educational programs: the need to physically relocate to Toronto. Now our challenge is to recreate a learning environment that allows these students to thrive and grow in their faith and their understanding of God’s world.

As we move into the unknown of a very new school year, pray for the success of our efforts to create spiritual and intellectual community in our digital classrooms. We remain grateful for your continued support as we, following our maker and redeemer, make a way in the wilderness and a river in the desert.

Be well, friends! 

Ronald A. Kuipers

Sunday 30 August 2020

Special Announcement: Join Our Biblical Foundations Class!

 We’re inviting you, the ICS support community, to take advantage of this opportunity to join an ICS class remotely too. This fall, Biblical Foundations with Nik Ansell will be happening via Zoom on Monday evenings 8-11pm EST starting Sept. 14. This course is open to first-time auditors, ICS alums, and ICS supporters at a significantly discounted price of just $425 CAD (registration included). So if you’d like to dive into an in-depth exploration of the whole Bible with Nik and see firsthand what’s going on in an ICS classroom today, now is your chance! Please email Elizabet Aras at academic-registrar@icscanada.edu by September 10 to register.