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!