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 by September 10 to register.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Prayer Letter: September 2020

Tuesday, September 1 - Friday, September 4:

Please pray this week for Elizabet Aras, our Academic Registrar as she returns to Sweden to be with her parents. Her flight has been bumped several times in the past weeks but is now set for September 3. Please pray for safe travels with no unexpected delays, and for her peace of mind and protection while she stays with her family. Her main concern with going back is being exposed to diseases since, with the churches reopening, she is afraid that the elderly will go back to their regular habits and put themselves at risk.

September marks the beginning of the 2020-21 Academic Year. For the first time, all our Fall courses will be offered remotely with participation of students from across the globe. Senior Members have been working tirelessly in adapting their seminars to the requirements of remote learning and are ready to engage with students via online platforms. Please pray for instructors and students as they begin this unprecedented venture for ICS.  

We would also appreciate prayer for a few of our new students: our new MWS-ART student who won't be able to start her coursework this semester due to the fact that she's a teacher in Atlanta this year; a student transferring from the MWS to MA-EL; one new MA student in the process of completing all the steps for admission; and a new student from Indonesia who finally gets to start his MA studies with ICS because the courses are all online. Pray that all the details to be finalized and situational challenges can be dealt with smoothly.

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, September 7 - Friday, September 11:

Please pray this week for the staff, Senior Members, and Junior Members as they participate in ICS’s first-ever remote Registration Week. Pray that it will be an inspiring time together to launch the new school year despite the fact that we cannot meet together in person. Please especially pray for our Registrar, Elizabet as she will be working remotely from Sweden. Pray for strength and peace of mind as she takes care of the many details that are involved in making sure that each day fulfills its potential. Please take a moment to pray for each day’s tasks and activities during Registration Week.

Tuesday, Sept 8: This is Orientation Day for all of our new students which will consist of faculty presentations, and a library workshop led by our Librarian Hilary Barlow to show the students how to search the ICS digital resources, how to use the U of T catalogue, and other learning resources to make their research possible. 

Wednesday, Sept 9: This is the day that our Junior Members complete their course registrations for the semester. There will also be meetings with Elizabet, our Registrar, and Harley Dekker about financial matters.


Thursday, Sept 10: A Research Workshop will be offered by our Librarian, Hilary Barlow for all our Junior and Senior Members this evening in order to acclimate everyone to making the most of online resources for their studies together.


Friday/Saturday, Sept 12/13: This is Retreat Day, which will be held virtually this year. The agenda consists of devotions, sharing of our hopes for ICS community life, and our reflections on what it has meant to us to be part of the ICS community during the pandemic. Please pray for the ongoing planning for this event, and for an encouraging time spent together looking to the year ahead.

Monday, September 14 - Friday, September 18:

This is the first week of classes at ICS -- wow, what a different scene from last year! This year, each Senior Member has had to adapt their course material and teaching for this online learning format. Please especially pray for each Senior Member as we all adapt to this unfamiliar territory, that they will be able to easily find a new rhythm for their digital classrooms. Pray also for the technical staff who are assisting them that everything will go smoothly on the technology side, and for the students participating in each class that, despite the differences in time zones of the students, it will be an inspiring and interactive learning experience for all. 

On Monday this week will be the first class of the semester, and fittingly, one of our Foundational courses: Biblical Foundations: Narrative, Wisdom, and the Art of Interpretation led by Dr. Nik Ansell. This course will explore the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—as the ongoing story of and for God and all God’s creatures, paying special attention to the way in which humanity’s attempt to find its way is interwoven with the story of the Divine presence and with the wisdom and promise of creation-new creation. Participants will be invited to ask (among other things): How may we pursue biblical wisdom as we “re-think the world” when our Christian traditions seem convinced that biblical truth may be disconnected from—or simply applied to—the most pressing and perplexing issues of our time?

On Tuesday, the hybrid course, The Observant Participant: Applying Research Craft to Professional Practice led by Dr. Gideon Strauss will begin. This is a key course in the MA-EL program, led by the question: How do I make sense of my own experience as a practitioner and how do I learn from my experience? This course will draw on the critical reflective practices of other practitioners, will equip participants with the methodological tools of qualitative researchers, and will cultivate an attitude of attentiveness informed by the approach to practice taken by phenomenologists—becoming philosophically skilful students of our own lived human experience. The hope is, together, to become more observant participants and strengthen our capacity as reflective practitioners.

Also on Tuesday, the course Nietzsche, Foucault and the Genealogical Approach to the History of Philosophy will be led by Dr. Bob Sweetman. This seminar examines that philosophical approach to the history of philosophy that travels under the name of “genealogy.”  It does so in terms of selected texts of the tradition’s two major figures: its founder, Friedrich Nietzsche and the presently ubiquitous Michel Foucault.  It examines the role that genealogical study of the history of philosophy has in the philosophical construction of its practitioners and what they think is truly first and deepest in the history they so study.

On Wednesday, the course Hermeneutics and Deconstruction will be led by Dr. Jim Olthuis. Against the background of Heidegger's Being and Time, this seminar will contrast Gadamerian "Hermeneutics" and   Derridean "Deconstruction." Attention will then focus on Derridean John D. Caputo's 2019 Cross and Cosmos as an exercise in reading-with as rabbi/poet.

On Thursday morning, Dr. Rebekah Smick will be teaching her course: The Aesthetics of Compassion. In this course, participants will examine the interface between philosophy and works of tragic drama as that interface pertains to the psychology and aesthetics of compassion. Looking to such writers as Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche and Simone Weil, we will investigate the place of compassion in Western philosophy and theology and the roles that art and imagination have played in the stimulation of compassionate response. 

On Thursday afternoon, Dr. Nik Ansell will be teaching his course Facing the Darkness: The (Human) Nature of Evil. In this interdisciplinary theology seminar, we shall probe the (arguably anthropocentric) origin and nature of evil by engaging key biblical, philosophical, psychological, and anthropological resources. Central to course discussions will be a sapiential (wisdom-oriented) re-reading of the Fall narrative (Genesis 3–4), set against the backdrop of the good, yet largely wild, creation of Genesis 1–2. Topics will include "protest atheism" and lament literature (e.g. Job), original sin and fear, and the correlation between victim and agent.

Please continue to pray for our Junior Members during this time of remote learning -- they really miss each other and the spontaneous conversations and coffee runs with Senior Members. Pray that ICS will be able to recreate that "vibe" as much as possible via Zoom, over various time zones. 

Monday, September 21 - Friday, September 25:

We would appreciate prayers for the Leadership Team as they continue to work out the ICS strategic plan, formulated last year at this time, which is geared to enhance our academic programming and increase our institutional revenue. Pray for clarity and wisdom in our thinking as we develop, and then implement, strategies that will take us to that goal.

Please pray for those involved in preparing our Fall issue of Perspective, as authors, editors, organisers, designers, and printers. It is always a challenge to get such a publication ready in a timely manner, and we ask our Lord to guide and uphold all contributors to the process as they aim to mail this issue to supporters in the coming months.

Over the past few weeks, the ICS/CPRSE team has been preparing the third volume of the Currents in Reformational Thought series for publication. The volume will feature the work of The King’s University Professor and ICS Cross-Appointed Faculty Jeffrey Dudiak and is due to be published later this Fall. Please pray for Dr. Dudiak and the editorial team as they bring this project to completion. 

Monday, September 28 - Wednesday, September 30:

We ask for your prayers for Harley Dekker as he prepares for the auditors and the preparation of the year-end statements this month. This is a very detailed and lengthy process so please pray for strength and clarity for Harley as he seeks to complete this task as quickly as possible in the midst of the many other aspects of administration in which he is involved.

In one month, ICS/CPRSE will begin ICS’s Fourth Undergraduate Workshop, “Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation,” in a remote learning format. For the next month, participants and respondents will engage in preparatory discussions for the online sessions. Please pray for the success of this event and for all those involved in making it a reality. 

At this time, all of us at ICS would like to express our gratitude to our amazing community for your wonderful support throughout the summer. Your many notes of encouragement and your generous financial gifts have made it possible for us ‘make ends meet’ and allowed us to keep pursuing our vision of providing innovative and inspiring learning experiences for our students. As we head into a new academic year, which looks very different than it did last year, we are excited about what God is going to do in us and through us. This is possible because you were and continue to be there for us -- thank you!