Saturday, 27 February 2021

Actively Waiting

 I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

—Psalm 40:1-2

Lent is a season of waiting. This forty-day period before Easter reminds us of the forty years that God’s liberated people spent wandering in the desert, waiting to arrive in the land Yahweh promised them. It also reminds us of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, including the temptation he faced, before returning to the people to announce the good news of God’s coming kingdom of shalom.

We often think of waiting as a rather passive thing, like when we are sitting in a doctor’s office mindlessly scrolling through our phones or leafing through a three-year-old magazine, passively biding time until the real moment we are waiting for arrives. We think of waiting as a time when we are powerless to do anything. What do we do now? We wait.

Scripture opens us to a different understanding of waiting. Scripture encourages us to understand waiting as a time of active spiritual preparation. We wait patiently for the Lord, and in that waiting we tend a space in which God may incline toward us and hear our cry. This waiting activity embodies a form of spiritual receptivity that makes way for the arrival of God’s new thing. How long, O Lord? Do not delay, O my God!

Because Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, many Christians often choose to draw close to God during Lent by fasting as well, or by giving up something we feel is spiritually distracting or otherwise taking up too much space in our lives. Yet the point of this spiritual practice is not the fasting itself, but rather the spiritual preparation, the creation of a space in which we can notice God’s inclination, his response to us.

In the Bible God often disparages our fasting, especially when it operates more as a self-righteous display than as a spiritual practice of preparing ourselves to draw nearer to God. Isaiah 58 is perhaps the most famous example of this, where God spurns the spiritual motions of a rebellious people, reminding them that the fast he would have them undertake is “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (vs. 6). “You want to draw near to me?” God asks, “This is how you should go about it.”

So, what do we do during Lent and at all other times? We wait, patiently, for the Lord. But we wait actively. Our spiritual fast involves us in more than giving up chocolate or social media for a season, but also calls us to the joyful task of removing all the yokes of oppression that bind God’s good creation, so that each one of us may be called “repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” (vs. 12). In this way, we join in God’s redemptive play, living into the promise that one day God will be all in all.

So thank you for joining us in God’s waiting room, friends! There are more things here than just chairs and magazines. If it looks familiar, that is because we’ve been here the whole time!

I wish you all God’s nearness this Lenten season!

Ron Kuipers


Prayer Letter: March 2021

Monday, March 1 - Friday, March 5:

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.


March is a very busy time for the recruitment team as they work to get all the promotional materials for the summer and fall courses created and sent out to our various student populations. This is particularly urgent for our MA-EL courses because they need to be communicated before the March break when teachers and principals tend to make decisions about the courses they will take in the summer and fall semesters. Pray for energy, inspiration and creativity for the whole team.


Our new Critical Faith series on political life in a “post-2020” world begins this week! CPRSE Postdoctoral Research Associate Andrew Tebbutt and the Critical Faith team have been diligently planning and recording episodes with ICS Senior and Junior Members, and special guests. Episodes are set to be released over the next couple of months, so please pray that everyone involved will have fruitful conversations to share over the course of this series. 


Monday, March 8 - Friday, March 12:


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.


We ask for prayers for those involved in this semester's Interdisciplinary Seminar: “Meaning/Being/Knowing.” 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, Bob Sweetman, and Ron Kuipers as they lead this seminar.


The second school visit as part of the new MA-EL course, How to Finance a Vision, will be on March 11th with Knox Christian School in Bowmanville, ON. This part of the course will consist of an interview of the principal, Paul Marcus, by the course instructor, a virtual guided tour of the school, and a moderated Q&A session with questions from the participants for the principal. Again, we would appreciate prayer for all of the participants and leaders of this learning experience, as well as for Paul and his team at Knox Christian School as they host this visit.


Monday, March 15 - Friday, March 19:


Please pray this week for our Board of Trustees as they meet on Wednesday, March 17. 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.


We have been receiving applications from students wishing to begin various academic programs in the fall. As Elizabet, our Registrar, sends out admission letters to these students, please pray for them as they discern whether they will make ICS their academic home, and as they plan for their immediate and long term futures. Pray too for our Financial Aid Committee as they meet to discuss scholarships and awards for new and current students.


Please pray this month for Elizabet Aras as she begins the planning process for Convocation 2021, which will likely happen in June if we are able to have an in-person event. This is always a special event for ICS and its graduates and families, so please pray that the pandemic restrictions will be lifted enough to make this possible. This year we will be celebrating two graduates from last year, and two, possibly three, for this year.


Monday, March 22 - Friday, March 26:


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 papers. We especially want to pray for those students who intend to graduate this year, as well as those who are finalizing their theses or preparing for their defenses.


The third and final expert practitioner panels, part of the new course in the MA-EL program, How to Finance a Vision, will take place on March 25th. This three-part panel includes 1) a discussion led by the course instructor around the question: “How do we tell the story of our school with our budget”; 2) an opportunity for course participants to relate their own experience to the introductory discussion; and 3) a Q & A session dealing with the questions that came up in the second part. In addition to individual MA-EL students attending, the opportunity is also being provided to school teams, and the ICS Leadership Team and several ICS Board members will be one of those teams who will be participating in this unique opportunity. Please pray for Gideon Strauss as he leads this learning event


Monday, March 29 - Wednesday, March 31:


After much planning, writing, and editorial work, the festschrift in honour of emeritus Lambert Zuidervaart is set to be released around the end of this month. Seeking Stillness or The Sound of Wings: Works of Art, Truth, and Society in Honour of Lambert Zuidervaart picks up the central concerns of Lambert’s philosophical work and legacy to see what more can be understood about our world in light of that legacy. We thank God for the gift of Lambert’s career and his years spent at ICS, the studious work of the book’s contributors and editors, and for the culmination of this exciting and long-awaited project.


During the month of March, ICS/CPRSE continues its engagement in multiple partnership efforts aiming to offer academic and public outreach events throughout 2021. Currently, our team is collaborating with Emmanuel College, the Canadian Interfaith Conversation, and the Society of Ricoeur Studies in the planning and execution of a number of conferences. Please pray for the success and fruitfulness of these partnerships.


Thursday, 25 February 2021

CPRSE to Cohost Christian Left Conference


ICS's Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics is joining Emmanuel College’s Centre for Religion and Its Contexts, Trinity St. Paul's United Church, and the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre to host the second Christian Left Conference (free and online) on July 23-24, 2021. Conference details and Call For Papers (due March 19) follow below:

Rethinking the Christian Left from the Belly of Empire:
Charting New Paths Beyond Colonization


What does it mean to speak of a Christian Left? Who is included under the label the Christian Left? In the last decades, the Christian left has been undergoing enormous reconfiguration: new actors, issues, and concerns have uncovered the colonial underbelly of the Christian Left. From the Suffrage movements through to the Social Gospel, and continuing through liberation theologies and political theologies to today, these reconfigurations have included an emergence of different approaches to reading the Bible, the articulation of alternative approaches to theology and ethics, and the crossing of disciplinary boundaries. These various actors have complexified idealized notions of the Christian Left in Canada and across the globe, and invite us to critique and dismantle its colonizing features.

Call for Papers


The Christian Left Conference invites proposals that intentionally reflect on the emergence of historical “new” actors and voices in the Christian Left. Proposals can be related to (re)tracing the historical, theological and biblical-hermeneutical developments of the Christian Left and its present disciplinary reorientation. Topics related to the interconnection between social movements and actors, the disciplinary cross-fertilization on the areas of interreligious collaboration, the dismantling of traditional canons of theology and biblical hermeneutics, and the reconceptualization of the human experience are especially welcome.

This conference is interdisciplinary and welcomes papers from many fields, primarily theological studies, biblical interpretation, preaching and worship, congregational and community ministry, history, ethics and political theology, as well as religious studies, sociology, anthropology, literary studies, philosophy and the humanities broadly understood. Papers engaging with Canadian contexts are particularly encouraged; we also welcome papers from across the world.

Proposals are due March 19, 2021 and can be submitted online here:
https://bit.ly/cfpchristianleft2021


If you have any questions, please email: ec.events@utoronto.ca.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Phil Travis Virtual Memorial

In the most recent Prayer Letter we mentioned the passing of Phil Travis, a former student at ICS. We have since received details for his virtual memorial service. The service will be held online via Zoom on Saturday, February 13th, at 2pm (EST). You can join the meeting with the following information: Meeting ID (848 9782 6742) and Password (105 746). If you'd prefer to join by phone, you can call this phone number (312-626-6799) and join using the same Meeting ID and password. 


You can also find Phil's obituary here: https://www.gatheringus.com/memorial/philip-william-travis/6560. You are welcome to offer your support and condolences at this site. And please continue to pray with us for Phil's friends and family in this difficult time, especially for Phil's wife Shauna and their daughters Montana, Georgia, and Virginia.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Living as Children of Light

I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

—Colossians 2:2-3



Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I don’t recall anyone teaching me about the different liturgical seasons. Of course, I knew about the two high points, Christmas and Easter. Yet the notion of liturgical seasons in which we open ourselves spiritually to the discrete meaning of particular moments in God’s story remained largely foreign to me. Words like ‘Advent’, ‘Epiphany’, and ‘Lent’ carried a slightly exotic ring to my Christian Reformed ears.


In fact, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I began to see my daily life through the rich lens that the Christian liturgical calendar provides. So I still feel like something of a novice when I explore the meaning of the current season of Epiphany, in which we celebrate the glory of God’s manifestation in Christ.


Christians understand Christ as the light that the prophet Isaiah announces in Isaiah 60. There Isaiah tells the people of Israel that “nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (vs. 3). As special agents of God’s shalom, Israel was meant to become a light to the nations, a distinctive manifestation of God’s desire for justice and peace to embrace in a world made good. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is a further, unique manifestation of that same divine light, and in Ephesians 5:8 Paul encourages all those who would follow Christ to live as children of light.


But what does it mean to live as children of light? In Ephesians 5, Paul advises us to be careful to live “not as unwise people but as wise” (vs. 15). Wisdom, it seems, has something to do with it. And in his letter to the Colossians, cited above, Paul tells us that the knowledge of God’s mystery is Christ himself, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” What a profoundly cosmic statement! At ICS, we must continually remind ourselves that the treasure of wisdom is not hidden in the works of Aristotle, Aquinas, or Arendt, but rather in Christ himself.


Yet Aristotle, Aquinas, and Arendt still make for extremely helpful travelling companions as we live into the wisdom of Christ that God calls us to embody—as we strive to live as children of light. I am so thankful to have been raised in a religious community that understands the importance of the intellectual dimension of human existence, and the role the life of the mind plays in our individual and communal efforts to discern our Maker’s call upon our lives. Pray with us this month that ICS will remain ever faithful to that mission, and that in so doing we may become a light for others who also seek the treasure of the wisdom that is Christ. And once again, thank you friends, for being the wind in our sails on this wonderful journey!

 

Ronald A. Kuipers 

Prayer Letter: February 2021

Monday, February 1 - Friday, February 5


On February 1, the ICS faculty will have their first Educational Policy Committee (EPC) of the term. This term’s priority will be to start the work of updating the Senior Member handbook. There is a lot of detail to go through so please pray for the faculty as they work together in this important work.


February 1st is also the application deadline for new students wishing to enroll in the MA and PhD programs. Please pray for our Registrar, Elizabet Aras, as she compiles all the application dossiers in the first week of February, for the faculty and Academic Dean as they evaluate applications of prospective students and make decisions about who will be accepted to study at ICS, and for the students themselves as they discern their next steps. 


The first of three expert practitioner panels, part of the new course in the MA-EL program, How to Finance a Vision, will take place on February 4. This three-part panel includes 1) a panel discussion led by the course instructor around the question: What does a Christian approach to finances look like?; 2) an opportunity for course participants to relate their own experience related to this question; and 3) a Q & A session dealing with the questions that came up in the second part. In addition to individual MA-EL students attending, the opportunity is also being provided to school teams, and the ICS Leadership Team and several ICS Board members will be two of those teams who will be participating in this unique opportunity. Please pray for Gideon Strauss as he leads this learning event.


Monday, February 8 - Friday, February 12


February is tax receipt month at ICS! Please pray particularly for Harley Dekker, Elizabet Aras and Vidya Williams as they lead the process of preparing the receipts for our donors and students. This is quite a time-consuming task and needs to be finished by the end of February. We ask for God’s sustaining grace for all involved.


Please continue to pray for the Recruitment Team, Héctor, Danielle, Elizabet, Pat, and Gideon, as they work on the priority this month of promoting the MA-EL program and courses for the summer and fall semesters. We seek creativity and vision to create a promotional strategy that will encourage teachers needing the opportunity to pursue further education and professional development in their vocation as teachers and principals.


The CPRSE continues to work on research, publication, and community outreach projects that aim at making the scholarship developed by our Senior and Junior Members accessible to larger audiences. Please pray for the CPRSE team as they support ICS in pursuing this key aspect of its institutional mission. 


ICS alum Phil Travis passed away suddenly on Friday, January 22nd. Planning is currently underway for a virtual memorial service sometime in the next week or two, but the details of this service are not yet finalized. Please keep Phil’s wife and three daughters in your prayers during this time, especially that God will grant them peace and comfort them in their mourning. If you would like information for how to join the virtual service, email us and we will send you any details we receive. 



Monday, February 15 - Friday, February 19


Reading Week commences on Monday so there will be no classes this week. This is a welcome opportunity for Junior and Senior Members alike to bury their heads in their books, or digital equivalents, and to concentrate on their current research. May they find joy and inspiration in their studies.


Please pray this week for our Senior Members as they work to finish the grading of their students’ assignments from the Fall 2020 courses by February 19. We ask God to bless them in this important work of mentoring and give them the space and energy to finish the task well.


The first school visit as part of the new MA-EL course, How to Finance a Vision, will be on February 18th at Community Christian School in Drayton, ON. This part of the course is only available to the enrolled students and will consist of an interview of the principal by the course instructor, a virtual guided tour of the school, and a moderated Q & A session with questions from the participants for the principal. Again, we would appreciate prayer for all of the participants and leaders of this learning experience, as well as for the principal and his team at Community Christian School as they host this visit.



Monday, February 22 - Friday, February 26


ICS Emeritus Lambert Zuidervaart has just published a new memoir, titled To Sing Once More: Sorrow, Joy, and the Dog I Loved (Wipf and Stock, 2021). This intimate little book tells about Hannah Estelle, Lambert’s lovely Golden Retriever, and how she helped him learn to sing again. You can find more details at the publisher’s website. The paperback edition sells for $10 USD, and is available directly from Wipf and Stock, Amazon, and other booksellers. We’re grateful that Lambert’s project has come to fruition, and pray that the book will speak wisdom and blessings into the lives of its audience.


This month the Critical Faith team has been busy planning and posting two series of episodes. Nik Ansell joined the podcast for a few episodes on how to read the Bible, discussing gift and call, law and liberation, gender and sexuality, and many other relevant topics. Also, CPRSE Research Associate Andrew Tebbutt has begun a series in which ICS folks and friends discuss the challenges facing political philosophy, especially as it intersects with Christian and Reformational thought, in a “post-2020” world. Please pray for the planning and execution of these series, and for the conversations themselves—that they may prove fruitful to those involved and those who listen.


Please join us in giving thanks for the tremendous response to our Advent appeal! We were so blessed by the generous donations and the encouraging notes that accompanied them. A huge thank you to our supporting communities for their gifts of inspiration and hope.