Friday, 3 September 2021

Prayer Letter: September 2021

Wednesday, September 1 - Friday, September 3:


September marks the beginning of the 2021-22 Academic Year, and a continuation of remote learning at ICS. Once again, Senior Members have been working tirelessly over the summer adapting their seminars to create an engaging remote learning environment, and are looking forward to the new year in their online classrooms. Please pray for all our instructors and students, both new and returning, as they begin this new academic year at ICS.

We are looking forward to welcoming a number of new students this fall in our different programs. Please pray along with us that these students will have a successful start to their programs at ICS:
  • Ahmad, who teaches economics at Dawson College in Montreal, who started his MWS-ART program this summer;
  • Four new Ontario teachers are starting the MA-EL program (Kevin and Stacy in the Educational Leadership stream and David and Carla in the School Administration stream). Three took Lead From Where You Are in our summer program;
  • Three new MA students start this fall: Dave, (who is a Knox graduate and resides in Vaughan), Julia (who is a University of Toronto graduate and resides in Toronto), and Christopher (who is a part-time mature student and resides in Texas);
  • One new PhD student, Traver, who is a Calvin graduate and resides in Oregon.

Over the summer, Bob Sweetman was able to participate in a series of sessions and workshops on the metaphysics of gratitude—part of an ongoing Templeton project of ICS alum and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The King’s University in Edmonton, Joshua Harris. There were sessions on Seneca's De Beneficiis, on the book of Philippians, on Thomas Aquinas, and on gratitude in the classroom, in the research environment, and in scholarship. Bob’s workshops were all dedicated to looking at gift and gratitude in specific ancient and medieval texts, using those texts to then speak about gratitude as a central motif in a healthy vocation as university teacher-scholars. We’re grateful for Bob’s ongoing work, for the continuation of Joshua’s timely research project, and for this collaborative occasion for scholarship with friends and colleagues at The King’s University.

Also during the summer months, we were able to complete the majority of the necessary work for our website redesign. Please join us in gratitude for reaching this milestone of refreshing and updating our online presence, and please pray as we enter the next stage of the project: that the detailed work of making incremental improvements might be similarly achieved.


Tuesday, September 7 - Friday, September 10:


Please pray for Brenna Wehrle today as she starts at ICS in her new role as Recruitment Coordinator. It is often stressful to start a new job, especially in these days of working remotely. Pray that she will feel the loving presence of our Lord as she gets to know the staff, faculty, and students at ICS. Pray too for clarity of mind as she begins to assess the recruitment needs of our different programs and begins to understand the priorities of her position.

On the evening of September 8, Jason Mills (University of St. Michael’s College) will undergo the final oral examination for his doctoral degree. His thesis is entitled In Vitro Education: Examining the Virtual Culture of Online Pastoral Education, with Doug Blomberg as his Supervisor. Jason’s work addresses significant issues for the ICS community, as we are currently delivering our courses online. We ask for your prayers for Jason’s presence of mind as he presents his research in this final examination process, for the examination committee in their engagement with Jason’s work, and for Doug as he sees Jason through to the completion of his project.

Please pray this week for the staff, Senior Members, and Junior Members as they participate in ICS’s remote Registration Week. Pray that it will be an inspiring time together to launch the new school year despite the fact that we are not meeting together in person. Please pray for our Registrar, Elizabet Aras and our Academic Dean, Gideon Strauss as they take care of the many details that are involved in making sure that each day fulfills its potential. Please also take a moment to pray for each day’s tasks and activities during Registration Week:

Tuesday, Sept 7: Orientation Week this year will begin with a two-part workshop for Junior and Senior Members and ICS staff titled “Your Next 5 Years,” led by Dr. Gideon Strauss. 
 
Wednesday, Sept 8: 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. The second part of the “Your Next 5 Years” workshop will be held in the evening. 
 
Thursday, Sept 9: 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 and more during their studies together. 
 
Friday/Saturday, Sept 10/11: These are ICS’s annual Fall Retreat Days, which will once again be held virtually. The theme of our 2021 ICS Fall Retreat is Place, Presence, Solace. During the past year we have shared all of our learning in virtual settings, and we will continue to do so. So we want to celebrate the physical places in which members of our community find themselves. During these pandemic years, all of us are experiencing a sense of absence, whether that has been because of our absence from the ICS campus, because of our absence from friends, family, and faith communities, or because of other absences, from familiar places of work, play, and participation in public life. We want to remind ourselves of the call to genuine presence in the lives of others. Finally, the havoc wrought by the pandemic has intensified our awareness of the many sorrows suffered all around our world. So we want to share some of the sources of solace that we have retained or discovered even under these circumstances.


Monday, September 13 - Friday, September 17:


This is the first week of classes at ICS! Like last year, each Senior Member has had to adapt their course material and teaching to this online learning format. So please especially pray for each Senior Member as they continue to find creative ways to teach course material, dive deep into important and complex topics, and provide experiences that enhance a sense of community in 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 and place, it will be an inspiring and interactive learning experience for all! These are the courses to keep in your prayers this week and throughout the semester:

On Tuesday, the hybrid course, The Observant Participant: Applying Research Craft to Professional Practice led by Dr. Gideon Strauss will begin by asking: How do I give attention to what matters most? Drawing from phenomenology, this seminar will foster an attitude of contemplation in your professional life, providing tools to help center yourself in the flurry of responsibility.

On Tuesday from 6:00 to 9:00pm (EST), Biblical Foundations: Narrative, Wisdom, and the Art of Interpretation led by Dr. Nik Ansell will begin. 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 how 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.

On Wednesday, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm (EST), Dr. Rebekah Smick begins her course: With/Out Reason: Art and Imagination in the Western Tradition. In Western society today, thinking imaginatively is a revered part of our individualist culture. Yet until the 18th century, the products of imagination were considered unavoidably communal. Looking at theory and art, this course explores the history of imagination.

Also on Wednesday from 2:00 to 5:00pm, the course The Radical Theopoetics of John D. Caputo led by Dr. Jim Olthuis will begin. John D. Caputo is one of the most influential interpreters of deconstruction and religion, offering a postmodern "weak theology" in contrast to the strong voices of Christian tradition. This course will provide the opportunity to read some of his most recent work with his old friend, Jim Olthuis.

On Thursday, from 10:00am to 1:00pm, Dr. Ronald Kuipers will start his course: Pragmatism, Race, and Religion: Du Bois, West, and Glaude. Pragmatism is one of North America’s most unique philosophical movements. Participants in this new course will get to know the interactions and influence of three Black thinkers in the pragmatist tradition, related to race and religion.

Also on Thursday, from 2:00 to 5:00pm (EST) Dr. Nik Ansell will start his course, The Divine (at) Risk: Open Theism, Classical Theism and Beyond. Ever twist yourself into knots over questions like: Did God take a risk in creating the world? How are divine and human freedom related? Can we confess God’s sovereignty in the face of evil? Nik risks some answers by exploring the creative contributions of Open Theism.

The MA-EL hybrid course, Cultivating Learning Communities of Grace, led by Dr. Edith van der Boom, begins this week as well. Created for instructional leaders and school administrators as they consider the dynamics of both school and classroom cultures, this course pays close attention to issues of diversity, cultural complexity, racial justice, and restorative practices in the classroom.

Please continue to pray for our Junior Members during this second year of remote learning. Pray that ICS will be able to recreate the close, communal learning experience between student and professor as much as possible via Zoom and across various time zones.


Monday, September 20 - Friday, September 24:


We would appreciate prayers for the Leadership Team as they continue to work out the ICS strategic plan, formulated in the fall of 2019, which is geared to enhancing our academic programming and increasing our tuition 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, organizers, 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 we aim to mail this issue to supporters in the coming months.

Over the summer, the CPRSE team has been preparing for publication the third and fourth volumes for ICS’s Currents in Reformational Thought book series. The third volume, by The King’s University Professor and ICS Cross-Appointed Faculty Jeffrey Dudiak, was submitted to Wipf and Stock Publishers in early August. The fourth volume, by Senior Member Emeritus Jim Othius, will be submitted in early September. Please pray for all those involved in the preparation and publication of these manuscripts, as well as for the authors, who continue to offer their wisdom and insight to our community through their writings.


Monday, September 27 - Thursday, 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. As it is every year, 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.

As you may recall, we asked for prayer for Edith van der Boom who was facing cancer surgery last July. We praise the Lord for his healing hand in her swift recovery. Here is her special thanks to you all for holding her up in prayer: Thanks for all your prayers! My surgery went really well and I continue to heal and gain energy. When I received the results of the pathology report, they were better than expected. Praise God! The invasion of the cancer cells was minimal and did not go into my muscle as my doctors had feared. I have an appointment on September 15 with a doctor from the Juravinski Cancer Centre. At that time I will receive a complete review of the pathology report and will find out if radiation is needed.

During the month of September, the CPRSE team will be planning its annual cycle of research projects, publications, and public outreach events. Issues surrounding systemic racism and race relations—with a particular focus on the Canadian context—will help to orient this planning process. Please pray that these conversations will be fruitful and responsible, and that the programming offered by CPRSE can serve as a space for transformative reflection for our community and beyond.


***

At this time, all of us at ICS would like to express our gratitude to all of you for your wonderful support throughout the summer. We continue to be inspired by the way our ICS community stands behind us, and it is because of folks like you that we ended our fiscal year in a much better place than when we started.

So, even in the midst of the disruption of the pandemic’s third wave, we were able to further develop our MA in Educational Leadership program by building partnerships with other institutions concerned about serving the professional development needs of Christian schools in Ontario and beyond. We also initiated a new online learning program last summer which continued to bear fruit this year by attracting students from around the world who normally would not have been able to take our courses. These are just a couple of the ways your generosity of spirit and financial gifts have helped us to continue to answer God’s call to develop Christian education around the globe.

Thank you – we could not have done it without you!


Thursday, 2 September 2021

The Influence of a Tender Heart

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.

—1 Peter 3:8-9

This summer I have been watching a show called Ted Lasso, which begins with an unlikely premise in which the titular character, played by Jason Sudeikis, is an American football coach who knows next to nothing about soccer and yet is hired to coach a professional British soccer team. Not only does Ted find himself up against a steep learning curve, but he soon discovers that he has entered a completely toxic environment, a team in deep disarray that carries from the highest level of ownership down to the lowest level of equipment management. Anger, jealousy, selfishness, and fear provide the prevailing emotional tones.

Fleeing his own personal demons, coach Lasso accepts the job, putting an ocean between himself and his estranged wife and beloved son, only to enter a situation where he must endure, not just the skepticism, but the utter contempt of both the team’s fans and players. He is also faced with an owner who only hired him so that the team would fail, and she might thereby exact revenge on her cheating ex-husband, whose beloved team she acquired in the divorce settlement.

From this premise, I would be happy to simply report that ‘hilarity ensues’, but to my utter amazement the program wastes no time in mounting a profound meditation on the power of kindness to pierce social toxicity and realize the hidden possibility of blessedness in the most broken-down situations. Coach Lasso is simply incapable of repaying evil for evil or abuse for abuse, and with every barb hurled his way he responds with an attempt to bless his assailant. The ripple effect of Coach Lasso’s kindness, even as he himself is obviously enduring intense emotional pain, eventually carries its way through the team, and in this way the show manages to portray the transformative power of kindness without ever becoming cloying or maudlin.

As we look forward to starting a new school year at ICS, I have been thinking about the role kindness plays in the education we provide. We try very concertedly to create a nurturing academic community, with ample opportunity for one-to-one mentoring, and in so doing we strive to allow our students to bring their entire selves into the classroom. We seek to create a hospitable learning environment in which “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), and where students are encouraged to discover their unique way of participating in God’s transforming work of healing the world. While we may not always meet this lofty goal, it remains the standard against which we judge our efforts. To me, teaching this way is an act of kindness.

Thank you, friends, for the role you play in our efforts to teach with tender hearts, so that we might in turn help our students to form tender hearts within themselves, hearts geared for kindness, hearts that desire to impart God’s rich blessings upon everyone they meet.

Shalom!

Ron Kuipers

Brenna Wehrle Hired as New Student Recruitment Coordinator

It is with great pleasure that we are able to announce that Brenna Wehrle (pronounced "whirly") will be joining our team as ICS's new Student Recruitment Coordinator.

Brenna comes to us from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (SWC) in Barry's Bay, Ontario, where she served as both Associate Dean of Students and Director of Strategic Enrollment. Brenna was instrumental in developing SWC's new student recruitment strategy, helping the college adopt best industry practices. Under her leadership, SWC was able to exceed its target for recruiting new students last year. Brenna is committed to the cause of Christian higher education, and is very excited to bring her considerable skills to the graduate educational setting at ICS.

Brenna will be joining and leading the efforts of ICS's existing Recruitment Crew, from whose excellent ground-laying work she will no doubt be able to benefit. Brenna officially begins her duties on September 7th.