Monday, 31 January 2022

Prayer Letter: February 2022

Tuesday, February 1 - Friday, February 4:


February 1st is 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 files so that the Admissions Committee can effectively evaluate the applications. Please pray for the committee too as they make decisions about who will be accepted to study at ICS, and for the students themselves as they discern their next steps.

Please pray this week for the Librarian Search Committee as they review the applications received from prospective candidates to replace Hilary Barlow who will be moving on to her new job on February 14th. We hope to have someone in place for when Hilary leaves so pray that they will have wisdom and discernment for this important task.

On February 4th, Mark Standish’s doctoral pre-dissertation examination will take place. Mark is enrolled in the joint ICS-VUA PhD program, which means that his committee consists of four people: Neal DeRoo (ICS Supervisor), Luigi Corrias (VUA Dissertation Advisor or Internal Examiner), Ron Kuipers (Internal Examiner), and Peter Nyers (External Examiner, McMaster University). Please pray for wisdom and discernment for all the members of the examination committee, and for Mark that he will have clarity of mind and gain new insights through this important learning opportunity.

SAVE THE DATE! On June 9th-11th, 2022, ICS/CPRSE will host its 2022 Summer Community Conference. This online event promises to be a wonderful opportunity for the whole ICS community to come together in learning, fellowship, and action, as well as to support the scholarly and pedagogical work done by our Senior and Junior Members. We pray for the Conference Steering Committee, and for all conference contributors and volunteers, as they plan the workshops, plenaries, and reflections that will be offered at the conference. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for more information about this summer event!


Monday, February 7 - Friday, February 11:


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—Brenna, H├ęctor, 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 help teachers and principles learn about the unique virtues of our MA-EL program and decide if it is the right fit for their ongoing professional development.

On Thursday, February 10th, from 4:00 to 5:00pm EST, ICS will host an online Open House to provide a means to promote the MA-EL program to teachers and educational administrators who are thinking about upgrading their professional qualifications. An overview of the MA-EL program will be provided so that participants will be able to determine if this learning opportunity is a good fit for them. Two current MA-EL students (one from the instructional stream and one from the school administration stream) will join a principal from a local Christian school to share their experiences of the program. Please pray for Edith van der Boom, Gideon Strauss, and Elizabet Aras as they prepare for the Open House. Please pray also for those who are participating in the program as they share their experiences, and for all those who attend that it will be an engaging and informative experience. If you, or someone you know, might be interested in attending, please contact Elizabet Aras at: academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Please note that the last day to register for this event is Monday, February 7th.

Over the course of the past year, we've been working on updating and redesigning our website. Thanks in large part to a successful grant application to The Priscilla and Stanford Reid Trust, we were able to bring this project to fruition. We offer prayers of thanksgiving for the financial support of the Reid Trust on this project, and we look forward to exploring more possibilities for making ICS resources, information, and events virtually accessible into the future.


Monday, February 14 - Friday, February 18:


This week, we say goodbye to our librarian Hilary Barlow. We’d like to thank Hilary for the four and a half years of service she’s given ICS, stewarding our library collections, making resources available to our community, helping our Junior and Senior Members in their various research projects, and strengthening our institutional relationship with the University of Toronto Library system. Please pray with us for blessings on Hilary as she enters the next stage of her career and familiarizes herself with her new work environment.

Please pray this week for our Senior Members as they work to finish the grading of their students’ assignments from their fall 2020 courses by February 18. We ask God to bless them in this important work of mentoring and give them the space and energy to finish the task well.

We would appreciate your prayers for Gideon Strauss and the students in the school administration stream of the ICS MA program in Educational Leadership who are taking a course titled 'How to Govern a School' with Gideon this term. All of these students are also full-time school administrators, having to navigate frequent changes as the pandemic continues to pose major challenges to schools and families. We would also appreciate your prayers for the Christian schools that will host Gideon and his students for virtual visits during this semester.


Monday, February 21 - Friday, February 25:


Reading Week starts 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.

We give thanks for the ICS Senate meeting that took place during January 2022. In particular, we give thanks for the investment of time and careful discernment made by our Senators, for the course proposals that the Senate was able to approve, for the pioneering Reflective Practice Conversations that the Senate conducted with Senior Members Nik Ansell and Rebekah Smick, and for the election of Beth Green as the Vice Chair of Senate. We ask for your prayers for Aron Reppmann, Chancellor of ICS and Chair of the Senate, who came down with COVID at the end of the Senate meeting, and is now recovering.

We ask for your prayers for Danielle Yett, Vidya Williams, and Pat Webb as they research and evaluate new donor database options this month. This is a much needed upgrade for ICS’s advancement team and we require wisdom and discernment in the process of deciding which software program will best suit our needs.


Monday, February 28:


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

On Monday, February 28th, ICS/CPRSE will launch “Philosophy Otherwise,” a Ground Motive blog series that broadens the discussion about systemic injustice among the ICS community, so as to include questions about the internal complicity of philosophy with realities such as colonialism, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression. Please pray for Ground Motive’s editorial team as they get this important and timely conversation underway.

Seasoned with Grace

You are the salt of the earth.

—Matthew 5:13

Have you ever stopped to think about salt? It’s all over the streets and sidewalks of Toronto these wintry days, and today out of my home office window I can see it working in tandem with the bright sun to melt the snow and ice while the temperature remains sub-zero. This is some versatile stuff! It preserves and purifies; it softens hard water; it adds flavour. The next meal I prepare for my family will surely call for it, and I will hear about it if I use too much or too little.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth. More than that, he tells us to stay salty. Don’t lose your saltiness! What did he mean? Many things, surely. That’s what good metaphors do, they help us say several things evocatively and simultaneously. They help us say things that can be said in no other way. In so doing, they open fresh paths for our thinking, being, and doing. Jesus’s salt metaphor is a perfect example.

Jesus was surely aware of the “covenants of salt” described in the book of Numbers and in the second book of Chronicles, used to describe God’s enduring covenant with the priests and kings of Israel. In those passages, the metaphor evokes the preservative quality of salt, vividly portraying the idea that God intended these covenants to be everlasting. Here the metaphor evokes the ideas of incorruptibility and permanence, and the call to remain faithful to God’s promises even in the face of the many countervailing realities that work against them, just as God remains faithful.

But might Jesus not also have had plain old zestiness in mind when he told us we are the salt of the earth? In addition to encouraging us to remain steadfast in our faith, was he not also reminding us that we are made to be tasty and interesting, that indeed we are being faithful when we are tasty and interesting? “Be savoury,” I hear Jesus saying, “and your life will be a gracious gift to others!”

The apostle Paul directly links saltiness and grace, when in his letter to the church in Colossae he tells the faithful: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Paul is here encouraging us to season all our conversations with grace. In all our interactions, Paul says, God calls us to preserve and sustain the other person in their being, and in so doing leave a good taste! Could you imagine how much more pleasing, constructive, and fruitful the many difficult and even polarizing conversations we are having today would become if we all entered them with this zesty spirit, with this desire to season our dialogue with grace? That’s some tasty food for thought right there.

It then gives me great pleasure to be able to tell you, the community who supports ICS, that—as I have long suspected—you are in fact the salt of the earth! Thanks for the seasoning, friends, and don’t forget to stay salty!

Ron Kuipers

New Website Launched Thanks to Reid Trust Grant

Over the course of the past year, we've been working on updating and redesigning our website. Thanks in large part to a successful application to The Priscilla and Stanford Reid Trust, we were able to bring this project to fruition. 

We are grateful to the Reid Trust for their financial support, enabling us to improve our online presence in this way, and we look forward to exploring more possibilities for making ICS resources, information, and events virtually accessible into the future.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Prayer Letter: January 2022

Tuesday, January 4 - Friday, January 7:


We offer prayers of thanksgiving for Junior Member Theoren Tolsma’s successful MA defense, which took place virtually on January 3rd! Under the mentorship of Jim Olthuis and Ron Kuipers and with the participation of external examiner John Caputo, Theoren wrote and defended a thesis entitled: “Attuning: Heidegger and Anxiety, Irigaray and Love.” We celebrate with Theoren the culmination of all of his research and hard work, and we pray that God will bless him as he enters the next stage of his work and studies.

We ask for your prayers this week for our Senior Members Ron Kuipers, Bob Sweetman, Gideon Strauss, Edith van der Boom, and Nik Ansell as they make final preparations for the classes they will teach this semester. Pray too for Postdoctoral Research Associate Andrew Tebbutt as he prepares to teach his course on cultural politics in colonial Canada.

Please pray for our Registrar, Elizabet Aras as she flies back to Toronto from Sweden this week after spending the past six weeks with her family. Pray for safe and smooth travels and for a sense of peace amidst pandemic worries.

We ask for your prayers for those students who are still considering what courses to take in the winter semester. For many it means juggling other work and life priorities, so we ask for wisdom as they make their decisions. Pray too for our returning students as they prepare for taking their slotted courses online. For everything you need to know about all of our winter semester courses, including how to register (and yes, there is still time!) go to www.icscanada.edu/winter-courses.


Monday, January 10 - Friday, January 14:


Please pray for our Junior Members as they once again resume classes this week. As in the fall, all our courses will be online, so we want to pray for teachers and the students alike, that the courses will go smoothly on the technical side. We pray also for their encouragement and insightful engagement in their studies, and for their health, wellbeing, and strength of spirit amid ongoing pandemic isolation. We ask especially for prayers on behalf of our MA-EL students as they must constantly adapt, in their own teaching and school administration, in response to ever-changing restrictions and public health measures.

Please pray today and tomorrow for those students who have yet to make a decision about registering for the courses they wish to take in this semester. The last day to register is Wednesday, January 12th, so pray that they will be able to make the necessary arrangements before then.

We would like to pray specifically for each of our teachers this week as they have their first class in the winter semester. A number of the courses on offer touch on topics of immediate relevance, so we pray for insight and creativity in their preparation and presentation.

On Monday, starting at 6:00pm, Andrew Tebbutt’s course Recognition or Refusal? Cultural Politics in a Colonial Canada begins. Pray for Andrew as he leads the students in exploring the philosophical underpinnings of the idea of recognition, alongside its application within Canadian political theory, and then assessing the adequacy of a liberal politics of recognition for addressing Indigenous-settler relationships in Canada.

On Tuesday, starting at 2:00pm, Bob Sweetman will be teaching about the fundamentals and contemporary relevance of Reformational philosophy in his course: Religion, Life, and Society. Please pray for Bob and the students that this will be a time of inspirational learning in this foundational course.

On Wednesday, starting at 2:00pm, Nik Ansell will begin teaching his course: Birthpangs of the New Creation: Judgment unto Salvation in the Book of Revelation. Pray for Nik and the students as they pay special attention to the way in which Old Testament echoes, together with the book’s own symbolic coherence and narrative logic, can open up new avenues of exegesis and theological reflection.

On Thursday, starting at 10:00am, Ron Kuipers will lead the first session of this year’s Interdisciplinary Seminar: Colonization, Racial Identity, and What it Means to be Human. Pray that the session will be thought-provoking for all the participants as they listen to the wisdom from the writings of different cultural groups the European colonizers sought to silence.

Also on Thursday, starting at 2:00pm, Bob Sweetman will begin his course: Individuality in the Franciscan Thought of John Duns Scotus & William of Ockham. Pray for Bob and the students as they examine together the doctrine of individuality developed by these two Franciscan thinkers and the configuration of their thoughts as one or another form of metaphysical “individualism.”

Pray also for the two MA-EL blended learning courses which will begin this week:
  • Deeper Learning: From Wonder to Inquiry to Practice with Edith van der Boom, and

  • How to Govern a School: Board Governance, Decision-Making & Community Engagement with Gideon Strauss.

Monday, January 17 - Friday, January 21:


We praise God for a second successful application to a grant foundation for the purposes of upgrading our classroom in order to provide a hybrid learning platform so we can welcome both in-person and remote students to our classes when we can once again gather together. This is a very exciting opportunity and we ask that you would pray along with us for wisdom and insight in how to steward this grant in the most effective way.

During the month of January, the CPRSE team will be finalizing the publication of the fourth volume of the Currents in Reformational Thought series: Dancing in the Wild Spaces of Love: A Theopoetics of Gift and Call, Risk and Promise, by Senior Member Emeritus, Jim Olthuis. This volume is a continuation of the series’ intent to celebrate the work of the most recent generations of Reformational scholars. Please pray for Jim, as well as the editing and production team, as they bring this project to completion.

Please pray this week for the Chair and ICS Chancellor, Dr. Aron Reppmann, as he leads the discussions at the ICS Senate meeting (via Zoom) on Saturday. Please also pray for Gideon Strauss, our Academic Dean, and all the external and internal Senators as they consider the issues on the agenda. Pray too for Senior Members Nik Ansell and Rebekah Smick as they share reflections on their teaching practices with the Senate, and for Elizabet Aras that all will go smoothly technologically and the meeting will be as fruitful as possible.


Monday, January 24 - Friday, January 28:


Please pray this week for our Junior Members who still have outstanding work to be submitted from their fall courses. The deadline for submission is on Friday of this week, so we ask for clarity and creativity as they complete their various assignments, and for dexterity as they balance the work of this semester and last.

Senior Member Bob Sweetman published an article titled "Reading Ancient and Medieval Philosophers after Vollenhoven" in the latest volume of Philosophia Reformata (86.2). The article is a study of D. H. Th. Vollenhoven’s type-focused historiography of philosophy and its development with respect to pre-Socratic philosophy. The piece is available to read online (with a journal subscription), but should also now be available in print. We give thanks for Bob’s continued compelling contributions to Reformational scholarship and dialogue!


Monday, January 31:


As our 2021 Advent campaign draws to a close, we want to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to all our donors for your faithful support over the past year. We were continually renewed by God’s presence in our lives and our work through your generous gifts of prayer and financial support during this second year of the pandemic. We have been truly blessed to have a support community such as you, and we look forward in hope to another year with you by our sides!

Thank you for partnering with us in our mission and standing with us in all our endeavours!

With the Spirit’s Help

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

—Romans 8:26

At the beginning of a new year, it is customary to speak about newness and hope, to express excited anticipation for God’s “new thing” springing forth in our midst, like a bubbling river in a parched desert (Isaiah 43:19). But that’s the funny thing about hope, at least as I hear scripture tell of it—the river doesn’t simply cancel out the desert, at least ‘not yet’. Scripture understands that there are times when it is difficult to hope, and we need God’s help to do so.

In his Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul speaks of a hope that is born(e) in the midst of suffering, because suffering produces endurance, endurance character, and this character in turn creates a hope that “does not disappoint us.” This hope does not disappoint us, Paul says, because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5). Without God’s outpouring love entering our hearts, any other kind of hope we entertain will prove disappointing, indeed will not really be hope at all.

Later, Paul will again speak of a hope that arises amid the “groaning” of creation. This is a hope “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). It is also a hope for we folks who “groan inwardly while we wait for the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23). Paul finally tells us that, while we are in fact saved in this hope (vs. 24), it remains a hope for something we don’t see and must therefore await with patience (vs. 24-25).

Holding on to such hope seems like a tall order these days, doesn’t it? While it is certainly not difficult to hear creation or we ourselves groaning, it can be hard to imagine these signs of pain and suffering as part of a transformative birthing process, as part and parcel of new creation. To maintain such hope requires faith that, despite everything we can’t see (and many oppressive and destructive things we can!), God is nevertheless at work transforming the world for good, the world God made in love and for love.

As if recognizing the weight of his words, Paul takes a moment at this point to assure us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, intercedes for us even, with inexpressible groans of its own. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know how or what to pray, for God searches our heart and finds the Spirit God gave us there, Jesus Messiah himself in fact (vs. 34), and forges a connection precisely when we are struggling to do so ourselves.

I like the way that The Message translates Romans 8:27-28: “[The Spirit] knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” What more can we hope for than that our lives will be worked into something good, something that will be a blessing to creation, others, ourselves, and God? And when our lives fail to be such a blessing—in those moments when we seem unable either to receive or give God’s love—Paul assures us that God is always there to set us on our feet again, readying us to begin anew, inspiring us to live a life of love buoyed by a hope that will not disappoint us.

May you be strengthened and inspired by the hope and love of our Maker and Redeemer in 2022 and beyond, friends, knowing that God’s Spirit is always there to help us find both!

Shalom,

Ron Kuipers