Friday 2 December 2022

Glad for Grace

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

—Philippians 4:4-7

As someone who is not overly prone to rejoicing, I am grateful that Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi reminds us not once, but twice, about our capacity and opportunity to do so. With his very next words, he even suggests that through such rejoicing our “gentleness” will become known to everyone. What an interesting claim to make for someone who was accused of “disturbing the city” during his first visit there! (Acts 16:20)

What might Paul have had in mind by gentleness, I wonder? In his first letter to Timothy (3:3), he contrasts gentleness with pugnacious violence. So, we know what gentleness is not. That in itself is important to keep in mind in our age of polarization and mutual suspicion, in which an ever-growing number of people feel no qualms about launching the vilest attacks against strangers under the cover of digital anonymity.

In contrast, Paul draws rejoicing and gentleness into intimate proximity. Our Lord is near, he tells us, and that is cause for rejoicing! Our gentleness will be known to everyone as the expression of our gladness for God’s grace (the Greek words for rejoicing/gladness and grace are cognate). Our Messiah’s nearness, Paul says, even has the power to melt away all our anxiety, as we put all our needs before God with hearts full of thanksgiving.

Grace continues to abound in the final verse, where Paul assures us that God’s peace, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds. Most philosophers today don’t do too well with the notion of anything ‘passing understanding,’ preferring instead to assume that, through the application of human reason and intellect, we can put the ground under our own feet. Yet, as the reformational philosophical tradition teaches, placing ultimate trust in our own rational capacity (itself a good gift from our Maker) will not lead to peace, but only more anxiety. Ultimately, we are to open ourselves to, and rest in, the peace of God. From that orientation, everything else flows.

I wish you God’s peace this Advent season, friends, as together we raise our expectation for the arrival of the coming Messiah. Rejoice! And again I say, rejoice!


Ron Kuipers

Prayer Letter: December 2022

Thursday, December 1 - Friday, December 2:

Our final Open Class of the fall took place on the evening of December 1, with Edith van der Boom welcoming prospective students into her Transformative Teaching: The Role of a Christian Educator seminar. Please join us in gratitude for this final open class session, and for all the open classes this past semester—for the Senior Members who welcomed potential students into their classrooms and for the students who took the initial steps to exploring what an ICS education might look like for themselves.

Please take the opportunity this week to give thanks for our Board of Trustees as they continue to oversee the mission and vision of ICS. At the Annual General meeting on Saturday, November 19th, we welcomed two new Board members, Colin Conrad and Matthew Blimke, and welcomed Marci Frederick as she now steps into the role of Board Chair. We also gave thanks for four outgoing Board Members: Hilda Buisman, Diane Stronks, Ray Vander Zaag, and John Joosse. We are grateful for the years of faithful service these four have given to ICS, and we pray for wisdom for all our new and returning Board members as they continue to support the work of ICS. 

During the month of December, the CPRSE team is focusing its efforts on a grant application to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in support of the collaborative Our Whole Society (OWS) conference. Spearheaded by the Canadian Interfaith Conversation, the 2023 OWS conference will gather diverse academic institutions, community organizations, and religious groups around the theme “Finding Common Ground in a Time of Polarization.” Please pray for the CPRSE team and all partner organizations, as they continue to plan and support this important interfaith initiative.

Monday, December 5 - Friday, December 9:

Our Advent Appeal is under way! ICS supporters should have received the appeal package in the mail (if not, it should arrive soon), and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading the latest issue of Perspective that accompanies the appeal! You can also find a digital copy of the Advent Letter from President Ron Kuipers, including a link to donate to ICS, on our website. We are especially grateful during this time of year for the ways God continues to provide for us and for your faithful support of ICS and our educational mission—thank you!

Please pray with us in gratitude for the work of the Educational Policy Committee and the Academic Council this past semester. The members of these committees have spent the past few months reviewing course proposals for presentation to the Senate at their winter meeting, and regularly examining our coursework evaluation practices at ICS. The Academic Council in particular will continue to host Reflective Practice Reports from our Senior Members in the new year. Please pray for each of the members of these two committees as they continue their work into the new year, that they will have wisdom and clarity of thinking, and for Edith van der Boom as she chairs these committees in their academic programming and policy deliberations.

After an extended break, the CPRSE relaunched the Critical Faith podcast with an episode that features LGBTQ+ activist, artist, and York University PhD student Eric Van Giessen. In the episode, ICS President Ron Kuipers talks with Eric about their respective histories in the Christian Reformed Church, their responses to the CRC's recent synod vote to affirm the 2016 Human Sexuality Reportand some aspects of Eric's research. We give thanks for Eric, Ron, and the podcast team for their work in producing and releasing this episode, and we look forward to developing more episodes in the coming year. 

Monday, December 12 - Friday, December 16:

Our search for a Senior Member in Philosophy continues apace with virtual campus visits from the candidates taking place sometime this month. These ‘visits’ include a sample class and a paper presentation from the respective candidates to the ICS community. Please keep these virtual visits in your prayers, that the candidates may prepare themselves well ahead of time and that everyone involved in this process may be granted wisdom and discernment. 

This is the last week of classes for the fall term at ICS and courses in the winter 2023 term are scheduled to start the week of January 9. Please pray for our Senior Members as they wrap up their teaching for this term. Please also pray for our Junior Members as they finish up their course work and turn their minds toward completing their research papers and projects. Please also pray along with us that the holiday break will enable all of us to rest and recharge, and bring all of us back energized for the new year and all it may bring.

The ICS Community Christmas Party is taking place on December 16. We ask for prayer for Elizabet Aras, our Registrar, and President Ron Kuipers as they make plans for hosting the event. This year we are able to have our Christmas Party in person, so pray too that it might be a wonderful evening spent together, giving thanks for and celebrating the gifts we have in one another in this blessed community of learning at ICS.

Monday, December 19 - Friday, December 23:

Senior Member Nik Ansell will be starting an eight-month sabbatical in January. Please pray that this might be a fruitful and invigorating time of study for Nik as he is given the space to focus on his various research plans and projects in the coming months. We are grateful for the extensive amounts of time and dedication that Nik has given to teaching and mentoring ICS students and Junior Members over the years, and we are delighted that Nik will be able to spend this season attending closely to this important side of his work as a scholar and lifelong learner.

Every year, CPRSE invites a wide range of scholars, activists, and community leaders to share their wisdom and experiences with the ICS community in a variety of formats. In 2022, our guests included Patricia June-Vickers, Elisabeth Paquette, Natalie Appleyard, Jennifer Bowen, and Eric Van Giessen. We pray in thanksgiving for the generosity of spirit of these individuals, that their offerings to our community bear fruit.

Christmas break at ICS is taking place from December 24 to January 2, and the offices will be closed during that time. Please pray for the ICS staff, Senior Members, Junior Members, and loved ones as we celebrate this joyous season. We pray for health and safety for all those planning to travel near and far over the holidays, and we pray that this may be a time of rest and reflection for everyone. 

And may the blessings of love, joy, and peace be yours as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour this Christmas week.

Monday, December 26 - Friday, December 30:

As part of its mission, the CPRSE frequently partners with like-minded academic institutions and community organizations in public outreach events. During 2022, one of our partners was Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), an organization that seeks to shape public policy through research, publishing, and dialogue. Recently, CPJ published a comprehensive 2022 Poverty Trends Update, which presents how poverty is experienced in Canada today. Please keep CPJ’s important ongoing advocacy work in your prayers this week.

December 31 is the "Early Bird" scholarship and registration deadline for ART in Orvieto 2023. We will continue accepting applications until the end of February for this year’s Artists’ Workshop, Writers’ Workshop, and Graduate Seminar on Art, Religion, and Theology; so please share news of this exciting opportunity with the arts-lovers in your lives! And please join us in prayer that interested participants who would benefit from this learning experience may find their way to us.

As 2022 draws to a close, we give thanks for another fruitful year of work at ICS and for all our supporters, friends, and colleagues who made this work possible through their prayers, financial gifts, and service. We also pray for God's blessings upon our staff, Senior Members, and Junior Members as we pursue wisdom together, in the classroom and beyond, throughout this upcoming year. We look forward to another year of work and study together!