Wednesday 17 January 2024

Prayer Letter: January 2024

Monday, January 8 - Friday, January 12:


Please pray for our Junior and Senior Members as online classes resumed this week. We pray especially for Junior Members’ encouragement, connection, and insightful engagement in their studies. In addition to various guided readings and thesis writing and projects taking place this term, please pray for each of the following courses:

  • On Tuesdays at 10:00am, Nik Ansell will be teaching about the implications of the human embodiment of Christ in his course: God in Flesh and Blood: Revolutions in Christology. Please pray for Nik and the students as they draw on contemporary New Testament scholarship in order to engage the exegetical and theological issues at the edge, and at the heart, of contemporary Christology.

  • Also on Tuesdays, starting at 2:00pm, this year’s Interdisciplinary Seminar will address the topic: Philosophical Inquiry and the Practices of Everyday Life: An Interdisciplinary Seminar on Philosophizing in a Time of Crisis. Please pray for the seminar leaders, Gideon Strauss and Neal DeRoo and the students in the course as they explore the implications of philosophical inquiry for the everyday practices of philosophers as well as the implications of our everyday concerns for philosophical practices, with particular attention to the relevance of our political circumstances for this exploration.

  • On Wednesdays, starting at 10:00am, Bob Sweetman will teach his course: Aristotle, Aquinas, and the Scholastic Approach to the History of Philosophy. Pray for Bob and the students as together they examine the role philosophy or theology's history plays in the conceptual constructions of scholastic thinkers.

  • On Thursdays at 10:00am, sessional instructor Michael Buttrey teaches his course: What Were the Women Up To? Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch. Please pray for Michael and his students as they attend to the important work of these four philosophers and the ways they revolutionized the fields of ethics and analytic philosophy.

  • Also on Thursdays, starting at 2:00pm, Neal DeRoo will teach his course: Issues in Phenomenology: Spirituality. Pray for Neal and the students as together they look at the notion of spirituality introduced by Hegel, and developed by Husserl, Derrida, and others; examining the implications of this account of spirituality for understandings of religion and oppression.

  • On Thursdays, starting at 6:00pm, Nik Ansell will teach his course: Meaning/Being/Knowing: The Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Implications of a Christian Ontology. Pray for Nik and the students as together they examine the roots and developments of an integral ontology throughout the Reformational philosophical tradition.

Pray also for the instructors and students partaking in our two MA-EL courses which will begin this week and meet regularly throughout this semester:
  • Transformative Teaching: The Role of a Christian Educator with Edith van der Boom, and

  • How to Finance a Vision: Setting Direction and Managing Change within Financial Limitations with Gideon Strauss.


Monday, January 15 - Friday, January 19:


We want to extend a deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated during our Advent campaign and throughout 2023! We were blown away by your generosity during this Advent season in particular. Your faithful and generous gifts of prayer and financial support, month by month and year by year, have been a blessing to us and continue to bolster us in our daily work of providing Christian education. We give thanks to God for each of you, and we start 2024 filled with hope and strength to face what the new year brings.

Irene Suk, the wife of former ICS President John Suk, was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. On January 20, at 11 am, at Lawrence Park Community Church, there will be a "Farewell" gathering for Irene. A few friends and family members will speak, and hopefully Irene will speak too. There will be fine music, a solo or two, a prayer and a scripture reading. This will be followed by an open house in the Fellowship Hall. You can find information on how to join in person or online at https://www.lawrenceparkchurch.ca/events/farewell-irene/2024-01-20. Please pray with us for Irene, John, and their friends and family during this time.

Please pray this week for the Chair and ICS Chancellor, Dr. Pamela Beattie, as she 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 that all will go smoothly technologically and the meeting will be as fruitful as possible.


Monday, January 22 - Friday, January 26:


Dr. Samson Makhado, ICS alum and honourary doctorate recipient, will be having back surgery on January 22 to replace some missing cartilage. Doctors believe there is a good chance of success, but a fairly long period of physical therapy will follow. Please join us in keeping Dr. Makhado and his family in prayer during this operation and throughout his time of recovery.

New book alert! Gestures of Grace: Essays in Honour of Robert Sweetman is now available for purchase through Wipf & Stock! Please join us in prayers of thanksgiving for Joshua Harris and H├ęctor Acero Ferrer’s editorial work, the writing efforts of the numerous contributors, and the many academic gifts of Bob himself. This is the latest volume in the CPRSE’s Currents in Reformational Thought book series, and you can get a copy for yourself via the publisher’s website.

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.


Monday, January 29 - Wednesday, January 31:


Our MA and PhD program application deadline is February 1st. Please pray that potential Junior Members may find their way to ICS, that they might discern how ICS can support them in considering the big questions they want to explore, and that they will be able to compile their applications in time to start their programs in the fall. For more details, you can email Brenna at recruitment-coordinator@icscanada.edu.

The ART in Orvieto 2024 early bird deadline is January 31. This deadline is for applicants to the program to receive a $500 scholarship to attend the program, funded by the Ruth and Ines Memorial Fund for Artistic Education. We continue to accept ART in Orvieto applications until March 31. Please pray that interested artists, teachers, and students of the arts will find their way to this year’s program, and please share news of this wonderfully rich learning opportunity with everyone you know!

Silence Divine

“…and after the earthquake a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”

—I Kings 19:12 (NRSV)


Do you recall the wonder you experienced as a child, that time when your eyes would not pass over so many things, but instead would alight upon and tarry over them? When you would search forever for a four-leaf clover, or sharpen your focus during that brief instant before the crystalline formation of a snowflake melted in your hand?

One of the tragedies of adulthood is our propensity to lose touch with this childlike sense of wonder, for there is a salutary reverence in this kind of attention, this silent posture of listening that opens us to the deep mysteries of God’s cosmos. As adults, the plans we make and the routines we follow dig deep mental ruts from which we find it hard to break free, even momentarily. Yet the health of our hearts and souls, not to mention our bodies and minds, demands we take regular sabbaticals from these everyday routines.

There are many places in scripture that seem to recognize this spiritual need to escape the noise of grownup life. Perhaps this is why, during Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, Moses would set up “the tent of meeting” for “everyone who sought the Lord” far away from the main camp (Exodus 33:7). Perhaps this also explains why Mary, instead of helping her sister Martha with the domestic chores, “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying” (Luke 10:39). Or why the gospels report that, when the crowds pressed in on him, Jesus himself “would withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

The poet Christian Wiman expresses this spiritual need eloquently and insightfully in his memoir, My Bright Abyss, while reflecting on Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “Having Confessed.” In that poem, Kavanagh counsels us to remain within our souls, to stay in “the unconscious room of our hearts,” where God might find us, and for this reason also worries about our efforts to view our souls consciously and abstractly, “from the outside.” The real issue at stake in Kavanagh’s poem, Wiman tells us, is “that the link not be broken, that every intellectual growth remain rooted in that early experience of ultimate insight, ultimate unknowingness, every word about God both responsive and responsible to the silence that is its source.” (pp. 78-79)

Perhaps, then, “the sound of sheer silence” by which Elijah finally sensed God’s passing presence is the same sound the melting snowflake makes as it kindles childlike wonder? Yet how might we ensure that the words of our faith remain rooted in this divine silence? Thankfully, the first step, if the poet Mary Oliver is to be believed (she is), is deceptively easy to take:

…just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak

—From “Praying”

I wish you all God’s rich blessings for the New Year, friends. May it be filled with moments of silent wonder, allowing your life to radiate outward from this deep connection to our Maker and Healer!

Shalom,

Ron Kuipers

Wednesday 10 January 2024

In Memoriam: Wietse Posthumus

by Robert Sweetman

Wietse Posthumus (1938-2023) meant a great deal to a great many people and to the organizations they built and tended, not least the Institute for Christian Studies. The spiritual antennae he inherited and made his own shine forth in one respect: they picked up and transmitted deep into the bones the conviction that change for the good demanded organization so as to achieve effective corporate action. In a complex society, that meant the formation of institutions that could collect and store the gathered wisdom of those called to and involved in our world’s different occupations and sectors, institutions that could harness and deploy the human energy and know-how such wisdom let loose in the world. 

    But institutions needed to be built right, he had been taught, and in response to the right Spirit and its promptings. What was needed was discernment and that demanded knowledge as well as spiritual feelers. For him that meant law school, which gave him a deep understanding of the internal structures of institutions and the processes whereby they exist and act publicly. It was in and through this acquired expertise that he would serve the Reformed churches of his allegiance as well as ICS.

    When Wietse began adult life, that Kingdom seemed very close. It was the 1960s: a wonderfully optimistic age in which anything seemed possible. The just society and world peace were surely just around the corner. Something of that optimism drove people like Wietse. The Kingdom in our generation could easily have been their motto. This optimism was helped by the certainty that the norms which enabled human flourishing were simple and unchangingly available. Churches were to look like “x,” lovers like “y,” marriages like “z,” And this had been so, it was said, since the very dawn of Creation.

    The parents of the post-WWII immigrant generation of Dutch Calvinists had set up churches and schools across Canada. Wietse and his generational cohort, the children of that immigrant generation, busied themselves with the next level of Christian institution-building: a labour union, businessmen’s associations, political action groups, a farmer’s federation, an art gallery, a publishing venture, Christian day schools, as well as a university-level institution like ICS. 

    There was something Marian to Wietse’s service. He stored up experiences in his heart and contemplated their implications in life-transforming ways. When ICS Senior Members started discussing sexual orientation and biblical faithfulness in the 1980s, Wietse was a board member at ICS and he was worried about the damage this would do. It seemed a bridge too far, to muddy clear water, potentially fatal, and he was not going to let that pass unopposed. Nevertheless, he continued to follow the discussion and when Hendrik Hart published his Morning Star book explaining how he worked with Scripture and came to the readings he did, Wietse read it with great care, and it changed his mind. He became friends with Henk and learned to cherish what Henk had to give. 

    Ever generous with his thought and his emotional engagement, he was also generous with his time and wealth. For example, he and Kathryn hosted celebrations of ICS volunteers that became legendary at ICS both at his home and at the Madison just down the street, in which it rained food and drink as a partying hobbit would have it and the decibel level of the merrymaking was nothing short of prodigious. When ICS contracted with Morris Greidanus to serve as interim president while ICS searched for a new candidate, Wietse and Kathryn opened their home to Morris and Alice who stayed in a semi-independent space on the third floor.

    Wietse’s presence at First Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, where I too am a member, was also felt strongly. He wrote the church bylaws and would often offer words both thoughtful and pyrotechnic whenever it was needed by the congregation. Over the last two decades he became an occasional commentator after services when a message or prayer had touched him in some way, and a sage voice when the congregation was faced with difficulties.

    So I conclude with one last vignette of Wietse the churchgoer. I will never forget the Easter he spent in the hospital as part of his difficult recovery from surgery. I was the elder of service, so I brought the elements to Wietse and the liturgy for the Lord’s Supper we had used to celebrate the sacrament at the congregational Easter Service. We were out of the bread we had used but someone had brought hot crossed buns for the coffee and there was still one left, so we took it along with wine. His wife Kathryn, at least one of the children, my wife Rosanne, and I gathered around his bed and we went through the liturgy. He couldn’t eat the bread but he took a piece anyway to dip in the wine and sucked the liquid out with relish. Then he looked up with a glint in his eye and confessed, “I think I deserve another.” He proceeded to dip the bread again. That iconoclastic act had it all: his both-feet-in dynamism, his stubborn faith even in extremis, and a moment of pure mischief—it felt like holy ground. I find it easy to imagine Our Lord saying to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and ushering him into his blessed reward.


* * *

    Wietse developed deep relationships with ICS faculty members and staff throughout his life. He served on the AACS Board of Trustees from 1972-73, again from 1984-87, and also served on the ICS Board of Trustees from 1993-99. At the request of the family, donations may be made in Wietse's memory to the Institute for Christian Studies at www.icscanada.edu/support or by phone at 416-979-2331 ext. 223.