Staff reflections from November, 2011:
Since last spring the staff team have taken up the challenge of reflecting on a variety of themes that affect our work in these reports to Council. In May, given the number of staff changes at CCS, we reported on our discussion about transition. CCS culture was the topic we tackled in June and we were able to articulate some of the key elements in the ethos of CCS as movement and institution. In September, we gave an account of our notions of teaming as a result of our successful staff development day. Last month we took the opportunity to explore the CCS Mission Statement and Stances and shared the ideas that manage to inspire us and the components that we felt might bear some further examination. This month we took time to consider the role of students in our work lives and the vocation of CCS.
We felt that the education that the students are receiving was of an impressive professional level. The program demands a high level of engagement which leads to significant growth, heightened self-awareness and faith formation. The students face the challenges of the program in a way that opens them up for learning and growth. They demonstrate a courageous willingness to risk and go to places of discomfort. The students exhibit honesty in their interactions, sharing of feedback and ability to deal with conflict.
Many of the students have made significant sacrifices and adjustments in their lives to make space for study. Being a student at CCS often changes family dynamics, certainly impacts finances, and involves an incredible amount of reading, assignments, deadlines, and administrative attention to detail (CCS bureaucracy?). They clearly want to be here and they are giving it their all.
We were touched to recall the recent pre-event where students in their third theme year hosted an orientation for students in their first theme year. This caring for others in the program, and desire to share the learning and wisdom from experience with “rookies”, highlights the relational commitment that is a central value of diaconal community.
We did wonder if we have lost a certain “cutting edge” in our program. There were times in the past when the program and our students might have been characterized as more radical, more prophetic, more edgy. Is there a danger that our students are too nice? Are they unprepared to rock the ecclesiological boat? Might they be unwilling to shake a fist in the face of empire?
Always the CCS program is relational and builds community. We endeavour to model a gracious ministry of hospitality where the participants in our programs are treated with respect and dignity, where difference is honoured, and where we hold one another in affirmative positive regard. At CCS, we dare to structure our pedagogical activities with creativity by appealing to a diversity of learning needs. We try to make evaluation and feedback a standard, even normative, practice in our teaching; students need to live up to standards and expectations of a demanding and complex vocation. Throughout the program we insist upon reflective practice: theologically, scholastically, scripturally, socially and politically. “Living a theology of justice” remains a daunting, but compelling, guide and vision for our work as theological educators. Perhaps most importantly, we stress integration of the theoretical, the practical, and the spiritual in our program. This is challenging and demanding work; it is a heavy responsibility and we want to do it well. It is also an honour, privilege and blessing to be a part of so many journeys of transformative learning.