Caryn Douglas honoured as Companion of the Centre

Caryn Douglas and Maylanne Maybee

On October 13th, 2012 Caryn Douglas was named a Companion of the Centre by the Centre for Christian Studies.  (In fact, she was named earlier in the year, along with Barbara Barnett and Charlotte Caron, but as she was unable to attend the annual service of celebration in the spring her official recognition was deferred until the CCS 120th anniversary weekend in the fall.)

The following citation was delivered by CCS Principal Maylanne Maybee:

I just returned from a five-day program that focused on “how remarkable women lead”. We’re here this evening to honour a friend and companion, a remarkable woman who has shown us how to lead.

I was part of the transition team (of Central Council) when CCS moved from Toronto to Winnipeg. It was a difficult and controversial move that truly put us into crisis – a moment of both threat and opportunity. The break of continuity in staffing, the introduction of a new program model, and the re-location away from Toronto to Winnipeg posed serious challenges to our future and viability.

Then along came Caryn who saw the extraordinary opportunity of this new moment. Somehow, deep within her bones, she formed and gave life to an amazing vision of what CCS was and could be. She doggedly pursued this vision, first as interim, then as Principal – working to find a place and build a staff team for this school that had already shaped her as a diaconal minister of The United Church of Canada.

Many of her nominators and supporters spoke of Caryn’s sense of vision and purpose for CCS and its mission: her clarity, her persistence, her energy, enthusiasm, and determination in the face of adversity. To that list I would like to add her courage and openness to grow into the office, learning as she went.

I saw Caryn help us do two things when we made the move: (1) transplanting and nurturing our greatest strengths: our educational model of adult learning, radicality, and reflective action, and our historic commitment to a diaconal style of ministry in all its giftedness and complexity; and (2) shaping and directing a new identity – not as a Toronto-centric school surrounded by theological colleges in downtown Toronto, but as a Canada-wide movement of women and men dedicated to diakonia: transformative leadership in social justice, pastoral care, and education.

The strength she grew into in her role as Principal was an exceptional ability to create connections:

  • to guide, nurture and encourage others
  • to open doors and create a flow of traffic among students, graduates and donors alike
  • to draw a clear road map, offer her best ideas, bring women and men together with a shared vision and commitment…
  • to unleash the power of inclusiveness – through her unwavering belief in the power of community among her staff team, her peers in ministry, the CCS constituency and beyond.

Not only did Caryn create these connections and weave them into a greater whole, she helped them become a source of abundance and resourcefulness for CCS.
As she told us in the panel yesterday, she realized early on that her role as principal would have to include fundraising. I was impressed to learn that upon launching a campaign to create a $1million endowment fund, she started by taking the necessary training to understand the nature of this task more fully. I understand why one of her champions said she was fearless! Caryn crisscrossed the country, went into people’s homes, made cold calls, wrote thank yous and scribbled marginal notes onto tax receipts. She persuaded and persisted her way through storytelling and over cups of tea – until we met and exceeded the goal of a $1million dollar fund, which to this day keeps us vital and nimble. She wove a community, which we see represented before us this evening.

Caryn oversaw the transplant and made sure it took root. But she also gave us wings, making CCS more than a strong institution, but also an inspirational movement with denominational, ecumenical, national and global reach. As one nominator put it, she worked to build one great, mutually supportive community” – and I would add, a generous one too.

We’ve already learned biographical information about Caryn, which I would like to break down by decade. In the 80s , she earned a BA from Victoria University at Toronto; a Diploma from CCS (also in Toronto); and an MRE from St. Michael’s College. She worked as a Community Minister in Swan Lake First Nation Outreach Ministry;

In the 90s, she served as a sessional teacher at CCS (still in Toronto); as program staff at the Prairie Christian Training Centre (now Calling Lakes) in Saskatchewan; then as Educational Minister at Churchill Park United Church here in Winnipeg.

In the 2000s, she served as Principal of CCS, and worked toward her D. Min at St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton.

Her leadership, scholarship and creativity have continued into the tens (?) – the second decade of the 21st century.

Since leaving CCS, she has continued to support the diaconal community and to embody diaconal ministry in her paid and volunteer work. Academically, she completed a D. Min at St. Stephen’s College, with a focus on women’s leadership and the practice of disjoining – disallowing women to continue as deaconesses or as WMS missionaries upon marriage. She was recently awarded a McGeachy Scholarship for research into the history of women in the UCC who served as deaconesses in the era between 1926 and 1980.

Caryn also gave leadership to a proposal for the relocation of General Council offices from Toronto to Winnipeg, staying the course as a tireless voice for transformation, justice and right relationships.

She loaned her skills and time to a local mayoral race, to an organization to enhance the voices of aboriginal women, and chaired the board of UNPAC – the United Nations Platform for Action Committee. A quality of her energy is to give unstintingly to what she thinks is right, and not to be daunted or discouraged when she doesn’t win the first round!

Caryn has made a difference. In her role as Principal, she established CCS in its new home in Winnipeg; and helped to build a proficient and collegial staff team. She built local connections, both institutional and individual – with theological colleges, the diocese of Rupert’s Land, and the MNWO Conference; and with CCS students, former students, and graduates across the country. She launched and managed the Giving Life, Shaping Justice Endowment Campaign; served as an educator, facilitator, curriculum developer, promoter of experiential learning in community.

Caryn has shown a gift for hospitality – exemplified by placing her office at the front of the school, there to greet every visitor and student who came through the door.

She has demonstrated qualities of persistence, wisdom, and courage. She has shown us a clear, visionary, and analytical mind. I would like to mention her ability to manage her health and energy – reinventing herself with healthy practices of spirit, body, and mind when facing health and spiritual challenge.

When Caryn started out as principal of CCS she had a vision deep in her bones. Her
achievement has been to put flesh on those bones! She has given us
– A school that has a home, a rich past, and a promising future
– an endowment fund
– a Canada wide network of generous and loyal supporters
– an abiding scholarship and interest in diaconal ministry

Caryn has brought distinction to CCS, to diaconal ministry, and to transformative education. It gives me pride and honour to recognize, welcome, and name her as a Companion of the Centre for Christian Studies.

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