Eric Tusz-King was recognized as a Companion of the Centre on March 30, 2014. The following citation was read by Maylanne Maybee at the Annual Service of Celebration…
Eric Tusz-King is being honoured today as a Companion of the Centre for Christian Studies because he lives, exemplifies, and supports diaconal ministry. I like the folk etymology that suggests that diakonia means “through the dust” – the one who stirs things up, kicks up the dust, and makes new paths in the desert in service to God and others.
Eric’s life and ministry personify these ancient qualities of diakonia, combining the practical and the symbolic, the personal and the systemic, just as Jesus did when he washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus wasn’t just trying to get the dust off; he was showing his followers how to lead –not imperiously like the Empire, but alongside others, taking care of their needs and vulnerabilities, reversing the positions of privilege and power.
Eric studied at the Centre for Christian Studies, graduating in 1978, and was commissioned by the Maritime Conference. He also earned an M.A. in Adult Education at St. Francis Xavier University, and an M.T.S. from St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton. His thesis developed a process for educating Presbyteries about diaconal ministry.
Eric began his ministry in 1978 at St. John’s United Church in Moncton, N.B. where he was Minister for Christian Education and Visitation. After two years in congregational ministry, he moved on to work at the General Council Office as an animator for global partnerships in the Division of World Outreach. Working in an office with administrative responsibilities is an honourable diaconal profession! He served faithfully in his role there during the 1980s, using it as a platform to make other things happen. He was a member of the ecumenical Task Force on Churches and Corporate Responsibility (TCCR); and a member of the United Church Task Force on Commissioned Ministry. He was a co-founder of the Diakonia of the United Church of Canada (DUCC), and continues to be an active member of that organization at the national and international levels. He served for many years on the Committee on Diaconal Ministry as an articulate advocate for diaconal ministry in the United Church of Canada.
One of Eric’s supporters identified him as a person of action who believes that change is possible and helps to make it happen. What a great description of a diaconal minister! More than one person spoke of Eric’s skills in critical analysis and as an advocate of social and environmental justice. These skills led him to challenge unjust structures of institutions and society, to speak truth to power, and to cooperate with the work of the Spirit in the life of the communities of which he has been part.
In the early 90s he undertook to work with the Economic Animation Project in Sidney, Nova Scotia, and was later appointed Minister for Outreach, Stewardship and Mission Support for the Maritime Conference, a position he filled from 1993 to 2006. During this tenure, he undertook many social justice initiatives: as a co-founder of the Aboriginal Rights Coalition-Atlantic (ARC-A) and co-founder of the Task Group on Aboriginal Relationships and Concerns for Maritime Conference, advocating with the Aboriginal population for the exercise of their fishing rights. I love that Eric was a co-founder, working in twos or more with others to make change happen.
These initiatives demonstrated Eric’s keen sense of hospitality to those on the edges of systems and society, and a growing awareness of the importance of God’s creation. They led him over time into his role as a faithful “household manager” or economist, concerned with the well being of the oiko-nomos, God’s great household that links together people with people, and people with the earth in a web of life. Serving on TCCR (Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility) in the 1980s, and working with the Economic Animation Project in the early 90s, and with ARC-A (Aboriginal Rights Coalition-Atlantic) in the mid 90s, helped to hone his skills as an animator, educator, and a starter upper. In 2004 he became a founding director of EOS Eco-Energy Inc., a non-profit organization devoted to public education and research into energy conservation, renewable energy technologies, and sustainable community planning. He founded yet two more companies, Energreen Builders Cooperative, renovating homes to become energy efficient, and Open Sky Cooperative, providing assistance and community for young adults facing social, developmental, or mental health challenges.
While serving “through the dust” as a person of action, Eric also engaged others in action and reflection – as a mentor, friend, and supporter of diaconal ministers, of CCS and our students. He served in the early 2000s on the Central Council and continues to be a loyal supporter of our school. He has encouraged those seeking to become diaconal ministers. In the words of one of his supporters, “Eric has offered interesting ministry in unusual ways… part of an esteemed group who exemplify excellence in ministry leadership and diaconal style. His ministry is expressed in ways that epitomize the ideals of diaconal ministry” and, I would add, the values of CCS.
Eric Tusz-King, thank you. You have kicked up the dust in service to God and others. You have served faithfully as an administrator and administrator. You have been an agent of change, a speaker of truth to power, an advocate for justice and a starter upper, a steward of God’s household. You have also been a friend to diaconal ministers and a loyal supporter of the Centre for Christian Studies to which we now welcome you as a Companion.