Join the Circle

CCS grad Kathy Douglas will be taking a learning circle this spring as continuing ed.

“Since graduation I have searched for con-ed that offers the depth and breadth of content as well as the educational style CCS gave me.”

Kathy Douglas has been employed and active in ministry since 2008.  She is a graduate of the Centre for Christian Studies.  She is a vocational mentor for a couple of the Centre’s current students.  And this spring she is thinking about being a student in the social justice learning circle on Right Relations.

“I am so excited to be able to ‘tap’ into a circle again.  I have longed for it,” says Kathy.

CCS’s week-long theme learning circles are a wonderful continuing education opportunity for anyone, clergy or lay, who want to engage issues of social justice, spiritual care, or education and worship.  Continuing Studies students learn side-be-side with students in CCS’s Diaconal Ministries program.

CCS Program Administrator Scott Douglas (no relation to Kathy) feels that people who are preparing for ministry benefit from being in conversation with people who have been doing the work for some time and still want to keep learning.  And ministry people at all stages benefit from connecting with engaged lay people committed to growth.  “I’d like to get as many voices in the circle as we can get.” says Scott.

“The great thing about a learning circle is the conversation”

“The great thing about a CCS learning circle is the conversation,” says Scott.  “I mean, yes, the readings are thought-provoking and the program staff bring a lot of wisdom and sometimes there are terrific guest resource people, but the really exciting stuff, for me, is people talking to each other from their different perspectives.  No matter what the topic, everyone has a slightly different stake in the issue.  Everyone bring insights from their own experience, but more importantly they bring their own questions.  Everyone comes asking: What does this mean for me, in my life, in my work?”

CCS staff – Janet, Michelle, and David

For CCS Principal Michelle Owens, it’s not so much the animated conversations among students in a learning circle that stands out; it is the silences. “The moments when a story is honoured, when everyone gives the space needed to ‘listen into speech’, when insight strikes and is shared and takes a moment to sink in. The circle is a wholly and holy engaging learning experience.”

This spring there are two theme learning circles being offered in April:  a spiritual care circle on Relationships (April 11-17, 2018) and the social justice circle on Right Relations (April 19-25, 2018).

“What’s more exciting–and more frustrating–than relationships?” says CCS Program Staff member Janet Ross.  “Having a chance to look at the big picture of what makes up relationships, and also the small details of how we engage one another, is an opportunity we don’t often have.”

Program Staff member David Lappano feels that having a learning circle on relationships is a treat, because it’s a topic that each of us has ample first-hand experience with.  “Yet the more we look at ‘relationship’ the more we discover just how broad and deep and varying and creative people are with their expressions for different kinds of connections. Considering that presently the church ritualizes only a handful of relationship events, I anticipate some very creative and spiritual explorations of the religious significance of several kinds of relationships.”

Janet echoes this.  “What does it mean to bring our whole selves to the table? Our ethnicities, sexualities, class experiences, abilities? What is required of us in our interactions? How can we learn more from our own experiences, and from others’ experiences? Looking at relationships in a learning circle means there will be a chance to practice new ways of being in relationship and to consider best communication styles and approaches for tricky conversations.”

Scott adds, “In an era of social media and global connectedness, we are also facing an epidemic of loneliness.  I’m excited to see our students take on the challenge of helping people form and maintain healthy, empowering, spiritually-grounded relationships.”

“All life is about relationships,” says Janet.  “Is there a better investment of time and energy than learning how to understand ourselves and others more deeply, and how to be in relationship together more fully?”

Does Janet think a Relationships learning circle would make good continuing education?  “More useful than basic accounting!” she says.

Kathy Douglas was drawn to the Right Relations circle out of her experience trying to build connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.  She also has her own personal reasons for engaging it as continuing education.

“I continue to wrestle with my privilege and colonizing history. I want to find ways of being an ally.”

Scott feels that the relationship between Settler peoples and Indigenous peoples is “the most significance theological issue we face in Canada today.”

David agrees.  “The health or strain of this relationship will determine ‘Canada’s’ future just as much as it has determined its past. This relationship is at the nexus of every political issue: environmental, education, health, justice system, racism, nationalism, class, sexism, etc.”

CCS student in conversation with an elder from the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre

David promises that the Right Relations learning circle will be a “challenging and safe time to examine theologies, history, and Indigenous-Settler relationships from a critical perspective, from Indigenous perspectives, and with a prophetic commitment to honesty and justice.”

“It’s kind of cool that the Relationship learning circle and the Right Relations learning circle are back-to-back.” says Scott.  “For those who are taking both, it will be interesting to see how they connect the two topics.  How does the way we relate person-to-person as individuals or in families impact the way we relate people-to-people in this land?  And vice versa?  I imagine that certain issues may come up in both circles: trust and consent, autonomy and dependency.”

“Many of us in Canada have not had enough opportunity to learn about and understand Indigenous history and the current damage of an economy of Indigenous oppression,” Janet notes.  “Nor has there been enough opportunity to work towards mending the damaging relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Together we can learn more about being in relationship and carrying the important work of the church and of the community forward.”

images connecting diaconal ministry and Indigenous culture

Are you interested in applying to participate in a CCS theme learning circle for continuing education?  Visit the CCS Admissions page and/or email the program administrator/registrar – sdouglas@ccsonline.ca .

The cost for a theme learning circle is $750 (plus a $55 application fee if you’re not yet in the Continuing Studies program).

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