Sharon Dunlop is a Deacon at St. James’ Anglican Church in Kingston. She attended Learning on Purpose in 2016.
My ministry area is in corrections, restorative justice and victims – an area I have been passionate about for most of my life.
In the spring of 2016 I was encouraged to attend the June “Learning on Purpose” leadership development training program in Toronto offered by the Centre for Christian Studies (CCS). At the time, I knew little about CCS in general and this program in particular, so I did some research and was impressed by what I found! On a very warm day in mid-June I drove to Toronto to embark on this new adventure.
The training program was held in the Friends House (Quaker), a beautiful century old Georgian mansion surrounded by colourful gardens. Friends House contains many quaint and quiet rooms to gather in for team meetings and project planning.
The program itself was quite full and a little overwhelming at first glance. We met for six days, Sunday was a day of rest and then we met for six more days. The participants were from the United and Anglican Churches, which provided ample opportunity to learn more about our faith traditions – the similarities and the differences.
Learning on Purpose would be a great component for those training as deacons and can help people who are discerning a call to diaconal ministry. It is equally valuable for people who have already been ordained into the diaconate, as I found out for myself, and for ordained priests as continuing studies.
Whether your ministry is pastoral or has a social justice “edge” you will learn much through the material presented and the projects you will work on in collaboration with the other students. There is ample opportunity to develop and lead traditional and non-traditional worship services at the beginning and close of each day.
Deacons serve an important role in the liturgical service in the church each week. They also serve an important role in the world beyond the church building. Deacons take the Gospel message heard each Sunday morning in the church to the outside community and bring the needs of the outside community back to the parish to inform and encourage action by the church.
Inside and outside the church building deacons may be involved in a variety of committees, often taking leadership roles. I found the sessions on facilitation and mediation to provide helpful information for working in and around issues that may arise while involved in committee work.
Social justice issues speak strongest to me. Whether it is issues that continue to plague the Indigenous people of Canada and worldwide, the misuse and destruction of the environment or the draconian measures taken in the treatment of incarcerated people including the wrongfully convicted, the skills learned in looking at these injustices through a critical lens has proven to be invaluable. The encouragement to not take things at face value, but instead to research and examine the issues from several angles has been inestimable.
I do not want to give away too much information about the program – you need to experience this for yourself. However, whether you are discerning a call to the diaconate, pondering if this is the right move for you, or if you are already a deacon or priest and are interested in enhancing your ministry, this course is for you! I really hope you give it favourable consideration. You will not regret your decision.