“A better fit”: finding diaconal ministry
In 1977, Deb Hinksman was a young theology student and candidate for ordination when she met CCS principal Marion Niven at a conference. When Marion asked Deb what she planned to do after graduation, Deb described to her a ministry of working with people (children, family, youth work), programming and education and learning. She remembers Marion smiling at her and saying “I think you might find a better fit for what you hope to do at The Centre for Christian Studies.” These are some of Deb’s memories of her time as a student at CCS.
I had the joy of living at the residence on Charles street and had some student colleagues who are still busy in the life and work of the Diaconate. Kay Pearson was the face of the residence. And her face was the one you wanted to see when you came through those doors. Hers were the ears which heard many a joy and sorrow. Her presence was a blessing to all who lived there.
The class preceding mine: Anne Naylor, Cheryl Kirk, Nancy Wetselaar. Leadership from Gwyn Griffith, Shelley Finson, Helene Castel and Doug Shanks and with Marion still occupying the role of Principal. Classmates such as Lori Crocker, Ray McGinnis (who was just learning the guitar at the time!), Anne Burnham, Alyson Huntley, Joan Robertson, Anne Marie Allen and others whose names I would have to look up! Cheryl Kirk was a part of this class as well – she double dipped (i.e. did a second year of first year core group)!
Our peer sessions were so important as we shared goals and learning and had the support and challenge that that offers. I had my first student field placement at Victoria Village United Church and in year Two at the Juvenile Detention centre on Jarvis street. I was looking for my second placement and I was strongly “encouraged” to change from my comfortable and familiar work in a congregational setting, to work on ministry in the world. Looking back, it was a wise push that I likely didn’t know how much I needed.
Life in residence often highlighted the special program that CCS provided. I couldn’t begin to say how many conversations I had with residents who were enrolled in the MDiv program at Emmanuel who openly wished they were learning some of what we were as they felt they would be more practically prepared for congregational life. To this day I can cringe when I am at a meeting that I can tell is bereft of any good planning processes!
Images of learning the [David] KOLB model for experiential learning and preparing our core sessions with PGO’s (purpose, goals, objectives) at the top of our list for planning are still visceral sensations to me even now as I prepare for learning sessions with others. The early days of the spiral I think!
When we signed up for our learning sessions in groups, often depending on the goals we set at the beginning of the year – I remember us being intentional on balancing the head learning and the experiential learning. Helene Castel teaching us to use the experiential role play “The Game of Life” (that I remember so distinctly beginning to understand how privileged I was). We had some wonderful leadership from the community who came in an assisted us in our learning.
I remember distinctly the community of our core groups – and the learning and planning that came from that. I remember our faithful trying to figure out what ministry was going to be like for us. I remember a community of friends that kept me sane and hope-filled.
After 3 decades of ups and down, changes and challenges but mostly joy, I still am thankful for that pivotal sentence: “I think you would find a better fit for what you hope to do at the Centre for Christian Studies”.