CCS Graduation 2020

CCS Graduation 2020

Today was the last day of the last learning circle for six students in the CCS Diaconal Ministries program. Barb, Christina, Joe, Karen, Kim, and Lorrie were a tight cohort in their Integration Year, supporting each other in their learning.

Because of COVID-19, their final learning circle took place online. There won’t be a banquet tonight where the graduating students are introduced and given their diplomas. (They received a sort of virtual version of their diplomas in a joint zoom session with students in the Ages & Stages learning circle this morning, and a brief bio of each student is posted below.) There won’t be a public Annual Service of Celebration tomorrow, where the diaconal grads are recognized, along with Alison Brooks-Starks, who is receiving a Certificate in Spiritual Care.

So please, friends, show these graduates some love in the comments section. Congratulations to all of them, and blessings on their next steps.


Meet the 2020 Graduates

Christina Crawford is a member of the United Church, living in Forest, Ontario. When Christina entered the diaconal ministry program at CCS, she was living out her passion for spiritual care and teaching by offering treatments and classes in natural healing, through her business, Alternative Wellness, and she had become certified as a spiritual director through the Ontario Jubilee Program to enhance and expand that work. These gifts were also lived out volunteering at Sakura house in Woodstock, Ontario, offering spiritual care and hands on healing to the patients in hospice. At the same time, Christina was fulfilling her passion for social justice work while employed as a support worker at Domestic Abuse Services Oxford, and she had previously worked with impoverished families at Operation Sharing in Woodstock, through their award-winning program, Extended Families Project. Her interest in church ministry began a few years before entering the CCS program, working in family and youth ministry at St. David’s United Church in Woodstock.  This followed years of volunteer work in Christian Education at her home congregation of Dundas Street United Church in Woodstock. When Christina first started at CCS, it was like coming home. The style of learning, values, and ethos of CCS was similar to her own and the school offered a supportive and challenging environment for her to explore her growing sense of call. One of her major learnings at CCS was the feedback model for giving and receiving feedback and as a tool for evaluating progress. There are so many memories that it is difficult for Christina to choose just one that stands out as significant, but Christina really enjoyed visiting the circle at the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, and when the students from the SSSC visited CCS. For Christina, what is important about diaconal ministry is the nurturance of a vision of community where unity is lived out, power is dispersed equally, and the expression of an individual’s power is unique and honoured.  Christina values diversity, and cultivating and encouraging others’ expression of faith. The church’s vocation is to love, and that means we are accountable to each other’s well-being, thus, living out a theology of justice in right relationship with God, community, and creation. All are called to the ministry of diakonia. Christina is currently serving at Forest United Church, in Forest, Ontario. Following the CCS program, she plans to complete her education at St. Stephen’s College in Alberta by obtaining a BTS in Diaconal Ministry. Blessings, Christina!

Joe Kadi is a member of the United Church, living in Treat 7 Territory, more specifically, Calgary, Alberta. He appreciates the CCS program for many reasons. One that he wants to highlight is the linking of faith practices with social justice work. Joe has particular fond memories of communal learning, and the co-learner process of CCS.  Joe has worked as a teacher for many years, and for now will be continuing with that work, in addition to sharing his gifts with local communities of faith. Blessings, Joe!

Lorrie Lowes is a member of the United Church, living in Almonte, Ontario.  She came to CCS after retiring from a career in education, with an earlier background in Sociology and Social Work.  Looking back, the path from those through ministry was clear, but retirement gave her the time to “hear” her call. A significant area of Lorrie’s learning was how to combine her education and her life’s work with her faith.  She was also stretched by social ministry, understanding the difference between facilitating or empowering change and a traditional charity model. Lorrie says that she will always remember the profound connections and sense of community in the time together as students of CCS; friendships and a support network that she knows will continue to sustain all those involved.  For her, diaconal ministry is the bridge between the church and the world. “Jesus’ ministry was deeply based in faith but didn’t take place solely within the walls of the synagogue or temple. Ours is a ministry that empowers the kind of change to make the world a better place for all. It is a ministry that expresses faith through action, compassion, and a commitment to the growth of others.” 

Lorrie is currently in team ministry at Bells Corners United Church in the west end of Ottawa and will continue in that pastoral relationship, with a slightly shifted role.   She also intends to continue her connection with the community chaplaincy work with the Ottawa West End Community Chaplaincy. Blessings, Lorrie!

Barb McGill is a member of the United Church, living in London, Ontario.  She came to CCS with an undergraduate degree in Music Therapy from Arizona State University and post-graduate diplomas in Montessori Education (Primary and Elementary).  She has experience with teaching parent-child music classes, early childhood music, including children’s choirs, and chaplaincy programs.  Barb’s love of music, psychology and teaching is what brought her to God.  She first felt a call to ministry through Children and Youth ministry in her home congregation, and then was encouraged by a close friend to enroll in the LDM in 2015 to develop leadership and planning skills. After this experience, she didn’t continue at CCS right away, but the process of discernment brought her back.  A significant area of learning for Barb was an understanding of experience as a valid authority – her own and others.  Likewise, learning the importance of how to give and receive feedback and that all feedback does not need to be weighted equally.  She values the significance of process; in community, for her own work, and that process is a skill that can be learned! Barb also came to understand the transformative power of gratitude, joy, and love in social justice work.  For her, she will remember the relationships built with staff and colleagues, and the gift of witnessing difficult conversations and situations being handled with intention and care but being had…not swept under the rug.  This experience helped her develop trust that if something needed to be said it would be said.

Barb values diaconal ministry’s approach of coming alongside, social analysis, ministering in context to the needs of the community, and that relationship and trust are key to process. 

After graduation, Barb will accept a call in congregational ministry.  She looks forward to being in the community, connecting with people and connecting people, and responding to the needs of the community; always open to where the Spirit leads. Blessings, Barb!

Kim McNaughton is a member of the United Church, living in Dunster, BC.  Kim came to CCS with a depth of experience. She shares that she spent her whole life trying to figure out her purpose. At midlife, her passion for spirituality led her to her purpose and vocation – a call to ministry. She started on the ordained path of ministry with the United Church, and like Jacob, she wrestled with and was blessed by the Divine as she began to understand her call to diakonia. Confused and bruised, she attended CCS’s Leadership Development Module and, by the peace she experienced, she knew she was now on the right path. Kim has experienced significant learning in the area of social ministry at CCS.  Specifically, she has learned skills for engaging in social analysis; always to be asking, with those she does ministry with, “who has the power and who is marginalized?” This has intersected with her call to diaconal ministry and her understanding of social justice. Her experience of CCS has been that of a supportive learning environment, with staff and with fellow students. Traditional schooling had always been difficult for her and the transformative learning that takes place with an action-reflection pedagogical model helped Kim to understand the wisdom within herself. That we are all co-learners and co-teachers was apparent at every learning circle and in every interaction with staff; putting her at ease. For her, diaconal ministry is a call to action. There is movement in diaconal ministry – to stand at the threshold of the church building, moving inward to serve the community of faith and moving outward to serve God’s world. From a place of offering spiritual care to the community of faith, Kim moves outward and into the world and she invites the congregation to move with her, through faith in action. Kim will be answering a provisional call to serve as a commissioned diaconal minister with an ecumenical shared ministry, Robson Valley Shared Ministry, where she is currently serving the two congregations in McBride and Valemount, BC. Her hope is to walk with this community of faith, finding ways to live out a shared faith beyond the church walls. Blessings, Kim!

Karen Orlandi is a member of the United Church, living in St. Catharines, Ontario, while originally from the Vancouver area of B.C. Karen entered into discernment after a career in marketing and engineering, while working in the Outreach field. She had worked as a United Church musician for many years; entering first as a bursary student while in college, and formally joining the United Church in 1989, specifically on the heels of General Council’s 1988 decision to commission and ordain persons irrespective of sexual orientation. Karen has appreciated learning about different learning styles – both as learning tools and teaching tools – about collaborative leadership, the scope of theological interpretation, and how to discern and assert her own theology.  She also has experienced significant learnings in how to do art.

Karen fondly remembers where she stayed in Winnipeg (112 Lipton) and her rumi’s (roomies?), her Global Perspectives Experience in Grassy Narrows First Nations, her experience in circle at the Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, and starting the Bear Clan Patrol in St. Catharines. 

Diaconal ministry, according to Karen, has a style of leadership from within / with others, and understands and values the underlying social commentary in all things.  Karen has received a call to Silver Spire United Church in St. Catharines (where she is currently serving in outreach ministry).  She also intends to complete her BTS with St. Stephen’s College and enroll in the Masters of Social Justice and Equity Program at Brock University. Blessings, Karen!


Alison Brooks-Starks is receiving a Certificate in Spiritual Care. Alison has always lived in the North Saskatchewan River watershed in Treaty six: originally from Prince Albert, SK, and now living in Edmonton, AB. Alison uses what she learned at CCS about spiritual care every day, and often, uses it outside. She offers individual and group eco-therapy-style walks and events through an ongoing project called Emberwood, supported in part by United Church grants. Currently, Alison is in a pilgrimage of sorts – climbing 40 trees in 40 days in the last 40 days before her partner Alexis gives birth to their baby. Blessings, Alison!

Comments: 6

  1. Ted Dodd says:

    Blessings to all as you continue your journeys. May the learning continue with prayerful reflection, supportive community, and justice-making vision.

  2. Tammy Allan says:

    Blessings and peace be upon all of you who are celebrating great things this year. May you continue to do great things in church and community!

  3. Kathy Douglas says:

    I’ve had the honour and pleasure of walking closely with several of these fabulous people over the past few years. I have been mentored, encouraged and challenged to think deeply and love cleverly through my time and experience with them
    The world and church is blessed!

  4. Your individual stories inspire and uplift me to know the wonderful leaders who continue our ministry of diakonia in our congregations and communities, and even in the trees! Someday soon I hope to meet you directly in a DUCC gathering. Blessings!

  5. Dot says:

    Blessings to all and may you continue to hear God’s voice.

  6. […] year’s CCS graduates of the Diaconal Ministries program didn’t get a public ceremony as such, but  that doesn’t mean we can’t […]

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