Images from Learning on Purpose 2021
From August 17 to 27, 2021, seventeen eager and open learners from across the country (or at least from Saskatchewan to Newfoundland) gathered online for Learning on Purpose, along with CCS program staff members Janet, David, and Scott. This was the first time our flagship two-week course had ever been offered online and we weren’t sure how it would go. In the past we’d often said that the LoP needs to be in-person; the intense learning-in-community, the courage of giving and receiving honest feedback, the shaking up of theological assumptions, and the vulnerability of sharing faith journeys all need face-to-face contact. This was before COVID came along and forced us to think again about how connections and community are formed. (Is online our preferred format for Learning on Purpose? Maybe not. Did it work? Did people forge connections and find a group of co-learners able to support and challenge them in their growth? It certainly seems that way.)
“I was truly surprised how close and understanding, supportive and kind we grew – between each other as individual partners and in the group as a whole,” one student said afterwards. Another said, “I didn’t realize just how well such a diverse grouping of folks from across this vast land could gel and become a caring community so quickly! I didn’t think it was possible, especially since we’re interacting on video screens, but the course pulled us all together and the results were amazing and heart-warming.” And other said, “I feel like I found an important learning and teaching community; a place where I can explore my own thoughts and feelings about how I experience God in my life and the world. A very warm and comfortable time with 20 new friends.”
Participants came for a variety of reasons. Some were preparing for a Designated Lay Ministry program. Some were discerning a call to diaconal ministry and entering into further studies in CCS’s Diaconal Ministries program. Some were ordained clergy broadening their theological perspectives and deepening their skills for being in community. Some were lay people following their interests and passions. We had the whole mix.
“Any doubt that I had about my call to ministry was eased by the first week -I am excited to see where this journey takes me,” said Lauri Ladd who begins her diaconal studies this year.
A few of the students in Learning on Purpose already knew each other. Because the 2020 LoP was cancelled (due to, well, you know) students who were eager to get started on their studies at CCS took a highly abridged “mini-LoP” workshop last summer and took part in theme learning circles over the year. But even though they’d been previously introduced to some of the CCS pedagogy, they found Learning on Purpose valuable.
“I met people with various experiences and backgrounds,” said CCS student Hyerim Park, “and we had a chance to share individual experiences and vulnerability honestly, and then sympathized with each other. …I learned how difficult it is to break a framework of thoughts and fixed perspectives.” On the final day of the learning circle we were joined by a panel of diaconal ministers, each reflecting on what that ministry means to them. Hyerim noted that their stories helped her to learn “the meaning of going a narrow path and the wisdom of being friends with each other.”
The two week course was intense, and at times participants were reeling from so many new ideas and questions to explore. The refrain “We needed more time in the breakout room!” was often heard. But there was also lots of laughter and creativity and opportunities for fun. “This was my first course at CCS, and my first intensive course in a very long time. The course moved along quickly, with so many different learning opportunities; I started the course looking for answers, but I left with more questions, excited about exploring them, excited to share my faith while growing myself within,” said one student.
“Taking the LoP Circle was TOUGH! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… BUT (and this is the important thing) you get a LOT out of it! The instructors gently coax the participants into responding, challenging them into communal and personal growth as children of God. If you’re open to learning within a caring, supportive, theological environment, then this just might be for you!”
One student said in her evaluation of the circle: “Since this was my very first Learning Circle with CCS I have nothing to say but WOW!! I haven’t been in a formal learning setting for many years and after being amongst the group, I have decided that this is how I want to learn!!”