cover of Weaving a Changing Tapestry

CCS History

cover of Weaving a Changing TapestryGwyn Griffith’s Weaving a Changing Tapestry is a thorough history of the Centre for Christian Studies. Copies of this book can be purchased from CCS.

  • Read an excerpt from Weaving a Changing Tapestry by Gwyn Griffith.
  • Order a copy of Weaving a Changing Tapestry. (Print off this order form and mail it with a cheque.)

Deaconess and Missionary Training Homes

In the 1890’s visionaries, with a passion for theological education for women, in The Anglican Church, The Methodist Church and The Presbyterian Church founded three deaconess and missionary training homes in Toronto. Major gifts from prominent families like the Gooderham’s and Massey’s, and the dedication of hundreds of others enabled these Schools to develop the facilities needed to support the burgeoning number of women seeking training. By 1920, the Schools were offering a variety of programs for city, home and foreign missions and deaconesses, including training for social service, medicine and religious education. The schools offered opportunity for women to study theology and be formed in their chosen vocation as missionary, deaconess or lay worker complimenting their professional training in medicine, social work or teaching.

Presbyterian Deaconess students, 1912

Practical training valued

Student field work was an important aspect of the curriculum and graduates of the programs were well prepared for a variety of ministries. In 1908, the Head Deaconess of the Anglican school converted a former coach house behind the main building into a hospital for neighbourhood families who could not afford health care. Staffed by two doctors, and deaconesses trained in midwifery and apothecary, the clinic became a place for practical training for the students. This social service arm of the school remained an integral part of the school until 1947.

Responsive to change throughout the decades

In 1925, the Methodist and Presbyterian schools combined to become the United Church Training School continuing in the tradition of training women for ministry. The schools were well placed to respond to the increased need for women workers brought about with the 2nd World War. Congregations without ministers were anxious to hire deaconesses. Post war, the baby boom filled Sunday schools and mid week groups and the demand for Christian Education workers was unsatiable. Enrolment at schools grew accordingly and the training of deaconesses moved to the forefront. Changes in the schools were reflected in new names, The Anglican Women’s Training College and Covenant College, for the United Church school.

The 1960’s marked the beginning of several decades of rapid social change that had a profound effect on the church. Of significance for Covenant College was the admission of men into the program in 1962. Motivated by these changes in the church and the formal discussions that were underway to bring union between the Anglican and United Churches negotiations lead to the merger of AWTC with Covenant College to become the Centre for Christian Studies in 1969.

The Centre for Christian Studies

77 Charles, Toronto home of CCS from 1969 to 1998

In the 1980’s, CCS added to its offering a “community based program” modelled after a pilot project that The United Church had undertaken in which students remained in their home communities. Students came together periodically through out the year for intensive classroom time as well as continuing in the long tradition of practical field work in local ministry settings. Without any additional financial resources CCS was now trying to offer two distinct programs. This over extension of human resources, at a time of financial stress took its toll on the institution.

In 1997, the building in Toronto was sold and a decision was made to discontinue the traditional residential program in favour of the community based program and to relocate the administrative offices to Winnipeg. In July, 1998, CCS officially moved.

Woodsworth House, home of CCSCCS is housed now in Woodsworth House, the historic home of J.S. Woodsworth. On the second floor and on the lower level are full floors offices and meeting rooms. Some of the rooms on the second floor are leased as office space. The basement level is home for CCS program staff and the library. CCS has a staff of 7. The current student body of about 50 are spread across Canada, studying in a 4 year diploma program in diaconal ministries. CCS’ mission is to provide preparation for women and men for ministries of education, pastoral care and justice that move the church and world towards justice and compassion.

Read more about Woodsworth House and J. S. Woodsworth.