Anarchist Priest – Living in the tension

By Gwen McAllister

Not long ago at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church where I am priest, a friend and parishioner good-naturedly called me out as a hypocrite: “You preach against hierarchy, but you’re an Anglican priest.”

It’s a tension in which I have found a rather comfortable vocational home, living in the messy “now” of Christianity in upheaval, working like so many others — in my small, local way within community — to reclaim the Christian faith tradition from Christendom and Empire. I do preach against much in which I am complicit: systems of exploitation and privilege, domination, wealth. Together with many others, I reach for much that is rare and precious in our daily context: sharing of resources, mutuality in relationships, a celebration of all that lives and our embraced interdependence.

I don’t frequently identify as an anarchist. It seems presumptuous: I don’t think I do enough to earn the title. And then, taking on that label sounds like it is too much about me and my identity, when in fact I live out my vocation and identity together with others as part of a parish community, a larger faith community, and a larger non-religious community of resistance. But also, “anarchist” is not an identity I hold to in the same way I hold to understanding myself as part of a vast and rich faith tradition. Yet faith has brought me to politics which in turn have contextualized my faith; each informs the other.

Continue reading “Anarchist Priest – Living in the tension”

Neighbours ~ a good Samaritan story by Annika Sangster

CCS grad Annika Sangster has published a delightful retelling of the story of the Good Samaritan called Neighbours. We recently talked about the genesis of the book and gaining the confidence to share her creativity. Details for purchasing Neighbours are at the bottom of the article.


Neighbours emerged from a Vacation Bible School with a twist. Not just “Bible”, Annika’s church had decided to explore the Golden Rule through different faith traditions. The story Annika wanted to share from the Christian tradition was the Good Samaritan, but she couldn’t find a version that she liked. So she created her own out of plasticine.

“I could see this picture in my head,” she explained. “I wanted [the children] to see the Good Samaritan as a basic person. I made the Good Samaritan an androgynous kind of person, at least that was my intent.” Continue reading “Neighbours ~ a good Samaritan story by Annika Sangster”

The K.P. Room

Kay Pearson

colourful nativity sceneI was in the K.P Room at the Centre for Christan Studies last Friday as we were getting set up for our annual Christmas Cookies & Carols open house.

Have you been to the Centre?  It’s a house.  Yes, CCS is a national theological school that educates students from all across Canada, but essentially it’s just an unassuming two-story house in downtown Winnipeg.  (Or at least it has been since CCS moved to Winnipeg from Toronto.)

Within the house, the K.P. Room is our kitchen and our lunch room.  And our meeting room.  And we have gatherings there, like Cookies & Carols or Second Fridays.  And sometimes we have learning circles there.  In a lot of ways, the K.P. Room is the heart of CCS. Continue reading “The K.P. Room”

I’ll Fly Away

Mary Payne in the 50s or 60s standing by a red propeller plane

On November 14 one of our alumni, Mary Pyne, passed away in Saskatoon.  Mary graduated in 1950.  (She was Mary Clark and the school was the United Church Training School at the time.) She went on to a career as a deaconess and a “flying nurse.”

I think that many of our graduates from that generation (and from other generations) will resonate with the spirit of commitment described by Mary’s niece Lori in her eulogy.  (The memorial service was held at Grace-Westminster United in Saskatoon.) Continue reading “I’ll Fly Away”

All About You – Oriole Veldhuis

Oriole at the dining table talking to two students

CCS Development Coordinator Lori Stewart asked Oriole Veldhuis (graduate of 1961) to lunch with the graduating students last month to tell her story of why she continues to support the Centre for Christian Studies. Here’s Oriole’s story:

I’ve accumulated 80 years so this story could be very long indeed. I’ll try to be concise. My childhood on a farm at the end of the road was the best. It was the dirty thirties with horses, and a Shetland pony that my sisters drove to school. We had calves, a lamb, a baby pig and our dog for play mates.

Although our parents stressed education, school was not fun for me—restrictive and discouraging. Gradually the red marks on my pages became less important than the world I discovered in our classroom’s library cupboard. Continue reading “All About You – Oriole Veldhuis”

All About You – Kathy Platt

Kathy Platt has been serving as chaplain to the Spring Learning Circle for the past three weeks.  As the Learning Circle wraps up today, it seems like a good idea to profile Kathy…

Kathy Platt
Kathy Platt

I graduated from CCS in 2000, and was commissioned to diaconal ministry in 2001.  I was settled into a 3 point pastoral charge in rural Manitoba.  Every Sunday I would drive 200 km, and preach the same service 3 times, which I did for 5 years.  Good thing I love leading worship!

I moved to Regina in 2006 to be in ministry at Sunset United Church.   What drew me to ministry here was the fact that this community worships in the round, and that they are committed to continuing to live into their call to be an Affirming Ministry in the United Church.  Every Sunday that I preach is an opportunity to live out my call to diaconal ministry – to offer pastoral care, education and social justice in the words I speak, in the music we sing, in the prayers that are offered. Continue reading “All About You – Kathy Platt”

Tif McNaughton – World Council of Churches Steward

CCS student Tif McNaughton, currently on a Reflection Year, was a steward at the recent assembly of the World Council of Churches in South Korea.  In this article she reflects on that experience, and on taking part in a course on environmental, social, spiritual, and political issues related to land.  Thank you, Tif, for inviting us into your learnings…

Have you ever wondered what people do on a reflection year? The possibilities are endless! I have chosen to take a reflection year to address two main topics: theology of mission, and care for creation. How do we engage in these topics locally and globally, and what does it mean for a Diaconal Ministry student?

These priorities were well nurtured this fall when I joined a course called Spirit of the Land with the Augustana faculty of the University of Alberta, and served as a Steward at the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, Republic of South Korea.

Spirit of the Land combines contemplation, community building, story sharing and analysis to equip students to engage in the world differently. Issues of the environment, reconciliation between settler and indigenous people, food security, spirituality and personal wellness are woven into a holistic community land ethic. Check out our website for recordings of classes and our conference, resources and student reflections.

Diana Eguigure and Tif model WCC t-shirts
Diana Eguigure and Tif model WCC t-shirts

Halfway through the semester, I left for 3 weeks in Busan. As one of the 130 Stewards invited to volunteer at the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, my accommodation and meals were paid for by the WCC. The Spiritual Development Fund of Camrose United Church generously supported my travel costs. Stewards enjoyed 10 days of ecumenical dialogue and community building as we prepared for our duties to follow at the Assembly. It was inspiring to meet youth from so many traditions all over the world who care so deeply for the ecumenical movement and community development.

Continue reading “Tif McNaughton – World Council of Churches Steward”

All About – Lois Pollard

Two stories in an August issue of Common Threads (Marion Pardy–a person of Eleos and We Celebrate with Oriole Veldhuis) prompted Lois Pollard (U1953) to write a long and newsy letter. In it she remembered fondly her six years as librarian at the United Church Training School (UCTS) and reminisced about her encounters with Marion and Oriole when they were students.

Lois is not only a former staff member but a graduate of the UCTS which she attended from 1951 to 1953. After graduation Lois was designated as a deaconess and assigned to a one year placement in a mission charge of the United Church, followed by five years in churches in Leamington and St. Catherines. But despite a longing to work in the church, Lois found it was not a good fit for her and she returned to what she calls her “first love”—her vocation as a librarian. It was with the books that she felt most at home and it was there she was able to fulfill her calling.

“I didn’t have the personality for a church worker. My approach was more of a scholar rather than a warm-hearted person understanding those harder places of life. I grew up as one of many Christians who are outside the church, and do not have a firm background of the practices of Sunday School and church worship,” Lois reflects.

UCTS library 1955
UCTS Library

But a return to library work at Covenant, Victoria, and Emmanuel Colleges meant she was able to interact with students. She felt she had freedom to engage with them in meaningful conversations in the library. “I had a marvelous time in those six years. The students were willing to talk to me. I really had better conversations with them than with people in the churches I was trying to work in. They knew me not as a religious leader but as a friend.”

Lois remembers a conversation with Oriole Veldhuis, “[Oriole] was telling me exactly how the cradle which First Nations women used to carry their babies on their backs was constructed, for the baby’s security as well as comfort.” The conversation has stayed with her and Lois is very interested in reading more of Oriole’s insights in her new book, For Elise.

In 1967, when Lois was leaving the staff at UCTS and saying her goodbyes, “Marion Pardy produced one of those lobsters made of red cloth and stuffed, that are sold to tourists and are reminiscent of Marion’s home province. It was hard to give him up but she gave her beloved Goofey-Newfie to me. He still graces my living room, artistically placed a-top one of my bookcases with one claw extending down over the shelf.” Books have been a big part of Lois’s life. Books led her into her calling as a librarian and were part of her married life at Highway Book Shop. At 91, Lois says she still reads the Observer and is the lay reader for Sunday services at her residence.

Thinking of that lobster, Lois muses, “He belongs there, with the books, for it was among the books that I worked when I knew those students—in fact it was among the books that I spent most of my life.”

Sally Meyer: Getting Things Done

When Sally Meyer (CCS graduate, 2004) needed to get the word out about the needs of the people of Lac Mégantic, she drew on her various networks and connections, including the Centre for Christian Studies community.

Sally is the minister of St. Lambert United Church serving a wide area of the South Shore of Montreal, less than three hours away from the small town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec that was rocked on July 6th when a train derailed and its crude oil cargo exploded. The immediacy of the disaster and the 47 funerals have passed, but questions remain:

  • Who will pay for the clean up?
  • How can the toxic carcinogens in the air, earth, and nearby lake be addressed?
  • Where does a community with no downtown infrastructure begin to rebuild?
  • What will restore the spirit of people whose families are ripped apart by death?

The struggles and pain of the people of Lac Mégantic will continue for a very long time. Sally and the St. Lambert congregation are concerned about these questions.

“I serve as minister in a city built because of the railroad and the last stop on the Maritime line before Montreal. An elderly woman from a railroad family, who has called St. Lambert United home since the cornerstone was laid in 1937 says, ‘We have to do something. We always give to special appeals, why is this different?’”

Sally recalling the words of the creed, “We are not alone” started working with her congregation “to get things done”. They have issued an appeal which led to mobilizing other contacts through CCS, facebook, Montreal and Ottawa Conference, the United Church of Canada and its moderator, Gary Patterson.

She wrote a moving call to action that has been sent out widely and posted on the Conference website:

The people of Lac Mégantic are kin and we are invited to grow in wisdom and compassion that challenges us to make our choices matter. The web of life that weaves us all together in our Creator’s name is weathering a human and environmental catastrophe. As we are blessed, may we take this opportunity to bless others. Please give generously to the Canadian Red Cross.

This issue is more than a local one; it is a national disaster. Sally’s efforts to get the whole church involved, however, have not been without obstacles. “That’s when I dig in my heels,” she says.

Sally continues to advocate for a broad response while working with the congregation’s newly formed praise band to organize a fundraising dance. Sally, whose passion for people on the edge was nurtured at the Centre for Christian Studies, is challenging all of us “to make our lives and choices matter”.

Written by CCS Development Coordinator, Lori Stewart

“Introducing” Lori Stewart

Lori Stewart is well-known to many in the CCS community.  A graduate of CCS (1987), she recently received her doctorate and did her thesis on the spiral model of reflection used at CCS.  She has been contracted at various times as a resource person, a marker of student papers, and an organizer for the 120th anniversary celebrations.  Last month she stepped into a new role: Development Coordinator for the Centre for Christian Studies.

Here’s what Lori has to say by way of introduction:

The transition from there to here has gone pretty smoothly, I’d say. But I guess it would be true that many paths have led in this direction over the years.

My mother was a graduate of the one year program at Covenant College; my father, an ordained minister who studied at United College in Winnipeg. As a child of the manse, the church was a constant accompaniment to my daily life growing up. I can remember at an early age asking my mother when I would be able to go to meetings too. My spiritual conversion was an experience of God’s grace that changed my life and deepened my faith journey. It led me into leadership as a camp counsellor, university retreat planner, participant in IVCF’s “Summer in the City”, worship designer, and young adult group coordinator. As I learned more of God’s kin-dom and grew more confident, I wondered how I could use my energy for God. When I learned about diaconal ministry, my whole being said “yes”.

I graduated from CCS in 1987, and following a year at St. Michael’s College in Toronto completing my MRE, was settled at Central United Church in St. Thomas where I experienced firsthand the struggle people have with faith-based decisions that disturb the status quo. After four years in congregational ministry, I moved into a position as Stewardship Minister in the London Conference office. Here my diaconal skills were put to good use in designing workshops, consulting with congregations, and building a strong stewardship network all over southwestern Ontario and in Algoma. It wasn’t exactly “development” as defined by CCS but an introduction to the concept of “engaging” people in the mission of the church as the way to build their volunteer and financial support.

In 2001, an opportunity came to participate as overseas personnel in Jamaica. I was there for six years with my family: Paul worked as an agronomist, and Brose and Ellen (then 7 and 5) attended school, while I was assigned to a regional branch of the International University of the Caribbean where I coordinated a training program for elders and lay pastors, and tutored ministry students in their field placements. Many of these students had little more than a grade 8 education, and yet they blossomed when given an opportunity to learn and grow as leaders. They taught me much about faith in the face of difficulty, persistence in following dreams, and the value of encouragement. These are lessons I remembered as I began my doctoral studies and pushed the boundaries of my own perceived abilities. Following six more years in congregational ministry, I find myself at CCS.

The Centre for Christian Studies has been a persistent thread along my pathway. As a student it offered challenge to comfortable, yet mistaken, assumptions; provided a supportive environment for change; exposed me to an alternative education; and opened my eyes to ministry on the margins. CCS has provided opportunities to volunteer on a curriculum task group, the communication and program committees; to work as a resource person, marker, and conference organizer; to arrange and participate in graduate events; to study the origin, evolution, and use of “the spiral” as the topic of my EdD studies; and now a position as Development Coordinator. Certainly there is still a lot to learn; I have a coach to help me with the specifics of the job. It has also been a good experience to attend Anglican churches as an immersion in that part of CCS culture.

When I was leaving Fort Garry United Church to come to CCS, many people asked if I would be leaving town. This question pointed to one of my first tasks: to help people know who we are, that the school has a presence in Winnipeg, and how to engage with the important work we do through our students across Canada. I have begun to frame the messages to present CCS to the world. Gathering stories of the impact students and graduates are having demonstrates the effectiveness of our program. I would love to hear your story. Don’t hesitate to contact me, and if I call you, I hope we can talk.

The God who has girded me with strength has opened wide my path. 2 Samuel 22:33

lori stewart and caryn douglas
Lori Stewart (left) with Caryn Douglas at CCS’s 120th Anniversary Celebration

Jessie MacLeod recognized as Companion of the Centre

Jessie close upThe last of the 2013 Companion of the Centre awards was presented last week to Jessie McLeod at the DUCC (Diakonia of the United Church) gathering at the Tatamagouche Centre in Nova Scotia.  The Companion presentation was made on May 2, 2013.  In attendance were CCS principal Maylanne Maybee and CCS program staff Ann Naylor and Ted Dodd, as well as many CCS friends and alumni who were attending the diaconal gathering.  The evening was capped off with a ceilidh.

Jessie and Ted at the DUCC ceilidh
Jessie and Ted at the DUCC ceilidh

Ann Naylor read the following citation about Jessie:

I am honoured to present Jessie MacLeod as one of the 2013 Companions of the Centre for Christian Studies. It is particularly meaningful to have this ceremony of recognition here, in this sacred place, a centre of learning, of activism, of worship, of community-building, of justice-making, of sanctuary, of hospitality, of peace…each of these being values and expressions of ministry held precious by Jessie.

In preparing for this evening, I read the documentation that was compiled by the folks who nominated Jessie as Companion. What a privilege to witness the love and respect woven into this testimony! I think it is noteworthy that the nomination included reflections and letters from lay, diaconal and ordained members of the United Church, support coming from as close as some of the folks in this room and as far away as Alberta. Jessie MacLeod is beloved by God and by the people whose paths have crossed hers – for a brief moment of intersection or for a time of travelling together.

Growing up in a church family in Baddeck, NS, in the 1930’s, she was active in church leadership and was drawn to opportunities for further training. After completing business college in Halifax, she moved to Toronto to attend the United Church Training School and Victoria College, from which she graduated in 1950, having spent several months as a summer student in Success, Saskatchewan, using a bicycle as her means of transportation.

Following Designation as a Deaconess by Montreal and Ottawa Conference, Jessie continued her education in Italy and in both Canada and the United States through formal academic programs, earning a Masters of Religious Studies from Union Seminary College in 1959, and through work camps and conferences

Discernment of the Spirit’s call led Jessie to serve in ministry positions in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Sackville, Toronto, Halifax, and Sydney. Her work included, but was by no means limited to Christian Education, communicants’ classes, leadership development, Conference staff work in congregational life and work, teacher training, work in First Nations communities, Student Affairs on a university campus, Christian Development work in the General Council offices, pastor in residence at a theological school, training pastoral care workers, and preaching.

Also active as a volunteer, Jessie served on numerous task groups, commissions, and committees within the United Church and was involved ecumenically through the Student Christian Movement and Canadian Girls in Training. A voracious reader, Jessie has maintained a life long commitment to biblical study and to book studies. A CCS student, visiting Jessie in her retirement home, noticed that Jessie’s reading material looked very much like the assigned readings for the student’s CCS courses – so much alike that they were the same books.

Jessie’s underlying focus in ministry, as recorded in her Curriculum Vitae in 1981, was the “desire to enable and equip lay people to express their Christian Faith, and to contribute their gifts as members and leaders in church and community”.

Those of you who do not know Jessie may be creating an image in your minds that Jessie has spent her entire life going to church meetings. Not so. While church meetings have occupied a lot of her time, Jessie’s life outside church gatherings has always been active. You might spot Jessie gardening, hiking, swimming, golfing, cross –country skiing, reading, or at a concert or a movie.

Jessie MacLeod and CCS principal Maylanne Maybee
Jessie MacLeod and CCS principal Maylanne Maybee

Jessie has spent her life supporting and encouraging women into church leadership, helping them to find their own voices. She is well known for her determination, her ability to sustain clarity, and her resolve to work though differences respectfully and tenaciously. The words “humour” and “subversion” were both used positively and with fondness to describe Jessie’s approach to resistance to change.

Hospitality has been, and continues to be, a central value and a consistent practice for Jessie – welcome, inclusion, acceptance, respect… in her home, in her church community, in the wider community, Jessie is a constant, reassuring beacon of hospitality.

Friend, mentor, supporter, advocate, teacher, prophet, and yes… companion… one who journeys with us, who ensures that we are not alone, who welcomes us and calls out the best from us.

We , as the Centre for Christian Studies, are thrilled to name you, Jessie, as Companion. We, as a diaconal community gathered here, are delighted to support a choice well made, to celebrate this new and deeply loved Companion. We welcome you as a Companion of the Centre for Christian Studies. Thanks be to God.

3 Companions of the Centre: Kathy Toivanen, Jessie MacLeod, and Caryn Douglas
3 Companions of the Centre: Kathy Toivanen, Jessie MacLeod, and Caryn Douglas

In accepting the award, Jessie reflected on her early days in the church, on the major shifts in the understanding of ministry that occured in the church in 1960s, and on the idea of the Church as “the big family” and the family as “the little church.”



Thank you to Ann Naylor, Kathy Platt, Laura Hunter, and Maylanne Maybee for providing pictures.

Jessie MacLeod, a proud DUCC... or is that duck?
Jessie MacLeod, a proud DUCC… or is that duck?

CCS Student one of ACGC’s Top 30 Under 30

Each year, the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation releases a Top 30 Under 30 magazine which profiles 30 Albertan Youth and youth from across the globe who are actively involved in international development. This year CCS student Tif McNaughton is one of them.  Tif is very enthusiastic about the ACGC and thinks it’s awesome that a CCS student gets to do things like she gets to do with Sahakarini for a field placement. 


(Text credit: Alexander Babaris. Design for Top 30 Under 30 by Tikina Gordey)

Tif’s first introduction to international affairs was innocuous enough, simply reading National Geographic at her grandparents’ house. Other people found it amazing that she would immerse herself in articles about war, extreme poverty, and environmenal destruction. Girl Guides of Canada also played a formative role in Tif’s life, helping to connect her developing knowledge with her own actions in society. Her first steps abroad included participating in the Canada World Youth Rural Development Exchange in 2004/200S. This exchange provided her
with an incredible learning experience and the ability to create connections with like-minded youth from Canada and Mexico.

Currently Tif works as the Executive Director for the Camrose NGO Sahakarini, focusing on the advancement of women and girls around the globe. She is largely responsible for the coordination of projects, reporting to supporters and funders, and ensuring the organization runs efficiently. Sahakarini has benefited hugely from Tif’s efforts; her ability to effectively network and raise awareness in communities as diverse as women’s and girls’ groups, the University of Alberta Augustana Campus, Girl Guides of Canada, and TUXIS (the Alberta Youth Parliament) have proved invaluable for the NG0. She takes particular pride in the work that she does in Camrose from developing her ability to write efficient grant proposals to hosting a film and speaker series highlighting the experiences of women in the Global South. It is through this that Tif has learned the amount and importance of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into international development work.

Tif is currently very interested in the effects that the current distribution of power and wealth have on people. Sahakarini’s partners, especially the CCDO in India, have demonstrated that the genuine inclusion of women and the promotion of self-advocacy is a good way to minimize the negative effects of a power structure that is weighted against marginalized people.

Even with all of her commitments in the NGO world, Tif is currently studying Diaconal Ministry with the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg. She enjoys being outside, studying gardening and fibre arts, especially wet-felting, needle-felting, and knitting.

WOMEN! Train today for a challenging job TOMORROW

Occasionally Caryn Douglas passes along CCS-related articles and tidbits that she’s unearthed in her research into the history of deaconesses in the United Church.  Here’s one from the United Church Observer in 1958, announcing the recipients of the Kaufman Scholarship.  The United Church Training School is one of the forerunners of CCS, and the Kaufman Scholarship is still awarded by CCS.  (Most recently to HyeRan Kim-Cragg.)

Two Get KaufmansTwo Get Kaufmans

“For the first time two Kaufman Scholarships will be awarded at the graduation exercises of the United Church Training School in Danforth Ave. United Church, Toronto, on May 13th. The recipients, graduates of the school, are Miss Dency McCalla and Miss Bernice Moore.

Miss McCalla received her Arts degree from the University of Alberta and taught school before entering the United Church Training School. She has been Associate Secretary of Christian Education in Manitoba, Girls’ Work Secretary for the Board of Christian Education of The United Church of Canada, and is presently Young People’s Secretary of that board. She plans to leave for England in late July and to study in one of the British theological colleges 1958-1959.

Miss Moore was also graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.Sc. degree and attended the United Church Training School following a year with Morningside Community Centre in New York. Since graduation in 1952 she has been Director of Christian Education in Canadian Memorial Church, Vancouver. This year she is studying at the School of Theology, Boston University. She plans to attend the Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland and Selly Oak in Birmingham, England.

The Kaufman Scholarship, awarded approximately every two years, is the gift of Miss Emma Kaufman and is administered by the United Church Training School.”

On the same page of the Observer is this ad for the school:

Women! Train TODAY for a challenging job TOMORROW.  Your Church Needs You.  For information write to United Church Training School, in affiliation with Emmanuel College, Miss K. Harriet Christie, Principal
Women! Train TODAY for a challenging job TOMORROW. Your Church Needs You. For information write to United Church Training School, in affiliation with Emmanuel College, Miss K. Harriet Christie, Principal