“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