Katharine Hockin Lane

Katharine Hockin, United Church Training School
Katharine Hockin, United Church Training School

On September 22, 2013 the lane behind Trinity-St. Paul United Church in Toronto was named in honour Katharine Hockin (U1937).  Besides being one of the “saints and prophets” of TSP United, she is also a part of CCS history, as a graduate and a staff member of the United Church Training School, and later as an teacher with the Ecumencial Forum.  She devoted much of her life to the study of “mission”, and CCS still uses her Decades of Mission resource.

Ann Naylor remembers the influence Katharine had on her as a teacher while Ann was a student at CCS in the 70s.  After a particularly uncritical paper on politics in Uganda, Katharine took her aside and said, “I want to talk to you about asking questions.”  Ann also remembers Katharine’s commitment to conservation, whether that meant using the same tea bag for a week or reclaiming wool from thrift store sweaters to knit into afghans which were then given away as gifts.

CCS program staff member Ted Dodd was fortunate to be present at the Trinity-St. Paul worship service celebrating Katharine.  Following the service, the Harbord Village Residents Association and Toronto City Councillor, Adam Vaughn, named the laneway behind the church “Katharine Hockin Lane.” Special guests for the naming included Marion Pope (U1955 and Companion of the Centre), Lois Wilson (former Moderator of the United Church), and David Fallis (relative of Katharine Hockin).

Katharine Hockin Lane
Katharine Hockin Lane

CCS joins with the people of Trinity-St. Paul in celebrating Katharine, and we’re happy to share with you:

  • some remembrances of Katharine from Marion Pope
  • a prayer written by Katharine (adapted)
  • the sermon preached at the TSP service by Vicki Obedkoff
  • and some photos of the event taken by Bill Fallis

Thank you to all for letting us share this celebration with the CCS community.

Wilson and Pope w picture of Katharine Hockin
Lois Wilson and Marion Pope

Marion Pope remembers Katharine Hockin

Katharine Hockin was, and still is, my teacher. Anyone who grew up in China, Korea or Japan knows immediately the importance of this relationship, particularly between university professors and their students, for whom the relationship is a life-long one of mutual responsibility and respect and embraces the whole of life, not just what happens in the classroom. Twenty years later I still could not bring myself to call her, as everyone else did, Katharine or Kay but always, Dr. Hockin, and she never asked me to do otherwise; she respected the faithfulness of our relationship even though it developed over the years to one of mentorship and companionship.

Katharine was my teacher in what is now called the Centre for Christian Studies, which was then on St. George Street, with a residence on Bedford Road. Katharine was my Don of Residence as well as Dean of Students. Besides our daily academic studies, Katharine engaged us in the evenings in poetry and drama readings, books, music, art, global cultures and world affairs.

When we met in 1953, Katharine had just returned from more than two years of house arrest in The Peoples Republic of China. She had used that time to listen to what the people were saying about what was happening in the new China, to read the pamphlets and newspapers, hear what the few people she could talk to were saying about their new culture and to understand what it meant to them. She tried to understand why the Chinese Christians appreciated some of the new values and participated in the actions of some new movements, in particular, the equal sharing of scarce resources even though that meant living in poverty, condemnation of past ways of living which exploited the poor and cooperation in group decision-making. One expression of this reflection for Katharine was, “If I were Chinese, I would have hated me too.”

But when she returned to Canada and tried to help us here to understand this new China and its newly independent and united church, the China Christian Council, she was dismissed and vilified by governments and even her own church. The woman who became Canada’s and one of the world’s eminent missiologists, that is, a scholar and prophet of how the church lives out God’s mission in the world, was not accepted in her own country. This is the woman who rode her bicycle through the lanes of this community, particularly between Trinity-St.Paul’s United Church and her home on Palmerston south of Harbord. Often, when I was in Canada, she would delight in walking me and her bicycle down Robert or Major to the Harbord Convenience where she would disappear into the back of the store, leaving me in the front to address the Proprietor in Korean, gleefully listening for his shocked reaction. She was, embarrassingly for me, proud of her student’s accomplishments and would boast that I spoke Korean, then, rather well and had written my doctoral thesis in Korean in a foremost Korean University.

She taught us and practised herself the arts of living simply, of sharing resources ecumenically, and of living with the people with whom we worked in partnership. To put her missiology succinctly, the United Church works with Global Partners around the world, respecting their right and responsibility to discern what God’s mission is for them, and then, if they ask, and only if they ask and in whatever way they ask, to participate with them in that mission. She called this relationship one of companionship and this was the relationship she enjoyed with her students, friends and family, here and around the world. This is the essence of the woman we honour this day, our companion on this lane.

Vicki Obedkoff
Vicki Obedkoff

Companions on the Way – sermon by Vicki Obedkoff

Texts: Jeremiah 8: 18 – 9:1; Luke 16: 1 – 13

John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress writes of the pilgrimage of the outcast person, Christian, from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. At the beginning of the pilgrim’s journey, the pilgrim is taken to the House of the Interpreter for a time of preparation – to be strengthened by the spirits of those who have made the pilgrimage and to be warned of the difficult choices ahead.

Our congregation has functioned as a House of the Interpreter for many years. Our members respond to invitations from Global Partners to “come and see”, from Palestine-Israel to the Philipines. Upon their return, we invite our pilgrims to share their experiences in “Global Gossips”, our time-honoured post-service tradition of lunching and learning together. Our beloved “GGs” were so named by our own Katharine Hockin. You have often gazed on her portrait in the Memorial Room, catching the wise twinkle in her eye.

When the Harbord Village Laneway naming project approached us and asked us to choose a name after whom the laneway behind our church might be named, we chose Katharine. She embodied an essence of this congregation in being a house of interpretation of the realities of global peoples in their contexts and of what liberation could mean for our church and our church partners.

Katharine was born in China to missionary parents and into a life-long pilgrimage seeking right relationship in the practice of mission. Pilgrims travel with the clear intention to draw closer to God and the people they travel with. Pilgrims expect to return transformed or changed or converted from the person they were when they began the journey. They will not return the same as they were when they left. The biblical meaning of “repentance” is to “to go beyond the mind that we have”, especially our minds that are conditioned by our own culture.

Pilgrims return from their journey with a “boon,” something good that will enrich their lives in the everyday world back home. Today we give thanks for the “boon” of Katharine Hockin and touch upon her legacy.

Words like “mission” and “missionary” have some bad baggage in these times as people struggle to shrug off the vestiges of Western colonialism and imperialism. The residential schools in the U.S. run by religious organizations for aboriginal children were called “mission schools”. In Canada, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, we are witnessing the testimonies of survivors. Unfortunately the imperial use of religion is not just a thing of the past. John Buttars, a respected UCC minister in Guelph, is giving a public talk this fall wondering if Christinity has become a “conquest” religion globally. Rev. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican priest, is speaking at Bloor Street United and at Knox College on Oct 1 about the mis-use of Christianity in perpetuating the occupation of Palestine. We will see that Katharine saw firsthand the colonial mis-use of Christianity and dedicated her life to living mutually healing, liberating, practices of mission and to finding her humble place in being a companion on the way.

Katharine’s first experience working in mission began in 1934 when, after completing a doctorate in education, she took a teaching position at Ahousat Indian Residential School on Vancouver Island, operated by the UCC. She was troubled by the poor qualifications of the teachers, distressed by the dismissal of aboriginal culture as pagan or heathen, and opposed to the aim of assimilating the Nootka people into white culture. Katharine left in 1937 to study theology and then returned to China as a missionary in 1940. Encountering strong hostility to Western religion and foreign residents including herself, she realized that this was the result of a century of unequal treaties by the colonial powers. Imagine if you lived in China a century ago, seeing people wearing Christian crosses and regalia arriving on war boats along the river. What kind of message would that have sent about this religion? Katharine writes that if “I was a young Chinese person, I would hate me too.”

After 2 years of house arrest during the whirlwind of the upheaval in China, she was back in Canada in 1951, teaching ministry students and becoming the United Church’s pre-eminent missiologist as she struggled to re-define and reshape the practice of mission. “Notable in the development of her missiology is Hockin’s persistent vision of right relationship in mission, a vision out of which grew her realization of our church’s brokenness in relationship with other churches and of the need to work toward healing ourselves.” (from JungHee Park, “Katharine Hockin’s Contributions to the Mission Policy of the United Church of Canada (1966-1988)”, p.7.)

The beginning of Hockin’s passion for right relations is reflected in a letter sent to the WMS Overseas Missions Executive Secretary, Ruth Taylor, Feb. 1951: “It is true that the west has sown the wind in the last century of exploitative and unequal relations with this land and other territories. Now the harvest is the whirlwind, and it looks as though nothing could abate the force of this tempest…and who can say that God is not on the side of the whirlwind? The trouble is who do we get ourselves on God’s side? Certainly we can no longer be complacent about fitting “him” into our comfortable human pattern…where do we do from here? Does it not mean the whole missionary venture needs revamping and a consecrated self-examination?” Hockin writes that “I believe that in the events of this century the Western nations are under judgment…I believe God judges all who misuse power, and that for all of us there is God’s mercy and God’s grace.” Hockin wrote that that God’s mission is with the world – not just the church nor our cultural expression of church- and that God wanted us to learn even from the Marxist whirlwind sweeping China.

Turning to our scriptures this morning, we hear Jeremiah weeping for the people, for the people who are not being restored. “Is there no balm in Gilead? Jeremiah’s lament can be heard in the suffering that Hockin witnessed in China and evokes our own weeping at the suffering in our world. But the parable of Jesus praising a shrewd and crafty manager, who carves out commissions for himself by lowering the debt of his master’s creditors, is confusing to us and requires more interpretation than there is time this morning. But the effect of what he had done, actually, was to increase joy, love, and loyalty. Though on no apparent actual authority, he announced to every debtor a significant debt reduction. They’re thrilled by the news, false though it is. And now the master, if he wants to capitalize on these good feelings, can’t rescind the “special offer” without looking like an ogre, and turning good feeling and increased loyalty, even perhaps love, to resentment and or enmity. Meanwhile, the manager, as “bearer of the good news,” has ensured a place for himself wherever he needs one.

It was a brilliant plan.

Disciples of Jesus are called to be just as brilliant in the ways we use money and handle debts as this dishonest manager. Jesus’s message seemed to be about finding ways to use money to reduce debt in every form and to increase joy and love. It means developing great savvy with both finances and cultural norms. Do this, Jesus says, and you’ll be welcomed into the eternal homes of all you release. The “children of light”, the spiritual seekers, need to be savvy and wise about money, and how money is distributed. As Hockin said: The poor are poor because the rich are rich. The system of hoarding wealth creates the poor – and anything that can be done to start distributing the money around is praised by Jesus as something we need to be creative with as well.

Certainly the revolution in China was about the mis-use of power and money in the face of the hungry masses. Hockin however was vilified in Canada for sounding soft on communism. Her efforts to interpret what she had witnessed, her practice of listening in context to the people’s realities, were also marginalized by the church. She was never really accepted at Emmanuel College and her courses were relegated as optional. Fortunately a steady stream of students preparing for Diaconal and ecumenical global ministry found an inspiring and prophetic mentor.

Hockin taught our own Marion Kirkwood and Marion Pope, who worked in the field of public health nursing, as a diaconal minister within the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, from 1957 until 1994, and as a professor of nursing in her final years there. Pope reflects that her theory of nursing – to listen and to be with an individual or community in their context, not imposing her own personal beliefs – was consistent with her principle of mission, based on the UCC”s foundational principle of partnership, and on her learning from Katharine Hockin. The learning from Hockin which Pope tried to live out in Korea was “to hold in creative tension perceived conflicts between gospel and culture”. She interprets it as “dialogue, sharing stories in the community, perhaps coming to consensus, perhaps not, living with risk, but at least moving toward mutual understanding of and respect for each other’s points of view”.

In the early 1960s in her lectures to the SCM, Hockin proposed the “Frontier of Relationship”– finding reconciliation in a world of multiple conflicts – as the challenge of our time. Later, in her relational thinking, the concept of “the frontier of relationship” develops into the concept of “partners in mission”. In 1966 the UCC approved a report on World Mission which reflected a major shift in our understanding and practice of mission. The word “partner” sums it up. Katharine Hockin served on that UCC Commission and wrote one section, “Revolutionary Changes in the 20th Century: Challenging Conventional Approaches to Missions?” What were these revolutionary changes? They were the movements toward independence from western colonial contexts, such as in China and in Angola. The UCC in 2008 reviewed its partnership principles and practices with global partners who gave the highest affirmation to UCC practice. Yet Hockin became aware of a tendency to manage our partners even in this model- and of the challenges of partners who bring different finances to the partnership. As she persistently sought to grasp a clearer understanding of mutuality, she offers another theory of mission as “companions on the Way”. The word “companion” holds the Old Latin meaning of “one with whom bread is shared”, and Ktharine expanded this to “one with whom life and delight and the adventure of road is experienced together.”

In Hockin’s developing missiology, her main focus is not on the other who appears to need help and healing as a victim, the poor and sick and oppressed, but on herself and her church and faith community. Hockin asked for healing and companionship for herself and the UCC rather than primarily for the global partner.

Our church is one of many participants on the journey. Being one of many, companions on the way, sharing joys and suffering, shows her long and persistent movement toward liberation through the experience of healing for herself and her faith community – a fulfillment of her pilgrimage in mission.

Hockin asks us to listen with loving intent- even when what we hear is throbbing with hurt and bitterness. She emphasizes the importance of listening over speaking. “For non-aboriginal congregational practice in the UCC, truth-telling should be renamed as truth-listening, since truth will be revealed through listening. Changing our practice to truth-listening will indicate a willingness to listen and understand….” Hockin wrote years before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created in Canada. This congregation on June 6, 2012, decided that our number one social justice priority was to listen and to learn from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission testimonies and to work to implement its recommendations.

As well as listening, context is important. Hockin affirms the need for openness in dialogue with everyone including atheists, as a growing secularism is the context of our times. “The common issues of humankind are the basis for dialogue with other peoples. And what are these common issues? Peace, a concern for justice, ecological issues, the healing and nurture of relationships…”

This morning we have reflected on Katharine Hockin’s legacy, her “boon”. How can our congregations evolve as “houses of interpretation” for pilgrims seeking inter-cultural understanding? We bring our “boons” to each other in dialogue and with radical hospitality. Let us pray….

Marion Pope, Lois Wilson, and David Fallis
Marion Pope, Lois Wilson, and David Fallis

A Prayer (adapted from Katharine Hockin)

God is our Mother Father, ordainer, sustainer!
So we affirm – and then claim to be members of a great family –
all of God’s people knit in community,
sharing the heritage of common parentage: humankind –
black and white, brown, yellow and red – all one royal blood!
And yet, and yet – is it so?
We say we are one, yet act with division;
fear and defensiveness rise in our hearts.
And we cannot listen, not really listen,
to what our brothers and sisters are really saying,
we would tell them our message but they cannot hear us.
We would preach the gospel, spread the evangel –
but gospel, evangel are already sharing,
a sharing that communicates, hearer and teller,
telling and hearing in mutual converse.
May we listen, and listen and try with a passion for understanding,
to have ears to hear what our sisters and brothers are saying –
saying to us and of us.
May we come to our God with honesty and love
and a will to establish a common purpose among us.

Hockin Lane sign

2 Replies to “Katharine Hockin Lane”

  1. wonderful story and heart warming. She is a hero and a saint among the communion of saints.

  2. It was a wonderful moment. So lovely to see her name every time we go by the lane. Betsy

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