Katharine Hockin Portrait at TST

Portrait of Katharine Hockin by Lena Endicott
Portrait of Katharine Hockin by Lena Endicott

The Canadian Churches Forum has loaned two oil paintings of important figures in the history of Canadian missiology — Lovell J. Murray and Katharine Hockin — to the Toronto School of Theology.

Katharine Hockin was a graduate (1937) and staff member at the United Church Training School (now Centre for Christian Studies), and so CCS Program Staff member Janet Ross attended a reception at TST on Tuesday, May 31 to mark the hanging of the Hockin portrait.

Janet addressed those gathered and offered these reflections on Katharine Hockin:

Jonathan Schmidt (CCC-GF), Alan Hayes (TST), Janet Ross (CCS), and Marion Pope (student and friend of Kay Hockin)
Jonathan Schmidt (CCC-GF), Alan Hayes (TST), Janet Ross (CCS), and Marion Pope (student and friend of Kay Hockin)

Good afternoon,

My name is Janet Ross and I serve as Program Staff at the Centre for Christian Studies. Maylanne Maybee, our principal, sends her sincere regrets as she is not able to be with us this afternoon. She had hoped to be in Toronto for these few hours on her way to Europe, and is very sorry to miss this occasion.

In Maylanne’s stead, I have a few words from the CCS community’s reflections on Dr. Hockin.

Fondly known by her students as “Doc Hock”, Katharine Hockin was an ultimate educator and a brilliant social analyst. She is remembered for asking the tough, poignant and pointed questions about social injustice. When thinking about change, she had an incisive “get-to-the-bottom-of-it” mentality. Yet she wasn’t afraid of what needed to be conserved and, in part, she learned this from growing up in China — which was in many ways a conservative/conserving society.

Kay Hockin’s early exposure to poverty impacted her in many ways, one of which was her compulsion not to waste. She was absolutely committed to not wasting anything. Ann Naylor recounts that when she would have tea or coffee at Kay’s home, Kay would muse, “let’s see…this tea was made when Evelyn was here, and then David came up on Tuesday and I added a tea bag then, which was just a few days ago, so it will be fine.” It was surely a combination of aged tea and Katharine’s well-known wonderful wry sense of humour that kept her tea companions from accepting her offerings.

Indeed, Kay Hockin never wasted anything, including a moment—as she was always knitting or crocheting. Kay was known not only to buy yarn ends, but to pick-up second hand sweaters and unravel them for their yarn. She then would make beautiful afghans for any and every occasion—new babies, graduations, women around the world suffering under dictatorship—there was always a reason for an afghan or shawl. One afghan was made for a kindergarten graduation.

At Katharine’s funeral, the church was lined with these hand-made gifts—around the choir, the loft, the pews. The church was then, as before her death, blanketed in Kay’s love.

Kay had such personal profound integrity—even when the church did not agree with her, she did what she knew was right, and this often left her lonely. Though very loved and part of the community, her passion and drive to be current and to be critical brought its own loneliness. She once said to a student, “It’s a lonely existence sometimes because my peers are not interested in what I’m interested in, and your generation is, but you don’t have time.”

Remembered as a true radical for so many justice issues, Kay was a fixture upon her ancient bicycle, riding it everywhere. She didn’t own a car until she was 80 years old, when her doctor told her she could no longer ride her bike.

Ahead of her time theologically, she was part of a search committee for a new hire sometime before 1988. When the question arose of why this person would be hired as she was an out Lesbian and because “there aren’t any of those people here”, Katharine—still knitting—answered, “and how do you know?”

To be sure, the questions “How do we know?” and “What do we yet need to learn?” are just a small harvest of the seeds Kay Hockin planted that continue to grow, scatter and find new ground.

Janet Ross, Lois Wilson, and Patty Talbot
Janet Ross, Lois Wilson, and Patty Talbot

One Reply to “Katharine Hockin Portrait at TST”

  1. I would love to attend but I am too far away. Katharine was a very important part of my life as teacher and mentor at CCS and at World DIAKONIA events where she would urge me to see the injustices that wee happening to people of the south. I remember her sitting and knitting as she urged me to have a conversation and thne she helped us form some resolutions. Thanks be to Katharine Hockin who nurtured my spirit and my passion for justice.

    Linda M. Ervin
    Claresholm United Church

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