At the Annual Service of Celebration on March 26, 2017 Linda Ervin was recognized as a Companion of the Centre.
Linda joins the ranks of other fine Companions of the Centre, many of whom were present for her induction.
Principal Maylanne Maybee read this citation, acknowledging Linda’s contributions to society, the church, diaconal ministry, and CCS…
We’re gathered today to honour Linda Ervin as a Companion of the Centre for Christian Studies. We will also be honouring our beloved colleague Ann Naylor, and our graduating students, Ian McLean and Josh Ward. If this part of the service seems a bit long for you, think of it as a review of learning where we offer these good people our affirmations and encouragements.
At the end of each Learning Circle, the students meet in small groups along with a member of staff to review their learnings. They give and receive feedback on the progress they see in each other on reaching learning goals they set for themselves or on any of the 18 Learning Guidelines used by CCS to determine a person’s readiness for commissioning as a Diaconal Minister.
Students offer affirmations of the gifts, strengths and skills they see in each other, and encouragements in areas that call for continued to growth and development. When they do this, they try to give concrete examples to illustrate their feedback.
Linda – to determine your readiness to become a Companion, I want to offer affirmations and encouragements in four key areas – Social Ministry, Context and Culture, Diaconal Identity, and Lifelong Learning.
But first, a bit of contextual background. Linda Ervin graduated from the Centre for Christian Studies in 1973 and began her diaconal career as Minister of Christian Development in a congregation in Calgary. She then moved to First United Church in Vancouver which sparked a lifelong interest in and passion for social housing. After a return to congregational ministry in Vancouver Burrard Presbytery she joined the faculty at St. Stephen’s Theological College in Edmonton, coordinating the Master of Arts in Social Transformation Ministry and the Diaconal Ministry degree programs. She later took a job in a Mission partnership between Japan and North America that involved work in Canada and the US as well as Japan. Upon return to Canada, Linda applied her diaconal skills as a transformational educator when working to help congregations in BC and Alberta move through difficult transitions and find new ways of witnessing to God’s love in the world. And that’s only the half of it! Other contributions and achievements will emerge.
Linda, one of your strengths is in the area of Social Ministry: “demonstrates skills in developing strategies for transformation using community and church networks.” Here is a corroborating story from one of your greatest fans, Jim Hillson, who wrote of the time you offered sanctuary to a Salvadoran refugee. “Linda and I were together in the church office when the telephone rang late in the afternoon. Maria Barahona and her family of five children were to be deported the very next day.” (The caller was Reverend Jim Manley whom I knew so well from our days with the ecumenical anti-poverty network, PLURA). “We had no experience in sanctuary or refugee sponsorship. We did not know Maria Barahona. And still we immediately agreed to have the family brought to our church. We would take them. We followed up with phone calls to congregational leaders who unhesitatingly backed our decision. It matters that you know your people. And Linda knew her people.”
Maria and her children stayed for 18 months. Linda organized community support, including liaison with Canada Immigration, with Church authorities, and community volunteers. When the Vancouver School Board questioned enrolling undocumented children, Linda argued the case on the basis of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, including education – and won her point.
I affirm your hospitality, your principled response under duress, your knowledge of your people and your nurturing of their support. And I encourage you, Linda, to continue to stand in solidarity with those who seek sanctuary and refuge.
Another area of strength is your awareness of context and culture. “Appreciates a variety of cultural, social, political and religious perspectives; acknowledges and respects cultures other than one’s own.” “Has knowledge of and understands denominations and faith traditions other than one’s own.” This was evident in your time of service and for Japan in your job with the Japan North American Commission on Cooperative Mission. It also came to light in the eight years you served first as co-president with Sister Hildegard Hartel of Brazil, then as sole President of the Diakonia of the Americas and the Caribbean (DOTAC).
Linda, I affirm your welcoming spirit, your skills in building community, your ability to “listen to people speaking English in many different ways”, and your willingness to advocate for justice, as evidenced by your work in starting up DOVE – Diakonia Overcoming Violence Experience.
Lisa Polito, the current president of the Diakonia of the Americas and the Caribbean, says you introduced the practice of running meetings by consensus, though when she took office she didn’t take that to quite the same length: “If I need to go to the bathroom, I make the decision for a break without checking the mood of the whole group.” Linda, I encourage you to discern when consensus is called for and when decisive action might be more appropriate!
A third category from our Learning Guidelines is Diaconal Identity – “is familiar with diaconal networks – denominationally, regionally, and internationally.” I would like to affirm your many achievements in enlarging a global vision of diakonia. You not only served on the coordinating committee of DOTAC, but were also a founding member of DUCC, the Diakonia of the United Church of Canada, and served as Vice President of the World Federation of Diakonia. Using another example from Lisa Polito, she says that when you served as DOTAC president, you wrote to all new deaconesses, deacons, and diaconal ministers in the member groups of DOTAC. Not only did you become familiar with these networks, you created and nurtured them! I encourage you to never let go of this passion for diakonia and for drawing the diaconal circle ever wider.
And fourth, Learning is a mark of Ministry Leadership – “Understands learning as a lifelong process and commitment.” Throughout your ministry you have engaged in continuing education, acquiring degrees (a BA and MTS) and certificates – in Canadian Urban Training, Clinical Pastoral Education, and Interim Ministry. You have served as mentor and learning facilitator in all aspects of lay and ordered ministry. You have supported the educational ministry of the Centre for Christian Studies including serving on committees, most recently the Program Review and Redesign Committee, fearlessly making cold calls to people who are now friends and fans of the Centre for Christian Studies. Senator Nancy Ruth affirmed your continuing desire for knowledge, your constancy as a learner – always interested in new things, in politics and running for office, in ways to make the church more just and caring, in seeing everyone you meet as a chance to learn something new. Linda, I encourage you to keep on learning!
The list could go on, and I’m sure you’ll help to complete it. One final affirmation I would like to leave is in the category of Self-Awareness and Self-Understanding. “Discerns when to be serious and when to be playful.” Lisa Polito said that she finds you to be a great deal of fun – which completely resonates with me and those who know you. (I encourage you to learn what a possum looks like and to enhance your animal knowledge.)
Linda, has a deep passion for diaconal ministry. She not only does the work of ministry, but embodies the essence of diaconal ministry not as a profession or job, but as a way of life that the Centre for Christian Studies articulates as a theology committed to justice, a life dedicated to transformational education, to outreach, advocacy, social ministry, and pastoral care. Linda Ervin lives the values of the Centre for Christian Studies. It gives me great honour to recognize and receive Linda Ervin as a Companion of the Centre for Christian Studies.