Images from Culture and Identity 2021

Images from Culture and Identity 2021

From September 29 to October 6, twelve CCS students (plus program staff and occasional guests and visitors) explored the nature of culture and identity. What does it mean to be “me”? What does it mean to be “we”? What is “intersectionality” and what does it mean to be truly “intercultural”?

The panel discussion on faith and culture, with guests from a variety of religious traditions, was a highlight for many participants. Thank you to Saira Rahman (Muslim), Ruth Ashrafi (Jewish), Payam Towfigh (Bahai), Murray Pruden (Christian) for your insights, reflections, and challenges. (And thank you to circle participant Diane Dwarka for helping us connect with the panelists.)

Another highlight for many was the session on monsters, exploring the ways that a culture reveals its fears and anxieties by the monsters it creates, the ways that fear of the other can distort community, and the ways that monsters can also be warnings or signs calling the culture back into more faithful ways of relating.

On the Friday of the circle, students joined others in the wider CCS community for a CCS Fridays session with Adrian Jacobs exploring Indigenous autonomy in theological education and the question of Indigenous testamur.

The session on communication invited students to be aware of the values that different cultures place on communalism or individualism, time and agendas, directness or indirectness, and how things can take on very different meanings depending on the cultural lens. A student-led session looked at the way churches or congregations create their own local culture. And in the session on ministry identity, students were encouraged to identify their own diaconal superpowers!

The ministry identity session also explored the painful history of “disjoining” (until the 1960s, deaconesses in the United Church who chose to get married were removed from their role as deaconesses and had to return their deaconess pin). For many CCS students, learning about this history helps them to understand the distinctive culture of the diaconal community they are choosing to identify with.

CCS student Kendra Mitchell-Foster found the learning circle “so very insightful and rich with connections”, especially in its applicability to her field placement in Prince George, doing spiritual care with the University of Northern British Columbia, and relationship building within multifaith contexts. “I feel that I have come out of this circle with so many more tools for this coming year.”

The learning circle challenged Kendra to explore more deeply the different intersections of belonging, community, and culture. Comparing two of the readings from the circle – Wabugeshig Rice on the responsibility of telling stories and Ted Dodd on Diaconal vocation and identity – led Kendra to think, “If we [as diaconal ministers] are doorkeepers, light-bringers, servants, storytellers, etc. then we must understand what all of these pieces of identity mean to other communities, cultures and faiths before we begin to claim them in intercultural space. Rice sees storytelling as a deep responsibility, not to be entered into lightly. Similarly, in other cultures there may be doorkeepers, servants, light-bringers, where these are deeply held responsibilities, perhaps hereditary, perhaps connected to land, to place, to ancestry, that hold much more reverence than a Christian call may seem to hold. This opens a new arena of reflection and inquiry for me, particularly in relationship with Dakelh, Sekani, Nisga’a, Tsimsyen, Cree, and Métis cultures and faith communities.”

The learning circle was full of connections for the participants – connections to their calling, to their church striving to be intercultural, to their neighbours, and to each other.