Images from Learning on Purpose 2022

Images from Learning on Purpose 2022

The 2-week Learning on Purpose course ended on Friday. Six participants from various places (Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia) gathered in person at Metropolitan United in London, Ontario. Yes, in person! After two years of primarily online education – which have been great, don’t get me wrong – CCS has returned to in-person learning circles.

How was it? Listen, and prepare to be amazed. And you won’t be disappointed.

CCS Program Staff Janet Ross and Marcie Gibson led the group through deep reflection and creative activities, exploring learning styles and the action-reflection spiral, social location and intersectionality, and critical thinking and contextual theology. Students shared their personal faith journeys and worked together to plan and lead sessions on facilitation and conflict in groups. They laughed and learned together, asking questions of accountability and considering responses to injustice in our communities and world.  They wove their social contexts into actual weavings, adding more pieces as they continued to learn.

The biggest highlight for Marcie was being able to do embodied play and learning – using costumes for roleplays, walking the creation spiral, unrolling and folding a fullsize origami kayak as a metaphorical telling of the story of diakonia, and singing together.

A favourite part of the LoP for Janet was the opportunity to co-create sacred spaces and experience sacred moments. Sometimes in silence. Sometimes in song. Sometimes with actions and laughter and even rolling couch races.

In their first week, the group was invited to share lunch with folks at Oneida United Church, Oneida on the Thames First Nation, hearing some of the long history of the community, getting a tour of the church and a chance to spend some time together in laughter and sharing.

The field trip to the Our London Family monument in honour of the Afzaal family was sobering as they learned something of the long-standing Islamophobia in London and the report and recommendations to address this oppression, and the city’s intention to share the recommendations with other Canadian cities. 

Metropolitan United is right across from a lovely park, so many sessions were held there, including two (two!) picnics in the park with CCS current students, recent grads and Diaconal Ministers from the area. What a joy to see people see one another, come together, share smiles, hugs, experiences in ministry, and stories. 

Participant Vanessa Shuttleworth Spence said, “Being together in this space has been one of the best things I have done for myself. I have learned, and grown, heard, and shared so much. I have been lifted up in learning and supported in this healthy journey. I am inspired by the facilitators, and my peers, and will miss our time together. I loved coming in each morning, gathering in worship together, discovering and discussing helpful and essential subjects in a truly wide variety of ways. Every learning style I can think of has been infused into this program. Though it required a good amount of energy I have also received much energy in different ways throughout each day. I am so thankful to have met my new friends in this learning circle, and am excited for all the very different paths we are pursuing as we return to our homes and to our everyday lives. I have been challenged, and gained wonderful memories, and fun experiences that I will cherish throughout my life.”

Miriam Stobbe Reimer echoes the sentiment: “Learning on Purpose has been an incredible experience! Through activity and conversation with my co-learners, I am beginning to see how I am already practicing a Diaconal approach in my work and the many opportunities that I have to dig deeper into it. Our co-facilitators offered a supportive learning environment that encouraged us to not only  lean into our growing edges but also celebrate our gifts in one another. Thank you CCS, I am so excited to continue my journey with you!”

Andy Pitter found Learning on Purpose to be “an eye-opening experience filled with creativity, grounded in social justice, and focussed on deepening our relationships with God, each other and the world around us, both social and ecological. I made friends committed to doing similar kinds of ministry and I already feel part of the diaconal community. A big thank you again to Janet and Marcie!”

With full hearts and minds, we said warm farewells and made plans to connect again. Special thanks to Metropolitan United for hosting us, to current students Jen Prince and Lauri Ladd for the logistical support, to all those who enriched the learning, and to the participants for bring their whole persons to this in-person learning!