Images from Fall Integration Circle 2023
It’s the beginning of the end …of the beginning for CCS students Alicia Walls, Dan Leaver, Kendra Mitchell-Foster, Rob Murdock, and Sue Toller. They have arrived at their Integration Year – the final year of their Diaconal Ministries program. They will spend the next year pulling together all their learnings from the past three to eleven years at CCS. (Some have taken a more circuitous route than others.)
Last week they were all in Winnipeg for their fall Integration learning circle. It’s always a joy to have Integrating students in the building, as they recollect the learning circles they’ve experienced in that space or shared in the cyber space of online circles, and as they walk down the hall of grad photos and think of those students who have preceded them. It’s tempting to start thinking ahead to graduation next spring, and then commissioning into Diaconal Ministry and their whole future in the church. But as CCS program staff and lead facilitator for the Integration Year, Marcie Gibson, reminds them, they’re not there yet, and there’s still work to be done.
The week-long learning circle included time for each student to share their personalized learning goals and learning plans for the year and to discuss their different Global Perspectives experiences. They had a chance to reflect on creeds, doctrine, theological methods (with different hats representing the Wesley Quadrilateral authorities of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason), and to engage each other in learning theological reflection about the nature of Creator, Spirit, Christ, Creation and Humanity, and Church.
Marcie was the lead program staff for the circle, but others from CCS staff (Janet, Alcris, Scott, Lori, Cheryl, and Alan) joined in at times for worship or to deepen the conversation. Lori Stewart helped the students think about Diaconal identity as they prepared for their project profiling historical and current diaconal ministers. Murray Pruden from the national United Church of Canada joined online for a session to talk about the Indigenous United Church context. And Judy Hare, personnel minister from Prairie to Pine Region, was resource for a session on employment polity and pastoral relations.
On the Wednesday of the circle, the participants decided to go, CCS banner in hand, down to the Manitoba legislature where they stood with others in support of 2SLGBTQ+ rights. This rally was in response to the “million person march” organized under the banner of “parental rights”, which instigates fear among parents regarding school curriculum and policies. Trans kids’ privacy and autonomy as well as 2SLGBTQ+ rights are being targeted.
Alicia needed to return to New Brunswick for a medical appointment before the end of the circle, but once she arrived at home she was able to continue her participation via zoom. For one session that involved a fair bit of moving from room to room, she “traveled” on a tablet around Dan’s neck.
On the Friday of the circle, students had the special treat of being able to celebrate Alcris Limongi’s birthday with a party featuring a variety of Central and South American treats. (The students didn’t stay to shut the party down; they had to run home to work on their Review of Learnings for the next day.)
The students in the Integration Year will be an active cohort throughout the year, meeting regularly online for book study and to review various aspects of church polity and ministry responsibilities, before they come together again in person next spring for their final learning circle and their graduation celebration.
But they’re not there yet.
Photo credits: Alan Lai, Alicia Walls, Emily Leedham, Marilyn Legge, Orion Smith, Scott Douglas