Innovative Kootenay School of Ministry takes a sabbatical year to discern mission

 

By Council of the North

Archbishop John Privett has declared Pentecost of 2018 the season of Vocation for the Dioceses of The Territory of the People. He defines vocation as “What are the gifts, talents and qualities God has blessed me with in my life?” He follows this with a second question: “How am I offering those for the mission of God in the world?” The Territory of the People is often rural, within the interior of British Columbia, including the Syilx people. This call to vocation rests both on the individual and the intuitional.

One of these institutions is the Kootenay School of Ministry, which after guiding 67 students over the last five years is taking next year as a sabbatical. They hope to spend that year considering how the school has succeeded and what needs to shift or change. This searching will hopefully lead to them answering concerns about the talents and gifts for future ministries and the people who perform them can grow fruitfully.

The school is an innovative attempt to bolster pastoral education, preparing future leaders for ordained and lay ministry. It is a profoundly multicultural, and cross regional school as well. Two of its full-time staff (Bishop Patrick Yu and the Rev. William Harrison) both have written about diverse ministries, and how best to pastor them.

This diversity is not just about class or cultural differences. Part of the challenge is one of geography, especially for this diocese, with it’s wide ranging territory and large rural population. The school is the latest attempt to solve geographic gaps, treating the decentralized geography of the region as a positive feature and not an insurmountable challenge. This includes widening the circle of possible instructors, including those trained in Saskatchewan and Toronto, respectively. This brings the national and global church influence into these often rural dioceses.

Bringing people together, and working against rural isolation, was accomplished by teaching classes in individual parishes, or through distance education. The local would become the center of learning (often literally, some students would billet in the homes of parishioners outside their own church community). The school’s chief goal was making student’s active participants in their own education.

The sabbatical year continues the goals of community and active learning, as the instructors intend to move slightly to a distance learning model. This has been a common secular model in the interior of British Columbia for decades. Places like Frontier College, though headquartered in Toronto, sent instructors to mining camps, railroad yards, and highway crews from the 1920s onward. Thompson River University in Kamloops has had a distance education since the 1960s. The ability to do work, combining the rigour of traditional academic rigour and British Columbia’s long belief in learning technology, suggests that the sabbatical year will be fruitful.

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, March 21, 2018

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