By: Patty Evans, Montreal Dio board member
For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven…
When I work with communities of faith that are in challenging circumstances or those that are seeking a renewed vision, I ask them to reflect on what season it is in their current life together. After we share this well-known passage from Ecclesiastes, I invite them to use these words, or the seasons of the calendar year, or the seasons of the church year to name the moment.
When it was suggested that I might reflect on the work of the past few years that has led to bringing together UTC and Dio into one combined college, my thoughts returned to that exercise and the Ecclesiastes passage with the pairings of emotion and choices of activity found within. For on our mutual journey of discernment toward becoming UCS/Dio, there have been times to weep and times to laugh, to mourn and to dance, to seek and to lose, to tear and to sew, to keep silent and to speak.
From the perspective of the UTC Board and particularly of myself as chair of the board, it was a hopeful and exciting time to work toward the birth of another way of providing theological education in the context of Québec, of entering a new kind of relationship with Dio. But with the loss that often accompanies change, it was also the time for the structure of UTC as an individual entity within MST to come to an end, to die in the process of becoming part of a combined ecumenical college.
With the metaphor of calendar seasons, there were times that called for perseverance, to plow through deep snows of winter with a focus on the promise of spring ahead. Sometimes it seemed like autumn with the vivid colours fading, the leaves falling, leaving the trees stark and bare. Would there be life re-emerging? Would there be enough creative energy and commitment to bring us together? But then to be reminded that through the winter, life is stored in those trees, that preparations are underway in the ground, under those leaves for the blossoming of new life. In fact, and most appropriately, the culmination of those efforts came in the season of spring when last May, Bishop Mary and I signed the documents that confirmed the Covenant and the Agreement that marked our two colleges coming together to be an ecumenical body.
In the warm welcome that those of us representing the United Church have received in the early meetings of the current Board of Governors, in the descriptions of how the students collectively have claimed the space of the college and have made it their own, in the worship life that honours both traditions while weaving shared encounters with the Holy, the buds of the hoped-for spring are blossoming into summer’s warmth and beauty.
As I write this, the season of Lent has just begun—a season of quiet, of reflection, prayer, and meditation, the season between the brilliance of the Epiphany star and the radiance of Easter morning, the season when the alleluias are silenced and the shadow of the cross looms ahead. Much of the journey that has brought the college to this time was marked by such reflection and discernment about if, when, and how to plant, to build up, to gather stones together. Lent is a season to reflect on what has been born and the ongoing work that lies ahead to build upon what has been accomplished. May the Spirit lead us on, season after season, to face challenges of the future with deep commitment to our ongoing and worthy task of theological education.
This message was written by Patty Evans for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.