Farewell Alyson!

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After a long and multi-faceted career in ministry, writing, and theological education, Alyson Huntly, Director of United Church Studies at Dio, retired at the end of May. She has had an immeasurable impact on the many students who have passed through the Montreal School of Theology over the years and has helped guide the United Theological College through many changes with grace and good humour, including its most recent integration into Dio and the transformation of the institution into an ecumenical college.

Alyson started working at the United Theological College in 1989, teaching lay education and a few courses in the Master of Divinity program. She was eventually called into parish ministry in Ottawa for a time, but always looked back to her time at UTC with fondness. “UTC really captured my heart,” she says. “Its commitment to social justice and a theology of liberation, but also the way the community cared for one another, prayed, ate meals together, and worshipped. Being there fed my soul.” As a gay woman living in the aftermath of the often-hostile debates around the ordination of gay and lesbian people in the United Church in the 80s, it was not always easy for her to live openly in the church. She was aware that some of the faculty were opposed to having a gay or lesbian faculty member teaching at MST, so she kept a low profile when it came to her personal life during her initial years at the college. However, UTC proved to be a safe and supportive haven for her amongst the constituent colleges. “In general, I would say that UTC was an amazingly supportive place for me personally and for other LGBTQ folk in the church,” she says. “Students and others in the wider community knew UTC as a place where they could be out and could share their experiences.”

She returned to UTC as the Director of Pastoral Studies in 2011 after working for several years as a freelance writer and completing a PhD in Education at Queen’s University. “It felt very much like coming home,” she says. “UTC demanded all the best of me. It was a place where what was called forth from me and what I could do were matched.” Over the years, she has seen many changes at the college and the United Church at large. In particular, she has been struck by the increase in diversity, of the church and college, linguistically and culturally. “What I love about Dio right now is that we don’t all share the same theological views. Our social values are sometimes different. We don’t all look alike. We don’t all have the same experiences,” she says. “It’s a huge challenge for us as a community, but it’s also a great gift. That’s where I think God is at work. In that discomfort.”

Just as she has been witness to and instigator of changes at MST over the years, MST has also transformed her. “Working at MST has changed me a great deal from somebody who would have claimed that there are good theologies and bad theologies, to someone who understands how important it is to hear one another out and understand where all of us are coming from,” she said. For those currently working in theological education, she stresses the importance of giving people the space and time to tell the stories that have shaped them, their faith, and their church.

We are so thankful for the many gifts and insights Alyson has brought to MST over the years and wish her a happy retirement!

For the 2024-2025 academic year, the Rev. Patricia Lisson will serve as interim Director of United Church Studies while a full search is undertaken. Patricia brings to the college her long experience of both congregational and community ministry as a diaconal minister in the United Church of Canada and we are looking forward to her arrival in early August.