From music to ministry through the body of Christ

Dio student Jon Jameson (M.Div., 2021) reflects on his experience at the college.

When I moved to Montreal with my family a little over two years ago, I was wrapping up my thesis for a Master of Theological Studies degree at an Episcopal seminary in the States – and I certainly wasn’t thinking about more studies. We moved here for a job opportunity for my wife. I have a background as a professional musician and my band, Delta Spirit, was working on our first album in years. The plan was to wrap up my degree and get back to some touring.

But as I started frequenting the McGill library for research for my thesis, I would also occasionally pop into Dio for daily worship and got to talking with college students and faculty. I learned more about how Dio’s Master of Divinity program could complement my earlier degree, as I moved toward a call to ordained ministry. Somehow the idea of more studies, which once seemed quite remote, began to seem a bit more interesting and possible.

While I still wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to coincide with my band’s potential touring, I decided after some prayer to apply. I was accepted into the second year of the M. Div. program at Dio, being able to transfer some credits in from my previous degree. I started classes in the fall of 2019, which happened to coincide with a particularly difficult time for my family. While balancing family life, recording, and studies was a real challenge, being part of an academic and spiritual community at Dio proved to be a real grace in that moment.

My courses at McGill’s School of Religious Studies have been amazing. Some of the highlights for me have been studying Augustine’s City of God with Theology Professor Douglas Farrow and reading Richard Hooker with Church History Professor Torrance Kirby. The flexibility of the first two years of the program and the breadth of courses available are truly wonderful.

In the winter term of 2020, I had arranged with my professors to be able to Zoom into class for a couple weeks as my band began its first tour in five years, on the West Coast. This was March 2020 – and we all know what happened next. We played one show in San Francisco, and then the world shut down. I can at least claim that I was slightly ahead of the curve on Zoom class!

I’m now well into the fall term of the final year of my studies, the In-Ministry Year. This year has a focus on parish placement and theological reflection with a ministry supervisor and lay committee. On top of this, the In-Ministry Year is when most of the “pastoral” courses are taken: liturgics, homiletics, leadership, and so on. And, of course, the vast majority of this is being done over Zoom this year. While we all wish that we could be together, and serving in-person at our placements, it has still proved to be a dynamic year thus far. Having the opportunity to reflect theologically and practically on one’s sermons and ministry experiences with a group of engaged seminarians and professors (as well as one’s supervisor and parish lay committee) is a rare and powerful blessing. I have become very aware that when one becomes the priest at a church, the dynamic changes in such a way that makes this sort of vulnerability less possible. Sharing classes with seminarians from different traditions in our partner colleges in the Montreal School of Theology has also been both interesting and edifying.

As for what’s next, Lord willing, the people consenting, and border guards allowing, I will be made a transitional deacon in early 2021 by the bishop of Central Florida (TEC). My family and I are still discerning where God might be calling us next, but for the time being we are loving living in Montreal and had a fun and adventurous summer exploring “la belle province.”

While my time at Dio is still unfolding, it has been a wonderful and unexpected blessing so far. The community is both diverse and serious about Jesus and their callings to serve him in his Church. I know that in my time at Dio, I have grown as a theologian, as an ordinand, and as a member of the body of Christ. I give thanks to God for the ongoing blessing of studying at Dio and for its excellent leadership, and I pray that the community will continue to grow and flourish!