I picked up the year half-way through as Principal Jesse Zink went on a well-deserved sabbatical (Jan. 1 – Jun. 30). Yet my visits to the college in autumn gave me the first impression (after Covid-19 restrictions) of the new formation: Montreal Dio AND United Church Studies at Dio. Now in the fullness of this term, there is an increasing sense of adaptation and new traditions. For some of our students, it is already the case that they only know the College as an ecumenical place with a mix of traditions, both blended and distinct.
In our journey together as Anglicans and members of the United Church, we have been learning about “institutional culture” and how it shapes us in patterns of norms, values, practices, beliefs, and assumptions; often despite ourselves and despite the intentions of our church bodies. While I was not a part of the initial struggles in joining the institutional cultures of Dio and the United Theological College (UTC), I am certain it was a difficult time as new frames of reference were being created in order to reshape patterns for a mutually agreeable ministry of theological education. Not easy, especially when there is also a grieving process for our UTC faculty and students at a loss of “our own college home.” The move into Montreal Dio reminds me of what it is like when a person (whom you know fairly well) moves into your house. As hospitable as you might truly be and as grateful as the new resident might be, there needs to be a reshaping of household patterns and assumptions. Welcoming a new resident who becomes a part of the family calls for basic “give and take” and recognition that the culture of the house will change. In celebrating our ecumenical, institutional venture, we allow ourselves to be reshaped by the other, their institutional patterns, and engage in the opportunities new relationships offer.
The ecumenical spirit of our common discipleship in Christ Jesus allows us to appreciate that our institutions had different ways and means. Walking together makes us more than companions on the road, it partners us in caring for the other, accommodating their step, and recognising that we ourselves are in a process of adapting to new ways of walking. Sometimes we’re amazed: “You can walk in those shoes?” “Aren’t you too hot wearing that?” And sometimes protective: “Be careful where you are going, I may not catch you the next time.” Reshaping institutional culture is a process of self-discovery as much as agreements and technicalities. Yet in the ecumenical spirit, we recognise the fundamentals of a shared culture of common ideas, values, and standards. We wish to be disciples engaging in ministry as taught, demonstrated, and revealed by Jesus. We wish to offer praise and thanksgiving to an omnipresent God whose Holy Spirit empowers us to realise “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Despite beginning the process amidst Covid-19 restrictions, this past year has me thankful for the great distance Anglicans and United Church students, faculty, and board members have come since the beginning of discussions, the working out of formal agreements, and the “moving in.” I pray the Holy Spirit guides us in realising “ecumenical” as we reshape our patterns and define our new institution’s culture. In the process we will explore, attempt, revise, and rethink, but at the same time evolve individually and as an institution: to be a college for theological study based in ecumenism.
Jesus’ prayer that his disciples “might be one” focusses what ecumenism implies when we evolve our institutional cultures to become one. That word, “ecumenism,”, readily claimed by many, comes from the Greek “oikoumene” which means “the whole inhabited world.” It is only through being one, in oikoumene that we will realise our mission to establish God’s Reign here and now, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Being “one” in the education for ministry, so that we serve the Gospel and evolve those patterns which will bring God’s intentions for “the whole inhabited world” into the life of our Christian communities. Less defined by denominational affiliation and instead more fully identified as disciples of Jesus who in this place are honing their skills and discerning gifts so to be able partners with God, for “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Pastor Eric Dyck