By Alyson Huntly, Director of United Church Studies
A guest walked into the chapel one morning as I was getting ready for early morning worship. He had graduated from Dio some 30 years ago. He hoped Friday morning communion and breakfast was still a college tradition. Yes, I assured him, and explained how the United Theological College is now United Church Studies at Dio, and that Dio now understands itself as an ecumenical college. Our guest was excited to see the United Church and Anglican collaboration reflecting a vision he shared, to respond to the brokenness of our world and to deepen our relationship with God.
Later, students from different denominations gathered around a common table to pray and work for God’s justice and peace. As a college we are learning to embody ecumenism in the way The Canadian Council of Churches describes it, an ecumenism that “Responds to Christ’s call for unity and peace, seeks Christ’s truth with affection for diversity, and acts in love through prayer, dialogue, and witness to the gospel.”
Every day, I see this vision of ecumenism coming to life at the college. Students from different faith traditions work together to prepare worship. After class, they engage in lively, even edgy conversations that gently challenge one another. I hear gentle teasing, laughter, shared frustrations with the tough questions of a philosophy lecture, a genuine desire to support each other, a pat on the back, a request for help.
I delight in how our students give and receive hospitality. A student sets the table for Wednesday community lunch using colourful flowered tablecloths, “Just to cheer people up on a rainy day.” A dynamic Episcopalian and United Church duo subdue the downstairs kitchen into a state of order and cleanliness. Someone leaves a box of Timbits on the table in the common room. Someone else lets everyone know it is there. We share prayer requests and jokes about ecumenism and theological school in the community group chat.
The ecumenical nature of the college broadens our contact with global Christianity. In October alone we had guests from Haiti, Brazil, and Nigeria, not to mention the global diversity of the student body itself. I count at least 12 different languages spoken at the college. French and English, our linguistic staples, are bridges to deeper understanding. More of our students are bilingual than ever before, and the increasing number of anglophones who are learning French translates into deeper awareness of culture and context. A group of French language learners recently visited Old Montreal together to learn more about Quebec’s francophone history and culture.
Students’ social passion and global vision shows in their studies, field placements, and other commitments. For example, in supporting refugees, integrating spirituality and care for the earth, challenging queerphobia or transphobia, or planning a commemoration for The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
These examples are just a few glimpses. There are many more to share and many more to come, for which we are deeply grateful.