Principal’s Reflection: Standing Tall in Faith

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Dear friends,

I am tall and I always have been. When I was younger, like many other tall people, I had a tendency to slouch or walk around hunched over, the better to fit in. When I started working at a summer camp as a teenager, the director was even taller than me. One day he pulled me aside and said, “Jesse, you are exactly as tall as God made you. So roll your shoulders back, stand up, and be who God has made you to be.” No doubt I still slouch from time to time but I have tried never to forget those words.

What my director was trying to teach me was to have confidence in myself. Confidence is a wonderful word. Its Latin roots literally mean “with faith.” People who seek to live by faith are people who are called to live confidently. This means moving through our lives in the knowledge that God has acted, is acting, and will continue to act in the world. It means knowing, along with St. Paul, that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

Yet having confidence can be challenging. Many of us are beset by insecurities. In an academic environment, it is not uncommon for students (and faculty) to experience “imposter syndrome,” the idea that somehow someone made a mistake in letting them in. It’s not uncommon for students to come to me with some variation of the question, “Who ever thought I could do any of this work?!” Societal inequities compound all of this. People from some backgrounds, whether defined by skin colour, gender, sexuality, accent, or a whole host of other factors, are routinely excluded or made to feel less than, not just in society but also in the church. It can be hard to have confidence when systemic inequities are telling you otherwise.

But as the etymology reminds us, confidence is at the heart of having Christian faith. What I try to remind everyone in the college community is that God has made each of us exactly who we are, gifted us with a unique set of talents for this world, and now calls us to share them with one another and the world around us. In one way or another what you will read in this Year-in-Review is stories about how this college helps its student develop confidence in God, in their faith, and in capacities for ministry so that they are prepared for transformative leadership in the church and world.

It is not just individuals who are called to confidence. God also calls the church to witness to the transforming power of the good news of Jesus Christ. In a place like Quebec, it can sometimes be hard to live with confidence as a Christian given all that stands in opposition to the Christian faith. As churches continue to adapt to a pandemic-shaped world, many are finding it easier to focus on survival rather than confident witness. But confidence remains at the core of our calling as Christian communities—to live humbly but boldly, with humility but also confidently as witnesses to what God has done for the world through Christ.

As I write this, my seedlings for this year’s garden are poking through the soil under grow lights in my living room. They are doing exactly what God has made them to do—reach for the light. Each student in this college is looking to do precisely the same thing: roll our shoulders back, stand up tall, and reach out towards the love of God, living with faith and confident in God’s presence and purposes in the world.

Yours in Christian confidence,

The Rev. Dr. Jesse Zink