Dear friends and supporters of the college,
For many years, the idea of a pipeline has guided thinking about leadership development in the church. The “pipeline” is the diocesan discernment process for ordination and the seminary program where students are trained for ministry. Prospective clergy get popped in the pipeline in one end, work their way through it, and eventually come out, ready to take charge of congregations and lead Christians in mission in the world.
The distinguished Cuban theological educator, Justo Gonzalez, has recently started talking about a problem with this image. A pipeline has only a single destination in mind. If that’s the case, then leaks are a problem. Instead, Gonzalez wants us to embrace a new image: the irrigation hose, that is, a hose with lots of holes in it to let water out over the entirety of its length and not just at the end. In an irrigation hose, no drops are wasted. Wherever a drop ends up, there it can water the land.
When you apply this image to theological education, the vision of the work changes. As Gonzalez wrote this year in an influential article in The Christian Century, “The primary purpose of theological education is to help each believer irrigate the land where she or he happens to be. Those who do not go beyond Sunday school, if they irrigate the land around them, are just as valuable as those who teach in a seminary or school of theology.”
Perhaps it is because of my horticultural passions or because the end of the academic year coincides with the beginning of gardening season. But as I look back on the past year, I find myself drawn to this image of the irrigation hose. As I write this, our students are spreading out across Canada and the United States for summer jobs in chaplaincy, at summer camps, and in other ministry placements. If I look further afield, I can see recent graduates of the college who are leading congregations in places as diverse as the Yukon, Trinidad, and numerous places in between. Most significantly, perhaps, I think of the new audiences that our growing suite of online adult education courses is reaching all over this continent. During Lent this year, we had 200 people gather online to learn more about the origins of our Anglican tradition. As one participant wrote to me afterwards, “The work that Dio is offering to the wider Church is helping to shape disciples and nurture faith. Thank you.” Another asked: “When can I sign up for the next course? There is so much more I want to learn.” Our pipeline that leads people to ordained ministry is still going strong. But we also have an irrigation hose that is building up new local lay leadership in communities near and far from Montreal.
As you’ll read in these pages, in the coming year we’ll extend this irrigation hose yet further. This spring, our friends and colleagues at the United Theological College moved into Dio as part of our new strategic alliance. For the next year, we’ll be two programs operating under one roof and one principal. From Dio’s perspective, this alliance is a chance to deepen our commitment to ecumenism and extend our French-language programming. It’s also an opportunity to combine resources and to reach new audiences and new parts of the church.
Also in this next year, we will mark 125 years of training Christian leaders in our building at 3475 University. (The 150th anniversary of the founding of the college is on the horizon as well, in 2023.) So much has changed in that time but the gospel message of grace has remained steadfast. With your support and encouragement, we will continue to extend that irrigation hose yet further so that wherever our students find themselves they may soak their communities in grace.
Faithfully yours in Christ,