Worshipping, studying, and living together: An update on our strategic alliance

(La version française est disponible.)

Dear friends and supporters of UTC and Dio,

It’s been nine months since we announced the strategic alliance between our two colleges and, as the weather turns towards autumn in Montreal, it’s a good time to offer an update on how our work is going.

In short: very well!

We began the fall semester with Dio and UTC students learning together under a single roof. In a worship service in early September, the college community gathered outside the former UTC building on University St. to give thanks for the memories in that place and say farewell. Together, we then walked down University together to Dio where I was able to offer a welcome to all. I noted that this is, in fact, the third time in our institutions’ history that we have shared space in this building—first during World War II, again in the 1960s and 1970s after UTC sold its building, and now again in 2021.

Of course, this fall is also our return to in-person learning following a year done virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt our program accordingly. Instead of an overnight retreat outside of Montreal at the start of the school year, we gathered in Montreal. It wasn’t quite the same as in the past but it was still an important time of forming our community together and reflecting on the calling of ecumenism in a divided world. We are all used to wearing masks and keeping our distance from one another and we continue to gather outside when possible.

One of the great benefits of this strategic alliance is the way it makes shared programming possible. Our residential students preparing for ordained ministry now meet together for a weekly ministry seminar that helps them reflect on their academic studies and further develop their calling to Christian ministry. Sometimes the seminar splits into two for denominationally-specific programming but we find that there is so much we can do in common. Meanwhile, United Church congregations are registering on Dio’s open enrolment courses, including this fall’s popular course Reading the Bible in the Season of Creation, and Anglican lay leaders are registering on French-language courses offered as part of the United Church’s program Exploration de la foi et du leadership (sometimes known as the Licensed Lay Worship Leadership program). Truly, we are stronger when we work together.

The initial period of strategic alliance between the two colleges runs until summer of 2022. Underlying all our work to date has been a strong commitment of both colleges to one another. This is expressed in a strategic planning working group that is coordinating the work of exploring and planning for a combined future beyond summer 2022. The working group has been meeting since late spring and its work has been marked by high degrees of trust and goodwill. Working with an external consultant, the two college Boards of Governors are preparing for a two-day retreat at the end of October to review our respective visions, missions, and resources and explore possible joint futures.

It is no secret that we are in the midst of a time of significant change and transition for churches. Theological colleges are not exempt from this. Our prayer and our goal is that by working together we can lay the groundwork for a sustainable future for theological education that draws on the richness and heritage of both our histories and traditions and continues to prepare the kind of leaders churches need, both today and long into the future.

Thank you for your prayers and support. They continue to mean so much to all of us here.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Jesse Zink