Sabbatical Experience for Conference Pastor for Leadership Transitions
May 11, 2016
A month ago I returned from my sabbatical, a semester at the Toronto School of Theology (TST) pursuing a Master of Theology in ecology. This grows out of my ministry as a baptizer in the Elkhart River, a story that was told in the Jan./Feb. Gospel Evangel. For some 12 years a group of us at Benton Mennonite Church have monitored the quality of the water in the river, making sure there is not too much fecal matter in the river when we baptize.
Throughout this time I have learned from looking at the Bible with new eyes how much God is in love with and concerned for the whole of creation. TST is a vibrant and diverse place to study with schools in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and United Church of Canada traditions.
I studied the book of Genesis, focusing on the river of Eden found in Genesis 2. I studied ecological ethics, focusing on water ethics and management. And finally, one of my more challenging classes was on faith and culture, looking at how the worldwide church needs to work at meeting the challenge of the many cultures in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that are embracing the Christian faith, so that European and North American culture no longer define Christianity. And Toronto was an amazing place to live this reality. The majority of my classmates were Asian, with a number of Caucasians and Africans mixed in. It was a place to experience God’s inclusive and all-encompassing love. I also worshipped at my sister’s church in Stouffville, outside Toronto. I am deeply grateful for this time and for the way the conference made this time of study, worship, and fellowship possible.