Saint Margaret’s: Theology study in a parish church

Ecclesial University class for Introduction to Anglican Theology. Standing, left to right: Rev Dr David Widdicombe, Mark Gareau, Landon Erb, Dustin Beniston, Ilana Isaacs, Chris Culleton-Koebel. Seated, left to right, Teaching assistant Graham MacFarlane, Erik Hogman, Joshua Paetkau.

Ecclesial University class for Introduction to Anglican Theology. Standing, left to right: Rev Dr David Widdicombe, Mark Gareau, Landon Erb, Dustin Beniston, Ilana Isaacs, Chris Culleton-Koebel. Seated, left to right, Teaching assistant Graham MacFarlane, Erik Hogman, Joshua Paetkau.

St John’s College and Wycliffe College partnered with Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church to offer two courses

But for students in Winnipeg, there is another option. This year, St John’s College and Wycliffe College (University of Toronto) partnered with Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church to offer two courses, team-taught by Wycliffe College professors and the Rev Dr David Widdicombe, rector at Saint Margaret’s. The courses are offered under the banner of The Ecclesial University, a project of Saint Margaret’s, which aims to offer vigorous theological education at the parish level—study which, as it is rooted in the Church, must always end in worship.

Last fall, eight students and 17 auditors registered to take Introduction to Anglican Theology, team-taught by Wycliffe’s Rev Dr Ephraim Radner and Dr Widdicombe. In the winter term, Saint Margaret’s is offering Systematic Theology 1: God of the Gospel, team-taught by Wycliffe’s Dr Joseph Mangina and Dr Widdicombe.

In our current Church context we need to be visionary, inventive, and rigorous in our approach to theological education for ordinands and all those pursuing their Christian vocation in the Church and in the world.

Kirsten Pinto Gfroerer, Ecclesial University program director and lay pastoral associate at Saint Margaret’s, says that more than ever, there is a need for this kind of education within the church. “In our current Church context we need to be visionary, inventive, and rigorous in our approach to theological education for ordinands and all those pursuing their Christian vocation in the Church and in the world,” she says. “We need a generation of priests and laity who are capable of and committed to reaching into the deep wells of scripture, tradition, and reason, in order that they may feed and inspire the Church even under profound duress.”

We need a generation of priests and laity who are capable of and committed to reaching into the deep wells of scripture, tradition, and reason, in order that they may feed and inspire the Church.

Key to the program is its rootedness in the life of the parish. As part of each course, several public lectures are offered each term to the Diocese. And if students don’t wish to pursue degree programs, they are invited to fully participate in the classes as auditors. “The opportunity to study alongside the parish’s many bright minds, in courses meant to feed and strengthen the parish, is a great service to those unable to, unsure about, or not interested in the pursuit of full-time academics,” says auditor Mark Gareau.

This type of learning is not commonly found in universities, so I consider myself blessed to study within and with the parish.

Landon Erb, a Masters of Divinity student at Wycliffe, says that studying Anglican Theology at Saint Margaret’s has given him an understanding of how a rigorous approach to theology can be attended to within the parish, which has been invaluable for him as he prepares for ordained ministry. “I have been made keenly aware of how a variety of parishioners engage with the material we have been covering in class,” he says. “This type of learning is not commonly found in universities, so I consider myself blessed to study within and with the parish.”

As we look to the future, we are confident that many more lines of connection between the Ecclesial University project and partner programs will be implemented, and many more fruitful relationships built, that will deepen our experience of theology and worship in the parish.

Public Lectures

On Thursday, March 20 at 7:30 pm at Saint Margaret’s, David Widdicombe will deliver the final public lecture for the course, entitled “The Return of Form: Evolutionary Biology and the Beauty of Christ.”

On Thursday, February 20 at7:30 pm at Saint Margaret’s,  Joe Mangina was will deliver a public lecture entitled “A Palpable God: Why the Word Made Flesh is More Interesting than ‘Jesuology,’” which anyone in the Diocese is invited to attend.

These lectures offer a chance for potential students or auditors to get a sense of the Ecclesial University project.

By Julienne Isaacs
Julienne Isaacs is the administrator of The Ecclesial University.