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Principal’s Message – Winter 2011

A new year — and with it a transition to a new term, a telling reminder of the passing of time — chronos (chronological time) and kairos (God’s time) — both central to how we live our lives and carry out our calling. One describes the passing of minutes, and hours and the seasons of the year, while the other reminds us that these markers are part of a deeper concept of life lived in Christ: “time lived within time.”

For many of us today, chronological time appears troubling. If we are honest, we wonder, if but a little, whether or not the foundations of our hope have been knocked out from under us. We are worried in the present and fearful for the future. At Knox, such anxiety usually takes form in the question: what does it mean in these times to prepare leaders for The Presbyterian Church in Canada?

This is a critical question for us, yet as Principal I tend to reframe it. As we prepare students for ministry, it seems to me that another question to ask is: what difference would it make to Canadian society if Knox College did not exist? Not surprisingly, my answer is —“a tremendous amount!” Why? We are part of a tradition that has a powerful vision for understanding and living the Christian life in a changing context. It includes many commitments, not the least of which is the ongoing renewal of Christian vision — the willingness and courage to reinterpret old wisdom for new contexts: Reformed yet always reforming.

This vision is about extending God’s grace, given so freely to us, to all in our communities. It is about working with other Christian denominations and other faith traditions — working ecumenically to foster fullness of life for all here in Canada and around the world.

From the beginning, the PCC has made an important contribution to the well-being of Canada, from schools to hospitals, to social services where hungry people are fed, homeless given shelter, strangers welcomed and the vulnerable protected. Because of our commitment to the biblical witness, wehave been led to ask difficult, probing questions, about the kind of political, economic and social structures needed to ensure the well-being of all. Together these form an ecology, a way of being inthe world, a way of speaking and living within our society that gives shape to our belief and action. This is who we are. Yes, we have done great things and we have made mistakes along the way.

The prophet Jeremiah sums up this commitment so well. The Israelites are in captivity in Babylon. They are a fearful, dispirited people —“how can they sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it! How could they live as covenant people without Jerusalem, without the temple! Listen to what Jeremiah says: “build houses and live in them, plant gardens….Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile; pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your own.” God’s grace, God’s hope is present in Babylon. It is within you, says Jeremiah. Live it fully in community with those around you.

We have Presbyterian churches in villages, towns and cities all across Canada. As a seminary that prepares leaders we seek to plant within ourstudents a vision that places them in the thick of these communities prepared to live out God’s grace in the midst of all the messiness, all the challenges, the joys and the hardships of our communities. After all we are The Presbyterian Churchin Canada!

Surely this is a vision worth striving for — to be fully alive where God has placed us because God’s grace is alive within us. Someone much wiser than Isaid recently that a compelling religious vision cannot survive disembodied from religious forms that ground that vision, a place that encourages the past to dialogue with the present in order that new meaning, a renewed vision emerges. This is what we commit to beat Knox College — a place where the past and future connect, the place where our present anxiety is being worked out in a transformative vision!

For me it is a vision in which hope remains strong as time unfolds within time.

In Christian friendship,
Dorcas Gordon
Principal