Theology school for lay people marks 35th anniversary

By on September 1, 1998

Canada’s only remaining lay school of theology marks its 35th anniversary this year.

The Ottawa Lay School of Theology celebrates the occasion on Sept. 14 at St. John the Evanglist Church in Ottawa. Guest speaker is Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster.

Although the school started 35 years ago within the United Church of Canada, it is now officially sponsored by the United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches and has students from more than 20 religions.

It also brings together many people who are not affiliated with any denomination or practice in house churches, yet share an interest in exploring the nature of spirituality and religion, says a news release.

The school describes its aims as follows:

  • to aid and encourage dialogue among members of different faiths;
  • to develop an intellectually alert laity who are informed about what the church has believed and taught throughout the ages and now teaches; and
  • to work out carefully the meaning of our Christian faith and life in our individual lives and in our own times.

The school has no entrance requirements, a “very reasonable tuition fee” and does not require the completion of exams or papers. Professors are drawn from local universities, from among clergy of different faiths and from among lay people who have expertise on a particular topic.

Lay schools began after the Second World War. While there was a major expansion in the 1950s and 1960s in Canadian universities, many of which included religion departments, they had no direct connections to particular denominations as the lay schools did.

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