‘Whether travelling on the minibus to another city or playing with children in our neighbourhood, I saw firsthand that true development is not just about international aid but also about building relationships with the people I’m serving.’-Luke LaRocque, Master of Theological Studies candidate, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto
‘We have begun to recognize the value of engaging theology students with a view toward contextual ministry. This new emphasis nurtures the charisma of the individual and prepares people to minister most effectively to and with the community into which God has placed them.’-Archbishop Colin Johnson, Diocese of Toronto
Many people of faith want an education that provides the spiritual, academic and practical skills to serve in international or urban development.
They want to serve God not just in the church or the academy but in the world, and the church acknowledges this.
As Archbishop Colin Johnson of the diocese of Toronto writes, “We have begun to recognize the value of engaging theology students with a view toward contextual ministry. This new emphasis nurtures the charisma of the individual and prepares people to minister most effectively to and with the community into which God has placed them.”
Wycliffe College’s Master’s of Theological Studies (Urban and International Development), known as the MTSD, combines sound theological education with practical skills in urban and international development. Its goal is to raise up students who will have the insight and tools to analyze and solve problems in the real world.
The program connects students to the many organizations responding to local and global poverty and injustice, building on students’ backgrounds in the humanities, business, science, technology and other disciplines. Basic courses in the Bible and theology are supplemented by courses in the ethics of wealth and poverty, homelessness, history of missions and development, forgiveness and reconciliation, and cross-cultural mission.
At the end of their first year, students intern for three to seven months with a development organization in Canada or abroad. So far, Wycliffe has partnered with the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, World Vision Canada, the Salvation Army, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Latin American Mission, Samaritan’s Purse, the Yonge Street Mission-and about 20 others.
Local, national and international internships focus on advocacy, restorative justice, education and agriculture, among others, tailored to individual students’ interests and skills. Sites of service include Bosnia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Costa Rica, Toronto and Ottawa.
“We’ve had two summer interns from the program and they both fit in very well with their combination of Wycliffe training and their passion for social justice,” says Alan Beattie, managing director of Sanctuary, a downtown Toronto refuge for street and street-involved people, which describes itself as a “healthy, welcoming community, where people who are poor or excluded are particularly valued.”
Intern Luke LaRocque had an international placement to Malawi with Emmanuel International (EI), an interdenominational relief and rehabilitation organization that collaborates with local churches. He worked in the town of Liwonde, partnering with a local church to help build skills and capacities as it started a development office. LaRocque also worked with EI on a larger-scale program that aims to increase food security for nearly 215,000 households in southern Malawi.
“Life in Malawi was challenging, from making sure we had enough clean water to planning policy development workshops with local pastors,” says LaRocque. “But God allowed the learning process to happen in many different places. Whether travelling on the minibus to another city or playing with children in our neighbourhood, I saw firsthand that true development is not just about international aid but also about building relationships with the people I’m serving.”
Now in its third year, the program has enrolled about 20 new students each year. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the wider development community have responded positively. And two exciting new aspects have been added. This fall, Wycliffe implemented a new combined degree: the MDiv/MTS (Development). This will allow students to earn two degrees in one combined degree program in four years rather than five, or complete it part time over a longer period.
In a second new development, Wycliffe has received a major grant from the Stronger Together 2011 group, which will allow it to identify priority streams and develop them into areas of focus. This will involve consultation with academic institutions, NGOs and faith-based agencies across North America in partnership with World Vision Canada, thereby allowing Wycliffe and World Vision to align more closely the Christian academy and the development sector.