Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, President Dr. Stanley E. Porter is writing weekly letters to update and inform the MDC community.


July 30, 2020

Dear MDC community,

Another month has nearly passed! I hope that you have been able to enjoy some time with your family or within your small social circle during the last few weeks. Wendy and I have been trying to do the kinds of things that we would normally do around the house during the summer, but have been finding, as I am sure you are, that it is much more difficult within our new COVID-19 environment.

We are continuing to enjoy our summer routine of barbecuing as much as possible and using our back deck for sitting, reading, and just enjoying nature. I have appreciated hearing from several of you who also enjoy nature. The resurgence of nature as humans have retreated is one of the few features of this crisis that I have welcomed—to a point! We have a skunk who has taken up residence in our neighbourhood. We are not sure where this skunk lives, but it appears to think that it has the run of the area. It regularly makes its way through our backyard. A few nights ago, when Wendy was outside, she saw the skunk walking down the street and visiting a couple of our neighbours, as if it owns the place and is a regular resident. We often know that the skunk has been in the area, even when we don’t see it, because it occasionally leaves a strong odor in its wake. As I said—I enjoy nature up to a point!

I have been greatly encouraged to witness many accounts of how members of our community continue to adjust to the restrictions that have been placed upon all of us. I am impressed by our students’ abilities to dig out the materials they need to continue to do their research and writing, even though libraries are closed and restricting access. Our staff and administration are working as hard as ever to ensure that our systems are operating well. Our faculty have had to adjust to a summer without the same conference and travel opportunities as they would normally enjoy, and so have had to alter their own academic and other plans.

I also realize that, unfortunately, there have also been adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on some in our community. I hope that those needing help, whatever it may be, will be in contact with the appropriate people or agencies. Our students continue to have 24/7 access to a phone and online counselling service and should not hesitate to use it. Those outside MDC are also, of course, affected by this crisis. Most are handling it well, but there are some who are clearly struggling with their own frustrations. I am sorry to hear that some have taken their personal anger out on others in inappropriate ways, so I would encourage everyone to be aware and remain safe.

Hamilton seems overall to be adapting well to the loosening of restrictions with our being in Phase 2, Stage 3 of the provincial re-opening plan. However, Toronto has been delayed in moving to Stage 3, due to its having higher numbers of new cases of COVID-19. This provides a timely and important reminder to all of us that our individual efforts to follow health and safety guidelines are crucial. There is a lot of discussion of these guidelines, as I am sure you are aware, but I am convinced that the more each of us can do to follow best practices regarding social distancing, the wearing of masks, and keeping our hands washed, the better it will be for each of us and for those we care about.

As we move toward our last month of summer, our COVID-19 Response Team is discussing our plans for reopening. We will begin to roll these out early next month as we firm them up. We are needing to weigh a variety of factors. The health and safety of our community is our most important priority, and so we are arranging extra cleaning to ensure that we provide as safe an environment as possible. Within the provincial and local guidelines, we are trying to balance access with need and safety, so that we can create the right work environment of our staff and faculty and the study environment of our students. This will no doubt mean that we will all need to rethink some of our work plans. This will also mean that there may be some changes in how we use various parts of the building. Perhaps we will be able to use Cullen Hall at last—but with appropriate social distancing, of course!

At this point, our building remains closed at least until August 17. For those who need access, we are only doing so by advance appointment. Thank you to everyone for only using our main entrance to enter the building. We will be continuing this single point of access as we move forward, so that we can monitor those entering our building. As a reminder, the wearing of face coverings is required in all public spaces, and we will be following this practice for the foreseeable future. We will try to keep everyone informed of our plans as soon as they are available.

At some point we will, I hope, be able to look back with some amazement at all that has happened over the last four plus months. I wonder how history will record all that has gone on during this period. However, that point of reflection seems a long way off. In the meantime, we can remain faithful and vigilant. I am thankful to God that he continues to guide us, even in the midst of uncertainty.

Please continue to be safe and well in all of your activities.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

 

July 23, 2020

Greetings to all of the MDC community.

Wendy and I are “back” from our holiday. We enjoyed a couple of weeks of rest and recuperation in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, not by going anywhere but by simply changing pace and enjoying more time together. I must admit, however, that I missed not being in communication by means of this weekly letter. I want to thank John Steadman for taking over this pleasant task for the two weeks I was away. I hope that you were encouraged to hear from John. If you have any questions for him, especially about opportunities to support the work of MDC, I know that he would appreciate hearing from you. Several of you have already been in touch with him.

I must also confess that I thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks “away.” I spent a lot more time on our back deck, and got to be closer friends with at least one of our chipmunks. After he (I think it was a he) saw that I was not going away and was not competing with him for the same food, he decided that he could occasionally visit me. He would scurry up on the deck, take some time to look at me, and then run by me to where he thought he could gather some seeds or other delectables. He would then take one last look at me and scurry down off the deck and disappear. Wendy and I got so comfortable with nature—or rather, nature with us—that after a while the birds took little notice of us and continued to feed at the feeder close to where we would sit.

I hope that you too have been able to enjoy some time of rest and relaxation even in the midst of the continuing pandemic. There still seems to be an awful lot of confusion and debate regarding this virus, even though there have been thousands who have suffered from it. I am not a natural scientist, but the evidence seems clear that wearing masks is one of the best ways to curtail the spread of the disease, along with practicing social distancing and handwashing.

As a result of  the progress that has been made over the last couple of weeks, Hamilton will now be moving to Phase 2, Stage 3 in the provincial re-opening plan. This opens up most businesses and increases the numbers who are able to gather together at a single time, both outdoors and indoors. This is an important step in the process of returning to some semblance of normal. However, it assumes that we all continue to practice all of the necessary health and safety requirements, such as social distancing, washing our hands, wearing of masks indoors, and where social distancing is not possible, being vigilant to ensure that everyone is safe.

I admit to being perplexed by those who have made it an issue of personal freedom regarding wearing a mask. Someone once defined freedom by saying that “Your freedom to swing your fist ends at my nose.” That saying seems very appropriate in this discussion. My freedom to not wear a mask is curtailed by the fact that you should not have to be exposed to me possibly spreading COVID-19 by not wearing one. We are all concerned that the virus is now apparently infecting many more people under 40. This shows that we all need to continue to be disciplined in all of our behaviour, even if it means we must further postpone our desires for social gatherings, until this virus is completely under control.

Our COVID-19 Response Team continues to meet and discuss MDC’s way forward. Despite the change in Hamilton’s status regarding re-opening, MDC remains closed except for essential services, until at least August 16. Those faculty and staff who need to enter the building are to make sure that they arrange in advance to do so with our appropriate on-call people. Our on-call people for next week are Francis Pang and Melissa West.

Our sign-in process seems to be working well, but let me just remind everyone, and this includes all faculty and staff, that they are only to use the main entrance of the MDC building for entering. This is to ensure that we appropriately regulate access and secure the required information.

If Hamilton continues in its curtailment of COVID-19, we hope to announce further plans for re-opening our building once we are closer to the beginning of the Fall term. However, we have already been doing a lot of planning for the Fall, even if our instructional medium remains a hybrid format. We are arranging for our faculty retreat and for student orientation—all by means of digital technology. We are calculating our room capacities and contemplating various alternatives for ensuring that we stay within the recommended guidelines for health and safety when our hybrid courses meet. We are aware that some students will want to use the building for their studies, and so are working out a plan for that as well. We are also ensuring that the building continues to be cleaned thoroughly and regularly, especially when more people are using it.

At this stage, I think the most important factor is that everyone be careful in their behaviour and actively follow the recommended health and safety guidelines, and do what we can to ensure that others are doing the same.

While we are busy at MDC turning our attention to the coming academic year, I trust that all of you will find a means to enjoy the rest of the summer. Enjoying the wonderful weather in the midst of a global pandemic seems a bit surreal, I realize. In the meantime, I pray that God would continue to encourage and strengthen and uphold all of us in the midst of uncertainty.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 


This week’s letter by our Director of External Relations, John Steadman

July 16, 2020

Dear MDC community,

It is my pleasure to greet you all while Dr. Porter enjoys the final week of his well-deserved vacation.

The big news that we’re all talking about right now is the move towards stage three of Ontario’s reopening. I’m sure you have your own list of things you’re looking forward to doing, and places to visit that can now reopen after months of closure. I expect we will all have a fresh sense of appreciation for even the smallest of these things as well! Our COVID-19 Response Team has been gathering information and discussing the implications of this for MDC once it takes effect in the Hamilton region. The team is currently discussing plans for allowing staff to return to work as part of a phased reopening of the College and we will release further details very soon. In the meantime, the MDC building will remain closed through August 16th.

Things are starting to feel just a bit more normal at MDC, as Fall Registration has begun, and students are now enrolling in Fall hybrid courses. For those who don’t know, our hybrid courses start online, with two in-class sessions scheduled on campus, and then return to the online format for the remainder of the term. If you’re interested in joining us this Fall, there are lots of opportunities—many of our courses can be taken as an audit or perhaps consider enrolling part-time! Check out the courses we are offering this Fall on our Course Schedule. The Hurlburt Family Bookstore will be open the week of September 8, in its new home beside the Chapel entrance, opposite Cullen Hall. For those wanting to get a jump on the Fall, simply email Bernice your order and she will look after shipping it to you.

As returning students make plans for the Fall, we have heard how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them over the past four months. Many students and their spouses lost jobs. Some students had to take a break from studying and working to homeschool their kids while their spouses worked on the front lines. Our international students who lost work were cut off from financial resources as they do not qualify for Canadian government benefits, many of those also lost support from their family and friends who were struggling in their home countries. For obvious reasons, summer work has not been as readily available this year, and many of our students rely on summer employment to pay tuition.

To help offset these challenges, MDC has set aside funds to establish the COVID-19 Tuition Relief Fund, where students can apply for a grant to help offset their tuition expense and allow them to continue with their studies without interruption this upcoming year. We have already received many applications for the grant and applications are still coming in. If you would like to invest directly in these students lives, and assist them with these challenges, you can do so by donating on our website with a designated gift to the fund.

Looking ahead, those who require access to the building should arrange a time by contacting Phil Strickland at strickpd@mcmaster.ca. Due to vacation schedules, next week I will be on site and on call along with Phil.

I’ll sign off now, and Dr. Porter will return with his letter next Thursday. I’d like to thank you for your ongoing support of the College, it has been a real blessing and encouragement to us: for your faithful giving to the College, your fervent prayers through these challenging times, and for reading these updates each week and keeping yourself up to date and connected to what’s going on here. Have questions? I’d be happy to chat sometime and further update you on how things are going. Simply reply to this email and let me know a convenient time to call.

Best Regards,

John Steadman, MTS, CFRE
Director of External Relations

 

 

This week’s letter by our Director of External Relations, John Steadman

July 9, 2020

Dear MDC community,

It is my pleasure to write to you all while Dr. Porter takes a well-deserved vacation over these two weeks.

Things are back in a groove here after staff and faculty were given an extended holiday for the Canada Day weekend as a way to acknowledge the hard work, long hours, and “out of the box” thinking that has been required to get things accomplished while the campus has been closed and we are all learning to work remotely. For me, those extra days allowed me to finally go get my hair cut, get some tasks crossed off my to-do list around the house, and even go scuba diving on a local shipwreck in Lake Ontario! Fun fact, Lake Ontario at a depth of 21m is a brisk and refreshing 6 degrees Celsius! I know I speak for all my colleagues when I extend my thanks to Dr. Porter and the President’s Cabinet for that mental health break.

The MDC COVID-19 Response Team continues to meet weekly to review any new provincial policies that have been released, as well as monitor the overall situation in our community.  As I write this, the latest update from the City of Hamilton is that there are currently ZERO cases of COVID-19 in any of our area hospitals, a very encouraging example of how we’ve all been working hard to flatten the curve.  Additionally, this week many cities, including Hamilton, are moving towards mandatory face masks in all indoor public spaces, a policy that MDC instituted in our building over a month ago.  We can’t let our guard down though, and so we continue to plan for our Fall and Winter term hybrid courses and the eventual return to campus for our staff, faculty, and students—with a commitment to do so safely and under the guidance of Public Health best practices.  I encourage you to be praying for our team, for the leadership of the College, and especially for our government officials as we all need to work together to see this crisis through.

Looking ahead, we are excited to announce new investment into our campus to address the additional COVID-related IT needs of our hybrid courses and remote work for our faculty.  Plans are being drawn up now to upgrade some our classroom space to increase online capabilities and ensure that our faculty can deliver an effective and excellent e-classroom experience.  Our hybrid courses have been a great success.  The vision and teamwork used to develop them has allowed us to transition well in this season of uncertainty and allows us to look ahead to the Fall with confidence.

I am proud to be a part of the MDC team here.  We have worked hard and have responded to this crisis with passion and perseverance, and together let us give God glory for His provision and faithfulness in the midst of our uncertain times.

Sincerely,

John Steadman, MTS, CFRE
Director of External Relations

 

July 2, 2020

Dear MDC community,

I hope that all of you had a relaxing and joyful Canada Day, as we celebrated together the blessings of living in Canada. This was probably the most unusual Canada Day that anyone has experienced, because many of our usual routines for such a celebratory occasion have been disrupted—no big barbecues or gatherings of lots of friends for the usual festivities. Nevertheless, I trust that you were able to spend some time reflecting on how God has blessed us as both as a group and individually, even if we do not yet understand all of the reasons for this crisis. Despite the pandemic, there are still many good things to give thanks for and that encourage me to think that we will continue to emerge from this crisis with an understanding of our common bond as Canadians and those living in this country from elsewhere.

As I look around the world, I am struck by how various countries have responded to the COVID-19 crisis. I realize that there was no pre-arranged script to guide anyone during the difficulties and that everyone, from national leaders to provincial leaders to individuals, had to be extemporizing as we went. However, I think that we in Canada are in a much more fortunate situation than many others are in other countries. I attribute this to clear communication and decisive action based upon serious consideration of the available data on the part of elected and medical officials. As a result, we reacted quickly and appropriately to contain the spread of the virus.

There will no doubt be lessons to learn from all that has happened—and I hope that this will provide a learning opportunity so that we are all better prepared should something like this strike again—but the results, as tragic as they are, are more bearable than they may have been. I have been impressed by how everyone has tended to pull together during this time and respected the necessary restrictions on our behaviour. I also pray that we will also continue to be vigilant and observe all of the necessary health and safety steps, such as restraining from large gatherings, social distancing, hand-washing, and now, wearing of masks. As a result, I think that we are much closer to moving to stage 3 of phase 2 of the re-opening plan than we could have been.

We continue to monitor what this means for the rest of the summer and for the Fall term at MDC. Our building remains closed until at least the end of July, by which time we will have re-evaluated the situation. We will keep you informed as to whether and when we will be re-opening, but even then we anticipate that this will occur in a regulated and controlled fashion. We want everyone to be safe as they come to MDC and to protect those who are already working there, so please be sure to follow any guidelines that are in place.

We also continue to evaluate the teaching delivery model that we have currently adopted for the Fall term. So far, this is a hybrid model, with in class gatherings in late October and early November. I have seen a list of what other seminaries have chosen to do for their delivery models, and I was struck by several facts. One fact is that surprisingly few seminaries have made it clear what they are intending to do. I am glad that we decided early so that we can all plan accordingly—even if we have to make adjustments at a later time. Another observation is that the range of choices of delivery models by seminaries is quite large, with institutions running the gamut from business as usual to completely online, and some of them choosing multiple models in between. October and November seem to be a long ways away, but the start of the Fall term is already approaching, so we will continue to assess and let you know the results of our best deliberations.

This pandemic has raised the issue of how to maintain our mental and physical health. I want to encourage everyone to be attentive to their mental and physical health, as well as their spiritual health, during a time when human contact has been drastically changed and also greatly reduced. We have a free counselling service available to our students by phone and online chat, and we want to encourage everyone to be attentive to their health and safety during this time.

In the meantime, however, MDC continues in stage 2 of phase 2 in the re-opening plan. As our building remains closed except for essential services, if anyone needs to enter the building for any reason, they are to make contact with Phil Strickland at strickpd@mcmaster.ca to ensure that it is appropriate to do so. We have instituted a sign-in procedure to keep track of those in the building at any time for any reason.

For the next two weeks, my regular Thursday letter will be written by John Steadman, MDC’s Director of External Relations. Many of you know John, but for those of you who don’t, John is an active member of our COVID-19 Response Team and responsible for MDC’s relations with those outside of the College, including donors, churches, and alumni. I have asked him to write the next couple of letters to introduce himself and let you hear his perspective on what is happening in the life of MDC. I am sure you will enjoy his letters.

In the meantime, I pray that all of you in our MDC community will continue to be safe and well during these unusual and difficult times.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

June 25, 2020

Dear MDC community,

It’s hard to believe, but we have already passed the longest day in the calendar year, without being able to fully anticipate its arrival. I hope that we will be able to enjoy some beautiful days of summer in the months ahead, with great weather and more opportunities for (safe and small) outside events.

Despite our continuing use of the barbecue, we have been regularly visited by a host of creatures in our backyard. I am afraid that many of them won’t be happy with our increased return to outdoor life. As I was sitting inside—no doubt in the midst of another WebEx meeting—this week, I noticed from my peripheral vision numerous squirrels and several different chipmunks, as well as a huge variety of birds, visiting our backyard. There was also another four-legged animal that I couldn’t quite see enough of to identify (I didn’t pursue finding out, just in case it was black with a white stripe). I think that we have an entire family of chipmunks living under our deck. I am not sure what others think of chipmunks, but even when Wendy and I are sitting outside they often come up for a short time to join us and we look forward to seeing them show up. They are becoming increasingly friendly as they look for food. I fear that once we return to our normal outdoor activities all of this natural life will recede once more. I would love to be proven wrong.

Nevertheless, we are pleased to hear that Toronto and Peel have also moved to stage 2 of phase 2, so we are increasingly opening up Toronto so that we can return to a more routinized and regular life. I am hopeful that some of our fellow Ontarians will have a greater sense of control than was demonstrated this last weekend, when so many of them overwhelmed some provincial beaches that officials were forced to close them down again because of failure to maintain proper distancing.

I think that this is going to be the challenge for all of us as we move forward. We want to reopen and re-establish more normal patterns of movement and interaction, but we also need to maintain necessary precautions regarding social distancing, hand-washing, appropriate use of masks, and other safeguards. So, our freedoms need to be tempered with restraint until such time as it is safe for everyone.

Our COVID-19 Response Team has been taking these considerations into account in its deliberations. This week we approved a COVID-19 Safety Plan to guide us into the new phases of reopening. This plan will be modified as necessary to reflect unfolding realities, but provides our standards for the use of our building. We are utilizing the best information available to us from governmental and health authorities. We will, of course, also need the cooperation of everyone who will be visiting our building. Right now our building remains closed except for essential services and we will keep you informed when this situation changes. The most important point is, if you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms or have been out of Canada within the last fourteen days, please do not come to the MDC building.

Now that the 2019-20 academic year has just about come to an end, we are already turning to the new academic year. One of the positive outcomes of this pandemic crisis has been the emphasis upon deliberate long-term planning. We have already determined our teaching format for the next academic year, with hybrid courses in the Fall and Winter terms and online for the Spring term, but we are constantly monitoring the situation in case we need to alter this. We will keep you informed.

On the one hand, September and October seem like a long way away, and much can happen before then, to be sure, but on the other hand we are now only a couple of months away from the new Fall term, and so we must have appropriate plans in place. Let me assure everyone that we are all working together to try to find the right balance between health and safety for our entire community and optimal academic delivery. We are committed to finding one that will enable our students to progress as seamlessly as possible through their academic programs. Our faculty have been working especially hard to ensure that they are able to deliver their courses in as efficient a way as possible, so I am looking forward to seeing the excellent results.

I sense that there is growing impatience among an increasing number of people who were hoping that we would be through this pandemic by the time summer had arrived. At this point, with a vaccine still under development and without knowing yet its effectiveness, the wise and prudent course of action is to continue to follow the recommended guidelines for social distancing and hand-washing, the use of masks, and keeping our social contacts to a minimum.

This time of crisis provides a great opportunity to continue to think of new and different ways of enjoying life, even if they are not the ways that we have routinely used. We would all welcome a return to our old ways, but that may not be feasible for quite some time, so I am looking forward to enjoying life in new and different ways within the available safe parameters. I encourage you to do so as well.

We appreciate the continuing support and encouragement we receive here at MDC from all of our constituents, as our staff continue their excellent work from home and our faculty prepare for the next academic year. Many are looking forward to a few weeks of much-needed rest after a strenuous and stressful year, and we hope that you, too, will have opportunity for rejuvenation. We look forward to a new and safer reality in the future. In the meantime, we pray that God would continue to guide us in our day to day lives of obedience and trust.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

June 18, 2020

Dear MDC community,

It is hard to believe that an entire week has gone by and we are one week further down the road of the COVID-19 crisis. The maple tree in our backyard doesn’t seem to realize that we are living in restricted times, as it seems to have grown another half a foot since last week.

We were encouraged to receive word that the Hamilton area has now entered into stage 2 of phase 2 of the Ontario reopening process. This means that, at least for some of our businesses and services, there will be increased activity and further efforts to reopen in appropriate ways. Nevertheless, we are also following provincial guidelines that limit groups to no more than ten.

I know that there is a lot of excitement about reopening, and people are anxious to get out, return to some of their favourite places, and enjoy the beautiful weather that we have been having. I also think that this is the time for everyone to remain especially vigilant in their social distancing and hand-washing. In our excitement over reopening, we don’t want to jeopardize our own or the safety of others, and we certainly don’t want to promote a second wave of the virus.

Even though businesses are reopening, we at MDC mostly continue to work effectively from home. We remain closed until the end of July, with limited access to our building for those involved in essential and necessary services. We know that we will be regathering at MDC in the future but must continue to function well in this remote mode for the time being.

The COVID-19 Response Team has taken all of these factors into account in its recent deliberations regarding the forthcoming academic year. We want there to be as much continuity and advance knowledge as possible, so that both new and returning students are able to plan their programs accordingly. As a result, we will utilize our hybrid delivery format for both the Fall term of 2020 and the Winter term of 2021, as well as using primarily online course delivery for the Spring 2021 term. We believe that, at this point, the hybrid format that restricts our gathering in our building is the most flexible and responsible format for the Winter 2021 term, and so we have adopted the hybrid model as the best option. We have also found that our online Spring format was so successful that we will be using that same format for next year. We are also planning ways to build community during the coming academic year, including thinking about what community worship might look like. We hope that you are looking forward to these times as well.

The anticipated relative slowness of the coming summer months gives us time for our plans for reopening to be fully developed so that we have appropriate guidance and equipment in place. We are expecting our second shipment of personal protective equipment to arrive this week, and this will ensure a suitable and safe phased reopening for staff. We will keep everyone informed on the progress of this reopening, especially as we get closer to the beginning of the new academic year.

We are pleased that we have been able to distribute our COVID-19 Tuition Relief Fund to our students who applied and qualified for such financial aid. We know that this crisis has put financial strains on the entire economy, including the financial well-being of our students. We are hoping to raise more funds so that we can provide more financial aid in the future. I want to thank those students who have expressed their appreciation to MDC for this financial aid. We are glad that we have been able to provide this assistance and hope to be able to do more as necessary.

I continue to receive many interesting comments about the effect of this pandemic. It is clear that it has been highly disruptive to virtually everyone in one form or another. However, I have also heard many positive comments about how the crisis has forced us to rethink our priorities and to develop new ways of thinking and doing things that we might not otherwise have done. For me, I have been pleasantly surprised to learn how many “necessities” are not really necessities (although I may need a haircut one of these days). I am looking forward to living a simpler material life in the future. I also continue to be amazed at how the physical world around us is flourishing and even replenishing itself. The birds in our backyard seem to be growing in number, with lots of young birds being tended to by their parents!

For MDC, this has been an important time to develop new ways of thinking about and implementing our educational goals—positive ways of delivering courses in new and different formats and more streamlined and efficient ways of handling student matters. There is never going to be a substitute for personal contact, but I am glad that we are finding workable solutions as we move forward. I hope that you are able to embrace and enjoy our new reality.

I pray that you continue to be safe and well during this time. Our Spring term is coming to a close in a few weeks, and then we will be able to take stock of the past year as we move forward into a new one together.

With all God’s blessings,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

June 11, 2020

Dear MDC community,

I hope and pray that you continue to be well during this unusual time in our lives. As you are well aware, there are varying degrees of reopening occurring, depending on where one lives. However, here in Ontario we are gradually moving toward reopening, slow step by slow step, although with some areas moving more quickly than others.

Despite all of the lockdowns and slow progress toward reopening of Ontario, the summer weather has come upon us. I have been trying to take advantage of this nice weather to eat lunch on our back deck. I even cleaned up our barbecue last weekend and we have begun to use it regularly. I am certainly no expert on barbecuing, but I enjoy doing it. Wendy encourages me to do it and doesn’t seem to mind what comes off the grill, so I keep at it.

Perhaps the best part of spending time on the deck is enjoying the abundance and beauty of nature. Our trees have grown to the point where we have a beautifully enclosed backyard that seems to attract a huge variety of natural life. We have two or three chipmunks who regularly visit and amuse us, as well as an abundance of active squirrels. The squirrels are always trying to get into our several bird feeders and even though they are continually thwarted they keep on trying. We enjoy watching robins, grackles, various kinds of finches, the occasional blue jay, mourning doves, and, most of all, a family of beautiful cardinals. I think that one of the best things to come from this pandemic has been the resurgence of nature as we as humans have pulled back and done more observing than intruding. Wendy and I are continually amazed by God’s creation and enjoy being silent observers and minimalist participants within it.

This has been and will continue to be a major source of my refreshment in the weeks ahead as a means of fighting off COVID fatigue. COVID fatigue is probably going to be a growing issue as the weeks continue to go by without much change in our daily routines. I would encourage everyone to pay attention to how they are doing during this time and seek appropriate help if needed. We want everyone to come through this crisis as well as possible in all dimensions.

Our COVID-19 Response Team has met again to weigh the latest information available. We are pleased that there have been some positive changes in the provincial regulations regarding the crisis, moving from phase 2, stage 1 to phase 2, stage 2 (I know, who can keep up with the terminology). This means the reopening of some retail stores. Social gatherings of up to 10 people are now going to be allowed, while also maintaining appropriate social distancing and other health and safety practices, and churches will be able to meet once more within certain guidelines. We will be following these guidelines as well when the occasion arises. However, Hamilton is not part of the province that is currently allowed further reopening, so we remain in phase 2, stage 1. I am sure that this is frustrating to many, but I am glad that our provincial leaders are being sensitive to the fact that differing areas have varying health considerations, and we want to ensure that Hamilton, and especially MDC, remains as safe as possible during this crisis.

As a result of the GTA, including Hamilton, remaining in its current stage of lockdown, we are not making any major changes to our working environment. MDC remains closed except for essential and necessary services, so we continue to monitor any need to be in our building and are responding accordingly. We have also extended our building closure until July 31, and will announce any changes as provincial health and safety guidelines change. However, we are continuing to plan for such a time as we will be allowed to reopen, even if only gradually. This includes appropriate signage, the availability of personal protective equipment (we are expecting further deliveries), and guidelines for building use. We are moving into the summer months, and so the demand for use of our building is lower during this time.

We are still committed to an intensive hybrid model for our Fall term course delivery, but we are constantly monitoring this approach to ensure that this is feasible. This includes determining our class sizes to ensure that we have the right classroom allocations in light of guidelines for gatherings and social distancing. If we need to change to an all online format, we will be able to do so but will let everyone know before the beginning of term so that we can adjust accordingly. We will also be making an announcement regarding the Winter term within the next week or two. We are weighing the several options that are available in light of the most recent developments. We want everyone to know as much as possible in advance, so that we are all able to plan appropriately.

Please continue to pray for everyone connected with MDC. We are looking forward to our Board committee meetings next Monday, followed by our Senate and Board meetings on Tuesday. These will all be held by means of digital technology. We are not anticipating any problems, and most of us are getting used to virtual meetings, but this will be a sizeable group to convene at one time. I appreciate the effort of all involved to make these meetings possible and thank the members for giving their time to the work of MDC.

As we continue to navigate these challenging times, I pray that all of you will remain healthy and well. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

June 4, 2020

Dear MDC community,

I am glad to be able to write to you again in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and hope and pray that you and those close to you are able to remain safe and well.

The major feature of this crisis that has emerged over the last several weeks is the instances of the unusual in the midst of much that is routine and continues to be routine.

We have become used to social distancing, frequently washing our hands, paying attention to where we are and where everyone else is, and even wearing a mask just to be on the safe side. When we do our business, we try to stay behind the line or sheltered by the plexiglass barrier, and we keep our distance as we line up to enter the store. When we go for a walk outside—often timing our walks so as to avoid greater numbers of people—we are careful to make plenty of room for fellow walkers, and we don’t dare get too close if we can help it. We are not sure how long this is going to continue—even though we notice that some people are relaxing their standards a little more than we are comfortable with—but we realize that we may be in for the long haul. Phased re-opening has been delayed and a vaccine is still in the making—and even then may only offer immunity for a relatively short period of time.

Nevertheless, there are moments in the day when the unusual strikes us. Wendy and I were at home (as usual) one night a couple of days ago, and Wendy noticed that there was lightening flashing outside, even though we did not hear any thunder. We stepped out onto our deck and were witnesses to one of the most unusual and inspiring displays of silent lightning that we had ever seen. The lightning was surreal, as it flashed amidst the clouds high in the sky and only gently moved across the heavens. The large, bright flashes of lightning illuminated huge sections of the sky, with a variety of patterns. We had never seen anything so large, silent, and powerful.

Wendy and I began to wonder about this display of lightning, viewing it as our own personal display of God’s magnificence. We also began to wonder whether our ability to see the lightning so clearly was because the skies were clearer during the crisis or whether this simply was a unique opportunity.

Our COVID Response Team is concentrating on a number of matters. We have noticed that the phased re-opening of Ontario has been delayed, but we may get more encouraging news next week from the provincial and health authorities. Many people are getting anxious to return to their previous routines, even as we wonder together what the new normal will look like. MDC remains closed except for necessary services until at least June 30. We are contemplating various plans for our staff to work in staggered schedules as they return to the building. In the meantime, I wish to commend all of our staff on the efficiency with which they have worked throughout this crisis, most of them at home. We have been very productive as an institution during this period, and I commend our Directors and Cabinet members for how they have kept MDC moving forward under these circumstances.

We are thankful for those who continue to monitor our building and keep it clean and safe as we await reopening. Our plans for reopening make clear that we will be requiring masks for everyone while they are in public spaces in the building and we will be monitoring those who are using the building to ensure that they follow safe procedures. In other words, even as we reopen, we want to be cautious as we see the effects of more social mobility. We will be having appropriate signage throughout the building to continue to remind everyone of the need to maintain the appropriate distance and to wash our hands frequently and take other precautions.

With the previous academic year drawing to a close, our faculty are looking forward to a change of routine, even if not a change of location. We have just finished reviews of the activities during the year, and I have been impressed by how all of our people continue to work to do their best in these circumstances. However, we will soon be turning to the new year with increased intensity. We are in the midst of receiving applications for our MDiv and MTS programs, and have been actively dealing with applicants to our other programs as well.

Although we anticipate an academically challenging year in the midst of unusual circumstances, we think that it can, and will, be a very productive academic year and rewarding for all of our students in all our programs. We are ready for a full year of courses, supervision of research, and all of the related academic activities of MDC.

We continue to monitor our decision regarding our hybrid format for the Fall term, and are close to making a decision regarding the Winter term. Some academic institutions have already decided on their instructional format for the entire year, but many are still waiting to see what the possibilities are. We have decided not to follow those who are returning to face to face contact in the fall, out of consideration for all of our MDC people, students, faculty, and staff. We will keep you informed of our decisions as they are made. Nevertheless, please be assured that we are doing our best to make informed decisions guided by the best information available.

In the midst of all of this, I pray that God’s peace will sustain you during turbulent times. Wendy reminded me the other day of the story in the Gospels of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus told the wind and waves to calm down. The most interesting part of this story is not that they did so, but that the disciples who were with him were so filled with wonder at who Jesus was on the basis of this action. They were distressed by the events around them, but the right response was to turn their attention to who this Jesus really was. If you are like me, you have probably wondered why God has not more openly demonstrated who He is during this crisis. I hope that we have not missed seeing who God is in ways that He has chosen to reveal himself (perhaps in a silent show of spectacular lightning), rather than expecting Him to act as we would like.

I pray for your safety and security during this time, and look forward to opportunities to be together, if not now, sometime in the future.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

May 28, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

I hope and pray that all of you continue to be well during our time of navigating through the ever-changing waters of the COVID-19 crisis. This last week has seen some important developments in the world around us as we contemplate the next steps in this pandemic.

The MDC COVID-19 Response Team continues to actively monitor the situation at MDC. Many of you will be aware that, as we get closer to the Fall term, various higher education institutions are reaching different conclusions regarding how to negotiate the approaching academic year. Some are more optimistic than others in hoping to teach face to face and others are more pessimistic and have already opted for an entire year of online learning. This range of opinion seems to be present not only in Ontario but across Canada and the rest of North America and beyond.

I am sure that you have been following the various media regarding the progress of the pandemic and the medical responses to it. I was greatly encouraged to see that Ontario, as well as Canada, appeared to have flattened the curve of incidents, although then we seemed to have a backlash in Ontario that has delayed our implementation of the next phase in any re-opening. I appreciate the provincial government keeping a close eye on the situation and not being too hasty in moving toward re-opening. I realize that there are many financial and economic implications, but I also think that, according to the experts, everything must remain tentative until a successful vaccine has been developed and then widely used so as to ensure the safety of as many people as possible.

Earlier this week, I was on a Zoom call with fellow seminary presidents, as part of the annual meeting of CHEC, Christian Higher Education Canada, an organization to which MDC belongs. It was interesting to hear the various perspectives of these Canadian presidents as they are responding to the same crisis. There are many things we have in common—concern for health and safety, students, finances, the longer-term picture—and various ways of responding to it in light of circumstances. Some institutions are trying to reconvene a traditional semester in the Fall, while others are already planning for online. For most, I was pleased to hear, the effects of the crisis have not jeopardized their work, and they too are looking forward to the future.

In response to these developments, our MDC building—in which you will remember we celebrated our dedication of our new facilities as our last public event before the close-down in response to the crisis—remains closed until June 30 except for essential services. This coincides well with the coming summer months, which are traditionally a slower time in the building. Our Spring term, which has been entirely online in delivery, is coming to a successful close, and then we will have several months to prepare for the new academic year.

We are optimistic that our new academic year will bring a number of new students to MDC, as we also welcome back our current students. We all realize that this COVID-19 crisis has affected everyone’s view on travel, education, and even how we live everyday life. We want everyone to be as safe and secure as possible, but will rejoice to see our students even if that is only electronically.

So far, we are content to plan for our Fall term to be in Hybrid mode, with our classes scheduled to meet face to face at various scheduled times during late October and early November. However, as we monitor the situation, if in the next couple of months we see that this is not feasible, then we will move to an entirely online format.

In any case, we are developing protocols for when we re-open. We are not sure when this will occur, but when it does, the re-opening will be a phased process, with appropriate scheduling of staff. We are also in the process of securing the necessary protective equipment, and are anticipating receiving our first major shipment of such equipment within the next couple of days, with more to come in the weeks ahead.

We are also aware that there will be many people who are still quite hesitant regarding reconvening with others even if appropriate measures are taken, and we will be working and planning to the best of our ability to ensure that all are safe and are able to feel safe, even if it means not coming to MDC.

With all of the discussion of what the next steps are going to look like, MDC continues our economic forecasting, in relation to students, faculty, and staff. The President’s Cabinet will be meeting next week to assess our situation, in anticipation of our June Board and Senate meetings (which will take place online, of course!). We will not know for sure the effects of the crisis until the Fall term, however we are also thinking in terms this coming Fall, but also the next Winter and then the subsequent Fall. In other words, we are trying to take the long-term view of this crisis, so that we are not fixated upon present uncertainties, but are able to see them within a larger picture.

As I examine from afar, and from within my own home, how the rest of the world has handled this crisis, I sometimes shake my head in amazement at how impatient some people are. Their impatience does not always seem well-founded. I am hoping that those in our area will continue to be self-monitoring and contain their enthusiasm for the great outdoors a little more wisely than have some others. Nature is wonderful, but one of the things we have learned in this crisis is that often nature does better when we leave it alone and view it at a distance—at least for now.

We remain convinced that God’s hand is on MDC, and we want to remain open to God’s leading during this time of crisis. We appreciate the support and encouragement that we have received from many during this pandemic, and trust that God is continuing to guide all of you in the decisions that you make regarding day to day life and your longer-term plans.

Please do not hesitate to be in touch with us at MDC if you have any questions.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

May 21, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

As I write this letter, the weather here in Hamilton has finally begun to seem more spring-like—after snow just a week or so ago. I have begun to sit out on the deck when I am able, in order to take advantage of the fresh air and to replenish my depleted vitamin D levels. Like you, however, I stay pretty close to home, with only occasional trips out as necessary. Trips to the mailbox several blocks away have become welcome diversions from days spent on the computer in various meetings.

I know that you have your own experiences of what it means to be functioning during this unprecedented time of upheaval and uncertainty. I hope and pray that you are navigating them successfully and beneficially for you and your loved ones. I am constantly bombarded with reminders that the world in which we live today is very different from the one that we were living in only a few short months ago. Many of the members of our community remain highly affected by all of the implications of the pandemic, and so I would appreciate your continuing prayer for and encouragement of them.

Perhaps I am the only one, but it seems like, even with all of the electronic technology that we have available, everything takes a little bit—and sometimes a lot—longer to get done. I am not talking about such major things as shopping, which has become quite a nerve-wracking chore, but I am talking about even the simplest things taking much longer. What used to be able to be done in a quick conversation has now become an extended Webex meeting. Nevertheless, I hope and pray that you are adjusting and finding new rhythms of normality that will enable you to find peace and stability during a difficult time.

MDC has been noticed and commended among theological seminaries continent-wide for being proactive in our communications with our constituency and for our strategic forward planning. We have been able to make informed decisions before many, if not most, of our fellow educational institutions, and I want us to remain at the forefront in this regard. I especially want to thank the COVID-19 Response Team for their great efforts. They gather data and sift through it and then we discuss our various options to move forward. Our team continues to meet regularly and will do so throughout the crisis, and I hope that you have been following the progress of our planning through our email notifications and postings on our website.

There is a lot of talk these days about re-opening and what that means. We are following the discussion and witnessing the results both here and elsewhere. Whereas some places are re-opening more quickly, I think that Ontario is taking a wise course. I am very pleased to see that the provincial COVID-19 website indicates that we are flattening the curve and having fewer reported cases of the virus. The number of those in the hospital is decreasing and many more people are recovering from the virus. This is great news, even if it must be tempered by the fact that there has still been terrible suffering and far too many deaths in the course of getting to this point.

Nevertheless, we must continue to be vigilant and wise in our thoughts about the future. We remain committed to our Hybrid format for course delivery in the Fall term, as this will enable us to assess the situation for re-opening over an extended period of time. Our courses are not scheduled to meet face-to-face until later October and early November. We realize that even this may be too ambitious, as we have seen other educational institutions across the globe decide to go online for the entire year.

In the meantime, we are developing our protocols for re-entering the building, when this is a possibility. So far we remain closed and have not set a date for when we will re-open, but when we do we want to be prepared with the right procedures and protective equipment so that everyone remains safe, whether in their offices, in a classroom or simply in the halls. We imagine that this re-opening will be a slow and gradual process so that we can assess the situation every step of the way. I would appreciate your patience and your prayers as we figure out together what it will mean to re-inhabit the physical space we call McMaster Divinity College. I have many fine colleagues working together to figure this out as we move forward.

The balance between physical safety and the other needs that we all have—such as educational, financial, spiritual, and even emotional and psychological—is a very difficult one to weigh, and as our governmental officials consider various options I am sure that there will be some lurches in the movement forward. I realize that the situation has put an incredible strain on many people, including our students. We have allocated our COVID-19 Tuition Relief Fund to help students in immediate need and are continuing to monitor the situation and respond as well as possible.

However, I am encouraged that with the right phased program we will be able to establish our new norm, even as we do what is necessary to keep six feet between us.

I appreciate hearing from those of the MDC community as you are able. If you have questions or comments, please contact me.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

May 14, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

This marks just about two months since McMaster Divinity College quickly responded to the COVID-19 crisis and moved from a physical to a virtual work environment. I doubt that any of us fully appreciated when we made this prompt transition what the next couple of months would hold for us.

There have, of course, been the usual changes that all of us have had to make. Institutionally, like you, we have implemented physical distancing, have restricted our movements to only those that are necessary, and have had to find means of conducting day-to-day life that we had not contemplated before. We have had to rely upon electronic media in ways that we have never done before in order to remain connected to those around us.

These have been the major physical adjustments that we have all had to make. However, we have also needed to make other adjustments as well. I have been thankful of the opportunity to hear from a number of different people during this pandemic, and I know that the effects of this crisis have been widespread. Some are experiencing greater appreciation for a lifestyle that is now less harried and busy, even if still demanding. Others have been frustrated by the restrictions that are required. I hope that all of us, however, have come to realize anew that life is valuable and precious, but it is also vulnerable and requires that we be intentional in how we live it day by day.

MDC continues to focus on its mission of providing the highest quality Christian theological education, and we have been deeply touched by those of you who continue to support this work. We have been the recipients of various forms of physical support, such as masks for our people, or contributions to our COVID-19 Relief Fund. Thank you so much for these contributions. We appreciate them very much. Our Spring term has been a remarkably positive experience for both students and faculty, along with administrators, as we navigate this new territory. We have over 100 students enrolled in seven subject courses and our language courses.

Our COVID-19 Response Team continues to meet, and we are now addressing the implications of the phased re-opening of Ontario. We are cautiously and, admittedly, somewhat anxiously waiting to hear from the Ontario government and other educational institutions on how this re-opening might proceed. I am acutely aware of the fact that, without a vaccine, we still remain physically vulnerable. I also realize that we need to establish a new norm for what it means to live in a COVID-19 world, while protecting all of our people to the best of our abilities. We are not anticipating a quick re-opening, but probably a very deliberate and slow re-opening as is needed within necessary limitations.

At this point, many educational institutions are still deliberating on what the Fall term is going to be like. We, at MDC, have already committed to a Hybrid format for our courses, hoping that by the time of face-to-face meetings, the safe gathering of a few classrooms of people will be feasible. We are ready to go completely online if that is not possible. Our President’s Cabinet continues to monitor the short and long-term prospects of our various options. We are confident that, whether we are in Hybrid or other format, we will continue to offer excellence in theological education in all of our degree programs, and so we are looking forward to welcoming back our returning students and greeting, for the first time, our new students, whatever format that may take.

I am pleased that our regular academic year has come to a close, and that our students who have fulfilled the requirements for their degrees will have their degrees conferred in the days ahead, even if the convocation ceremony has been postponed. We have also had the opportunity to award prizes to students who have distinguished themselves in the course of this last academic year or during their complete programs. All of these events remind us that our calling as a theological seminary and graduate school remains paramount, even during difficult times.

During this crisis, I am aware that MDC is not just an educational institution, and certainly not a building, but a vibrant organization of people committed to the church, academy, and society. This time has been rewarding as I see the great work of our faculty and staff in negotiating this crisis and fulfilling as I see our students continuing to realize God’s purposes in their lives. At many different turns, I have seen God’s hand at work in individuals and circumstances, even if it is more difficult to see the overall purpose of this pandemic in which we are immersed.

I hope that when “normal” returns, whatever that might mean, we will continue to enjoy the kind of camaraderie that we have established over the last two months. I pray that God will help us to continue to remember the important lessons that he has been teaching us over the last couple of months as we move forward confidently, even if cautiously, into the days ahead.

Thank you for your continuing support of and interest in McMaster Divinity College.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

May 7, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

I trust that you continue to be well during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. For a faith community, seeking after God’s will, even in difficult times like this pandemic, has provided a rare opportunity to take time to reflect upon God, his world, and our present circumstances. God is teaching me many things about faithfulness, friendship, tolerance, support, and patience, perhaps mostly patience. Have you noticed that most electronic meetings tend to take a lot longer than face-to-face ones? I hear that it is a “law” of electronic gadgetry. I hope that you too have taken time to hear from God in various ways, whether in the big or in the small things.

This is a very busy time of year at MDC. The faculty, staff, and students will already know this, as they are involved in a myriad of activities. The faculty yesterday had its last meeting of the year—an “all day” meeting that, yes, takes all day—where we wrap up many of the year’s activities and set the stage for next year. This year’s meeting of course had plenty of uncertainty as we looked to the future. We approved our list of graduands for this year and made recommendations for student prizes, but, as you know, we won’t be holding our Convocation Ceremony, which has been postponed until the Fall or later. During the meeting, as I looked at my computer screen with the many small pictures of each of my colleagues, I was very confident that the future of MDC is academically secure and in good hands.

Faculty are also busy with our Spring term or many other important events. We have numerous doctoral exams and defences scheduled during this time as our students present and defend their dissertations. We recently had the first two successful defences by Doctor of Practical Theology students, and so I wish to congratulate them. Their degrees will be conferred later this month. I myself had one doctoral defence last Monday, one earlier today, and will have another next Monday. This routine is typical for this time of year—except for the fact that all of these meetings are held through the wonders of electronic media.

Our staff are also very busy with doing all of the day-to-day activities that continue to be needed, even if we are not in the office. MDC remains physically closed, except for essential staff required to keep the enterprise going, but we are actively engaging with all areas of institutional life. We must be communicating with others, maintaining our website, talking with future and returning students, keeping our IT going, and remaining in contact with our constituents and faithful supporters.

Our COVID-19 Response Team met again this week, this time joined by an additional member, John Steadman, our Director of External Relations. We discussed the possible phased opening of Ontario and how MDC fits within that scheme, going into more detail than we have in previous discussions. We are in the process of securing necessary protective equipment for our staff and faculty for the time when we are able once again to gather in our building. Securing this equipment is not as easy as just stopping by a store and picking up a bottle or two of hand sanitizer, as you certainly know. We also realize that this re-opening may still be some time away, but we want to be prepared for the next steps, as far as we are able to anticipate them.

The President’s Cabinet will be meeting next week to discuss the most important administrative matters of MDC. Now that our financial year has closed, our audit is underway. We are very focused upon the financial implications of the COVID-19 crisis, especially its influence upon our Fall enrolment. We are in the midst of our robust Spring term, and we are also cautiously optimistic that our advertised hybrid format for our Fall teaching will provide the kind of flexibility that students are seeking. We are also running a variety of projections regarding other factors that may influence our budget, information that our Board of Trustees will be reviewing in its (now virtual) June meeting.

We are pleased that our COVID-19 Relief Fund has generated a positive response. We are truly sorry that our students need to apply for aid, but grateful that we have the money available to help them. We are making every effort so that we are able to support our students, as well as our faculty and staff, during this time. Our students, many of whom are living far away from home, are feeling the strain in unique and particular ways. Nevertheless, there are always glimmers of light in the darkness. I know of one of our students who graciously provided masks for others out of his own family’s small supply, thus showing that generosity can be and is being exercised even when many others are keeping things to themselves.

I grow increasingly aware of the fact that we do not really know the full implications of this crisis on the economy, our personal financial situations, the future, and so many things. I do know that incidents of anxiety and depression are going up by sizeable amounts. I am surprised that they have not gone up higher and more quickly, as we are definitely sailing into uncharted global waters. Nevertheless, this globe has been circumnavigated before and remains the charted territory of our God who is far greater than the threat of any virus—as frightening as that is. Our faith in Him gives us new opportunities to serve Him, especially during this restricted time.

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of McMaster Divinity College, as we continue to serve a God who is not confined to a single residence and who is not self-isolating and either socially or physically distant, but who desires close contact and communion with each one of us.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

 

 

April 30, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

I am writing this letter to all of you on the last day of April. I know with my mind that it has been over a month and a half since we began our new COVID-19 reality, but in other ways it is very hard to grasp what has occurred and all that continues to happen surrounding this pandemic. We may be hunkering down at home during this time, but our busy lives continue around us. I hope that you are adjusting well.

What has become clear is that God is proving faithful during this time, despite the unusual and challenging circumstances. I am continually hearing stories of how God is helping or protecting or encouraging members of our community as they interact with the new circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I think that, as a community, we have been brought closer together as we work together for the good of both MDC and each individual—even if we do that work mostly through electronic media and not face to face, as we would prefer. Everyone is working hard to ensure that our faculty, staff, and students are supported during this time.

Our COVID-19 Response Team continues to meet, and I hope that you read their regular assessments and updates of our situation. Despite our best hopes for a speedy resolution of this pandemic, it appears that we are going to remain physically closed even as we are educationally open for business. The current projection is that we will remain as we are, with restricted physical access, until at least the end of June.

Nevertheless, in the eager anticipation that we will eventually be re-opening our physical doors, we are already beginning to think of and plan for the next stages. We will be learning more in the days and weeks ahead, but the Ontario government has announced a phased re-opening, and so we are monitoring this closely and planning accordingly. We are planning not only how we will phase our own opening but what we will need to be able to make this opening safe and successful. We will keep you informed of developments.

For the time being, the enrolment for our Spring term of courses has been pleasingly robust and we are in the midst of several of these courses, with more to come. We even had a number of last-minute enrolments as students saw their way to taking a course in the midst of uncertainty. Despite the last-minute shift to online delivery, our faculty are doing their usual excellent work in guiding the teaching and learning process. As I have mentioned before, all of our courses for the Fall term will be offered as well, but in a hybrid format with two meeting days per course scheduled during the last two weeks of October and first week of November. The course schedule should be posted very soon, so please visit our website for further information. We look forward to welcoming both new and returning students, even if we must do so virtually.

I realize that we were not able to bring the previous Winter term to its usual close, and so we were not able to wrap up our courses and say goodbye in the way that we might have wanted to. The faculty will be having their last meeting of this academic year next week to bring things to a close. I am also sorry that we will not be having our usual Convocation ceremony in May, and that this has been postponed until at least the Winter term (we will let you know). Despite these loose ends, we are hoping that we can maintain communication through various means in the days ahead.

In order to help our students during this time, we have set aside $50,000 for our COVID-19 Tuition Relief Fund. All of our students should have been notified of the availability of money to help them pay their tuition. If not, they should contact Sara Fusilier at sfusilier@mcmaster.ca and she will guide them through the process. For those of you who may wish to help support our students during this time, please do not hesitate to contact John Steadman at steadmaj@mcmaster.ca and he can ensure that your gift will be added to this fund and directly help our students.

The President’s Dinner Online came to a close with a lot of fervent last-minute bidding on choice items in our silent auction. Some of you even made positive comments about my two videos—I appreciate the kind words. We still have some donations coming in and it is not too late to contribute, but overall this was a huge success. I want to thank each one who participated, whether by donating an item for the auction, sponsoring a virtual table, or making a specific contribution.

I continue to pray daily for the MDC community, and I know that others do also. As we adjust to living life by online media, I pray that we will learn new things from and about God, and about ourselves and our own callings and responsibilities, that will better equip us for that time when we will be able to engage life in ways with which we are more familiar.

Thank you for the comments that many of you make in response to these letters. We at MDC remain confident in our calling to prepare the next generation of Christian leaders for Canada and beyond. Thank you for sharing in this calling.

Yours,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean


April 23, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

I hope that you remain well during this unusual and increasingly difficult time. I don’t know about you, but I have found that, despite finding an efficient routine, there are clear limits to how much I can get done by just using Webex and email. I do know that everyone I talk to is ready for all of the COVID-19 crisis to be over. Who would have imagined that I would now be writing this, my sixth, Thursday letter to the MDC community! However, the projections still indicate that we are a lot further from being able to return to normal than we had anticipated. As a result, many of us have begun to see this time as a holding pattern, in which our routines do not change very much, even though life must go on.

My email inbox received the first announcement of a book responding to the COVID-19 crisis. It seemed to me like a bit of an opportunistic advertisement, I must admit. However, the pandemic has been going on long enough that we have begun to reflect critically on what all of this means and how we should or should not have prepared for it and responded to it.

I look forward to our continuing contemplation of how God is intertwined in all of this. I think that this crisis provides an excellent opportunity for serious theological reflection. There have been articles comparing this set of events with the plagues of Egypt and others that have been creating not social, but theological distance between the two and not wanting them to be compared. We are all aware of cases where God’s hand has clearly been at work in individual lives. However, we must also consider the role that humans have played within our environment and how we have been involved or even complicit in this pandemic. Above all, I hope and pray that through the bad and the good we have individually and corporately learned important truths, as a church and as Canadians and people of other nations, about what it means to be custodians of the world that God created and responsible for resources that can easily be taken for granted. If two or three years from now we have returned to a state of normality no different than before the COVID-19 pandemic, then I will be disappointed that we as human beings created in God’s image, have failed to learn from our experiences.

You have probably been having similar thoughts punctuating your day as you go about the routines of life. The wider MDC community continues to do all that we can to ensure that we are faithful to our call as an institution of higher theological education. Many of our faculty members are feeling the pressure of having to get their grades in by early next week, marking the formal close of the winter term. Others are already ramping up for our Spring term, with our first class starting this past Monday. It’s not too late to register for a course—all of them are online so you can study while you are at home and it is a great opportunity to connect with others in the MDC community!

Our President’s Dinner Online was a great success—as it wraps up today! I announced the PDO last week and it is already over. We had great talks by David Guretzki from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada—of which we are members and supporters—and some enthusiastic bidding for items in our silent auction. As I am writing this I am keeping an eye on the website to see how the bidding is going and whether I want to encourage Wendy to bid on anything at the last minute. I hope that you were able to participate as well—and perhaps make a donation to the work of MDC.

As I mentioned above, even though we are living in a liminal space—in the world but not of it, so to speak—our day-to-day activities of life must go on. We are thankful for digital technology that allows us to communicate—whether faculty and students or administration and staff—so that we are able to do the work that God has called us to do.

Our COVID-19 Response Team continues to meet and respond to the needs of our situation. Our President’s Cabinet, joined by our administrative Directors, had a lengthy meeting by Webex yesterday to do our regular business but also to forecast the future on the basis of the data we have. We recognize that this is an unstable time for everyone, including our students, and so we are doing everything we can to address their situations, such as providing some financial help where possible. Some of you may wish to donate to this effort.

We appreciate hearing from those of you who are able to be in communication, especially those who are encouraging us as we stay the course during these times. I am looking forward to not just a return to the past, but a new time of greater awareness of how much, within God’s care, we need and value each other. We pray for God’s grace and strength for you as you navigate these challenging times.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean


April 16, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

I trust that you had a memorable and celebratory Easter, despite the fact that everything was unusual and even unexpected and perhaps tension-filled. Wendy and I celebrated together with good music, Bible reading, and communion. The COVID-19 environment provides many wonderful opportunities for such deep reflection.

Our COVID-19 Response Team met again earlier this week and issued a statement regarding immediate items of importance. At this point, there are not many large-scale changes that are occurring as we wait and see what will develop. One thing that I know for certain is that there are many good people working exceptionally hard in various venues to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. We can all be thankful for the many healthcare workers and other support staff who are constantly on the front-lines of this crisis. There are also many other subsidiary workers who are doing their parts, day in and day out. I want to thank all of them. We also have many dedicated faculty and staff of MDC who continue to keep our institution moving forward, to whom I say a heartfelt thank you as well.

As I examine the various sets of data regarding the COVID-19 situation, I think that I can perceive some flattening of the curve regarding instances of new cases. I hope that I am right, but only time will tell. I remain deeply troubled, as I am sure you are, by the numbers of deaths. I think that probably all of us have now had someone in our immediate sphere who has been directly affected by this dreadful virus, whether a death or hospitalization or their likelihood. Even if we are beginning to flatten the curve, it would appear that we have at least another six weeks or so under similar circumstances. That would allow for nearly three months of the crisis—but that may be an optimistic scenario.

In the midst of all of this, I pray that you will all remain healthy and well and will find the practices of physical distancing and social isolation not just routine but renewing as you find your new way of living a healthy and satisfying life. Each day presents a variety of opportunities to contemplate many things that we have perhaps taken for granted. I encourage you to follow the good practices of physical distancing and hand washing, but also good habits of personal, physical, and spiritual care.

MDC is continuing to monitor the educational and financial environment during these times. There are some encouraging signs. Our initial enrollment for our entirely online Spring term is healthy and we will have many excellent courses available. This might be a good time for you to encourage someone to take one of these courses while they are at home.

Our plans for the Fall term continue to develop as the situation flexes. Many educational institutions are weighing a variety of configurations for the Fall. Some are cancelling the Fall term, others are contemplating starting later, some are going online, while a few others are still trying to figure out how to turn on the computer. We are planning for all of our Fall courses to be in hybrid format. That means that there will be a face-to-face component at MDC for a day and a half for each course, while the rest of the academic term uses digital technology. We are scheduling all of these face to face times over a three week period in the second half of October and first week of November. Of course, if this is not possible in light of a continuing shutdown, then we are already well positioned for going completely online.

The biggest consideration, however, is whether students will enroll and then “show up,” even if electronically. We realize that many potential students—and probably many current ones—are anxious about their situation, due to finances, family concerns, or other matters. We are trying to address these, even though many of them are beyond our control. The effects of this crisis on the economy, and the knock-on effects, are mounting the longer the economy stays in a holding pattern. I feel especially sad for small businesses and other occupations that are deemed non-essential, and hope that we can re-open in time for them to restore their businesses.

The work of MDC, however, continues. We had a faculty meeting today by Webex, the second one we have had since the crisis. This one went even better than the first one, as we were all more used to the digital technology and the newly refashioned social relations. There were the typical technical glitches, but these are expected in a digital environment. It was thrilling to have fifteen or sixteen small picture boxes of our faculty members all up on the screen at one time, as they did the work that only the faculty can do. We discussed the current situation at MDC, and then made decisions regarding such things as student dissertation proposals. Our students and faculty continue to work together to produce meaningful scholarship during a time of crisis.

We launched the President’s Dinner Online today as well! Because we had to cancel our face-to-face President’s Dinner, John Steadman and Melissa West developed this great alternative. Thanks to John and Melissa for their hard work to make this happen. Please go to our website and take a look. You will find a variety of entertaining items, including items to bid on in our silent auction. I provide some comments as well. One of the reasons that MDC continues to be able to do our business even during adverse circumstances is because we have a faithful group of generous donors who realize the value of theological education. The President’s Dinner is the single biggest occasion during the year for our donors to express their support of MDC, and so we are pleased that they will have this opportunity this year through online technology.

I am acutely aware that this crisis has continued far longer than we had originally anticipated and certainly longer than we would like. I would encourage you to continue to use your time wisely and take advantage of opportunities that may not arise again. Above all, we need to remain focused upon the fact that the same God of the resurrection is the God of life today, and he continues to work his will, even if we are not always aware of how he is doing this.

Be safe and well during this time. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you for the role you play in MDC, whether as student, faculty, staff member, or Board member.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean


April 9, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

I greet all of the MDC community on Maundy Thursday in great anticipation of Good Friday and then our celebration of Easter. Even if we will be doing all of this in new and unusual ways, the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection is probably more poignant this year than in many past years. We need His life-giving power at a crucial time such as this.

I hope and pray that this letter finds you safe and well during the chaos of the continuing COVID-19 crisis. I am struck by how different our lives are now that we remain in our homes and communicate by electronic means, even with those who are often close by. I am sure that we are all agonizing over the excruciating toll that is being taken on our world by this virus. The loss of human life and the resulting social upheaval is very difficult to watch without compassion and also anxiety.

In the midst of our new and altered norm, I want to assure everyone that, despite change all around us, McMaster Divinity College remains firmly committed to its mission—to develop effective evangelical Christian leaders for the Church, academy, and society through graduate level education, spiritual development, and vocational formation. In order to accomplish this mission, we must adjust to the changing reality around us. Driven by our mission, MDC is engaging in both short and longer term strategic planning to address the COVID-19 situation. We are examining all areas as necessary, including student life, programs and courses, and finances, among others.

It is hard to believe that we have now arrived at the end of the Winter term. This is the last week of class meetings, and grades will soon be due. Before we know it—and I am sure we are all anticipating it—the new academic year will be upon us, with new opportunities and challenges—many of them ones that we are already contemplating and addressing.

As I previously mentioned, we have shifted our Spring term courses to online. We are currently considering our alternative means of delivery for our courses in the Fall term of 2020. We want to ensure that we address the possible alternatives before the time arrives, so that our students will be able to begin or continue their programs smoothly and with minimal interruption. We are anticipating welcoming a great new group of students in the Fall to complement those already studying within our programs, but we have a lot of work to do to make sure that they can get registered and into our programs because of possible complications caused by the COVID-19 crisis. We will let you know as soon as we know the particulars of any changes for Fall courses, but we assure you that we are continuing to offer our full range of degree programs and the courses required to support them, even if we must change the mode of delivery at least temporarily.

We are also examining the horizon regarding the day-to-day workings of MDC and our long-term outlook. We continue to have only essential people working at MDC so as to ensure that the necessary tasks are done. We are also examining the future financial landscape. As you know, we are dependent upon a range of different sources of income, and we are doing all that we can to ensure that these sources of income remain robust even during a time of uncertainty. We have a number of possible plans so as to guarantee that business continues as usual at MDC.

One of the opportunities that I hope you will take advantage of is our President’s Dinner Online. We were scheduled to have our annual President’s Dinner on April 16th, in our new and beautiful Cullen Hall, but of course have not been able to do so. We have even moved in our new furniture into Cullen Hall, where it waits for the return of our students, faculty, and staff. We know that there are many of you who are disappointed that we are not having the dinner, because the President’s Dinner is a great opportunity to see fellow supporters of MDC and actively participate in our work together. However, all is not lost! This year we are having an alternative event, the President’s Dinner Online, beginning next week on April 16. Please go to our website and ‘like’ us on Facebook or check our other social media for more information on how you can be involved. There will be plenty of opportunities to hear from MDC, to share your thoughts and ideas, and to participate in the life of MDC through donations and even a silent auction! Don’t miss out on this opportunity to try a new way of supporting MDC through the President’s Dinner Online.

The COVID-19 Response Team continues to meet, and one of our regretful but necessary decisions is to further postpone our Convocation Ceremony until sometime in the Fall term. We don’t know the date yet due to the uncertainty of when and where we are able to gather again, but we will keep you informed once we have arrived at a new date. However, those planning to graduate this spring should be assured that we are going to arrange for the conferral of your degrees this spring, even if there is a delay in when we can celebrate in a formal and public way.

Despite the turmoil of COVID-19, I hope that you are finding time in your tumultuous lives to have occasions of peace and tranquility while all about you may seem to be on edge. Despite the fact that we have not appeared to turn the corner on this pandemic yet, there are signs that there will be helpful developments in the not too distant future and that, eventually, life will return to something resembling what it was before.

In the meantime, rest assured that God is still the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and that with his guidance we continue to do the work that he has called us to do, as fervently and industriously as we have in the past.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to enquire about particular issues. In the meantime, please stay safe and well.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean


April 2, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

It’s hard to believe that this is now the third of my Thursday letters to the MDC Community—and I think that we all realize that there is no clear end in sight of the current COVID-19 crisis. Nearly three weeks ago we went into our emergency control mode, and we have continued to function in that way, attempting to anticipate and react in advance to the current situation. As a result, we continue to have only essential work being done in the MDC building. That does not mean, however, that we are not alive and attentive to your needs and to the needs of others in our community.

It is equally hard to believe that we are now nearing the end of our winter term. It is difficult for me to remember exactly where we are in the teaching term now that our days are not punctuated in the same way by traditional class meetings and other social events. We are adjusting, however, and I am optimistic that our transition to an online format has been able to accomplish our educational purposes during this winter term. For those of you who are students, I hope that you are able to get your work done and are pleased with the results of what you have learned. Our spring term will be online as well, so we are looking forward to expanding our online capacity and welcoming many of you to continue to progress towards completion of your degrees.

Wendy and I continue to pray fervently and daily for the MDC community. We know that some of you continue to work on the front lines of this crisis, for which we are very thankful. We know that others face grave uncertainty, whether because of health or job-related or other factors. Many of you are feeling the constraints of being at home day after day.

I hope and pray that all of you are finding new patterns of life that allow you to flourish in the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty that surrounds us. As I communicated in an announcement earlier this week, we are concerned about the mental and physical well-being of our entire community, whether you are a student, faculty, staff, or Board member. Please be attentive to these dimensions as you develop new routines through the day.

Our spiritual well-being remains the most important factor throughout this crisis. I realize that a pandemic such as this raises a host of theological questions, ones that we will be contemplating well into the future as a means of helping to understand these current events. I also think that this crisis forces all of us to consider more immediate spiritual questions as well. I encourage you to continue to seek God and to be in communion with him during this time and to maintain the kinds of spiritual practices that keep you grounded in your faith. God has not abandoned his people, even if his purposes are not immediately clear to us.

Our COVID-19 Response Team continues to meet and monitor the situation. As a result, we will be making decisions regarding our Convocation Ceremony this next week. Right now the event is rescheduled for June 18, but we are reconsidering this postponement in light of the fluid situation around us. We will let you know the results of our deliberations as soon as we can. In any case, we will ensure that our graduands graduate!

I mentioned the spring term above, but we are also starting to think of the fall term beginning in September. We would love to be able to welcome everyone back to the way things were, but we also realize that there may be many changes as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, so we are planning accordingly. We don’t know yet what all that means, but we will let you know as we know. However, despite whatever changes may occur in delivery models, we are anticipating a full slate of courses and programs in the fall. We will be welcoming a number of new students to MDC and providing as much support as we are able for them to become members of our academic and spiritual community.

Just as a reminder, all areas of MDC continue to be active in their various ways, so we are involved in long-term academic planning, we are engaged in important financial planning, we continue to develop relations with those who share the long-term goals of MDC, and we continue to let potential students know that MDC is still “open for business” for their degree programs. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with the appropriate person if you have concerns. We are here to be of service.

Let me close by simply saying that I realize that all of us are getting anxious to see an end to the current crisis. Some reports say that we should have much better information regarding the course of the crisis in the next couple of weeks. Even if that is true, there will no doubt be a time of readjustment whenever the crisis comes to a close. We are confident that God has called us, as MDC, to serve the Christian church in Canada and beyond, and we continue to function with the conviction that the work God has called us to do is not yet complete and there is much to do in the future. We want to be a part of that and will continue to work to that end, under his care and through his power. We look forward to God’s continuing guidance in the days ahead.

I wish for all of you to remain safe and well, whether you are working on the front lines of this crisis or whether you are in isolation. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have concerns that we can address.

Yours sincerely,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean


March 26, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

It has been a week since I sent out my first letter to the wider MDC community. A lot has happened during that week in the world around us, and in particular, at MDC. I trust that you have been adjusting to our new norm of washing our hands frequently, and physically—but not socially—distancing ourselves from each other in order to help contain the COVID-19 virus.

I encourage you to continue to be socially connected through various media. We look forward to the time when we will be in closer physical contact with each other and even enjoying the same events together. But that time is not now, so let’s still enjoy contact with each other, but at a physical distance.

MDC has continued to be closed to the public, with only essential staff working in the building. In this way, we anticipated the Premier’s announcement earlier this week of a province-wide shutdown. We have been functioning with a skeleton crew who are keeping our essential functions going, such as maintaining student records, planning for examinations, paying our bills, and the other essential items that must be taken care of, not as just a business, but an educational institution. We are now completely closed to students and other outsiders, so all student exams will be done through online communication. Some people may not realize that when an educational institution moves from face-to-face contact to online delivery that there are still those who are required to make all of this happen.

So far, I have been hearing good things about our move to online courses. I want to thank in particular Dr. Francis Pang, our Director of IT, for his tireless IT support of all that we are doing. Professors have already arranged to complete their courses and so have made suitable adjustments. If you are having difficulties, please do not hesitate to contact your professors or our Registrar, Dr. Phil Strickland, who can help to guide you.

As a result of the changes in human contact, all of our Spring Term courses are now being offered as online courses. Individual professors are adjusting their modes of delivery, and all of the courses will be reconfigured to ensure maximal student success in the new online format. I realize that this will still require patience by everyone, so bear with us. However, I am confident that what may not initially be seen as an optimum situation may well be an opportunity for new and different teaching and learning situations. Enjoy the online experience.

For now we are not sure what the fall will look like regarding mode of course delivery, but we are monitoring this quickly changing situation and will keep you up-to-date. We are already anticipating a full and successful fall term, so you will want to get registered for your courses when the opportunity is there.

As for Convocation, we have rescheduled the event to June 18 tentatively, but we will be reassessing this date in a week or so and should be able to report, with at least two months notice, what our plans for Convocation will be. We are weighing various options depending on the anticipated situation in mid-June.

In the meantime, although we are not able to enjoy it, we have welcomed new furniture into the building so as to outfit our new Cullen Hall. We were able to bring in some new tables and chairs, as well as furnishings for the Hurlburt Family Bookstore, before we closed down entirely, but we may not get the rest of the furniture for some time. Nevertheless, we are looking forward to Cullen Hall being fully outfitted and functional as soon as we are able to do so.

The President’s Cabinet had a four-hour virtual meeting yesterday to consider the various dimensions of MDC’s life, and we did a SWOT analysis and some projections regarding how the situation may develop in Southern Ontario. We are confident that even with online delivery—if we move to that in the fall—we will be able to ensure the highest quality of our courses and degree programs. We are also anticipating the effects of the developments in the stock market, as well as other knock-on effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

Our COVID-19 Response Team has also (virtually) met to consider options, and we were pleased to be able to anticipate and respond promptly to provincial demands for closing down. We will continue to monitor the situation daily.

We would continue to ask for your prayers for all of those in the MDC community. This includes our Board and Senate members, who continue to have care and concern for MDC, our faculty who continue to teach our courses, and our administration and staff who continue to work from home to see that the infrastructure of MDC is functioning. We may be a people of the diaspora, but we are still unified in our common calling.

If you need to reach someone regarding any of the issues above: for matters regarding students and courses, please contact Dr. Phil Strickland at strickpd@mcmaster.ca and for technology issues please, contact Dr. Francis Pang at pangfp@mcmaster.ca. If you have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at princpl@mcmaster.ca.

Please continue to take necessary precautionary steps in your own spheres of influence. We continue to do God’s work even in these times of uncertainty, in the confidence that we will return to a state of normality in His good timing and providence.

Yours,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean


March 19, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

I hope that all of you are doing as well as can be expected during these stressful times. I realize that all of us, individually and institutionally, are moving into uncharted waters. This is requiring that all of us make adjustments in an increasing number of ways—the way we live, the way we communicate, the way we greet each other, and even the way that we trust and relate to one another.

I want to encourage you that we are doing the best that we are able to retain as much of our regular MDC function as is possible during this time of such turmoil. I am especially conscious of the fact that there are students who are hoping to graduate, and that there are other students who are wondering about their educational futures because their financial futures are now insecure. I also know that there are many faculty who are having to make some major adjustments in their teaching and research styles. You are not alone. We are constantly monitoring the situation and trying to find positive solutions so that all of us can move forward together as we await the next stages during this COVID-19 crisis.

I want to report on a few things, beginning with the fact that our COVID-19 Response Team is communicating and functioning well. We are happy to report that, after meeting several days running, we seem to have found a level of stability that requires fewer meetings. Faculty, staff, and students are working from home, as we have only essential staff in the MDC building at this time. They are monitoring the various functions that need to be performed. I want to thank those on the team for their efforts and their quick responses. We have been assessing advice from other quarters and think that the efforts we have taken at this time are appropriate, but we will be continuing to assess.

The faculty had its regular monthly meeting this morning and early afternoon—all by WebEx. We did the regular business of the faculty, including discussing where we are in the term and our plans for bringing the term to a successful close. The faculty are also contributing many great ideas on how we can ensure that our students successfully close out this academic year.

We are making plans for our Spring Term and will be notifying students very soon about any changes going forward regarding the current semester due dates for work, grades, convocation, and the rest. There are some changes that we need to make, so please don’t be thrown off by the need to alter some of our regular routines. Faculty and students can expect to hear from the VP Academic or the Registrar about some of the specific changes.

One of the great pleasures of this admittedly difficult time is the opportunity to work with excellent people who are stepping up and taking their responsibilities seriously. I want to thank all of the staff and faculty for their good work during this time, and to thank students for their patience and hard work.

One company with whom I was in communication reminded me of some things that we should keep in mind. There will be a time when we can gather together to enjoy sporting events or group activities again. There will be a time when we can be in classes again at MDC. There will be a time when we can greet each other and be together in the ways that we used to. We just don’t know now when that time will be. In the meantime, we need to continue to believe that what is happening has not come as a surprise to our great God and that, ultimately, the world and all that is in it is his.

If you need to be in contact with someone at MDC, please do not hesitate to contact either Dr. Phil Strickland, Registrar, at strickpd@mcmaster.ca or Dr. Francis Pang at pangfg@mcmaster.ca or me at princpl@mcmaster.ca.

Yours truly,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean


March 13, 2020

Dear MDC Community,

In light of recent events surrounding the continuing spread of COVID-19 and as a precautionary measure, McMaster Divinity College will be cancelling all in-person (face-to-face) classes after the end of day Friday, March 13, 2020. Instead, classes will be moved to online delivery for the remainder of the Winter 2020 term.

Additionally, all co-curricular activities and events are cancelled. This includes Chapel, Theological Research Seminars, Guild meetings, Linguistics Circle, Preview Days, and student gatherings. MDC will still remain open for essential services.

Faculty members and course instructors, in consultation with the VP Academic, will be communicating with students soon regarding how courses will be administered for the remainder of the term so that courses may be completed within the scope of the current academic calendar.

We want to assure all students, but especially those in the final stages of their programs, that MDC is making it a priority to ensure students complete their courses within the normal Winter 2020 timeframe.

Students should take the following actions regarding their courses:

  • Log in to Avenue to Learn and make sure that you can access all course shells for all your current courses
  • Email your course instructor and cc Dr. Francis Pang (pangfg@mcmaster.ca) if you are not able to access a particular course shell

Any non-essential public events on campus are being cancelled as of Friday, March 13, 2020 as well.

Public Health Officials recommend taking appropriate precautions to help prevent infection including:

  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.
  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid normal forms of contact (handshaking, etc.).
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Maintain at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Keep up to date on information regarding COVID-19, especially areas where the virus is spreading. If possible, avoid traveling and large crowds, especially if you are an older person, are immuno-compromised, or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
  • If you or a relative have recently traveled to a place where COVID-19 is spreading widely, please follow public health guidelines for self-isolation.

We will continue to monitor the situation regarding COVID-19 and update you accordingly. Please continue to check this page for regular updates on this rapidly developing situation.

Regards,


Stanley E. Porter, PhD
President and Dean

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