Welcome to our 2022 President’s Dinner Online. Our online fundraising event will run from April 4 – 8, 2022 and will include updates from our President Dr. Stanley Porter, a video series by our speaker Amy Caswell Bratton, student stories, and of course, our online auction.
All proceeds from this campaign will go to support the students of McMaster Divinity College through our Leadership Fund.
Thank you for joining us this week for our President’s Dinner Online. A reminder that our Online Auction runs until tomorrow, Friday, April 8 at 12:00pm, so get your final bids in! And now, a concluding message from our President, Dr. Stanley Porter.
Amy Caswell Bratton is the Director of Operations & Publishing for the New Leaf Network and the project manager for the Canadian Multivocational Ministry Project. She lives in Saskatoon, SK with her husband, Tim, and their two sons, Oswald and Ira. She is a lay leader at Riversdale Neighbours church and an Adjunct Professor with Rocky Mountain College in the area of Spiritual Formation. She writes and speaks about the history of Christian spirituality, with a focus on the early Methodist understanding of Christian maturity known as “perfect love.” Read more from her in her book Witnesses of Perfect Love: Narratives of Christian Perfection in Early Methodism.
In response to Amy’s teaching on spiritual formation, we are offering a special online information about our Spiritual Formation Graduate Certificate, along with our other specialized certificates. Please plan to join us at 12:00pm (ET) on April 6, 2022 to reconnect with us and learn more about these programs.
Come just to listen in, to ask questions, or learn more about how a certificate can benefit you or those serving in various ministries at your church. The session will last about an hour and is informal, with no registration required. Join us on Zoom by clicking the button below.
We asked some of our students to share with us their stories of how God’s calling led them to MDC, and to share more about the topics they are passionate about and the ministry they are involved in. Join us in praying for our students as they work to complete their studies and serve in various forms of ministry.
Tell us about your journey to MDC.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as someone temporarily laid off from work who suddenly had a lot of time on their hands, I was living in the tension of enjoying the newfound rhythms of rest and silence that I had fallen into, while simultaneously dreading their inevitable end whenever my job needed me back. During this time, the thought of attending divinity school began to dwell at the forefront of my mind. It felt sudden, shocking, and costly, but the deep joy and overwhelming sense of freedom, peace, and anticipation I experienced allowed me to say “yes” very readily to something I never would have chosen for myself. At the time, I had no coherent answers for those in my life asking why I suddenly wanted to apply to MDC, but I knew to ignore the clear leading of the Holy Spirit would have been disobedient. It was a leading I wanted to follow; the invitation was gentle, not demanding. I sense, however, that the calling was not as sudden as I may have initially perceived. Looking back on the formative spiritual experiences of my early 20s, and even before that, as a teenager and child, I see how I’ve continually been drawn by a voice saying, “Come and see.” My calling to MDC was, and is, interwoven with my calling to deeper Christian discipleship.
Tell us how spiritual formation has been a part of your experience at MDC.
Spiritual formation is the process of becoming more like Jesus. What I long for most is the day when I will be made fully like him, because I will see him as he is, but the transformation into his likeness—made possible by the Spirit—is already underway. Spiritual formation is not about me proving to Jesus that I love him and am like him because I pray or fast or engage in any other spiritual discipline. Rather, spiritual formation is about experiencing God’s love for me and the transformation happening in (not by) me. Depending on your own temperament, you may find certain practices (worship, study, service, silence, etc.) more valuable in their ability to help you tune out “noise” and more readily notice God, but spiritual formation itself is not primarily a result of your ability to engage in these things. Spiritual formation invites us into the identity that was bestowed on the Son: “Beloved.”
I am grateful to many people at MDC, professors and fellow students alike, who have been instrumental in teaching and reminding me of this. MDC itself is not the cause of my spiritual formation, but it certainly has been a community where significant personal spiritual formation has taken place. I believe any Jesus-follower, pastor or otherwise, is already undergoing spiritual formation; you needn’t worry about pursuing what is already being done in you by the Spirit. However, I will say it’s incredibly beautiful and worthwhile to pursue an awareness and receptivity to this reality. As you become more aware of your own spiritual formation, you’ll have the eyes to see it happening in others as well, and you’ll be gifted with the privilege of saying to them, “The Christ in me sees the Christ in you.”
What impact has your experience at MDC had on you?
As I said before, while MDC itself is not the cause of my spiritual formation, I cannot deny that I have been transformed more into Christ’s likeness while being here. Something I have noticed each semester at MDC is the way in which my courses have informed each other, and in turn, the way this interconnected learning has spoken into my life. History and theology courses have opened me up to the beauty of Christian traditions previously unfamiliar to me, biblical studies courses have left me in awe at the creativity and intentionality of Scripture, and ministry studies courses have challenged me to think critically, and with nuance, about a variety of topics relevant to the Christian faith. Throughout my degree, I’ve sensed God healing certain areas of my spirituality through my coursework, particularly in my understanding of relationship and communion with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Conversations in and outside of class with professors and classmates—many of whom I consider friends—have played a significant role in this as well. I’ve also experienced major shifts in my attitude towards vocational ministry; while I began this degree severely doubting my interest in or aptitude for being a ministering person, I started to notice my standards for what constitutes such a person were in fact quite different than God’s, much to my relief and delight. In all these learning experiences, MDC has been a place of flourishing for me, and I thank God that I get to be here.
How can we be praying for you?
I would deeply appreciate prayer that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ would give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know him better. I want to know Christ, I want to see Christ, and I want to be near to Christ. Please also pray that I would adjust well to new rhythms of rest and work as I enter the spring and summer seasons.
My name is Solomon Ng’ang’ah. I am the Associate Pastor of Africa Inland Church in the Kibera slum ministry in Nairobi, Kenya.
Tell us about your ministry.
Kibera Slum, Nairobi
My calling in ministry is that of preaching to the poor, the homeless, sickly, destitute, and most vulnerable in the society. I hold a degree in Theology and a Master in Counselling Psychology and every day, I employ skills gained in my Bible school days in a ministry where I often encounter a myriad of challenges. For the last ten years, I go around the slum every single day with a hand-held mic proclaiming the Good News of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Despite being the largest and poorest slum in Africa, I find comfort doing ministry here, because I get to meet genuine people who yearn to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Though there are many fears when interacting with these people, especially with hardcore criminals, for me Kibera slum is a good place where people have a strong desire to know Christ.
What was your journey to MDC like?
Solomon Ng’ang’ah at Africa Inland Church
I came to know MDC through a friend and MDC alumni, whom I met at a youth conference in Nairobi, Kenya. He was the conference main speaker and after listening to him preaching and teaching the Word of God, his scholastic rigour, sincere interpretation of the scripture and application acumen, I was convinced that MDC must have invested heavily in him. He prayed with me and convinced me to join MDC when the time was right.
In January 2022, 10 years after meeting him, I joined MDC’s Doctor of Practical Theology program. My desire is to grow my knowledge in the interpretation and application of the scriptures. Specifically, I pray that I will be equipped to address the ongoing challenges in my home country. One of the greatest challenges facing churches in Kenya and specifically, in Kibera slum is that of young Christian youths joining Islamic faith and consequently, becoming members of global terrorism groups. In March 2022, the Kenyan government and security authority indicated that at least 500 youths (mostly from the slums in Nairobi) had joined the Somali Islamist militant group, al-Shabab. This is a worrying trend, seeing future generations of youths lost into such evil schemes.
As a DPT student, what is your research interest?
My research interest will be on the role of church leaders in countering violent extremism among Christian youths in Kibera Slum, Nairobi. I will seek to find new knowledge of the loopholes that are being used by the recruiters towards initiating our youths in joining AlShabaab. This study will be based on interviews with already enjoined youths into al-Shabaab groups and other security stakeholders. I will try to uncover complex arrays of reasons for why the youths have joined the outlawed organization. I will develop a profile of typical al-Shabaab recruits and identify factors facilitating their recruitment, including religious identity, socioeconomic circumstances (education, unemployment), political circumstances and the need for a collective identity and a sense of belonging.
What has the beginning of your journey at MDC been like?
I joined MDC in January 2022. At the time, I thought I would get my student visa and join other students in Canada but that never materialized. The embassy denied my visa due to the surge in COVID-19, so I ended up doing my first semester online – an experience that has been extremely difficult especially due to nature of our local context. Technology and telecommunication infrastructure in my country is extremely poor and internet is slow as a snail! At one point, I was forced to climb a tall tree to catch bandwidth! It has not been easy studying online, but having said that, my lecturers at MDC have been so gracious and understanding! My assignments were due during a time when I could not access internet for two weeks! My professor was understanding and gave me the courage to continue with my studies. While I intend to relocate, there are many challenges.
How can we be praying for you and your ministry?
Pray that God will bring to a halt the continued exit of youths from church to joining AlShabaab and terrorism groups.
Pray that God will equip us in reaching the lost amidst difficulties in Kibera slum.
Pray also that God will raise men and women to support me in my studies at MDC. I have already been released by my church and they have wished me well in pursuit of my studies but the church cannot support me financially while I study. We are praying (my wife and three children) that God will come through for us and provide us with finances to cater for my studies and our basic needs.
During a Chapel service in our Fall semester, Ashley shared her story of God’s calling her to be at MDC. The video below is that story:
Now that you’re at the end of your first year, how was it?
Last semester, I was blessed to take “The Lord’s Prayer and Christian Spirituality” with Dr. Knowles and “Matthew” with Dr. Land. I am so grateful that these were the courses I ended up taking and that these were the professors I had in my first year. Both courses were richly rewarding. I learned even more than I expected and I was challenged both spiritually and intellectually. To my surprise, both professors were very encouraging. I was often shocked and baffled by their positive feedback as it was not what I was expecting – until I remembered that I had prayed specifically for encouragement weeks earlier. And so, I was amazed at God’s answer to my prayer. I had been praying that He would be glorified in my writing; I had never imagined that I would receive praise, too. God gives abundantly more than we can imagine or ask for.
This past semester has been quite challenging for me in different ways. On the day MDC announced that courses would remain online for the entire semester, the stress of the pandemic and the isolation of online learning finally broke me. I had an unexpected stress response that temporarily left me temporarily unable to read or focus and sent me into despair. Darkness would cover me for the rest of the semester and it seemed as if something new was hitting me every week. All of this meant that I could not function at my best. Once again, I am relying on God and praying that in my weakness, His strength would come through. Spiritually, I found myself feeling very distant from my Heavenly Father, feeling empty where once I was filled, and desperately longing for His presence. Even my prayers felt as if they were hitting a black wall. I am thankful for Dr. Knowles’ class on prayer last semester – the knowledge I gained there held me together through this difficult time.
One day, as I was taking a break from studying, I began to worship. I sang a song by City Alight called “Your Will Be Done”. As I was worshipping and contemplating Jesus at Gethsemane, remembering Him struggling as he anticipated the suffering to come, I was suddenly overcome by a sense that this was how I could draw close to Jesus in times when God feels distant – that in the very suffering and silence itself, we are joined to Jesus’ suffering. I broke down in grateful tears and in that moment, I was strangely thankful for the suffering I was experiencing. And I knew that I was being shaped for something to come, that my brokenness and suffering will be used in some future ministry for good.
How can we be praying for you?
Recently, I have been struggling with a concussion as I attempt to finish up my semester. I am again dependent upon my Heavenly Father to carry me through. Normal activities have become quite hard to do. Please pray for a quick recovery, for God to be glorified, and that He might transform this experience into something wonderful for His Kingdom. And please pray that my eyes will be opened to what He is teaching me through this trial.
MDC is blessed to have a number of artists who study with us to combine their gifts in art with their study of the Bible. Each of the artists in the video below has an art installation now available to view in our building. While we plan to host a reception for the MDC Artists Series/2022 in the Fall, if you are interested in viewing the pieces before then, schedule a visit with us by contacting John Steadman. Many thanks to Dr. Wendy Porter, Artist-in-Residence, Elizabeth Brooks, and all of the students who participated.
Thank you to all of our generous donors for this year’s online auction!
Bidding will open on April 4 at 12:00pm and close on April 8 at 12:00pm. The auction catalog will be updated up until the first day of the auction, so check back often for new additions! Click the link below to go to the auction site.