Friendship That Makes a World of Difference took place from October 22-23, and was a fantastic cross-Canada mix of speakers and attendees.
Dr. Ross Jansen Van Vurren of Queen’s University was the catalyst, drawing a grant from our biggest sponsor, the Society of Christian Scholars, with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship also contributing along with Global Scholars Canada.
The planning team was comprised of Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation members and Christian Reformed campus ministry workers, as well as a few other academics.
Read a review from Brian Bork, a member of the planning team who serves as a campus minister at Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier.
Our speakers were John von Heyking (Lethbridge), Cindy Aalders (Regent), Danny Zacharias (Acadia), Paul Heintzman (Ottawa), Mark Harris (author/pastor) and GCS’s own David Koyzis. Our board member Deborah Bowen helped lead a faculty breakout group.
John von Heyking shared that all his best and richest friendships that have survived decades came from his undergraduate and graduate days. He also noted that famous groups of friends like the Inklings had their most vibrant moments outside the university—and outside the church (mostly pubs!). This is a curious thing, but he noted that it required the university institution in the first place for them to find vocation and meet one another.
David Koyzis’ response to John was deeply personal and brought in some ambiguity with regards to the mixed blessings of social media. The event prompted a whole manuscript from David (a taxonomy of friendships) that will probably be published somewhere soon.
Our indigenous professor Danny Zacharias talked about de-colonizing relationships in the university, emphasizing that being honourable treaty partners comes before being friends. His talk was deeply personal and as inviting as it was challenging.
Cindy Aalders noted how historically friendships have troubled institutions like the family and patriarchy, and that by deconstructing the centrality of the nuclear family we might elevate friendships, which were the crowning jewel of life and the school of virtue for the ancients. Her historical examples included women’s deep friendships in ministry and in theological reflection together—stories that we often do not hear enough about.
Our breakout groups for faculty and students/campus ministers reported back that 45 minutes was only enough time to get warmed up in conversation. So it seems they were pregnant with deeper reflection and sharing.
Finally, Paul Heintzman drew on leisure research to press us to further re-creation that includes group trips in the great outdoors, while Mark Harris brought us into our own inner lives to consider what “spiritual friendship” might offer us on our pilgrim journeys with Jesus.
Overall, I think we can call the event a success. It served its purpose of giving glory to God by building a network of conscientiously Christian academics across the universities of our country.
Click here to visit the new Canadian Christian Scholars Facebook page created for continued connection beyond this event. This page will develop more as a resource in the coming months.