Vivian Lewin grew up in Pennsylvania. She came to Montreal in 1971 and soon became a member of Christ Church Cathedral, where she joined the Chancel Guild. She taught quilting at the Visual Arts Centre, worked as a writer and editor in the non-profit sector, and studied creative writing mid-career. Beginning in 2001 she trained as a spiritual director at the Ignatian Spirituality Centre of Montreal. She now chairs the Spiritual Direction Group of the Diocese of Montreal, volunteers with the Healing Pathway, a parish-based ministry in the United Church, and serves on the ministry team (Episkopé) of the Cathedral.
In addition to its degree programs, “Dio” [MTDC or the Montreal Diocesan Theological College] offers several options for lay people who wish to learn more about the faith. When I enrolled in Education for Ministry (EfM) in 2010, I knew it was a small-group experience that included reading the entire Bible and studying church history. What I did not anticipate was how this four-year course was going to stretch my mind and heart, in several ways.
We shared our lives with each other, presenting our spiritual journeys at the start of each year with a slightly different emphasis and sharing our present challenges at the start of each weekly class during the round-table check-in. A dozen class members had come from several countries, had different church backgrounds and life experiences. This made our sharing more meaningful and more of an adventure, too.
We took turns organizing a short opening prayer and a somewhat longer closing one for each class … and we all became more adept at this and some, more adventurous as the years unfolded. It was delightful to see how a prayer service put together by one member, at home hours or days before class, could unerringly touch on the exact prayer needs that would arise during class discussion hours later!
Reading the whole Old Testament in one year really connected the dots. Have you ever had the good fortune to be travelling in an airplane on a very clear day and see your city, and then all the terrain surrounding it, snap into beautiful perspective… the Saint Lawrence flowing towards the Atlantic, the Great Lakes etc. sprawling below you? The altitude gives a perspective you cannot get on the ground. And taking the Bible in large installments, with appropriate guidance, similarly gives an overview impossible to gain any other way. The familiar snippets familiar from the lectionary acquire context and take their place in the unfolding history of God’s relationship with creation.
Every week, as well as discussing our readings, we explored one topic in depth with our minds, our experience, our knowledge of scripture and our understanding of our shared tradition and the culture around us. Theological Reflection is a skill to work at in the group. Where else would we have had the chance to hold up a family or work situation, something in the headlines, something we have been reading, to scrutiny from every angle including the light of faith? To discover how God is speaking to us and moving us, not only in Holy Scripture and personal prayer times, but through creation and in our personal and community lives?
Five of my classmates and I made the four-year journey together; when we graduated together in 2014 we had already decided to continue meeting to support each other’s journeys. Nancy Greene-Gregoire took the EfM mentor training. This fall, we began our second year of meeting monthly as an informal EfM alumni group. Thanks be to God!