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Broadening ministry opportunities through spiritual care and psychotherapy

“This is about holistic care of people. I feel it is a privilege to be invited into the sacred space of patients and their families at times when they are most vulnerable, and also when they experience great joy,” said Virginia Gabriel, a student in the new Master of Pastoral Studies (MPS) degree program at Knox College.


Virginia Gabriel, MPS student at Knox College

Knox College’s new Master of Pastoral Studies program broadens graduates’ opportunities to serve in societal and non-profit organizations, in addition to serving within the church. They’ll be equipped to lead in lay and ordained ministries in faith communities; pursue careers in the non-profit sector; or work as institutional chaplains, spiritual care practitioners, psycho-spiritual therapists, and community workers.

Virginia was a registered nurse before she felt God’s call to chaplaincy. She said, “When I was a registered nurse, my first assignments were with two of the units I did not want to work in: palliative care and psychiatric. But once I started working in those units, everything changed. As I entered each of these units, I became acutely aware of God’s presence, freeing me from self-doubt and equipping me to provide the support each patient needed.” She now wants to minister to spiritual as well as physical needs, to care for the whole person particularly when the person is most vulnerable.

Students in the Master of Pastoral Studies program pursue one of three foci:

– Spiritual Care, for providing spiritual care in faith communities or public institutions;

– Social Service, for providing leadership in faith-based organizations or secular social agencies; or

– Congregational Leadership, for providing lay leadership in Christian congregations by focusing on worship, preaching, or other areas of congregational life and mission.

In the Spiritual Care focus, students may complete requirements for a conjunct Certificate in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy. This training prepares them to provide spiritual care and psychotherapy as spiritual care practitioners (chaplains) or as psycho-spiritual therapists (pastoral counsellors). This certificate program also prepares students to apply for entry into advanced training toward Specialist certification in the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care (CASC) and for qualifying membership in the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

With a background in both theology and psychology, Virginia values a “firm grounding from which to minister to patients” and sees Knox’s MPS as a vital foundation. She plans to pursue membership in the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.


Angelica Atkins, MPS student at Knox College

Begun this September, the MPS program is already drawing students from a variety of backgrounds and life situations. Virginia learned of the program through her nursing work. Another MPS student, Angelica Atkins, learned of the program through her church.

Angelica recently began attending a PCC congregation, St. Paul’s Leaskdale, where she said, “A spirit of grace and kindness drew me in.” As she became involved in the worship team and Bible study, Angelica said, “The leadership at St. Paul’s encouraged me to develop my spiritual gifts. Eventually, I shared my story with the congregation and became a member; I worked in the church office, preached at nearby congregations, and coordinated a creative project showcasing congregants’ artwork.”

Angelica is an art therapist. She said, “I value my art therapy training – yet I felt something was missing at the heart of it. While art and a therapeutic relationship help to express and ease suffering, nothing short of an encounter with Jesus can bring true transformation and healing.” She said, “I began looking for next steps and discovered the brand new MPS at Knox – a unique opportunity to integrate Christian faith with professional training in psychotherapy! I am excited to bring my whole artistic, therapeutic, faith-filled self to this new program.”

Angelica hopes to add the Master of Divinity degree to her course of study as well, she said, “so that I can use my training to facilitate spiritual growth, mental health, and emotional expression in the context of pastoral ministry.”

The Master of Pastoral Studies is a 20-credit second-level entry degree. Learn more at www.knox.utoronto.ca/mps. Applications for the winter term (beginning January 4, 2017) are due October 31, 2016.

Knox thanks former DaySpring Presbyterian Church

Laurie Spence Bannerman (at left in photo), Knox College Board of Governors member, thanks elders and members of the former DaySpring Presbyterian Church at the Presbytery of London meeting on September 13, 2016.

Laurie Spence Bannerman, Knox College Board of Governors member, thanked elders and members of the former DaySpring Presbyterian Church at the Presbytery of London meeting on September 13, 2016, held at Knox, St. Thomas.

Knox College was one of the recipients of funds given out of the dissolution of DaySpring Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of London. In keeping with the former DaySpring Presbyterian Church’s pioneering spirit, the funds will help to train future Christian leaders for renewal and church planting. The gift will support the new Master of Pastoral Studies program of Knox College (within the re:forming Tomorrow campaign) in the area of leadership development for congregational ministry, social ministry, spiritual care, and international mission.

Knox College thanks former DaySpring members for this opportunity to continue DaySpring’s legacy.

Learn more about the re:forming Tomorrow campaign here.



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