Huron University College is celebrating its 150 birthday! My best wishes and congratulations to Dr. Stephen McClatchie, Principal of Huron and the Rev’d Canon Dr. Todd Townshend, Dean of the Faculty of Theology on this great moment in the life and history of the College. Huron University College has played a large role in my life and for that I am most grateful. I am proud to be an alumnus of Huron University College.
Nearly 20 years ago I boarded a plane in St. John’s, NL bound for London, ON in anticipation of beginning a new adventure at a university that was then called ‘Huron College.’ It was a big leap of faith for me at the time. Being the youngest of seven children, I belonged to a strong family network and leaving it behind seemed almost impossible at the time. It was a tough choice to move to the ‘mainland.’ Nonetheless, I believed it was what I was called to do. So I boarded that plane and we hit the skies for Ontario. A few hours later I would arrive at my new home – Huron College.
I still remember what it was like being at the airport in London wondering what do I do from here. A commissionaire directed me to something called Checker Limo – ‘boy who does he think I am? I can’t afford a limo!” It turns out Checker Limo is more of a taxi service with a great name, and really nice cars. In any event I told the guy I needed a lift to Huron College, and two 18-year-old piped up and said, “So do we! Let’s split the cab!” Not knowing a lot about Huron apart from the Faculty of Theology I was fascinated to hear about the a Liberal Arts reputation of Huron from two really enthusiastic young men from British Columbia. So began the first of many warm and wonderful conversations in my first days at Huron College.
I was so wide-eyed when we pulled up to the college. This was all so brand new for me. What a gorgeous campus. I remember how HOT it was. It was Labour Day, but it felt hotter than anything I could ever remember. I remember dragging around my bags finding the people who would help me settle, getting directed to Young House at the back of campus, and schlepping everything back there to move in. There would be one familiar face there. My friend Ed Mercer, also a Newfoundlander, had begun seminary a year ahead of me. In those first days, I met new people, found a new community, discovered the beauty of the Huron and Western campuses, was awed by the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist, felt cared for by the Chaplain, was impressed with the professors at the college, and was well on the way to realizing that this placed called Huron was going to have a very important place in my life. This was my new community. When I become homesick, they cared for me. I will always remember how the Rev’d Jim Carr and his wife Lynne brought me home one evening and fed me homemade chilli and broke my loss of appetite from homesickness. (I have not stopped eating since!). It took very little time for me to realize that my new community was a place that cared. It was good to be in a community whose faculty and staff cared for the students.
Within a couple of months I would meet Catherinanne Foltz at an ecumenical gathering between St. Peter’s Seminary and the Faculty of Theology at Huron – we did much that evening to bring together the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church – it at the very least, produced an ecumenical marriage.
My three years at Huron University College, were formative for me in so many ways. Living in community with new people was not always easy. There were times that were far les than idyllic. In fact at times we were very unkind to one another. But learning to live with people from diverse backgrounds, with a wide array of beliefs and theologies, and manners of worship was life giving for me – even if it was hard to see at the time. It was wonderful to be in chapel and see people with different ways of honouring God welcomed to express their prayer and their praise, in ways which were familiar to them. It was neat to be in a learning environment where our dialogue, our disagreement, and our discernment all served to help me discover who I am, and better understand what I believe. It was awesome to lead Morning Prayer for the first time in the Chapel. It was a little intimidating at first, but Bruce Chalmers, our chaplain and George Black the Director of Music and Liturgics professor were great calming forces. That, coupled with peers who prayed for one another as each in turn took on these new experiences, was God’s way of reassuring us all that we were in a good place. Also because of Huron, I was welcomed into parish of St. Michael and All Angels as a student. I made friends in the church and at the college that have remained with every since. The Field Education experience was among the most important elements of my education at Huron College. I had a great supervisor in John Marsh and am grateful to now call him friend. It was such an important and positive chapter in my life. Receiving my Master of Divinity in 1997 with Mom and Dad in attendance was one of the proudest moments of my life.
There were so many new experiences for me at Huron that I could not recount them all here. I just know that when I count the blessings of my life I count my time at Huron University College high among them. I treasure Huron for what it was to me then, and what it means to the church still today. May God bless Huron as we enter into the next 150 years. There is much to celebrate and much to be grateful for.