An interview with Kristen Corrigan, president, ETEM
In the midst of preparations for a new semester, Kristen Corrigan, rector (president) of
ETEM-IBVIE*, spoke on the phone with the MB Herald’s Karla Braun about what’s new at the school.
ETEM-IBVIE has some new courses and students. Tell me about it.
It’s pretty exciting. We have a new one-year certificate in pastoral studies that can be done in a cohort (Expérience 19/24), or not. It’s basically our first-year university program, but it’s applied differently for this 19–24-year-old group.
This is the youngest bunch of students ETEM has had.
The energy around here has totally shifted. (We didn’t often hear giggling with our more mature student base!) Thursdays are the biggest day of the week, with three courses back-to-back, and what we call midivie (literally, noon life). Everybody’s invited to have lunch together: pastors, students, faculty, guests, and potential students. For $5, you can buy a home-cooked meal and hear an interview with a weekly guest.
What does the partnership with IBVIE look like at this point?
We basically function as one school: most of the budget, all courses, and the personnel are operating as one entity. We’ve come a long way, but we have a couple of big challenges. Integration of boards from the two schools is still in process. We’re waiting for confirmation that our respective denominational boards are ready for us to take the next steps; we’re “engaged,” and now we’re asking if we should proceed with the marriage. If they say “yes,” we’ll go through the final “marriage counselling” (including financial), and then ask, “do we want to have kids?”
Something has shifted here in Quebec with schools being willing to work with each other. There’s a willingness to explore that didn’t exist even a year ago. In my four years here, at times, we really thought we’d lose the school – and now, suddenly, everyone wants to come to the party.
In fact, we may have a new “kid” sooner than expected. FAREL, a Christian Reformed school, began to transfer 9,000 books into our library before Christmas and will be moving to our building in May. We have two other evangelical schools expressing interest, one that may have a process in place by fall.
What’s the source of this shift?
Sometimes, you don’t seem to make any progress, and then something happens. I can’t help but think that “something” was long-time professor Eric Wingender’s death. He was so loved, losing him motivated everyone who knew him to step up to the plate and help his dreams become realized. He would be so thrilled to see the way doors appear to be flinging open.
ETEM-IBVIE is “a school in service of church and society.” Comment on your relationship with churches.
That’s something we’re working to build. I met with the AEFMQ (Quebec MB conference) board recently, and was pleased with their feedback. Students start their practicum in January: for those who are plugged into our churches we’d like them to work with those congregations. For the spring/summer session [international practicum], the plan is to partner with existing agencies working in French countries where, during a four to six week mission service, the cohort would apply and reflect on what they’ve learned.
There’s some creative thinking going on about how to optimize these experiences. We’re still new to it; we want to see our churches being thrilled with what we’re doing, and still maintain good academic standards.
This is your second year of accreditation with Laval University. How do they receive the 19/24 program?
Laval has found ways for us to offer our evangelical-Anabaptist distinctives within their framework, but our courses. They monitor accreditation of our teachers, and are comfortable that our syllabi align with their academic standards. We’ve got a really good foundation, lots of trust built.
How does ETEM-IBVIE build a strong foundation of faith in a rigorous academic environment?
We live in a culture where people won’t accept rote answers. ETEM helps students ask tough questions and interact with the Word in a way that is academic, systematic, comprehensive, analytical, and practical.
If a person asks tough questions, sometimes pastors fear the person is losing faith, but I think God is a lot stronger than that. ETEM gives the tools to explore, and in turn, share discoveries with others.
It sounds like the younger cohort has meant lot of learning for students and also for staff.
It’s interesting to watch our teachers growing. We’re learning about the dynamics of working with a young group, facing questions we never had to deal with before (e.g., how to help young students through the distraction of falling in love). Also, we need to adjust our teaching for this age when students can find out anything on their iPhones. Our teachers have good hearts, their knowledge base is strong, their faith is strong, and their care for students is strong; now there’s opportunity to round that out by building our teaching to align with the way learners learn today.
Quebec views itself as a distinct society. What are the challenges of growing the church in a post-Christendom context?
I think our own paradigms sometimes hold us back. When people have been hurt, it takes longer to build trust, but it can be rebuilt, especially if the Holy Spirit enters in. We need to find a way to help young people break free of fear and anxiety, and uncover a new boldness – not in confrontational ways, but in loving ways.
[Academic dean] Jean Martin has contributed significantly through his impassioned vision to engage a younger cohort of students – that’s where we’ll find fresh energy, and where we’ll experience the shift into boldness.
Any closing comments?
I extend our deepest gratitude to all the people who have been praying for us, this last year in particular. In our moments of confusion, frustration – or sometimes pretty close to despair – it touches us to know people are standing beside us through their prayers and donations. We see the fruit here.
*An MB Bible school started in 1976, École de théologie évangélique de Montreal (ETEM) has partnered with Institut Biblique VIE (Vérité [truth], Intégration, and Expérience), a Christian and Missionary Alliance Bible school established in 1999, since 2007.