“I’m so sick of words!..Show me!” George Klassen, director of the School of Urban Leadership (SOUL), gave Eliza Doolittle’s challenge from My Fair Lady to the program’s first graduating class, as he exhorted them to follow Jesus’ example by literally “fleshing out” the Word of life.
Cynthia Frazer and Clair Hutman were the first graduates of SOUL, a Bible training program for inner urbanites. Offered as a series of evening modules, SOUL classes cost $90 and are tailored to the needs of students for whom traditional Bible school may not be an option. The curriculum is provided by The Urban Ministry Institute, an arm of World Impact, a mission organization devoted to evangelism, discipling, and church planting in inner cities. A partnership of the MB Church of Manitoba, Evangelical Mennonite Conference, and associated ministries, the school is held at Christian Family Centre, Winnipeg.
Over 40 months, the graduates took a total of 32 credit hours in biblical studies, theology and ethics, Christian ministry, and urban mission to obtain a certificate in Christian leadership studies. Students spend 2–3 hours in class every week, and many hours outside of class studying, completing assignments, and meeting with a mentor.
In their shared valedictorian address, Frazer and Hutman joked about colourful markings on exegetical assignments and Hutman spoke honestly about three years of struggles, setbacks, successes, and growth.
Frazer began as associate pastor at Christian Family Centre in 2005 and will continue to minister there. She credits SOUL for providing her with tools for ministry, not only Bible knowledge, but also “social tools” for talking to people, whether in front of a crowd, or casually. Within weeks of graduation, she began organizing a team of CFC members to launch a new outreach ministry in the church’s neighbourhood, which has approximately 25 percent single-parent families, according to a 2006 City of Winnipeg and Statistics Canada profile.
Hutman was referred to SOUL through his small group leader at Gospel Mennonite Church. In 2006, he began his studies and became a mentor for Barnabas House Ministries under the direction of pastor of evangelism Ken Stoesz. Hutman and his wife Carol’s long-term dream is to have a ministry focusing on the marginalized in society who are seeking to make positive changes in their lives.
“I wonder how these educational tools will be used?” Frazer asked, but acknowledged that the fulfillment of her dreams is “in God’s hands.” She closed the address with thanks: “We are a portrait of God’s goodness and a product of all of you who supported SOUL.”