Through the Waters – Leadership Preview

Dr. Marie Wilson – Keynote Speaker

Dr. Marie Wilson served as one of three Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada following decades of experience as an award-winning journalist, trainer, and senior executive manager, including many years as the Regional Director for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the CBC North region responsible for three northern territories and northern Quebec. Fluently bilingual in French and English, she has been a university professor, a high school teacher in Africa, a senior executive manager in both federal and territorial Crown Corporations, and an independent consultant in journalism, program evaluation, and project management.

Marie was appointed the 2016 Professor of Practice in Global Governance at the Institute for Study of International Development, McGill University, and a 2016–2017 Mentor for the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation. In addition to receiving awards for writing and journalism excellence, she is the recipient of a CBC North Award for Lifetime Achievement, Northerner of the Year, the Calgary Peace Prize, the Toronto Heart and Vision Award, and the Pepin Award for Access to Information. She has received Honorary Doctorates from six Canadian universities, including St. Thomas University, University of Manitoba, Atlantic School of Theology, University of Alberta, Western University, and the Vancouver School of Theology. She has also been awarded the Order of the Northwest Territories, the Meritorious Service Cross, and the Order of Canada.

Marie was raised in and is a longstanding member of The United Church of Canada. She’s also been exposed to many other Christian denominations as well as other spiritual traditions.

Dr. Marie Wilson and her husband, Stephen Kakfwi, have three children and four grandchildren. She sees them as her most valuable achievements!

Jennifer Henry – Keynote Speaker

Jennifer Henry currently serves as the Executive Director of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, a role she took on in 2012. She has worked in ecumenical social justice for over 25 years. Jennifer has worked, globally and locally, on issues from gender and migrant justice to Indigenous rights to ecological justice, as a researcher, writer, educator, campaigner, and activist.

Jennifer has offered leadership to the Board of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, and the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice, and currently serves on the Board of the Centre and Library for the Bible and Social Justice.

Raised on Treaty 1 territory in Winnipeg, Jennifer has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Manitoba as well as a Masters of Social Work and a Masters in Theological Studies from the University of Toronto. She now lives in Toronto and worships at the Church of the Holy Trinity.  In 2016, she was given the Anglican Award of Merit, the highest lay honour in the Anglican Church of Canada for her commitment to ecumenical social justice.   

Susan Aglukark – Saturday Banquet Speaker

During a career that has spanned more than 25 years, Susan Aglukark’s journey as a singer-songwriter has led her to reflect on who she is, where she comes from and the importance of discovery—discovery of history, culture, and self. 

Susan is the first Inuk artist to win a Juno (3) and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement, she is an officer of the Order of Canada, holds several Honorary Doctorate degrees and has held command performances; but Susan also acknowledges the path has not been easy. 

“Here I was, living a life I never imagined, but I was struggling to understand who I was. There was no opportunity growing up to learn about who we were, the Inuit, from our own perspective. In essence, we were institutionalized by being told who we were, how we would live and when you are told a story for so long, you learn to believe it,” explains Susan.

During the past 25 years of reflection and songwriting, Susan kept coming back to one area of profound knowing. The knowledge that the Inuit are an extraordinary people deeply grounded in a culture forged by their ancestors; their journey is what shaped them.

“The conversations around reconciliation have provided an opportunity to begin to re-write our narrative. The Indigenous people in Canada come from highly organized societies built on knowledge, process and organization—without which none of us would have survived,” says Susan.

For Susan, art has played a significant role in her healing journey and in the re-writing of her narrative, she believes it plays an important role for Indigenous youth who are dealing with contemporary identity issues today.

Susan has always been very open about how her own fears and personal trauma that left her disillusioned and disconnected. Born in Arviat, Nunavut, her parents’ formative years were in traditional Inuit culture. However, her formative years were not traditional and were somewhat disconnected from her culture.

Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence – Keynote Speaker and Preacher

The Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence is the Peter Marshall Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and holds degrees from Yale University and Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div. and Ph.D.). Before joining the Columbia faculty in 1998, Dr. Florence served as an Associate Pastor for youth and young adults at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. Her books include Preaching as Testimony; Inscribing the Word; and Rehearsing Scripture: Discovering God’s Word in Community which is based on her 2012 Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale Divinity School. Her current book project is ‘A’ is for Alabaster: A Preacher’s Alphabet. She has also published numerous articles and chapters in books and journals, including a year’s worth of lectionary text commentaries for www.WorkingPreacher.com.

Dr. Florence’s research focuses on testimony, preaching pedagogies, and creative strategies for communities to engage and encounter the biblical text, so she is happiest when sitting around a table with a group of people, a big passage of scripture, and a big block of time to dive into it. She is a frequent teacher and lecturer in the US and abroad. She and her husband, the Rev. David Carter Florence, have two grown sons. They also have two dogs, two cats, and way too much knitting yarn.

Rev. Dr. Dorcas Gordon – Preacher

The Rev. Dr. J. Dorcas Gordon has spent over 25 years in theological education, all at the Toronto School of Theology (TST). This formal journey began in 1994 when she was appointed as its Director of the Doctor of Ministry program (1994–1999). She was subsequently called to serve as Principal of Knox College, the Presbyterian college in the TST consortium, and continued in this role for 18 years. After a year long sabbatical, Dorcas currently serves as the Interim Director of the TST Board of Trustees.

Throughout her ministry in theological education, Dorcas has served the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in a number of ways: the Commission on Accrediting, Women in Leadership and on the Board of Directors, including as President of the Association.

Dorcas also has a great knowledge of the region of Israel/Palestine. She has spent time researching in this area and also has led many trips to this region with The Presbyterian Church in Canada. In addition, along with her husband Noel, Dorcuas wrote a four-session study on Palestine for Glad Tidings magazine.

Dorcas is an ordained minister of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. She and Noel have four children and eight grandchildren.

Rev. Dr. Esther AcolatsePreacher

The Rev. Dr. Esther Acolatse, PhD, has served the global church in several capacities for many years both in her native Ghana and through her denomination the Presbyterian Church (USA). She is a scholar, teacher, preacher, as well as worship and retreat leader/speaker.

A graduate of the University of Ghana (BA Hons.), Harvard University Divinity School (MTS), and Princeton Theological Seminary (PhD), Esther taught Pastoral Theology and World Christianity at Duke University for several years. She is currently Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Intercultural Studies at Knox College, University of Toronto.  As a Professor, her research has focused in  many areas, such as, integrating psychology and spirituality for human and institutional renewal and flourishing; issues of gender and family; other social systems in faith and secular contexts; health, healing and wholeness in aging; and care at the end of life.

She is the author of For Freedom or Bondage: A Critique of African Pastoral Practices (Wm. B. Eerdmans 2014) and Powers, Principalities and Spirit: Biblical Realism in Africa and the West (Wm. B. Eerdmans 2018). Esther is the mother of a 24-year-old son who keeps her grounded and honest.

Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock – Preacher

The Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock has been the minister at St. Andrew’s Church in Ottawa since November 2014. She has a passion for discovering the world in which we live, and our own place and calling in it. Her early adult years were spent pursuing the Sciences. She completed a PhD in neuroscience and also worked for some years with an organization called Scientists in School, all this before entering the ministry.

If you ask her what she enjoys most in ministry, Karen will tell you that it is the people journeying together in faith and discovering together the beauty of the life we have together in Christ.

Although she wasn’t raised in the church, Karen had always been curious about God and church, and the strength she saw in the people of faith. She married a good Presbyterian named Hugh, started attending church with him when their children were small, was baptized shortly after that, and then experienced a call to ordained ministry.

Karen received her MDiv from Knox College in 2008. For many years she served on the Stewards by Design planning team in the PCC. She and Hugh are now discovering the art of parenting young adults, enjoy travelling together, and walking their dogs.

Agnes Henderson – Praise Leader

Agnes Henderson is the Director of Music at Knox Presbyterian Church in Listowel, Ontario, where she leads all aspects of the music ministry. She has written original music for the choir to sing, including two Easter musicals based on scripts written by her sister Kim Henderson (who is an ordained minister with the Free Methodist Church in Canada).

Throughout her music career Agnes has covered a wide variety of styles from classical to contemporary. She received her A.R.C.T. in piano performance and teaches all levels of piano and theory. Agnes has worked with several soloists, groups, and choirs as an accompanist and for a change of pace she plays the keyboard for a local rock band. She enjoys performing and regularly organizes concerts which feature talented musicians from the community.

About 12 years ago, Agnes ventured into recording and soon began producing CDs for fellow musicians. She has released three albums of her own piano music, as well as a fourth CD with her original songs recorded by accomplished local singers. She has asked some of those vocalists to join her at this Women’s Gathering to help lead the singing.

Born and raised in Listowel, Agnes has three grown children. She likes to entertain and cook for family and friends, and her hobbies include anything crafty or creative.

Dr. Tori Smit – Gathering Host

Dr. Tori Smit is a Diaconal Minister in the PCC, serving as the Regional Minister for Faith Formation for the Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda (CNOB). Tori also teaches Christian education courses as an adjunct professor at Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur, Georgia) and at Emmanuel College (Toronto School of Theology). She has served congregations in Milton, Hamilton, and Guelph, Ontario, as well as Orlando, Florida, and with the national church as team leader of The Vine.

She is a graduate of Ewart College, and later Columbia Theological Seminary where she pursued her Doctor of Educational Ministry degree focusing on the question “Will our Faith Have Children? Planning a Fruitful and Sustainable Ministry With Children In Congregations With Ten Or Fewer Children.” Working with the congregations of her synod, she has been assisting them to become more intentionally intergenerational in worship, education, and in relationship with one another.

She is married to the Rev. Dr. John-Peter Smit, and together they have a grown son and daughter. In her down-time she loves reading great books, playing board games she has the potential to win, and renovating their house.

Mary Jane Bisset – Spirituality Centre

As a Diaconal Minister, Mary Jane Bisset is committed to the work and witness of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. She finds joy in nurturing the gifts and the calling of the whole Christian community. In seeing the present, as well as the future of the PCC, Mary Jane focuses on the development of the gifts of God’s Spirit within God’s people.

Mary Jane has been involved in educational opportunities at every level of church life: congregational, presbytery, synod, denominational, multi-denominational, and international. She has found that there is a strong need for ‘space apart’ and has worked to create spirituality centres in many different areas and ways.

Mary Jane grew up within The Presbyterian Church in Canada. She is one of seven children, and loves her 16 nieces and nephews, and 16 great-nieces and nephews…the best part of life.

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