Sarah Freeman, a ThD student at the University of Toronto, has earned Conrad Grebel’s highest valued academic award – the A. James Reimer Award at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre. This $8,000 award will allow Sarah to continue studying full-time to achieve her dream of teaching homiletics.
Freeman is witness to the positive impact of the supportive and nurturing environment offered at Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre (TMTC). In her experience, “TMTC provides a means for connecting with other Mennonite students for friendship, support, and guidance and it also provides a place for academic conversation and debate from a Mennonite perspective.”
Beginning her studies in pastoral theology and specializing in homiletics, there were few opportunities to connect at TMTC. However during Sarah’s second year of study, students began meeting on a regular basis, planning activities, and organized a conference.
Sarah compares those two years of school, saying “my second year was filled with new friendships, support from wiser students, a women’s group to discuss academic life, roundtable discussions about Mennonite perspectives on various academic topics, and the opportunity to present at a conference for the first time.” Indeed, TMTC’s goal is to encourage scholars to grow toward wise theological discernment, spiritual depth and maturity, excellent scholarship, mutual respect and dialogue, and ecumenical and global awareness.
“The award is also important,” Sarah explains, “because it recognizes the importance of financial support for doctoral education. Doctoral studies have not played a large role in the history of the Mennonite church, but this award recognizes the need to support students who are pursuing doctoral studies in service of the church.”
The A. James Reimer Award at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre was established in recognition of Professor A. James Reimer and the program he founded in advanced degree/ doctoral theological studies at TMTC in conjunction with the Toronto School of Theology. It is awarded to active TMTC students who have demonstrated commitment to the life of the Mennonite Church and its institutions and who demonstrate solid academic ability. Established with an initial gift from Al Armstrong and Marlys Neufeldt, matching funds and donor contributions have taken this endowed award over its goal to a book value of $268,000.
The award has more emotional impact due to Jim Reimer’s recent passing on August 28, 2010. Sarah counts herself lucky to have taken a few courses with him over the years. She appreciated how he actively engaged in his students’ work and continued discussions begun on paper. She remembers how he was “always ready to critically, thoughtfully, and seriously explore topics of faith and church practice.”
The Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre helps form theological leadership for the church by providing and supporting graduate theological education, particularly at the doctoral level, from a Mennonite perspective in an ecumenical context. TMTC is a program coordinated by the Graduate Theological Studies department at Conrad Grebel University College. Christina Reimer, Jim’s daughter, is the current TMTC coordinator.
No stranger to Conrad Grebel, Sarah, from Kitchener, completed her BA at Waterloo in English and History, prior to pursuing a Master of Theological Studies degree in New Testament at Grebel.