Article from EC News, Autumn 2015:
Nan Hudson Emm 8T9, left, with The Very Rev. Dr. Lois Wilson Emm 7T8
Over 25 years after graduating from Emmanuel College, Nan Hudson Emm 8T9 has only recently begun her congregational ministry. She always joked that she would do it “in [her] old age: ‘I guess I am there!’” Since September 2014, Hudson has been “happily serving” at Faith United Church in Courtice, Ontario. “If I had known congregational ministry would be this much fun, I might have done it earlier,” she says, “but if I had, look at all the opportunities I would have missed out on.” The ECAA Executive commends the unconventional path Hudson has forged and is pleased to award her the Distinguished Alumni/ae Award for 2014.
Hudson’s path to congregational ministry has been neither straightforward, nor conventional. After receiving her BA in environmental studies from the University of Waterloo in 1977, she began volunteering with Canadian Crossroads International in Calcutta, India, with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. That experience in India laid the groundwork for her continued involvement and work with disenfranchised and at-risk communities. She spent the next six years working for World Vision International (WVI) engaged in faith-based, grassroots development work, which brought her to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and then to Manila, Philippines, for over three years. While she enjoyed the work, she was struggling personally; she was homesick, and with the religious right rising in the U.S., she found the California-based WVI, increasingly conservative and at odds with her more progressive beliefs. After weeks of prayer, she made the decision to return to Canada to continue her work in community development, but to do so out of her own church and in her home country.
Enrolling at Emmanuel College was an obvious next step for Hudson because she wanted to engage in further studies to explore her sense of call: “I knew I was called to mission and justice work, but didn’t know if a call to ordination was a part of that.” When she first began at Emmanuel, she had a sense that she “didn’t ‘fit’ the ordination stream exactly, but [she] ‘didn’t not fit’ either.” What was clear, was her desire to continue in the work of mission outreach, “where the gospel intersects with the needs of the world.” Thanks to the advice and encouragement of an insightful professor, the late David Newman, Hudson pursued a joint-degree program with the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto alongside her MDiv from Emmanuel: “It proved to be perfect for me, opening new opportunities for learning that really shaped me. My experience at Emmanuel gave me wonderful training for broad forms of ministry. The joint-degree program equipped me with a set of skills that allowed me to keep one foot in the secular world and one foot in the church throughout my entire career.”
Following the completion of her MSW/MDiv from U of T and Emmanuel College, Hudson pursued a doctorate in ministry from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Illinois, ultimately graduating in 1997. Prior to that, she was ordained to outreach ministry in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood in 1989. Over the next three years, Hudson served as the executive director of Shalom House. In that role, she learned that food security—access to affordable, nutritious food—was a primary concern for newcomers to Canada and so she and her staff started the city’s first community garden and kitchen program. In time, she joined with other community members to found the Toronto Food Policy Council, and co-founded the Field to Table program (now known as the Good Food Box), which links Ontario farmers to low-income, urban residents. Originally established with just 47 boxes, the program now distributes approximately 4,000 Good Food Boxes each month through about 200 Toronto neighbourhood drops: “I guess what was so cool about this kind of alternative ministry was that it enabled some remarkably collaborative partnerships that really made a difference in people’s lives,” says Hudson.
She firmly and passionately believes that faith and ministry have to be grounded in making positive change: “I also believe that the gospel narrative suggests that ministry is to be liberating on every level of a person’s life,” she says. In that vein, Hudson pursued work within the United Church as area secretary for East Asia. In that role, she linked churches in Canada, the United States and Japan in cooperative initiatives. In 2001, she co-hosted the first meeting since the Korean War of church and state women representatives from North and South Korea: “It was such a privilege to be part of that team of remarkable people, and to represent the United Church formally in relationships with our partner churches, ecumenical bodies, human rights and labour groups and women’s organizations throughout that region.”
Hudson has always sought positions within the church that enable her to demonstrate tremendous capacity to care for others and to advocate for and implement positive social change locally and globally. She is recognized for having developed the “Extra Measures Initiative,” a pilot project that enabled individuals, congregations and presbyteries to connect with and support the work of global church partner organizations. It has since morphed into the current “Gifts with Vision” program. From 2009–2014 she served as executive director of ICA Canada (Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs), a community development training organization. Her primary focus with ICA was expanding language initiatives with First Nations communities in Ontario and enabling the expansion of development priorities for Maasai communities in northern Kenya.
Although she and her partner, Elizabeth Macdonald Emm 8T5, are now settled in Kingston, her ministry continues to be characterized by both outreach and stewardship. She remains a member of the board of directors with Transforming Faces, an organization that equips medical personnel to treat children around the world born with cleft lips and palates, founded the Food Policy Council for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, and was a member of the board of directors for Women’s College Hospital for 9 years until 2014.
As her friend John Patterson remarked at the Distinguished Alumni/ae Award presentation: “She is forever challenging those around her to rise to their greatness, surely a critical mark of a follower of Christ.” Upon receiving the award, Hudson responded that she was “deeply grateful for the honour and privilege,” but Emmanuel College is equally proud and thankful to Nan Hudson for her ministerial endeavours throughout the world.