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Emmanuel Class of 2022 Spotlight

Aug. 16, 2022

We recently caught up with four graduates from the Class of 2022 and asked about their time at Emmanuel and beyond. Here is what Marc Darren Colborne (MTS), Surya Leigh Ann Mellor (MPS), Saya Ojiri (PhD) and Hyung Jin (Pablo) Kim Sun (PhD) had to tell us:

Marc Darren Colborne (MTS)

Marc ColborneEC Connects: What were you doing before you came to study at Emmanuel?

Marc: Before coming to Emmanuel, I was living and working in Edmonton, Alberta. I hold a Masters of Social Work and I had a successful psychotherapy practice. Not unlike my practice here in Toronto, I worked primarily with members of the queer community. I also did some outreach work with LGBTQ2S+ youth involved with sex work. Prior to taking the leap to start my private practice in Edmonton, I worked as Senior Manager of Immigrant Settlement and Integration for the Province of Alberta. One of the exciting times at this job was that I was able to temporarily relocate to Ottawa to oversee Alberta's involvement with the Syrian refugee resettlement program. 

EC Connects: You’re graduating with a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) and you’re starting your PhD in the fall! Congratulations, Marc! What led you to choose Emmanuel College?

Marc: I have been a practising Buddhist for more than 20 years. I had been spending a lot of time contemplating ways to formalize my study in an academic environment. I felt that there were untapped opportunities to approach the profound scriptures in different ways (from a queer perspective, an anti-oppressive perspective, etc.), and I was looking for an opportunity to explore this within an environment that wasn't a "Buddhist Studies" program per se. I wanted the theological (Dharmalogical) focus. I knew if I was going to approach this material in a meaningful way for myself and others it was going to be through a scholar/practitioner lens, and I felt Emmanuel may be the place to do this. I came to Toronto and met with Andrew Aitchison to discuss my options. He was so welcoming and enthusiastic that I went back to Edmonton and after receiving my acceptance, sold my house and moved to Toronto.

EC Connects: What are a couple of highlights of studying at Emmanuel?

Marc: There are many! Of course, the vibrant and multi-faith environment that Emmanuel strives to create is a highlight. And I am not only speaking of the Christian, Muslim and Buddhist faiths. Even within the Buddhist stream, for example, there are so many varied traditions and practice relationships that the students bring.

Another highlight was the opportunity to meet and study with some incredible faculty. There are too many to name, but I do want to highlight Dr. Henry Shiu who brings an extensive knowledge of Buddhist scripture (in various traditions) to the learning environment at Emmanuel. And also Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, my advisor (both in my MTS program and in my upcoming PhD program). Her openness, enthusiasm, courage, and incredible knowledge are sources from which I pull inspiration each and every day.

EC Connects: As an MTS student what challenges and/or surprises did you experience during the pandemic?

Marc: Initially, I was worried about the move to online studies. As I mentioned above, one of the strengths of Emmanuel is its incredible community of faculty, staff, and students. I didn't know if this strength could translate to online learning. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised to see that because of the openness of the students and the hard work of the staff and faculty (who I don't believe get enough credit for the pivoting they had to do in such a short time), we were able to make online learning work. In fact, I am now a proponent of online learning and hope that Emmanuel continues to explore how to make these options available moving forward. 

EC Connects: What are your plans for your PhD studies? Your future beyond your PhD?

Marc: For my PhD studies, I am hoping to focus on queer bodies and the Buddhist Dharma. How can embodied devotion and practice create opportunities for liberation (both in our samsaric world and beyond).  I know this is broad, but I am still narrowing it down and don't want to commit to too much right now!  

As for my future beyond my PhD, I just need to get through the coursework now! Maybe then I can think about that. But right now, I want to use the knowledge and opportunities afforded to me through the PhD program to contribute to the literature in this area. I would also like to teach some courses. Who knows, maybe they'll be at Emmanuel!


Surya Leigh Ann Mellor (MPS)

Surya MellorEC Connects: What were you doing before you came to study at Emmanuel?

Surya: Prior to attending Emmanuel, I was an elementary school teacher in the Waldorf Schooling system in rural Ontario. Concurrently, I was volunteering at Hospice and began a CPE unit within Grey Bruce Health Services. It was this CPE unit that inspired me to pursue my education at Emmanuel and further my studies in spiritual care.

EC Connects: You’re graduating with a Master of Professional Studies (MPS). Congratulations, Surya! What led you to choose Emmanuel College?

Surya: I was inspired to choose Emmanuel College because of the Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy Certificate. I knew that I wanted to work both within spiritual care and work towards theCollege of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) accreditation. I was delighted that Emmanuel offered such a possibility. I was also warmed by the openness at Emmanuel that allowed me to study a blended theological approach in Buddhism and Hinduism.

EC Connects: What are a couple of highlights of studying at Emmanuel?

Surya: There were many highlights while studying at Emmanuel. A highlight was the connections made with fellow students that formed friendship, colleagueship and professional connections. I also have such deep gratitude for the professors that I worked with and their guidance at so many steps of the way.

EC Connects: As an MPS student what challenges and/or surprises did you experience during the pandemic?

Surya: The dedication of the faculty, registrar and staff throughout the pandemic was amazing. Everyone made it possible to continue in creative ways, bringing compassion and care to the students. Thank you!

EC Connects: What are your plans for the future? What’s next?

Surya: I am pleased to be combining both spiritual care and psychotherapy. In Spiritual Care I am working towards certification in
Canadian Association for Spiritual Care/ACSS and am a part-time Spiritual Care Provider at a rural hospital and with the Palliative Home Care Team in my community. After becoming RP (Qualifying) through CRPO, I set up my own practice, Whole Life Psychotherapy in Walkerton Ontario. I am continuing education at University of Guelph in couples and sex therapy. In addition, I am studying Somatic Experiencing and have found this trauma-informed lens to be an invaluable way of working with clients. It has been an amazing journey and I am so pleased to be integrating spiritual care and psychotherapy as they deeply inform each other.


Saya Ojiri (MSMus, PhD)

Saya OjiriEC Connects: You're graduating with a PhD in May, and you already have an MSMus from Emmanuel. Congratulations, Saya! Why did you choose Emmanuel College to do both your MSMus and PhD degrees?

Saya: When I was doing my Master of Theology degree at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, my topic for the thesis was the hymns of John L. Bell from Iona Community. In 2012, I visited Iona to do some research, then had a chance to interview Bell at his house in Glasgow. After interviewing him, he asked me what I would like to do next. I told him that I was hoping to continue my studies but there were not many good church music professors in Japan due to the non-Christian cultural context. Then he wrote down some names of professors and seminaries in North America in my notebook. His first recommendation was Prof. Swee Hong Lim at Emmanuel College in Toronto. It was the first moment that I learned about Emmanuel. After returning to Tokyo, I emailed Prof. Lim; then he replied to me immediately with all the instructions on how to apply for the MSMus program. This is how I came to Emmanuel in 2014.

EC Connects: What are a couple of highlights of studying at Emmanuel?


(Two key professors at Emmanuel)

During my MSMus, Prof. Lim opened my eyes to view Christianity through my cultural lenses and encouraged me to express my faith in God with Japanese expressions in church music and liturgy. He also motivated me to continue my studies at a doctoral level to research on liturgical inculturation in Japan.

And during my PhD, my supervisor Prof. Bill Kervin guided me to deepen my thoughts and develop new insights and approaches to inculturate Christian worship in the Japanese cultural context.

(Activities beyond my schoolwork)

With Prof. Lim’s help and guidance, I had the opportunities to meet various world-class sacred music and liturgical scholars, present at academic conferences, publish my work through The Hymn Society and Hope Publishing, as well as get involved in the World Council of Churches and work with talented church musicians around the world. These were special experiences that I had never imagined.

EC Connects:  As a PhD student what challenges and/or surprises did you experience during the pandemic?

Saya: It was challenging to write my dissertation under the circumstances of the pandemic. As a single international student, I struggled with loneliness, anxiety and stress every day. The limited access to libraries and study spaces also made my life difficult. However, with the help and support of many people, I was able to survive and complete my program. I was particularly grateful to my supervisor Prof. Kervin, who contacted me regularly and spent countless hours reading my work and offering helpful editorial feedback and suggestions through email and Zoom conversations. Beyond his academic guidance, he also supported me with kind actions. One of the most unforgettable memories was when he brought me some of his homemade soup when I was feeling particularly isolated and depressed during the winter. From him, I learned not only how to be a good teacher, but also how to be a good Christian.

EC Connects: What are your plans for the future?

Saya: I hope to help Christians, particularly in Asia, who struggle with serving in churches or studying church music and liturgy in their complex cultural and religious contexts, like myself in the past.


Hyung Jin (Pablo) Kim Sun (PhD)

Professor Tom Reynolds (left) and Hyung Jin (Pablo) Kim Sun (righ)EC Connects: You're graduating with a PhD. Congratulations, Pablo! Why did you choose Emmanuel College? 

Pablo: I chose Emmanuel College for a few special reasons. First, I came here to work with Marilyn Legge and Thomas Reynolds. As someone who is interested in theological ethics, intercultural engagement, and ecumenical/interfaith dialogue, I readily knew that I would learn so much and deepen my academic studies by working closely with these two renowned professors and scholars. Another reason why I came here is that Emmanuel College is known to attract and welcome Mennonite students because several Emmanuel professors have a strong interest in the topic of peace-building and reconciliation. Also, Emmanuel library has a large collection of books written by Mennonite scholars and theologians. Naturally, because of this Emmanuel was my top choice. Lastly, since Emmanuel is part of the Toronto School of Theology (TST), I knew I am able to work closely with Mennonite professors at Conrad Grebel. There are only a few schools in North America where you can do a PhD program with Mennonite professors, and one of them is the TST.  

EC Connects: What were you doing before you came to study at Emmanuel?

Pablo: I just finished with my ThM degree at Boston College, preparing for my doctoral program. 

EC Connects: What are a couple of highlights for you while studying at Emmanuel?

Pablo: The biggest highlight is to work closely with my dissertation committee members: Tom Reynolds, Jeremy Bergen, and Néstor Medina! I’ve enjoyed so much working with them. They have profoundly formed me as a scholar and my research! Another aspect that I would like to highlight is working at the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), especially with the sub-group called Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning. If my academic work and life has been enriched through Emmanuel College, my ministry experience, administrative skill, and broader ecumenical engagement have been deepened through my time working at CCC.

EC Connects: As a PhD student what challenges and/or surprises did you experience during the pandemic?

Pablo: I was surprised to discover how the pandemic delayed setting up a full dissertation committee and scheduling a defence date. I have no doubt that all the people involved with this decision-making and processes worked hard and diligently, but somehow, my defence timeline got pushed back several times. As an international student, my present and future plans and my financial situation all depended on the defence date, and each time my timeline changed, it put me and my family in a difficult situation.  

At the same time, during the pandemic, my two-year-old toddler, Loa Kim, was born, and she brought so much joy to me and my wife. While I faced some difficult moments during the pandemic, I also experienced the greatest joy and happiness during the pandemic as well!

EC Connects: What are your plans for the future?

Pablo: My future plan is to continue working as Senior Leader for Anti-Racism and Intercultural Conciliation for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, which I’m enjoying a lot. And once Loa starts going to daycare, hopefully in September, I would like to revise my dissertation and publish it to the wider circle. At the same time, whenever there is a teaching opportunity, I would like to teach in a seminary or at a university as a sessional lecturer.  

Based on my life experience usually things do not end up as I planned! So, with an open heart and mind, I will embrace whatever life has to offer to me or wherever God leads us.   






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