By Minh Truong
Psychotherapists, chaplains and pastors are just a few of the many roles that the Emmanuel College Class of 2023 will move into after graduation. No matter the career path, they will make meaningful contributions to their communities, building diversity, inclusion and accessibility for everyone around them. Emmanuel’s unique approach to theological inquiry, interfaith engagement, social justice and psycho-spiritual care plays a significant role in equipping graduates for their future success.
Here are a few of Emmanuel College’s outstanding Class of 2023.
Heather Morgan credits the support of the Emmanuel College community in finishing her Master of Divinity degree. “Working with the professors and other students in the last three years has helped me build an enormous amount of self-confidence,” says Morgan. “It opened my eyes to a huge range of approaches to theology that I didn’t have access to before.” Morgan is the recipient of the 2023 Sanford Gold Medal in Divinity, an award given to one student each year on the completion of the Master of Divinity program based on outstanding scholarship and academic excellence. She is starting her PhD in September at Emmanuel, exploring “crip theology,” a form of theology that centres around theological inquiry rooted in the lived experiences of those with disabilities. “Traditionally, disability theology has focused on the acceptance of those with disabilities in the church, but our lived experiences have much to offer the whole Body of Christ theologically,” says Morgan. As an associate pastor, Morgan is part of a new developing network of churches in Canada that seeks to set a place at the table for everyone across all lines of diversity - queer and straight, BIPOC and white, disabled and able-bodied, alike.
Tajinder Sidhu will become the first Sikh chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces after receiving his Master of Pastoral Studies and Certificate in Theological and Interreligious Engagement in May. The next step for Sidhu in this process is a two-year internship as a Granthi—a priest leading ceremonies and sacred rituals at a Sikh temple. After that, he will undergo six months of military training as a chaplain before being posted out to his unit. Sidhu is thankful for the chance to represent the Sikh community, and he dreams to increase discourse around his faith community in Canada. He credits Emmanuel College’s connection with military chaplaincy branches for the exciting opportunity to pursue his work with the Armed Forces. “I’m fortunate that Emmanuel has given me and people of different faiths the chance to achieve something remarkable,” says Sidhu. Training as a Sikh and interfaith chaplain at Emmanuel, he hopes to build a world that is equally supportive of all faiths.
Tristan Mohamed plans to start his own practice as a registered psychotherapist providing trauma and life transition support. “Thanks to the foundation of the internships I’ve done at Emmanuel College, I feel equipped to build a practice where others are encouraged to talk about trauma, and the role that spirituality plays in healing,” says Mohamed. “Being able to help people work through past wounds and feel fulfilled is a real privilege for me.” For Mohamed, the College community has been immensely supportive throughout his Master of Pastoral Studies degree with a Certificate in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy, Buddhist focus. He believes Emmanuel’s diverse make up helps foster meaningful engagement and real community. “I’m grateful to have had such a respectful and caring learning experience,” says Mohamed.
Konul Gurbanova’s commitment to community healing found a home at Emmanuel College. Since immigrating to Canada from Azerbaijan 18 years ago, Gurbanova has worked in non-profit organizations and community centres. Her ambition is to become a registered psychotherapist. “I want to help everyone and heal their pain,” says Gurbanova. “I want to build a healthy community, filled with happiness.” She is currently working full-time for the Azerbaijani Women’s Support Centre, a Canada-based charity dedicated to equality and empowerment for all women. Gurbanova is graduating with a Master of Pastoral Studies degree with a Certificate in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy, Muslim focus. “My learning experience at Emmanuel was amazing,” says Gurbanova. “It was very hard since I was also working full-time, but I’m so grateful for the professors and the staff who supported me all the way.”
For Yijia Shao, it’s crucial people in LGBTQ and BIPOC communities and people with accessible needs can receive psychotherapy that understands their lived experiences and can support their quests for healing. That’s why they are applying to become a registered psychotherapist. This past year, Shao held a fellowship at the U of T Multi-Faith Centre with a focus on queer spirituality, and they are now graduating from the Master of Pastoral Studies program with a Certificate in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy, Buddhist focus at Emmanuel College. “I am grateful for Emmanuel’s multicultural approach to education and its diverse community,” said Shao. “Looking back on deciding where to study psychotherapy and spiritual services, I would choose Emmanuel again in a heartbeat.” They want to advocate for safe therapy environments for people of all genders and races, so everyone can have the opportunity to connect with people from their own communities and heal from their traumas. “I believe that in an ideal world, people would no longer need psychotherapy,” said Yijia.
Music has been the focus of Victor Tung’s study at Emmanuel College, and it is not going away anytime soon in the next phase of his journey. As a church musician, he is working to be a choir conductor for the Better Homeland Worship Choir in Toronto, a choir founded by immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China to better understand how they use music to express their faith. “I want to help the Chinese diaspora community here in Toronto and learn more about how music shaped their cultural identity,” says Tung. After he receives his Master of Sacred Music degree from Emmanuel, Tung is travelling to Finland and Ghana to present his research. He is then starting his Doctor of Ministry at Emmanuel. “The Sacred Music program is such a unique joint collaboration between Emmanuel and the Faculty of Music, and it was a great learning experience for me,” says Tung. “The diverse culture helped me connect with other musicians and scholars around the world.”
Gill Le Fevre wants to build communities where more voices are heard and empowered. She is involved in diversity and inclusion work at her full-time job and at her church ministry. “It’s about elevating and giving voices to parts of our faith and history that are often overlooked,” says Le Fevre. Receiving her Master of Theological Studies in May, she will continue her volunteer ministry at her church, while undertaking a PhD program in Church History at the University of Edinburgh.” She is grateful to both Emmanuel College and the Toronto School of Theology for deepening her academic interests and taking them in new directions.
Emmanuel College, part of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, is one of the most respected theological schools in North America. Graduates go on to serve as ministers and faith leaders in their communities and as spiritual care practitioners/chaplains in military, hospitals and prisons. They also offer mental health supports to some of the most vulnerable members of society as psychotherapists who integrate spirituality into their practice. Doctoral graduates of Emmanuel serve in academic institutions across the world and are considered leading academics in their fields. By supporting Defy Gravity: The Campaign for Victoria University, you help train the next generation of graduates who will make the world a better place. Learn more about how your gift can make a difference.