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Gerald Hobbs Receives Alumni/ae Service Award

Nov. 16, 2020
The Rev. Dr. R. Gerald Hobbs, recipient of the Emmanuel College Alumni/ae Service Award, poses with his bicycle.

Photo: Rev. Dr. R. Gerald Hobbs

The Rev. Dr. R. Gerald Hobbs Vic 6T3, Emm 6T6 has received the Alumni/ae Service Award in recognition for his outstanding accomplishments in the areas of adult experiential education and faith formation. Hobbs is an internationally acclaimed specialist on the Bible in the Reformation era, and was the 2001 recipient of the United Church of Canada’s Davidson Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Hailing from a clergy family with Afro-Canadian and Irish roots, and raised in Massey, Ontario, Hobbs completed a doctorate in church history in Strasbourg, France in 1971, and subsequently embarked on an extraordinary academic and pedagogical career.

Co-director of the Peregrinatio program, Hobbs, together with the Rev. Dr. Lynne E. McNaughton, has been leading pilgrimages in Britain, Continental Europe and Ireland since 1997. Hobbs taught a variety of courses (e.g., psalms, hymnody, history of spirituality, church history and music) for over 30 years at Vancouver School of Theology (VST), retiring as professor emeritus in 2008. Hobbs also co-facilitated workshops in congregational and conference settings in various First Nations communities. The Nisga’a of the Nass Valley in northern British Columbia honoured Hobbs with the name “the eagle who flies from place-to-place.” Hobbs has also taught courses and facilitated experiential learning projects in Switzerland, France, Scotland, Haiti and South Korea; and, most recently, was a visiting professor at the Kerala United Theological Seminary (Church of South India) in Trivandrum.

Other highlights of Hobbs’ career include the publication of articles on hymnody and worship in Touchstone, a journal of the United Church of Canada (UCC); Portraits in Spirituality (VST 1989), a television series and book; and the influential edited collection Songs for a Gospel People (Wood Lake Books 1987) that provided a new direction for worship music in the UCC with a wider range of musical and text styles and a more inclusive language. Hobbs also contributed to the recovery of the Psalms in the new hymnals of the UCC and Presbyterian Church in Canada. Hobbs served as a member of the hymnal committee for Voices United (1996) and as a consultant to the hymnal committee for The Presbyterian Book of Praise (1997). After decades of scholarly publications, he has just completed a study that he calls “a book for intelligent non-specialist readers” on the engagement of the city of Strasbourg with the Bible at the origins of the Reformed tradition, and is now engaged in a work on anti-Semitism in the Reformation.

Hobbs has served as Minister of Music at University Hill United Church in Vancouver since 1986, and hopes that in a post-pandemic world he can return to India for short spells of teaching. In the interim, Hobbs lives in Kelowna, British Columbia with his wife the Right Rev. Dr. Lynne McNaughton, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay.

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