“A nice note to end on” By Patricia Paddey
On a clear winter day, when the trees have long since shed their leaves, Alan Hayes can see the Principal’s Lodge at Wycliffe College—where he has his “Professor of Church History” office— from a window at the Toronto School of Theology (TST), where he has his “Director’s” one. ONLY ABOUT 500 STEPS DIRECTLY across Queen’s Park separate one from the other. It is a walk he has made thousands of times over the past decade. But it is a walk he will make far less frequently after June 30, when his second and final term as Director of TST comes to an end. Asked how he managed to juggle both roles for all of those years, Alan doesn’t hesitate. “A lot of it really was the indulgence of the principals,” he says. “In theory 60 percent of my time has been with TST, and 40 percent here. But I push the 60 percent, and the principals have taken the view that Wycliffe benefits from a strong TST.” That the consortium of seven theological schools known as TST is strong is a fact that received external recognition recently, when the prestigious QS World University Rankings published their annual list of top schools at which to study theology, divinity, and religious studies. The University of Toronto rose three places to 8th spot (from 11th) internationally and ranked first in Canada. That’s good news for Wycliffe alumni whose degrees have the words University of Toronto printed on them. “This ranking goes a very long way in affirming the quality and prestige of the degrees,” notes Jaroslav Skira, Director of the Graduate Centre for Theological Studies at TST in an email. “It is,” says Alan, “a nice note to end on.” He has led the way for many positive changes at TST, says Elizabeth Smyth, Professor and Vice Dean at the School of Graduate Studies, U of T. As the University’s representative on the TST Board, she has worked closely with Alan and cites his leadership in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, together with
creating the conjoint PhD and conjoint MA in theological studies, as among his greatest contributions. “The member colleges should be very grateful—as is the U of T— for the leadership that he has given,” she says. “It has been thoughtful. It has been productive. He has built an excellent team.” “Alan does an excellent job of working well with all of the diverse components that make up TST,” says Elizabeth Neilly, Administrative Assistant to the Director and Communications Coordinator at TST. And he does it all in a manner that reflects his deep faith in Jesus Christ. “He is easy going and has a great, dry sense of humour,” she adds.
“I live from day to day in a sort of overarching confidence,” says Alan. “Confidence in God’s love is the cornerstone. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m in theology. I could do Church History in the history department. But in a way, [my faith] forms my sense of how history works, my sense that God works for good for all those who love God, that there’s a kind of providential meaning to history.” He didn’t always have that kind of faith. Raised in a community church, in a city that only had one church, he says he walked away from it in high school. He found his way to the study of divinity at McGill University without really being a Christian. “I was a seeker,” he explains. “I had a professor who said, ‘You’re not going to find what you’re looking for by reading books and writing papers.’ He gave me a list of churches. I found [a church], and things changed, primarily through the preaching,
Alan Hayes is Professor of Church History the music, and the fellowship. At a certain point I realized, ‘This has got to be true.’” A self-described “glass-half-full kind of person,” Alan is heartened by the current atmosphere on the university campus. “I’m often surprised at how sympathetic people are, and curious about Christianity. Across the university, there are a lot of people who aren’t hostile. That’s changed [since first arriving at Wycliffe more than 40 years ago] and that’s heartening. It’s a big, secular university. But it has a lot of room for people of faith.” With the conclusion of his tenure at TST, a sabbatical begins. “I’ll do some research and writing. I’d like to focus on indigenous Christianity in Canada, maybe write a history of the Anglican Church of Canada from a point of view that respects indigenous realities, as opposed to repeating the old [colonial] narrative.” He’s looking forward to what comes next, conscious, he says, that it is the home he makes with his wife of 47 years, Rev. Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes, which allows him to do the work he does. But there is another place of belonging he feels compelled to mention. “I couldn’t do that job [at TST] without being at Wycliffe,” he says. “Without the chapel life here. Without the support of my colleagues. Without the sense that Wycliffe is my home.” 3
Insight Magazine by Wycliffe College