Jul9TueLennard Johnston is the first graduate of a partnership between Booth UC and Tyndale in Toronto. July 9, 2019
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(Above) Dr. Michael Boyce, vice president academic and dean, Booth UC (left) and Dr. Marjory Kerr, president, Booth UC (right) with Lennard Johnston (MTS/19) at Tyndale Seminary's convocation ceremony
Lennard Johnston was frustrated. A member of the Canadian Armed Forces, Johnston had been posted to the air staff at National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa. Johnston is also a member of The Salvation Army and attends Barrhaven Corps, where he is involved with the band and with the ministry board.
“As part of my own continuing education and career, I’d been interested in graduate studies,” Johnston explains. “I looked around at some of the schools in the Ottawa area but nothing fit well with my schedule and with the nature of the courses I was interested in. I seemed to have hit a dead end.”
Then in April 2016, Johnston read an article on Salvationist.ca about a new collaboration between Tyndale Seminary and Booth UC, and so he followed the link in the article, which took him to the new Master of Theological Studies (MTS)—Salvation Army Studies.
Heady Course Mix
The graduate theological degree was so new that the course syllabus was still being worked up as Johnston was registering for September 2016.
The 18-course program is a specialized, contextualized graduate theological degree. Each institution brings a unique contribution to the joint venture. Booth UC, with its Salvation Army roots, brings theological perspective, ministry expertise and the educational personnel needed to shape a specialization in Army studies. Tyndale, Canada's largest seminary, has a well-established MTS degree in a multidenominational context, with a broad spectrum of courses in the theological disciplines.
“The staff basically told me, ‘Go register, we’ll get together, we’ll talk, we’ll pray and then we’ll figure out the details and what the future is of it,’ ” Johnston laughs now. “ ‘We’ll figure things out not only on an academic level but on a personal level, too.’ ”
"The Booth UC camaraderie was incredible, whether it was breakfast at the Bistro to hanging out in the library to sharing a late-night study session at Stella’s restaurant!” Lennard Johnston
In every respect, Johnston blazed the way for other students to follow.
“In fact, the last course I took to wrap up the program was not designed until last fall!” he says.
While there was a Celtic studies travel course that enabled Johnston to travel to Ireland and Scotland, in the main, the rest of the courses are online.
“One of the great things about distance learning is the ability to work around schedules,” he says.
Some of the courses include: Systematic Theology, Church History, Spiritual Foundations, Salvation Army Ethics, Salvation Army Missiology, Wesleyan Doctrines and Salvation Army Wesleyan Roots.
Johnston was able to take leave from his military duties to complete some intensive weeklong courses at both institutions.
He loved his Booth UC experience.
“The professors are great,” Johnston says. “They are so caring and understanding and were always accessible. Being on campus during the summer intensives was so neat, to finally encounter the professors and fellow students I had only met online. As well, I was able to sample the wonderful Booth UC vibe. The camaraderie was incredible, whether it was breakfast at Booth’s Bistro to hanging out in the library to sharing a late-night study session at Stella’s restaurant!”
While Johnston was the first person to graduate from this program this past summer, there are at least eight other Salvation Army officers taking the course—most of them he knows.
“That’s one of the fantastic things about our incredible Salvation Army family—our two-degrees-of-separation type of thing,” smiles Johnston, “where you meet people and you have that sense of community.”
Getting the Word Out
While Johnston graduated in May, his new degree has already paid dividends.
This past summer, Johnston was asked to lead worship when the corps officers were away.
“As part of the service, I conducted a virtual pilgrimage of the Isle of Iona, which I’d visited as part of my Celtic course,” he says. “Thanks to that, I was able to bring a fresh perspective to my talk. It was great to see the congregation so enthused!
“But on a day-to-day basis, I value my degree,” Johnston continues. “It’s made me a better leader, and I’ve been able to gently challenge some of the notions we accept just because we’ve always accepted them. This honesty and willingness to question with fresh eyes is something especially bequeathed from Booth UC that I have embraced.”
On a personal level, Johnston has found the degree useful, too.
“Anyone taking the course will find out more about their faith, not just their own but of other Christians as well,” he says.
Johnston is acutely aware that he is in the vanguard of a new wave of Booth UC students due to this collaboration.
“I want to get the word out to people about what a great course this is,” says Johnston. “Thank you, Tyndale and Booth UC!”