Sunday, January 31, 2016

Grassroots people matter

Spiritual Gleanings by Joyce Sasse

Until recently many outsiders made Saskatchewan the object of derisive jokes. “Who would want to live there?” they scoffed.

Well, I’m mighty glad I was able to study and work in Saskatchewan for more than thirty years.

Coming from Alberta in the Fifties, I knew nothing about political issues. But within minutes of arriving on my student-minister field everyone was abuzz with talk about the coming provincial election. People had opinions and in-put. They were informed and they cared!

When I got to Saskatoon, my first landlady was the widow of one of the founders of the CCF (now ND) Party. I could hardly believe the incredible stories of hardship and dedication those organizers committed themselves to until I searched the archive newspapers to see how they visited even the remotest corners of the Province in the Thirties.

Recently I discovered the founding President of the University of Saskatchewan aspired to develop a “university of the people”. Extension work into the smallest communities was his focus. Around 1910, while 1 in 1,000 people attended University full-time, extension programs touched 1 in 4 people in their home communities. Informed people are vibrant people.

Sitting in on classes at the Western Co-operative College (which trained staff and volunteers concerning co-operative ventures), I saw how instructors respected grassroots communities and helped participants understand how informed people working together could control their own destiny.

My own theological college worked on this same principle. Student ministers, trained in theology, were sent to local communities to learn the real dynamics of day-to-day living and rural spiritual values. What a magnificent training experience the people of the prairies and the parklands provided.

I write these reminiscences by way of saying that hopefully those of us who have been touched by our Saskatchewan experience can pass it on to enrich lives in other communities.

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