Magazine article Anglican Journal

King's Draws More Than Anglicans: Students from Various Religions Come to Oldest University

Magazine article Anglican Journal

King's Draws More Than Anglicans: Students from Various Religions Come to Oldest University

Article excerpt

THERE'S A FIRE BURNING within the walls of Halifax's University of King's College.

Steady and strong, the Anglican flames of faith are fed by tradition.

Whether it's the 27 weekly services held in the chapel, the dedication of its liturgical volunteers or the missionary society, the burning embers of the Anglican Church are alive.

The oldest Commonwealth university outside of the United Kingdom, University of King's College was founded by Anglican Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution in 1789. They settled in Windsor, in the Annapolis Valley.

In 1802 King George III granted the college a Royal Charter.

"The founding of King's here in Windsor was in a sense to raise up a clergy and people ... loyal to the Crown and the established order," said Colin Starnes, university president.

The college remained small with several dozen students and a handful of faculty.

All students were required to sign the 39 articles of the Anglican faith before they could graduate, Dr. Starnes said. That policy was dropped in 1823.

In 1920 fire raged through the wooden buildings, leaving a pile of ashes. With a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, the institution moved to join Halifax's Dalhousie University.

Once a mainstay for local Anglican priestly studies, King's College decided to merge the divinity department with the United Church's Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax and Holy Heart Catholic Divinity School. In 1971 the Atlantic School of Theology was formed.

Moving to guarantee government funding, the university introduced its foundation year program in 1972 for Grade 12 students. Dr. Starnes said the program which specializes in a "kind of classical comprehensive attempt to understand Western civilization" nurtures students into a more faithful life.

"It raises all the questions that they could ask and a great number of priests have started their university careers here even though it's not in any ostensible sense Anglican anymore."

The program, he said, is "unbelievably successful."

"Those who want to do it seem to be very serious students. They do fabulously well. The drop-out rate is about three per cent as opposed to 30 per cent in many Canadian universities."

David Butorac of Ontario liked its reputation.

"I chose it because it was a small college, because of the foundation year program, its traditions and I heard it had a good choir," the honours classics student said.

In 1978 King's College set up the only degree-granting School of Journalism in the Atlantic region.

Its academic reputation isn't the only reason students are drawn to the school, which has 850 enrollees.

"Although we have no means of knowing anymore who is an Anglican student or who isn't, because you just can't ask that on an application form," said Dr. Starnes, "it turns out that King's is still thought of as the Anglican university and Anglicans continue to send their children here."

In a recent alumni newsletter questions were raised about the university being "too Anglican."

The board of governors reduced its Anglican representation from the Nova Scotia and Fredericton dioceses in March to six seats out of the total 25 members. Prior to 1987 there were 16 diocesan seats.

"I would think 20 percent or less of the student body is Anglican, so I find it hard to believe that it's too Anglican," said Rev. Dr. Richmond Bridge, King's chaplain and priest-incharge.

"Obviously the chapel's Anglican and the services are Anglican. …

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