Christian Schools Canada Conference 2018

Keynote Speakers

Growing up in Hamilton, sisters Jennifer and Sylvia are alumni of local Christian schools. Although their individual gifts have led to different but dynamic vocations, they will blend their experiences to lead us in the theme of Faithful Presence.

Jennifer Keesmaat

The former City Planner for Toronto, Jennifer has joined the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography and Planning as a Bousfield Distinguished Visitor in Planning for the 2017-2018 academic year. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario (Honours Degree in English and Philosophy) and York University (Masters of Environmental Studies – Urban and Regional Planning). Jennifer served as the Chief Planner for the City of Toronto from 2012 to 2017, and is perhaps best known for her advocacy of density, walkability, complete streets, and active transportation, as well as for a national urban agenda.

Sylvia Keesmaat

Currently an adjunct professor at the Toronto School of Theology, Sylvia taught Biblical Studies and Hermeneutics for ten years at the Institute for Christian Studies before leaving full-time academia in 2004 to pursue her interests in sustainable living and homeschool her children. In addition to teaching at the University of Toronto, she is an instructor in the Creation Care Studies Program in Belize and the Biblical Scholar in Residence at St James Anglican Church in Fenelon Falls. Sylvia is the author, most recently, of Romans Disarmed (forthcoming, with Brian Walsh) and Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (also with Brian Walsh). Sylvia has spoken at Christian education conferences in New Zealand, Australia and across Canada on issues related to biblical faith and radical discipleship. She lives on an organic off-grid farm in Cameron, Ontario.

Conference Worship

Karen Burke

In addition to being one of our breakout presenters, we are thrilled to welcome Karen Burke as our worship leader for the 2018 conference. Karen’s expertise and passion is to help others sing, especially through gospel music. Gospel music has played a powerful role in what it means for Christians to embody a Faithful Presence. Reggie L. Williams, a scholar of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s time in Harlem, describes this power well: “Bonhoeffer’s experience in Harlem demonstrates that a Christian interpretation of the way of Jesus must be connected to justice for a Christian to see beyond primary loyalties to self and kind, to recognize the needs for justice in another’s context, and to love neighbour as self.” Just as we will explore the theme of Faithful Presence in our keynote and breakout sessions, Karen is the perfect leader to help us sing it out as a desire for justice through diversity in our worship each day together. 

Karen is a conductor, clinician, songwriter, recording artist and educator. She is also the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Juno award-winning Toronto Mass Choir. Following twelve years of teaching music at Toronto District Christian High School, Karen became a Professor in the music department at York University in 2005, developing the first post-secondary gospel music curricular courses in Canada and establishing the York University Gospel Choir. You can catch one glimpse of her work in Faithful Presence through this four minute video of her City Youth Gospel Project with high school students.