What is it?

Previously called Spiritual Emphasis Days (SED), the Deeper Life Conference is a one-day event for all students and staff that deepens faith in Christ through worship and learning together.


  • 9:30am Coffee (in-person)
  • 10am Morning Session
  • 1pm Breakout Sessions
  • 3pm Breakout Sessions

10am Morning Plenary Speaker:

2021 Theme: “No Cure for Being Human: Resilient Faith for Tough Times” with Kate Bowler
The world loves us when we are good, better, best, but what about when we get sick, lose someone we love, or life hasn’t turned out like we thought it should? Duke Professor Kate Bowler offers a richer
understanding of hope in the face of uncertainty, despair, and suffering as we begin to understand that life is a chronic condition and there is no cure for being human.

Kate Bowler, PhD, is a Canadian writer and an associate professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School. She is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel which traces the history of the moment based on divine promises of health, wealth, and happiness. Then, after being unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35, she penned the New York Times bestselling memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved). Dr. Bowler subsequently staged a national conversation on speaking frankly about suffering through her popular podcast, Everything Happens.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

This is the tentative schedule that is intended to give you the general idea of what to expect at this year’s Deeper Life Conference. There will be solidified plans sent to you in August and will be on the website by September 6, 2021. We hope a majority of sessions will be in person but there will be an online session offered for each breakout time. Note that there is an evening film being offered in addition to the 1pm and 3pm options.
We highly encourage faculty to connect the contents of the mainstage and/or breakout sessions to a course requirement. Please do not include facilitator information or detailed session information on your syllabus before August 31, 2021 when details will be finalized.

1pm -4pm (students who participate in either of these two sessions will be able to participate in one breakout as they go the whole afternoon).

See session details and register for individual sessions below!

1:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M. The KAIROS Blanket Exercise (In-Person)

An experiential workshop that explores the history of nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Blankets arranged on the floor represent land and participants are invited to step into the roles of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples.

Facilitator: This session is facilitated by Heather Bensler from the University of Calgary. A local Indigenous Elder will also be participating in this experiential workshop.

Room: Airhart | 30 Person max

1:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M. Exploring the Enneagram (Online)

The Enneagram is a psycho-social-spiritual tool that supports people as they explore their inner life and their unconscious motivations. This session will allow participants to explore the tool and the ways it can help them uncover areas that may cause suffering in their lives and explore God’s unique wiring of each person.

Facilitator: Christa Hesselink has been guiding individuals and groups as they dig deeper into their spiritual life. She has worked in higher education, non-profit development, and church ministry. Christa is certified Enneagram Practitioner and founder and creator of SoulPlay.ca

Room: Online | No maximum

1:00 P.M. The Little Black Funeral Dress (In-Person)

Shirley Thiessen shares her experience of the loss of a son and shares practical ideas on helping a grieving a person. This would pertain to caring for grieving friends as well as navigating your own losses

Presenters: Local author of “The Little Black Funeral Dress” Shirley Thiessen.

Room: A2131 | 30 Person max

1:00 P.M. Fear, Death and Doxology (In Person)

Fear, Death, and Doxology: Suffering and Hope in Creation.

The theme this year is “HURT … and finding hope” There certainly is a lot of suffering and hurt in the ecological world around us. What do scientists say about the suffering, death and disease they see in every ecosystem? I will turn our thinking to these disvalues of creation. We will look at what academic theologians are saying, and see how fear and death also bring glory to God in the context of creation care today.

Room: In Person A2212 | 30 Max

1:00 P.M. Historical Trauma and Intergenerational Sin (In-Person)

This workshop will explore how trauma can be passed from one generation to the next, and discuss the impacts of trauma on a person’s capacity to remember, to act, and to love*.  This conversation will challenge the dominant narrative of: “can’t people just get over it?” – whatever that “it” may be, and listen for discrete ways in which grace and redemption can be discerned in the lives of those suffering from intergenerational trauma.

*inspired by author Serene Jones

A panel with Dr. Christina Conroy and Dr. Jennifer Singh and moderated by Dr. Colin Toffelmire

Room: A2212 | 30 Person max

3:00 P.M. Navigating the Challenges of Life (In-Person)

Life is full of challenges. We have all experienced that to varying degrees through COVID.  Explore the importance of connectivity, finding support, and meaning in spite of challenge and struggle. The greater mental wellbeing we all have the greater we can help others. Dr. Jackie Stinton, will talk about these themes and help you explore this for yourself and how you can help a friend.

Dr. Jackie Stinton PhD. Jackie is an experienced therapist in Calgary. She works one day a week at Ambrose. 

Room: A2131 | 30 Person max

3:00 P.M. The Christian Journey Takes Time; maturity in faith comes in stages (In-Person)

Many experience Christian faith as anxiety from continual inadequacy and failure by comparison. Is there more to being a Christian than trying harder, failing, feeling shame and guilt, and trying harder again? In this session the presenters propose that maturity in faith comes in sometimes painful stages, and that being formed and filled with the love of Christ happens over time.

Presenters: Dr. Jim Cresswell and Chaplain Terry Fach

Room: A2212 | 30 Person max

7:00 P.M. Film for Faith (In-Person)

A discussion of the movie The Rider.

Before directing the Oscar-winning Nomadland, in 2017 Chloé Zhao made this film about how a young cowboy’s career-threatening injury causes an encounter with disability that changes his whole outlook on life. This group will view the film and briefly discuss their impressions.

Presenters: Dr. Jon Coutts.

Room: A2133 | 8pm discussion in person and on zoom