I am Christa Smith-Kingston and live in Montreal in Quebec. I am the coordinator of a youth community development initiative called Innovation Youth. We do youth education and empowerment through food security, urban agriculture, and French language literacy.
I am a dancer and grew up taking music classes and became a contemporary dancer. The arts are part of my DNA. I love discipleship so I spent ten years in student ministry discipling students and later I worked in community development where we discipled communities of people. So bringing together artists, leadership, and discipleship led me to my research topic.
When I was 22 years old, I was sitting in Ray Bakke’s home and he knew I was a dancer and musician. He pitched the idea of going to Bakke Graduate University to do a master's in Global Urban Leadership which was my goal at the time. With a concentration in dance, I tried to figure out what could these two areas have to do with each other. I was pursuing dance as a hobby and not necessarily a career. About four years later, I started my master's, but the dance component didn't come back until the very end when I landed on my dissertation project 10 years later.
My dissertation in the Doctor of Transformational Leadership (DTL) program is ”How Spirit-filled Artists Can Be Transformational Leaders in Post-Christian Francophone Quebec.” I was interested in understanding the role of artists in all crafts: performing, visual, etc. I wanted to learn about how to disciple them so that they become transformational leaders in Quebec that has a deep value for the arts and has gone through a history that shifted from Christendom to be considered as post-Christian. Artists and arts are often in the margins of the church and in the margins of society. So pursuing a project that actually centers people who are not often centered, and then whose voice carries weight was transformational.
My dissertation process created spaces to talk about my research, to teach, and to gather artists so that they can have a shaping voice within their own churches, communities of faith or in cities. My dream is to see artists fully included, taking center stage in the church. One of my research participants who was a pastor said that without the arts the church will die. I believe that in this case that statement is taken quite seriously and artists could be in center stage and shape the church going forward.
Working on DTL was transformational in and of itself, discovering joys in qualitative research. I never considered myself a research person, but always a practical theologian, but then I realized that actually, I am a qualitative researcher with the objective of always putting it into practice. On the one hand, I had no interest in leaving the workplace, put my life on hold and sit in the classroom for four years. But on the other hand, I wanted deeply to be in school. At BGU, I’ve been able to do those together and it worked well. Studying has been just wonderful. I loved the dissertation process. That was transformational. I have a lot of friends and family who have gone through PhDs and doctorates, and had horrible experiences but I loved every minute of it.