Understanding the Intersection of Reformed Faith and Dutch Immigrant Culture in Ontario Independent Christian Schools: Principals’ Experiences and Perspectives
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In the aftermath of World War II, a wave of Dutch Reformed immigrants arrived in Ontario, many of whom joined the Christian Reformed Church. Following familiar cultural patterns, history, and their Reformed Christian faith, these immigrants settled in Ontario with remarkable institutional completeness (Breton, 1964). They quickly established independent, parent-operated Christian schools across Ontario. The primary purpose of the schools was to educate children through a comprehensive biblically based school program, yet this religious purpose often intersected with a Dutch immigrant ethnic culture. Van Dijk (2001) states that “the schools were the most important organization in maintaining the religious and ethnic identity of Calvinists” (p. 66). In this qualitative study I explore the intersection of Reformed faith and Dutch Canadian immigrant ethnic culture in Christian schools through the experiential and professional lens of eight retired principals. Employing a theoretical framework informed by Berger’s (1967) Sacred Canopy, I suggest that the intersection of faith and culture was experienced in the schools and was embodied by the schools themselves. Findings point to this intersection being located in the participants’ experience of (a) Dutchness, (b) the struggle for Christian education, (c) the ties that bound the school community together, and (d) the cloud of witnesses that founded and continues to support and encourage the Christian school community. The study offers insight into a Dutch Reformed immigrant group’s experience carving out a niche for themselves on the educational landscape in Ontario. This study also offers suggestions on how Christian schools can broaden their canopy and become more ethnically and denominationally diverse in the future.