A pilgrimís progress: new Briercrest history professor has an interesting career path
An assigned reading for a spiritual formation class fine-tuned the focus of Joy Demoskoff‚Äôs career path.
When Briercrest‚Äôs new assistant professor of history had completed her master‚Äôs degree in Russian history at Queens University in Ontario, she decided to take a course at Tyndale University College called Prayer Paths to God.
‚ÄúThe instructor had us read a book called The Way of a Pilgrim, which is a Russian spiritual classic,‚ÄĚ she explained. ‚ÄúIt really grabbed me. I thought, ‚ÄėIf I could study this for the rest of my life, that would be really interesting and really meaningful for myself and for the church too.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Demoskoff was deeply influenced by the book‚Äôs message.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs about a Russian pilgrim,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúOne day he‚Äôs attending the Orthodox liturgy and he hears the passage where the Apostle Paul says, ‚ÄėPray without ceasing‚Äô and he thinks to himself, ‚ÄėHow is this possible?‚Äô He goes on a pilgrimage wandering around the Russian countryside trying to find out how to pray without ceasing.‚ÄĚ
The class began to give Demoskoff a deep interest in the Russian church.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm very interested in monastic life,‚ÄĚ she explained. ‚ÄúWhat we can learn from people who commit their whole lives to the pursuit of holiness and pursuing God.‚ÄĚ
That interest was the starting point of Demoskoff‚Äôs search for a dissertation topic.
‚ÄúIn my readings I came across this (19th century) practice of sending people to do penance at (Russian Orthodox) monasteries ‚Äď sometimes to be imprisoned in monasteries,‚ÄĚ she explained. ‚ÄúI was curious about that.‚ÄĚ
As Demoskoff searched, she found there hadn‚Äôt been a lot written about the practice, so she decided to make it the topic of her PhD dissertation.
The New Brunswick native admits that a topic involving the Russian church is very different from her Protestant upbringing, but she feels it has relevance for today.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of debate about church and state within the Russian Orthodox Church,‚ÄĚ she explained. ‚ÄúA lot of work being done right now is on ‚Äėlived religion‚Äô . . .¬† religion as an aspect of daily life. So I thought this topic would help me get at the question of daily life in the monastery and also the relationship between church and state in Russia.‚ÄĚ
Brian Gobbett, Briercrest‚Äôs associate professor of history appreciates the work Demoskoff has done on this topic.
‚ÄúThis exploration of the relationship between ‚Äúlived‚ÄĚ and institutional religion is at the cutting edge of a great deal of scholarship that has aided our understanding of the roles that religion plays in society, including our own,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe are thrilled to invite Joy and (her husband) Jeremy into our learning community. Joy comes to us with impeccable academic credentials having completed her undergraduate studies at Crandall, an MA at Queen‚Äôs and being very nearly done with her PhD at the University of Alberta.‚ÄĚ
Demoskoff is excited about sharing her passion for Russian history and theology with her students at Briercrest this year.
‚ÄúI think Russia is a really neat starting point for thinking about the world and the past,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúTheir history is very different from ours as Canadians. They‚Äôve made so many amazing contributions to world culture. There‚Äôs so much to gain by exploring their history.‚ÄĚ
The history professor‚Äôs husband shares her love for Russia. The couple spent three weeks in Russia this summer co-teaching English at St. Petersburg Christian University.
‚ÄúWe shared a class,‚ÄĚ Demoskoff said with a smile. ‚ÄúWe have a two year old, so we went as one teacher between the two of us.‚ÄĚ
Even though they are world travelers, the couple is happy to be landing in Caronport.
‚ÄúI was always interested in Christian education,‚ÄĚ Demoskoff said explaining how she chose to apply to teach at Briercrest. ‚ÄúI was kind of keeping an eye on the different Christian universities across Canada. My husband was born in the prairies and was very excited about the possibility of it working out to come back.‚ÄĚ
The history professor has several goals for the coming school year.
‚ÄúI hope to get connected with the students, develop myself as a teacher and hopefully finish my dissertation.‚ÄĚ