I was in the Trinity Theological College (TTC) library, when I heard the loudhailer blaring something outside. It must be some kind of celebration or a college event, I thought. Some time later, on my way to a lunch appointment, I caught sight of what was happening. It was a glorious sight. I could not believe my eyes. I had to take pictures to document this for my good friends and classmates Rev Benedict Muthusamy of Open Doors, Malaysia; Dr Tan Yak Hwee lecturing in Westminster College, Cambridge; and Raphael Samuel the Anglican Bishop of Bolivia. They would be delighted. I saw a sea of red: with students and faculty members and construction workers. Most were seated on the floor, some were standing, and others were busy helping around. They were having lunch, the seminary folks and the construction workers who had been working for the past few years to build the MRT station a stone’s throw from the college entrance: the Hillview MRT station.
I asked Veronica from TTC office, What is happening? Oh, the college decided to serve lunch to the “unsung heroes”: foreign workers from Lanka, India, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Korea that had been working on MRT station works just outside the college. I was pleasantly surprised at TTC’s gracious act of hospitality, even if it was a symbolic once off event. You know, after all seminary do not do such things.
The foreign workers would have seen the big seminary sign at the main road, and may have known that this is the place where Christian workers and pastors were trained. For them to receive hospitality and thanks in this fashion is something they will remember for a long while. Just as significant the seminarians have begun to learn by actual doing the sacred art of showing hospitality to the “stranger” or “alien”. This is a true curriculum which educates the heart, a curriculum as important, if not more important, than learning in comfortable lecture rooms and library. This is theology of the heart. Theology 101, Jesus way.
The Asian Forum for Christian Educators 2013 (AFCE 2013) is a bi-annual event organized by a small group of noted Christian Educators passionate about coming alongside to encourage improvements and reformation in seminary education. AGST Alliance students were encouraged to add two days to their study program and catch the spirit of what the forum was all about and to take away principles and ideas that could be of help to them in their respective settings. This was one forum that stuck to its guns: a real forum ( a meeting for the open discussion of subjects of common interest). The guest from a seminary from N. Ireland, Dr Graham Cheesman, spoke for about 30 minutes to lay the foundation; and for the rest of the two days, 39 participants were ably facilitated through the main theme: “ Space, relationships and learning: a critical matrix for theological education?” Even meal times were called “foruming around the meal table”. They discussed some weighty stuff about contextualization and culture etc. but here are some sound bytes I picked up during the various discussions:
Be the guide by the side rather than the sage on the stage.
If you do not feed the poor, you will construct a theology without a concern for feeding the poor.
I love ideas and I love people and I love to bring the two together.
We can open space for others in our lives only after our internal space has been transformed.
We need to move towards an unseminary culture, and we can do that only after we have named our world.
It is vision that guides our decision-making and changes.
Truth without relationships of trust becomes a threat.
Shut up and let the students reflect and contribute.
Theology must be clothed in personal experience.
Being gentle with ourselves is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
Faculty and pastors have to aim at holistic spiritual formation.
Jesus not only used culture to communicate truth; he also transformed it as he did so.