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Reverend Tu and Ms Xu listen intently as their mentors share precious insights. Photo: TTC

SINGAPORE – Since 2010, the China Christian Council/Three Self Patriotic Movement (CCC/TSPM), Trinity Theological College (TTC) and the United Bible Societies (UBS) have joined hands to raise the academic standards of Seminary and Bible School Teachers in China. Selected lecturers are granted a fully sponsored trip to TTC for a four-week attachment programme.

In 2013, United Bible Societies (UBS) sponsored two lecturers, Reverend Tu Zhijin of Shandong Theological Seminary and Ms Xu Changxiu of Sichuan Theological Seminary. The two teachers were in TTC from 5-31 August.

Throughout the attachment, they were provided with an academic mentor to consult on teaching and research matters. In addition, they had full access to the TTC library facilities for independent research purposes.

Learning a New Teaching Style

Reverend Tu and Ms Xu were full of praises for their mentors, Ms Eunice Low, Dr Leonard Wee and Dr Chan Yew Meng. Their help was greatly appreciated; from providing materials relevant to their research topic to enriching the lecture notes they had written with substantial resources. One of them even gave Reverend Tu a soft copy of his own PhD thesis. Reverend Tu sees all this help as going beyond personal favours shown to them as visitors.

“I am very touched by their great commitment and willingness to help the Church in China,” Reverend Tu said with gratitude.

Ms Xu values the philosophy behind her mentor’s teaching approach. From him, she learnt that a lecturer is a facilitator of learning rather than a dispenser of knowledge.

My mentor does not spoon-feed his students but encourages an interactive classroom atmosphere where students ask questions and search for answers themselves through independent inquiry and discovery.

This approach encourages theological students, the future leaders of the church, to go beyond quoting verses to appreciating the original intent of Bible passages in their historical context. “I am going to create a similar environment for my own class,” she enthused.

Both teachers feel that such an environment could teach their students to take more initiative in directing their own learning process instead of passively depending on the teacher for information. In the long run, they feel certain it will help the Church in China produce more competent Bible teachers and preachers.

Entering A World Of Real and Virtual Books

In the opinion of both lecturers, the TTC library is one of the most impressive places on campus. Coming from an academic setting where research materials are scarce, the two teachers marvel at the quantity and quality of TTC’s library resources.

Reverend Tu used the Bible Resource Centre (BRC) at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary (NJUTS), which UBS helped to establish, as an example of how the organization can help other seminaries in China. They especially hope that seminary libraries can have more digital resources. Given China’s size and vast number of Christians, such materials will benefit more people without incurring high costs.

Reverend Tu has a particular concern,

Providing resources for academic research is desperately needed. More support will improve the quality of teaching materials in China’s seminaries.

Even though much has been done to provide spiritual resources in the Chinese language, more effort is needed in the area of publishing and translating academic writings. Ms Xu concurred, “As seminary teachers in China have limited resources to purchase such materials from overseas, support from CCC/TSPM and UBS in this area will be greatly appreciated.”

Going Home With Enriched Minds and Hearts

Despite the short stint, Reverend Tu and Ms Xu are thankful for the exposure to a different theological training environment and Christian culture. Besides feeling vastly enriched professionally, they have also enjoyed experiencing different worship styles during their various church visits.

With a laugh, Reverend Tu said, “TTC is such an excellent centre for higher learning, we wish we could stay on and pursue a degree ourselves.” On a more serious note, he added that continued support from UBS in sponsorship of Bible teachers will certainly help the Chinese Church in the long run.

Ms Xu was particularly touched by the fact that despite denominational differences, the four mainline denominations in Singapore can co-exist so harmoniously and have such a high regard for theological education that they would join hands to form a union college (TTC). “I feel very moved by that,” she said with a smile.

Their parting remark was that when they got home, they would certainly share their experiences and encourage their professional peers to seek such overseas training opportunities. “The Church in China must train our own top-notch Biblical scholars.” – And this collaborative partnership between UBS and the Chinese Church could be a good place to start.

Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Jenise Lee
Photo: TTC

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