Our Faculty-in-Development, Lai Pak Wah, completed his PhD (Patristic Studies) from Durham University, U.K in October 2010. He is also an Alumnus of Regent College, Vancouver (MCS, MTh) and BGST (Grad Dip CS).
He was a Business Lecturer with Singapore Polytechnic. Prior to this, he was an investment promotion officer with the Singapore Economic Development Board. Pak Wah is married to Rina and they have two children, Fide and Isaiah. They are members of Mount Carmel Bible Presbyterian Church, where he serves as an Adjunct Pastor of its Kent Vale-Kent Reach Ministry, an outreach programme to those working or studying in the NUS vicinity.
Glimpses of Pak Wah’s Landscape of Learning and Aspirations.
Over the last six years, our family of four have traversed three different countries and lived in six different houses. In Vancouver, we experienced, for the first time, what it meant to huddle together in a tiny basement unit overridden with books and toys, the latter of which became overwhelming when our son, Isaiah, arrived one year later. In Durham (England), we spent our days out in the quiet countryside, befriending retirees, soaking in the breathtaking sights of golden wheat fields ripe for harvest and chasing pheasants that so often descended at our backyard. During weekends, we took walks along the river Wear that meanders around the 1,000-year-old Durham Cathedral where two most revered saints in England – St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede still lie in its sanctuary. Now, back in Singapore, things are very different. Instead of rolling hills, our HDB flat is now perched on the tenth floor overlooking a frequently congested Pan Island Expressway!
Despite their spatial differences, these diverse living quarters shared a commonality. They symbolised, in their unique ways, the different stages of my intellectual and spiritual growth over the last half a decade. Our miniscule basement unit, for example, stood in sharp contrast to what I was experiencing then as I studied at Regent College. At Regent, a new and vast world was unfolding as I found myself struggling with the Trinitarian debates of the church fathers, pondering over the history and spirituality of Christian monasticism, or engaging in a wide range of contemporary concerns, such as Christian perspectives on ecology and technology. All these, we think, prepared us for our stay in the quaint and rustic city of Durham. Here, the rich Regent theoria became praxis as we learnt to enjoy the simple delights that God’s nature has to offer, relished the rich spiritual history of Durham and England, and, interestingly, rekindled our interest in Chinese culture and history – the sure fruits of our weekly Chinese bible study outreach!
Now that we are back in Singapore, things are somewhat surreal for us. The begging question that I often ponder is how may all the spiritual and historical lessons that I learnt be relevant for Singapore, an ever busy and technocratic nation? How indeed may I speak to a spiritual climate where things efficient and productive are what dominate conversations, while spiritual and aesthetic concerns are often sidelined? Yet, this is the very context that God has placed within a call to serve Him, both as a Christian historian and as theologian - to speak of spiritual things amidst the hustle and bustle of Singapore! For it is in Singapore, almost two decades ago, that God first captivated my heart and placed in it a deep desire to see the signs of God in every aspect of His creation, and to help others to do likewise. In His own ways, God has equipped me for this task. Those ten years of academic and spiritual training have cultivated in me a growing interest in a widening range of subjects, such as economics, technology, history, art, philosophy and Chinese culture, and enabling me to discern His presence in these diverse fields.
A personal hope and prayer for the next few years is to translate the insights I have gathered into courses at BGST. God willing, as I adopt a more multi-disciplinary approach to theological education, both my students and I would be able to better discern the ways of our Lord in every aspect of our lives. Besides courses on church history, another desire is developing inter-disciplinary courses on Christian perspectives of science, technology, economics, Chinese culture and Chinese philosophy. May the Lord lead and guide these personal endeavours. Amen!
We warmly welcome Dr Lai, our new addition to BGST full-time Faculty!
A Sense of Place & Christian Community: An Inquiry into the importance of space to cultivate Christian Community and Attentiveness to the Presence of God.
In his talk, Mr John Chong Ser Choon asked the question, “How does our sense of place build or block Christian community and also our attentiveness to the Presence of God?” The focus of his talk argued for the need on the part of evangelical Christians to re-examine the sense of place in relation to community and the presence of God. Does the way we design and use the spaces in our church and workplaces build or block community?
Entering a place, being in that space, and the way that we walk about and hold our activities in that place, do these activities enhance or de-sensitize our attentiveness to the presence of this Holy Other, the Triune God of Grace?
Ser Choon wondered if today, our sense of place has not become so functional that it has led to a loss of sacredness and the relational, and thus of community, of sacred community. A factory is a place of production. A bank is a place of financial transaction. A school is a place of teaching. A court is a place of judgment. So, what about the church? From the standpoint of a sense of place, he sees the Church as a place of community: people in genuine, deepening relationship with one another. When a Christian walks into a place called church, he or she must be able to say, “I am not there to produce, not there for some transaction, not there merely to be a teacher or even a student, not there to be judged. As a Christian, when I walk into the Church building, I want to have the sense of a home-coming, like the prodigal returning home to the Father in Luke 15. I enter that space, and I want to be able to sense the place as a welcoming space, a space where I can be myself, not play a role, fulfill a function, or act the part. I want to enter this space and have a sense that God is in this place.”
So, the predominant sense must be that this is a place of community, persons as persons, persons in growing, deepening relationship, not just workers coming to work, teachers going to teach, preachers going to preach, office bearers come to office to do official work.
Ser Choon emphasized that there is a need to rethink, and then to intentionally carve out some physical space in the church to foster genuine Christian community and attentiveness to God for we have lost this sense of place to pragmatic concerns.
Chapel On 03 November 2010.
Mr Simon Wong (Grad Cert. in Tentmaking, 2010) will be speaking on, “OCTOPUS: An Outreach to Foreign Students?”.
Chapel begins at 12 pm. You are most welcome to join us.