The Book of Ruth Retold 路德記今讀

Dr Stephen Lim is interested in reading the Bible in the context of Asia to address the issues that people in Asia face. Here he retells the Book of Ruth from the perspective of a domestic helper in Singapore.

Ruth as Esperanza

Esperanza waited by the lobby below the condominium for Mr Chee to drive his car to pick her up to take her to the airport. The air was heavy, made all the more burdensome by the silence that sat between her and Mrs Chee. 

“How come he take so long?” Mrs Chee said impatiently, breaking the silence that was beginning to cement. The car horn sounded and Esperanza heaved a quiet sigh of relief as the car finally pulled into the porch.

“Why you take so long? Cannot find the car again, is it?” Mrs Chee questioned with her usual sharp, interrogative tone. Mr Chee silently got out of the car and helped Esperanza put her luggage into the boot of the car. It was not a big bag. No bigger than the bag she brought to Singapore two years ago, and would have fitted the back seat just as well. Mr Chee had to steady himself as he had used too much strength to haul the bag into the boot. He did not expect it to be so light. The surprise registered on his face but he chose not to say anything. Then Esperanza sat in the back as the car pulled away from the porch, heading towards the airport.

The journey was silent with some soft Chinese pop music playing in the background. 

Esperanza thought to herself that this was most probably only the second time she had seen the expressway. The first being the time she came to Singapore to meet her employers at the maid agency. 

Her thoughts began to stray. She wondered why she chose to come here to Singapore. The face of her grandmother came to mind. 

A cool breeze blew as the sun began to set in her village in Mindoro. She remembered she was twelve, old enough to be helping out in the kitchen. Dinner was especially busy but she and her cousins looked forward to the time after that. 

“Grandmama, tell us again the story of Ruth!” 

“Again? Have you not heard the story many times before?” Her grandmother replied in her usual feisty tone. 

But her grandchildren persisted. “Yes! Yes!” 

Esperanza wiped the table and did her share of washing the dishes as quickly as she could so that she could join them. 

“It was a time of famine in Bethlehem. What is Bethlehem?” Her grandmother enjoyed quizzing them as she told the story. Esperanza thought it was just her way of keeping them engaged.

“House of bread!” One of her cousins replied glibly.

“Indeed. But it was just that then it had no more bread. So Elimelech and his wife, Naomi had to bring her two sons into another country, Moab. There their two sons married two beautiful Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Famine came upon Moab and Elimelech and his two sons died. But now Bethlehem was full of bread again so Naomi decided she would return to her homeland.” 

Looking back, Esperanza wondered how cursed Moab was. Its wealth was all but fleeting. All that it had left was hunger and death. Bethlehem’s misfortune seemed to pale in comparison and be just as fleeting. Just like Singapore.

“Who were Ruth and Orpah?” One of her cousins asked. “Were they poor?”

“Why, they were princesses, my dear. Daughters of the Most High King of Moab. They saw how pitiful Elimelech and his family were and they took them in.” 

This exchange floated up from the depths of her memory. She recalled in her university days reading Ruth in the Bible. It seemed that there was nothing mentioned about who Ruth and Orpah were. No background. Simply just Moabites. Like her. Mr and Mrs Chee never once asked her about her background. Had they asked, they would know she had a degree in English and Political Science. That she understood way more than they would have liked when they spoke to each other in English. That she could hear very clearly what Mrs Chee and her friends thought of helpers in the home when they were playing their overnight mahjong. 

“Eh how come your maid so pretty one? You not scared she and your husband…”

“Aiyo, I tell you ah, if you leave these maids alone, you never know what they will do…”

“Actually ah, teach her how to do, better I do. Take up so much of my time some more! Might as well pay me her salary…”

“You can never leave her alone one… sekali[1] she sleep with some construction worker, get pregnant, then how?…”

“So scary la…my friend told me she find more and more thing go missing in the house. She thought, must be the maid do one. So she search her room and there, she found her bras, her panties all put in a milo tin…”

Idiots, prostitutes, thieves. Maybe that was what the Moabites were like, Esperanza thought to herself. Or that would be what those like Naomi might think. 

“So Ruth begged Naomi to let her go with her to Bethlehem while Orpah chose to return to her family. Naomi was reluctant as she was feeling bitter. But Ruth pleaded with her, 

‘Where you go, I will go;

    where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people shall be my people,

    and your God my God.

Where you die, I will die—

    there will I be buried.

May the Lord do thus and so to me,

    and more as well,

if even death parts me from you!’

Naomi, hearing how determined Ruth was, said no more.”

*

“Got remember to bring your passport or not?”  

Mrs Chee’s shrill voice pierced through her reminiscing of the past. Startled, Esperanza could only manage a nod.

“Aiyo, you deaf ah? Ask you so many times, now then say something.”

Mr Chee then interrupted, saying, “Don’t disturb her la. You ask this question so many times since we left already.”

The car pulled into the airport car park, much to the relief of everyone in it. As Esperanza unloaded her bags, she spotted from the corner of her eye her best friend since university days, Amy. 

“Sir, Ma’am, I think I can manage from here,” she could feel her voice shaking. 

“You sure or not? Later you never fly off, then how?” Mrs Chee barked in her usual impatient tone. 

“Just let her be la,” Mr Chee then turned to Esperanza and told her sternly, “Make sure you get on your flight, ok?”

“Yes, Sir.” Esperanza picked up her luggage and started to walk towards the departure hall. 

“Grandmama, did Ruth feel at home?” 

“Esperanza dear, Ruth found Boaz. He was a respectable man in the community. He made sure she was safe in the fields by asking her to take the leftover corn in his fields.”

“But Grandmama, you mean Ruth was in danger?”

“Yes even in the safe place of Bethlehem, a widowed woman was very vulnerable.”

“But why did Naomi not tell her?”

Esperanza remembered Grandmama’s stunned silence.

“Tell her what, dear?”

“Ruth told Naomi that she wanted to go to the fields. So why did Naomi not know that it was not safe for a woman like Ruth?”

Mrs Chee was only concerned for her when she needed her, Esperanza thought. She then caught herself wondering if that was what had actually happened to Ruth. It was a question she wished she could ask her Grandmama.

*

“Esperanza, are you okay?”

“Oh Amy, the last few days have been horrible. I am so angry… Mrs Chee does not treat me like a human being… just someone to do the work she does not want to do… I have to stay up and work under impossible conditions… I am so angry…”

Esperanza told Amy that Mr Chee found her with the watch he had given Mrs Chee. Naturally he accused her of stealing. In reality, she was so frustrated that she scratched the watch just as he walked in. So instinctively, out of shame, she hid it in her pocket.

“Am I wicked person?”

“Oh Esperanza, no…”

“Grandmama once told us the story of Ruth and how she found her Boaz in a foreign land. An honourable man who would shoulder her burden and give her what she needed. I thought Singapore was my foreign land and I will meet my Boaz here.” 

Tears began to stream down Esperanza’s face. Amy reached out and held her hand. 

“Oh Esperanza, Ruth gave her body to be part of Israel. Remember what Naomi told her to do when she went down to the threshing floor to find Boaz?” Amy said in the gentlest voice she could manage as one also all too familiar with this story turned urban legend. 

“Amy, you must try to get me back here. If there is a job opening, please let me know.” Esperanza exclaimed, seemingly oblivious to all that Amy had just said. “My father, he does not know what happened. I just told him I am back for family holiday. Oh Amy, you must help me!”

Amy heaved a sigh. She was definitely more fortunate than her best friend. The family who took her in respected her and gave her regular time off, even to come to the airport to make sure Esperanza was all right. Even then, she knew she would always be an outsider. She knew that it was not possible to find her Boaz here. 

But when she saw Esperanza’s pleading eyes, her heart broke. She could not bear to tell her that as the story wore on, it became increasingly more about Naomi than Ruth. For the son was not born to Ruth, nor to Boaz but to Naomi. That was possibly part of the price Ruth paid to be part of the people of Bethlehem. 

“Final call for all passengers leaving for Manila on flight PH 834. Please proceed to Gate E73 for immediate boarding.”

Esperanza looked at Amy, “Please, promise me you will help me. I will do anything. Anything.”

Amy nodded, trying valiantly to hold back her tears. Both of them hugged. 

Esperanza picked up her bag and walked towards the departure gate, feeling hopeful again. 

*

This is a retelling of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible through adapting a play that was written by Wong Souk Yee and Tay Hong Seng in the 1980s in Singapore called Esperanza.[2] Esperanza means hope in Tagalog. The play was written in consultation with Filipina domestic helpers in Singapore. 


[1] This word has been adapted from the Malay language into Singaporean English to mean, “what if”.

[2] Souk Yee Wong and Hong Seng Tay, “Esperanza,” in 5 Plays from Third Stage: A Collection of Five Singaporean Plays, ed. Anne Lim and Suan Tze Chng (Third Stage: Singapore, 2005), 99-129.

What is On Offer? 春季科目一覽

We take a look at the subjects that are being offered next semester through the College’s BTh and MTh programmes.

More Intensives!

Ming Hua’s intensives have proved to be hugely popular with our students. Intensives enable students to study an entire subject in a matter of days with no reduction in content. Instead, lectures are held from 10am to 4pm over five consecutive days. This model of teaching is particularly beneficial for students who find it hard to commit to weekly lectures over a 12-week period.

We are excited to be offering the following two subjects as intensives next semester:

Practical Theology (THL120)

For students who are interested in how theology can be put into practice, this subject is a must. It looks at theology in action across a range of areas, including ministry, mission, worship and pastoral care. Students will not only develop an understanding of what is distinctive about practical theology, but they will also learn a range of methodologies appropriate to putting theological theory into practice.

Lecturer: Revd William Lam

Day & Time: March 23 to 27, 10am to 4pm

Wisdom and Worship Traditions (THL209)

This interesting subject explores the Old Testament texts that reflect on how to live well and justly with one another and before God. Through a study of the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, students will learn about the literary features, socio-cultural contexts and diverse philosophical, religious and moral perspectives of the wisdom and worship texts, as well as the interconnections between creation, human experience and language about God.

Lecturer: Professor Donn Morgan

Day & Time: February 24 to 28, 10am to 4pm

Biblical Studies:

Introduction to Old Testament Studies (THL105)

This exciting subject offers an introduction to the Old Testament from the Pentateuch right through to the Minor Prophets. Students will be taught the basic scholarly tools and critical methods needed to study scripture, as well as gaining an understanding of how the Old Testament is formed, both as a whole and as collections of different books.

Lecturer: Dr Stephen Lim

Day & Time: Thursdays, 7pm – 9:15pm

Paul and His Letters (THL203)

The Letters of Saint Paul contain some of the most famous passages of the New Testament and have had a significant impact on shaping the Church as we know it today. This subject explores these letters, along with Acts of the Apostles, in more depth, looking at Paul’s biography, his theology and the situations to which his letters were responding.

Lecturer: Revd Ross Royden

Day & Time: Mondays, 10am – 12.15pm

Systematic Theology:

Introduction to Christian Theology (THL111)

This interesting subject offers students an introduction to Christian theology, covering areas as diverse as the meaning of revelation, the Triune God, and humanity and sin. Alongside helping students develop the skills they need for theological reasoning, it will also look at the role played by scripture and tradition in Christian thought, and the significance of context in shaping theological reflection.

Lecturer: Dr Matthew Jones

Day & Time: Mondays, 7pm – 9.15pm

God and Humanity (THL245)

The Bible tells us that humanity was made in the image of God, but what does this really mean? This thought-provoking subject will explore theological ideas relating to humanity, creation and our relationship with God. It will consider this relationship within the context of grace and salvation, as well as looking at contemporary approaches to describing God, such as feminist and postcolonial, as well as ecological and liberation discourses.

Lecturer: Dr Matthew Jones

Day & Time: Tuesdays, 2pm – 4.15pm

Theological Ethics (THL326)

This interesting subject looks at how Christians define what is right and what is wrong. Students will explore the theology, philosophy, Biblical texts and traditions behind Christian ethics in both historical and contemporary contexts. They will then use this knowledge to consider a range of ethical issues in areas such as politics, economics, war, the environment, medicine and sexuality.

Lecturer: Dr Matthew Jones

Day & Time: Wednesdays, 2pm – 4.15pm

Church History:

The European Reformations (THL132)

The reformations in 16th and 17th century Europe have left legacies that are still seen in the Church today. This fascinating subject explores this period of upheaval, looking at reform movements within Roman Catholicism, the radical reformations, inquisitions and the plight of religious minorities during this period. Particular attention is paid to the social context in which the reformations took place, touching on issues such as gender and moral discipline.

Lecturer: Revd Dr Jim West

Day & Time: Tuesdays, 7pm – 9.15pm (through Global Classroom)

Practical Theology:

Christian Ministry (THL218)

The Church engages in a wide range of ministries both within the church and in the wider community. This interesting subject explores the practice and theory of Christian ministry, for both lay people and those who are ordained. It incorporates a number of contemporary issues, including cultural context, heightened public standards, issues of justice and the status of the Church in society.

Lecturer: Revd Prof John Kater

Day & Time: Mondays, 7pm – 9.15pm

Theology and the Arts (THL256)

The Arts are integral to Christian theology and life, with humanity’s relationship with God expressed through music, literature and drama throughout the ages. This fascinating subject explores how the Arts can help us gain a broader understanding of the human condition and God.

Lecturer: Prof Gareth Jones

Day & Time: Tuesdays, 7pm – 9.15pm

Master of Theology

Contemporary Approaches to Biblical Studies (THL511)

This interesting subject looks at major contemporary approaches to the study of the Old Testament and New Testament. It focuses on recent developments in Biblical Studies, paying particular attention to methodology, both in a theoretical framework and through an analysis of a variety of concrete exegetical problems. It also compares and contrasts different methods of biblical criticism.

Lecturer: Dr Stephen Lim

Day & Time: Mondays, 2pm – 4.15pm

Contemporary Issues in Practical Theology (THL519)

Contemporary society faces a number of issues ranging from poverty to gender equality to climate change. This challenging subject teaches students how to engage critically with these issues from a theological perspective. Students will learn how to apply cross-disciplinary research and a variety of practical theological models, including indigenous, feminist and social science perspectives, to develop new approaches to these issues and a deeper understanding of how the Church can respond to them.

Lecturer: Revd Prof John Kater

Day & Time: Tuesdays, 2pm – 4.15pm

Classic Texts in Christian Theology (THL545)

Students taking this subject will have the opportunity to study at an advanced level some of the key texts that have helped to shape systematic theology and Church tradition. They will focus on the historical and theological context of the texts, as well as looking at their reception and influence on later Christian thought. Students will be encouraged to reflect deeply on the coherence, diversity, and continuing tensions within the Christian theological tradition.

Lecturer: Prof Gareth Jones

Day & Time: Thursdays, 7pm – 9.15pm

For enquiries,

Phone         (852) 2521 7708
Email           admission@minghua.org.hk
Messenger  http://m.me/hkskhminghua
Whatsapp   9530 7241

Ming Hua Hosts Cambridge Postulant 歡迎來自劍橋的聖職志願人

Ming Hua is delighted to welcome Coryn Stanforth, an ordinand from Wescott House in Cambridge, to the College. Coryn is spending several weeks at Ming Hua as part of her training to become a priest for the Church of England.

Principal Professor Gareth Jones said: “It is always lovely to welcome students from our old friends and partners around the Anglican Communion, and Westcott House is one of Ming Hua’s oldest and deepest friendships. Coryn has brought many gifts to our Hong Kong and Taiwan postulants and we treasure her time with us this autumn.”

Coryn, who is originally from Norwich in the UK, started her career as a primary school teacher. She describes her journey to becoming a postulant as being a gradual one that happened over many years.

“I had a niggling feeling that I should become a priest and I felt God was pushing me towards it,” she says.

In 2011, she became a reader in the Church of England, but she still felt it was not quite enough. It was not until 2018 that she describes things as finally falling into place, leading to her going forward for selection.

Coryn explains that she was keen to come to Hong Kong as part of her training because she wanted to see more of the Anglican Communion.

“I had been teaching other readers about Anglicanism but I felt I had not seen much of the Anglican Communion. I was also interested in theological education and wanted to see what it was like in other places,” she says.

She was particularly interested in Asia after visiting one of her former teaching assistants who had moved to Malaysia a few years earlier.

“I was fascinated by Asia and thought it would be great if I ever had the chance to go back to the region,” she says.

Coryn says she has really enjoyed her time at Ming Hua, particularly visiting the different churches the College’s postulants are attached to. 

“Everyone is very friendly and helpful. It has been really nice to get to know everyone,” she says.

Coryn is due to be ordained as a deacon in the UK in June next year, and is likely to return to Norwich to complete her curacy.

Ming Hua Graduates Ordained 按立聖職

恭喜畢業同學勞漢賢、李文祺、蔡樂媚和梁智偉在十一月一日按立聖職。 願他們一生忠勤事主,榮神益人。

Congratulations to Ming Hua graduates Lorraine Choi and Jason Leung, on their ordination to the priesthood, and Matthew Lee and Kenneth Lo on their ordination to the diaconate.

Continue reading Ming Hua Graduates Ordained 按立聖職

Meet the Faculty: Dr Rowena Chen 見.識教授:陳睿文博士

陳睿文博士 (Rowena),香港聖公會檔案館研究員,同時任教於澳洲查理斯特大學——香港明華神學院,教授範疇包括中國宗教、在華基督教史等;她亦是學院的琴師,每周四將近黃昏的時候,Rowena 便會讓明華小聖堂響起悅耳的風琴聲,呼籲我們進入敬拜。

遇見

白晢的膚色,澄明光潔的臉容,溫文儒雅的談吐——是大家閨秀沒錯。這是Rowena 常常給人的第一印象。只是當你走近,你卻會發現,大家閨秀的模樣底下,有一雙專注的眼睛,散發着對人、信仰、文化藝術及歷史的好奇和熱情,為她添上了不一樣的氣質與溫度。

Rowena 來自上海,自幼受歷史及藝術的薰陶。前上海聖約翰大學的校園 (今華東政法大學)是她自幼成長的地方,這是美國聖公會於19世紀在華辦學時創建的學府。Rowena 在紀念學院創始人施約瑟主教的懷施堂(今韜奮樓)中長大 。而校園裡寬闊的綠色草地,亦是她孩提時代最愛玩耍的地方。這一美麗的校園見證著聖公會在華福傳的歷史,也承載着 Rowena 成長的足跡和記憶,她將之視作為自己與聖公會相遇的開始。難怪她尤愛研究聖公會歷史——這正是塑造她生命的重要部分。

Rowena 幼年時每日所在之處——懷施堂 (現韜奮樓)

塑造

Rowena 四歲開始習琴,也正是音樂為她開啟了信仰及學術研究的道路。她其中的一位鋼琴老師引領她認信基督信仰,帶她返教會,開始了她跟隨主的信心旅程。

在本科就讀二年級時,Rowena 舉辦了第一次鋼琴獨奏會,也正是在那時,遇上了研究中國基督教史的專家陶飛亞教授,其後她隨陶教授攻讀碩士學位。陶教授鼓勵 Rowena 進行近代音樂與福傳視角的歷史研究,開啟了她用文字侍奉神的道路。之後,Rowena 前往香港中文大學文化及宗教研究系攻讀宗教研究哲學博士,研究聖公宗人華人神學家趙紫宸與20世紀初在華處境化讚美詩議題。期間亦入選奧地利維也納音樂與表演藝術大學 (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria) 訪問學人項目,前往歐洲豐富其研究視野。博士論文 Fragrant Flowers Bloom: T. C. Chao, Bliss Wiant and the Contextualization of Hymns in Twentieth Century China 亦已於2015年在德國出版 。

定意

一路走來,Rowena 與聖公會有著不解之緣,2014年至今,她於香港聖公會檔案館及明華神學院工作,致力於堂會史、主教史等方向的研究,作品包括《包爾騰主教傳略》(2018)、《萬代要稱妳有福——香港聖公會聖馬利亞堂史(1912-2012)》(2014,合著)等。目前正在進行聖士提反堂之歷史研究。她熱愛自己的科研及教學,並深信無論是音樂修習、學術研究還是教授傳承,都是上主定意定時所成就的一切 。

這同樣也是她對學生的勉勵:神在每個人身上都有計劃,祂會按時成就,叫萬事互相效力成為美好。Rowena 感恩在明華所遇到的一切人和事物。她指當我們把握每一次探索,有朝一日便會看見今時過往及至未來,都會在上主的定意下連結在一起,即艾略特 (T.S. Eliot) 所言:「 我們不能停止探索,而一切探索的盡頭, 將到達我們出發的原點,並再度認識這個地方 」 。(“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ) 在 Rowena看來,由此,「過往與今時匯合,卻賦予了更為新鮮、豐滿的內涵;生命也在時間的流逝與永恆的定格間漸然頓悟、昇華,這即是信仰帶領我們所行的奇妙之旅。」

Diary of an Intensive 密集神學課手記

Bachelor of Theology student Timothy Chan shares his experience of Dr Jim West’s week-long Introduction to New Testament Studies intensive.

Diary of an Intensive

Monday 

I decided to do the intensive as I am working full-time in a mission church while I study for my BTh. I was able to take a week off as holiday time, so it was very convenient and efficient to be able to do a whole subject in just five days. I also liked the idea of being able to immerse myself fully in the class and focus on what the lecturer is teaching us. 

The first day was really interesting. Dr Jim West taught us about the background of different parts of the New Testament to give us a deeper understanding of what is written in it. We also learned about the Synoptic Gospels and how we can reference different scriptures to understand what the writers are really saying. It has been a really good day. I did not find it difficult to concentrate and Dr West’s sense of humour made us all smile and kept up the energy levels of the class.

Tuesday

Today, Dr Jim West introduced us to the differences between the Synoptic Gospels, namely Matthew, Mark and Luke; and John’s Gospel. He explained how the Jewish tradition is reflected in the Gospels, such as when Jesus cleanses the Temple. We had a discussion about the concept of purification.

In the afternoon, we looked at the First, Second and Third letters of John, including the impact the  confrontation with Gnosticism had on Christianity. Gnostics refuse to acknowledge that Jesus became human. It was very interesting. 

Wednesday

Today was very good. Dr West taught us about Saint Paul’s Letters and the Acts of the Apostles. He taught us that when we look at the Letters, we have to understand what the situation was that Saint Paul was writing to address and how this affected his point of view in the different Letters. It helped me to understand his theology. We also looked at different translations of the New Testament, including the Greek, English and Chinese, and how different words are used.

We are now halfway through the course. I am really enjoying it. There are lots of opportunities for questions and getting more information. So far, the course has given me a very clear overview of the Gospels and the Letters. 

Thursday

We covered a lot of ground today, looking at Hebrews, James and the First and Second Letters of Peter. In Hebrews, Dr West explained how Jesus is being characterised as a high priest. He also told us that James has strong parallels with Proverbs in the Old Testament. 

I am now nearly at the end of the week-long intensive: I feel tired, but studying a subject through lectures once a week is tiring as well. I like the intensive because it gives me more time to go to the library afterwards to read up on things. Both types of course need self-study, but I think the intensive course offers more opportunities for discussion and asking questions. 

Friday

Today we looked at Jude and Revelation. It was very interesting to learn more about Gnosticism and we had a great discussion about whether there are still Gnostic ideas in our church now. A lot of people think there are. Studying Revelation was also interesting. It was difficult for me as I have seldom looked at this book before. After Dr West explained what the book is about, he pointed out some very important things: God is still in charge and through Jesus Christ he gives us hope. 

The intensive is now over! I would definitely consider doing an intensive again as long as I had enough holiday to take a week off work. I think it gives students more time to study, have discussions and do research. I would definitely recommend it.

:: Ming Hua’s next intensive will be Wisdom and Worship Traditions (THL209) taught by Professor Donn Morgan from February 24 to 28 .

Ming Hua Librarian Wins Funding Award 聖公會明華圖書館的研究計劃及對外合作

恭賀本學院圖書館館長張秀貞博士,繼她於2018年取得「香港圖書館協會雙年獎」,近日她所設計的另一項研究計劃 “圖書館與數位人文”獲得了 Charles Sturt University (CSU) 的撥款,並得到日本地方政府的支持。她將連同Professor Gareth Jones及 CSU的另一位教授於2020年2月到日本高梁市 (Takahashi City) 進行交流。是次到訪,包括作為講者出席座談會,分享圖書館及科技在人文學科的應用;並與當地圖書館專業人員及其他業界進行一項利用科技工具,以支援學習及推廣該市的試驗性研究 (Pilot Study) 。此外,會與當地的政府人員包括市政府,教育局及大學要員等會面,商討日後可行的持續發展計劃。  

香港聖公會明華神學院的教研人員,除教學外,他們的研究及對外合作均豐富多元。以本院圖書館為例,自2015 年開始與本地及海外的院校及圖書館交流合作,至今超過800人次,來自53間專上院校/中學的學生、圖書館員及老師參與。這些研究/活動的主題廣泛,包括寫作研究、資訊素養、書籍維護與修復、 圖書館及科技(VR/航拍)、生命教育、圖書館實習生計劃 (Library Internship) 、講座及海外交流等。本院圖書館的部份研究成果,先後撰寫成學術文章並發表在國際的圖書館會議,如IFLA及 ‎ASIS&T。

明華圖書館年度主題

將來,明華神學院希望可以建立網上資料庫,以保存本院及聖公會人的研究著作,進一步支援教學研究。最後,在此感謝各界一直對本院及圖書館的支持。謝謝。

Congratulations to Ming Hua Librarian Dr Helen Cheung who has been awarded funding by Charles Sturt University to carry out a ‘Library & Digital Humanities’ project in Japan. 

Dr Cheung, who received the Hong Kong Library Association Biennial Award in 2018, will conduct a pilot study with librarians and other interested parties in Takahashi City, Japan, to examine the use of IT tools in supporting learning and marketing in the city.

She will travel to Takahashi City in February 2020, along with Ming Hua Principal Professor Gareth Jones and Dr Bernard Doherty from CSU. During the trip, they will give talks at a seminar about the use of libraries and information technology in the study of humanities subjects, as well as having business meetings with parties in Japan, including senior officers from the City Government, Education Department and universities to further discuss potential projects in the city. 

Ming Hua Library has been carrying out joint research and library projects with local and overseas institutions since 2015. Each year, Ming Hua has a specific theme for the library projects. These annual themes have varied from Wiki Writing (2015), to Information Literacy (2016), to Life Education (2017), to Virtual Reality and Drones (2018), to the Conservation and Preservation of Books (2019). The theme for 2020 will be Digital Humanities. 

To date, more than 800 participants from 53 universities, schools and libraries have joined projects and events hosted by Ming Hua. In addition, research outcomes from these library projects are written up as conference papers and presented at international library conferences, such as those held by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and ‎The Association for Information Science and Technology.

Dr Cheung said: “We would like to express our grateful thanks to the supporters of our College and the Library over many years.

“In the future, Ming Hua Theological College wishes to develop a research hub to collect the research outputs of members of Ming Hua and the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui in order to support further teaching and research activities.”  

A Glorious Death? The Theology of Martyrdom 殉道的再思

Dr Matthew Jones reflects on the role of love in understanding Christian martyrs

Sometimes there is a tendency in the Christian Church to glorify martyrdom. We very often read about how the death of a famous martyr is somehow glorious, or that he or she suffered a glorious death. Often this is further fueled by Hollywood blockbuster movies depicting the hero resilient to the last, going to their fate and dying in glory. 

It is very easy for us to romanticise and imagine martyrs living and dying for the sake of the Gospel in a heroic and glorious fashion, bravely and perhaps even effortlessly shouldering the pain and marching on to heaven in glory. 

I want to question that perception and suggest instead that martyrdom is anything but glorious. Those who have lived and died for their Christian faith were often people faced with agonising and unbearable choices, choices that could lead to torture, humiliation and death, not only for themselves but also for loved ones, families and friends. What then is so glorious about martyrdom, what is so glorious about suffering, pain, and violent death? If anything, martyrdom is precisely the opposite of being glorious. 

Part of our difficulty in all of this is that the world in which many of these martyrs lived and died always seems so distant, a world where Christian attitudes, contexts and worldviews were quite different and can seem so far removed from our experience of Christianity in the largely comfortable context of 21st century Hong Kong.

Such distance makes it difficult to imagine what these people were really like, their personalities, their strengths, their weaknesses, their failings; much of this is hidden behind the mystical aura of martyrdom as they pass into church legend, tradition and sometimes to the pages of history books. In that process, they can be transformed into romanticised ideals that we aspire to and admire but often at the expense of their humanity. They can become superhuman figures whose heroism and courage is beyond most of our experiences and whose glorious perfection makes the rest of us feel small, unworthy, and inadequate. 

What is important here is that these Christian martyrs are as human as the rest of us, they were not superhuman, perfect beings rushing towards martyrdom with a sense of glad acceptance or joy, they were simply Christians living out their faith and working for the spread of the Gospel in sometimes dangerous and unpredictable situations. They all had to make difficult choices in the face of adversity and those choices led them on a path to death for the sake of their faith.

In 2003, seven members of the Melanesian Brotherhood, an indigenous Anglican religious order of young men, the largest order in the Anglican Communion, were tortured and murdered on the island of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands. Members of the Brotherhood had taken a major role in peacemaking during an armed conflict in Solomon Islands and were instrumental in helping to limit the bloodshed, encouraging militants to negotiate for peace and in collecting weapons given up by former combatants. Yet, seven of them were brutally murdered by one of these militia groups in a crime which shocked everyone who knew them. Why had these simple peace-loving young men of God been so brutally murdered? They too are now remembered as martyrs by the Church.[1]

Their deaths had a profound impact on me, because I knew most of them personally, I had talked with them, laughed with them, eaten with them, prayed with them and taught some of them in the classroom. Perhaps the experience of actually knowing people who have died for their faith and in our own lifetime enables us to see the reality of martyrdom more clearly. They were, quite simply, seven brave young men with their own struggles, strengths and weaknesses, and yet they found themselves, like many other ‘martyrs’, having to make difficult decisions that led to deaths that touched and outraged a nation and beyond. 

They did not ask to die or bring death upon themselves, but were human beings simply following God’s call. The same God who when nailed to a cross moved from death to resurrection and by doing so created the conditions for a new life-giving and life-affirming power to flow. A power that flows through God’s people to touch and transform ordinary human beings who are faced with extraordinary situations. 

This idea is at the heart of what I want to reflect on, namely that instead of romanticising the great and glorious death of the martyr, we should instead reflect on the fact that martyrdom is the result of Christian faith and Christian love in action. It is the result of God’s call to love and of the consequences of following that call, by being a Christian in both word and action in difficult and dangerous situations and contexts. It is the call to discipleship and ultimately the cost of that discipleship. It is daring to believe and to love as did Christ, it is taking risks, it is making oneself vulnerable, it is the opening up of oneself to the other and for the sake of the Gospel. 

The two most important commandments that God gives us are to love God and to love your neighbour as you love yourself. But what kind of love is this? It is a dangerous love, a love that pushes the boundaries and moves us out of our comfort zones into the unknown. It is a love which compels us to go beyond the boundaries of our families, our friends, our tribes, our clans, our social clubs, our cultures, to a love for all humanity, regardless of race, colour, social location, status, belief or creed. It is a love that redefines the concept of neighbour, to include all peoples including our enemies as beautifully demonstrated by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews were enemies and hated one another, yet it is the Samaritan who stops to help the man in need, a Jew – his enemy – but in the context of Christian love, his neighbour.

It is this kind of love that has inspired many missionaries both foreign and indigenous to follow God’s call to distant lands and places, to people of different languages and cultures and to move often beyond their own luxuries, privileges and comfort zones to the unknown. To dare to preach the Gospel with a burning desire to share God’s love with all people. While there is much that can be said about complex missionary attitudes and reasons for conversion to Christianity, one reason at least, was that Christ offers a new way of living and loving, one that is inclusive and opens up a new possibility of living and being. It offers a new sense of hope for all.   

But to live and love in this way involves risks, it involves uncertainty, it involves vulnerability, it involves opening up oneself in the risk of relationship, and it also involves conflict. Conflict in the sense that to love one’s neighbour in the radical sense that Jesus taught and did himself, opens up the possibility for confrontation. Jesus made many enemies and found himself in conflict with the religious leaders and establishment of his day, and ended up being crucified because of it.

All of this begs the question that perhaps shakes our Christian faith to its very foundations, and it is the question why? We talk of God’s glorious power who through the resurrection has rescued all from the powers of darkness, but why do God’s people still die? Why are they still tortured and murdered? We talk of God’s peace and love for the world, but why do we still see acts of violence against God and God’s followers? We talk of God being an everlasting rock but why does God seem to allow his people to slip from his grasp and drown in the sea of violence below? Why are the cries of those who have suffered for their faith seemingly met with God’s crushing silence? Perhaps the key to some sort of an answer can be found in the following story:  

In 2002, the author Charles Montgomery came to Melanesia to research for his new book. While in Solomon Islands he met with members of the Melanesian Brotherhood and accompanied a group of Brothers on a mission to rescue a young boy held captive by one of the militant gangs east of the capital Honiara. The Brothers tried hard to convince the gang to let him go and to reconcile with the boy’s family but it was proving very difficult to convince them. Then one of the brothers stepped forward and Montgomery records what happened next:

And then Brother Francis stepped forward. He wore a shy half smile. He pulled off his wraparound sunglasses. He did not look at Johnson or at the militants. He gazed at the trampled earth as though looking right through it, then towards the deep green folds of the highlands, then up at the sky, and then bowed his head. The militants seemed transfixed by his movements, like charmed snakes. The bickering trailed off. Brother Francis spoke softly, and his voice was like a breeze blowing through the yard, rustling through the green grass, easing the weight of the humid afternoon. I could barely hear him. At first I thought he was reasoning with the militants. But his murmurs were too melodic for that. I realized he was praying when I noticed all the other bowed heads. The militants unclenched their fists. Their leader removed his aviator glasses. An immense calm settled on them all. Within minutes, the problem was settled.[2]  

What is remarkable about this story is that the militants were compelled to respond to the humility and quiet prayer of Brother Francis and as a result all anger and aggression was dispelled, to be replaced by calm and eventual reconciliation between wounded parties. How was this possible? What did those militants see in Brother Francis? Why did they respond in such a way?

It is in this situation that we see the power of God at work in Brother Francis through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Those around him are transformed and compelled to respond to his quiet humility and softly spoken prayer. A situation of violence and danger is transformed by God’s presence working through the prayers of Brother Francis not in a dramatic display of power from on high, but through the power of a softly spoken prayer.

Yet, just one year after the story of Brother Francis and his prayer, he was dead, tortured and murdered with the other six brothers on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal. How could God allow these murders to take place? Has God failed his people? In their moment of need, were these brothers met only with God’s crushing silence?  

At the heart of the Christian message is the story of love, it is a story which compels and demands that we love God and that we love others. But this is not an easy story, the call to love demands that we love those who we do not like, those who may even hate us, spit on us and ultimately, like in the case of so many Christian martyrs, may even kill us. But this is the love that Christ demonstrated on the cross, a love which transformed a situation of despair and loss into love and hope for the future in the resurrection. But it is also a cross that is not frozen in the past, but is rather a present and painful reality, a reality that many Christians have encountered face to face. The words of Jesus, to take up your cross and follow me, become real in the lives of so many Christian martyrs. 

And yet the seven Brothers may have been murdered, they may have been crucified as was Christ by the powers of darkness, but the impact of those murders transformed the nation of Solomon Islands wracked by conflict into one embracing a peace and hope for a better future in the light of the resurrection. Just as the cross leads to resurrection, death for the martyrs leads to life, life attested to in the faith of the many Christians holding on to their hope in the resurrected Christ. The deaths of the martyrs have not been in vain. 

How then does all of this relate to our lives in Hong Kong? As Christians we are called to love wherever we are, to love God and to love our neighbours. But it is a love which compels us to take risks, to push the boundaries in our own situations and contexts – to dare to love the ‘other’ – the enemy, the unlovable, the forgotten, the outcast. It is to take the risk of relationship, to become vulnerable in our own relationships, to open ourselves to others. Many martyrs have dared to believe and love in this way and they like us are not superhuman beings with an aura of perfection, but human as we are, with the same strengths, weaknesses, limitations and frustrations as the rest of us. Daring to believe and daring to love then, is something that we, like the martyrs, are called to do in whatever situation we find ourselves in. The heart of Christian faith is love – it cannot be avoided – in order to be Christian, we must love.   

:: Dr Matthew Jones will be teaching Introduction to Christian Theology (THL111) and God and Humanity (THL245) for the BTh programme next semester.



[1] For further reading on this incident please see: Carter, Richard Anthony, In Search of the Lost: The death and life of seven peacemakers of the Melanesian Brotherhood ( Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2006).

Carter, Richard Anthony, and Jude Alfred, Lessons Learnt from Indigenous Methods of Peacemaking with Particular Reference to the Role of the Melanesian Brotherhood and the Religious Communities, Pacific Journal of Theology 33, 2 (2005): 69-81.

[2] Charles Montgomery, The Last Heathen: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004), 268.

Learning Behind the Scenes 鏡頭後的神學課

新學年伊始,明華特別走訪幾位講師,透過短片介紹學院本季的課程。為符合短片的精簡原則,有不少精彩又有趣的觀察和內容未及出現在短片中,寫/畫滿一紙的另類神學筆記,又豈能不分享?

Continue reading Learning Behind the Scenes 鏡頭後的神學課