TTC sets sight on being the Theological education centre of excellence in Asia
THE official opening of Trinity Theological College’s new campus at John Wesley Centre at Upper Bukit Timah marks yet another milestone in the college’s history as it takes up the challenge to be a theological education centre of excellence in Asia.
Established by the Methodist, Anglican and Presbyterian churches 53 years ago at Mt Sophia as a training ground for pastors and church leaders, both here and Malaysia, the college now has students from most South-east Asian countries as well as those from other parts of the world.
The Lutheran Church in Singapore and Malaysia joined the college as governors in 1963, increasing the number of governing churches to four.
In his message to the college, President S. R. Nathan, who was a special guest, at its opening on March 16, 2002, praised TTC’s contributions to theological education over the years with its alumni of more than 1,300 graduates now serving in churches and welfare institutions in over 40 countries.
“In these troubled times, the college’s emphasis that religion can and ought to enhance community relations and promote harmony amongst people of different ethnic, cultural and religious differences is to be applauded,” he wrote.
In his sermon at the official opening service held at the college’s new chapel, former TTC principal Bishop John Chew of the Anglican Church in Singapore, who is also Chairman of the TTC Board of Governors, praised the Lord for His grace to enable the college build its new Upper Bukit Timah campus.
He recalled that there were anxieties and uncertainties over TTC’s future when it had to move out of its campus at Mt Sophia when the Government decided to acquire its land for the development of the North-east MRT line in 1996. But the anxieties soon turned to joy as the leaders of the four churches and their members rallied behind one another to relocate the college and embark on the new building project at Upper Bukit Timah which took two years to complete.
The successful move and completion of the new campus at a cost of almost $40 million, he believed, signified the time-tested, close fraternal fellowship and partnership among TTC’s governing churches.
With a modern and expanded campus, which includes a three-storey library containing more than 57,000 books and reference materials, more rooms at its hostel to increase the intake of residential students, computer labs and its new chapel with its unique roof design in the shape of the Chinese character, “ren”, a new chapter of the college’s continuing growth has begun.
The estimated 1,200 guests and friends who attended the college’s opening, toured the campus grounds before the official opening service and were impressed by what they saw.
Smiling and friendly tour guides, comprising mainly students, proudly showed them the college’s new facilities such as the library, hostels, administrative block, lecture and tutorial rooms, gymnasium and cafeteria.
Other special guests included Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who was then the Acting Minister for Community Development, several Members of Parliament, and leaders from other churches and principals of seminaries. Many alumni, friends and supporters came from overseas.
TTC reaching out more to region and China
Also present were two delegations of church leaders and officials from China. The two delegations, each comprising six members, were the China Christian Council and the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
Methodist Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, who is also a former TTC principal, told Methodist Message that the presence of the guests from China showed the growing links between the college and churches in China.
“With greater recognition of TTC’s courses by the Chinese churches, TTC is expected to have more students coming from China in future,” he said.
Agreeing, TTC’s principal, the Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, said that 13 of the college’s present enrolment of 220 full-time students are from China, and he expects the number to rise.
From its early days as a theological college to train only pastors and church leaders in Singapore and Malaysia, the Rev Dr Ngoei noted, TTC had grown over the years to provide for students from other South-east Asian countries, Asia and beyond, and now China.
“With the completion of our new campus, TTC is moving towards a new phase as it makes an important contribution to the theological education scene in Asia,” he said.
Forty-three per cent of the total number of students currently pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies represent some 20 countries.
The Rev Dr Ngoei, himself a graduate of TTC, believed that enrolment would continue to increase to reach the college’s optimum capacity of about 300 students. However, he would like to see TTC develop its potential to also be a research-based theological college with more publications, journals and other research materials to be comparable to leading seminaries in the West.
Another focus of the college is in theological education for the lay people, especially with the recent formation of the Centre for the Development of Christian Ministry, the lay training arm of TTC.
The centre now organises regular conferences and annually runs 12 evening programmes (eight in English and four in Mandarin), each of eight weeks’ duration, in every semester at TTC’s premises as well as at St Andrew’s Cathedral and Fairfield Methodist Church.
About 1,000 people attend the programmes each year, which are mainly based on biblical studies and issues and questions of Christian doctrine and Christian living.
“We are planning to conduct more studies on the books of the Bible next year,”‘ said the Rev Dr Ngoei.
Leong Weng Kam, a member of the Methodist Message Editorial Board, is a member of Wesley Methodist Church.