The Pursuit of Wisdom - An interview with Kelvin Yu
Fellowship with brothers and sisters of Glasgow Chinese Christian Church
Kelvin (second from the right), his parents and his wife.
Interviewed and written by
Our new director of Theological Education by Extension, Kelvin Yu, was not only a graduate of our Master of Divinity (MDiv) program in 2009 and our Master of Theology (ThM) program in 2013, but also the first graduate of our Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program jointly awarded by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and the China Graduate School of Theology (CGST).
Seeking knowledge from books and through pastoral ministry
The jointly awarded PhD program was launched in 2013. This was when Kelvin just finished his ThM study. He had intended to continue his studies but he did not at that moment. “I was a bit exhausted after the ThM study, so I took a one-year break.” Isn’t it true that much study wearies the body? In fact, Kelvin has always been outstanding in his academic performance. Taking courses, and writing papers should not be difficult to him at all. It is how to cope with his extremely high self-expectation that wears him out. “I finished the thesis quickly and smoothly, but the process of writing the paper was very stressful. I still remember when I started to write, I kept saying to myself, ‘I must write a very good one.’ This is something I need to deal with and I am still working on it.”
During that gap year, Kelvin continued to serve as a volunteer pastor at The Church of Christ in China Quarry Bay Church. He has been serving there since the practicum of his MDiv study. He then served at the same church fulltime, and later as a volunteer pastor until today. “I reckon that my gifts are indeed in studies and research, pastoral ministry may not be suitable for, or even a challenge to me. Yet, I really wanted to serve as a pastor in the church, at least for a short period of time, before I continued my studies.” His heart to serve came from the tradition of Kelvin’s mother church, Christian Central Church, as well as his calling while he was a student. He continued serving in the church when he was studying in Edinburgh. Having referred by a deacon of a local Chinese church, he served there by studying Bible with students from Mainland China and Taiwan. “Serving in the churches all these years not only broadens my horizons, but also brings me thoughts from different perspectives, and I realized my gift in the area of teaching.”
While Kelvin was in full time pastoral ministry, he had the opportunity to study and teach The Epistle of James with brothers and sisters. He gradually had a new understanding of this book, which later developed into the research topic of his PhD thesis. “I tried to study the community tension presented in The Epistle of James and The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) from the perspective of hermeneutics and the application of the recent social science theories. I tried to explain how the teaching of these two books help to cope with the conflicts among different communities.”
Seeking truth from social phenomena and in the Word of God
In September 2014, Kelvin left Hong Kong, which had been torn apart and was about to burst into intense conflicts, and went to Edinburgh for his studies. “As soon as I arrived there, the Umbrella Movement began. One of the main motivations of my thesis was learning about the many theories and ways on conflict management or resolution in recent years, all of which are very helpful. However, for the faith community, the core value is to maintain the unity of the community when conflicts arose. We must return to a question, “Who are we? What kind of community are we?” This is the “social identity” mentioned in the sociological theories. When applying my study to the real-life situation at the church community, nevertheless there is much to be done. We have to think more deeply.”
The PhD study requires Kelvin to stay at the University of Edinburgh for the first year, submitting the outline of his thesis and taking the foundation courses. Half way through the study, he returned to CGST to continue his research and writing. In the final half year, he had to return to Edinburgh to complete his thesis and attend his viva. Travelling between two places and keeping close communication with the supervisors of both places were never an easy job, in fact Kelvin cherished this learning experience very much. “I see the benefits are quite obvious: in terms of the financial burden and life adjustment, it is much easier. Moreover, I could get acquainted with a wider range of teachers, students, communities, and culture, coupled with utilizing the resources of both places. I found all these enriching my study.” It only took Kelvin 36 months to complete the course requirements, passed the viva and finished his thesis without much revision. “Many people asked me, ‘How could you write your thesis so fast?’ Actually, upon submitting my application and preparing the outlines of my thesis, my supervisor, Rev Dr Luke Cheung, had helped me to think through the details. Therefore, I was able to start writing my thesis in the first month after arriving Edinburgh.”
People may think that Kelvin came from a liberal arts background. In fact, he was fond of mathematics since childhood. From his first degree to his post-graduate study, from being a teaching assistant until the first pursuit of his doctoral degree, he had been majoring in mathematics. “I really love mathematics. However, after I finished the paper of my master degree, I asked myself, ‘What do all these mean to me?’ Of course, mathematics is very important, but my research is not that ‘significant’. I felt like solving an IQ problem, which indeed is very satisfying.” Eventually, he put aside his doctoral studies, which had been nearly half way through. He then began his studies at CGST and fell in love with biblical studies, particularly the New Testament. “Well, perhaps for students with a science and mathematics background like myself, studying Greek, which is very logical, tends to be easier than Hebrew!”
Galileo Galilei, an Italian mathematician, once described mathematics as the language in which God has written the universe. It seems that Kelvin, from exploring mathematics to the love of New Testament studies, has returned to the source of wisdom and listens to God’s counsel and instruction.