Theological education is for whole communities, not just individuals.
Urban ministry reaches across the city’s socioeconomic, ethnic, generational, and faith boundaries. All should be able to gather at the table and find God’s peace. How can theological education in the city further this goal?
Maria Liu Wong addresses this question through the lens of her experience as a British-Chinese immigrant to Long Island, a missionary kid, a wife and mother, and the provost of City Seminary of New York. Using autoethnographic methodology, Liu Wong presents anecdotes and images from her life, with which she thinks broadly about how theological education functions in the city, both formally and informally. What she finds is that theological education is less about individuals accruing knowledge and more about communities growing in wisdom together—as a family, as friends, as colleagues, as coleaders. In these pages, seminary and university professors will find ways to learn with and from not just individual students, but the communities they comprise. Pastors and ministry leaders will find inspiration and encouragement in the ways our lives form our faith and future in the city.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments 1. Waiting 2. Family 3. Friends 4. Learning 5. Leading 6. Becoming For Further Thought Notes
Maria Liu Wong (EdD, Teachers College, Columbia University) is provost of City Seminary of New York, and codirects a major national initiative there, Ministry in the City HUB. She is the coauthor of Stay in the City: How Christian Faith is Flourishing in an Urban World.
“In her book, On Becoming Wise Together, Provost Maria Liu Wong invites readers to peek into an intimate theological journey of her everyday life. Liu Wong, who is Chinese, British, and American, portrays the richness of her lived experiences around the globe and positions herself as a cultural learner and friend. This autobiographical theological reflection narrates her familial ancestry and others she has met on her journey. As an educator, mother, and spouse, Maria embodies Urban ministry that is communal, innovative, and thus accessible. Pastors and educators will find the book refreshing.“ — Rev. Young Lee Hertig, PhD, executive director of Innovative Space for Asian American Christianity (ISAAC)
“In a theological discourse more often obsessed with a precision of words than integration of life, Maria Liu Wong offers a refreshing counterpoint. Here is a faith pilgrimage that is believable because it accurately depicts the gem tumbler of modern life: faith seeking to become personhood precisely through our participation in intricate, often incommensurable contexts.” — Anne Snyder, editor-in-chief, Comment Magazine
“This simple yet profound book requires ‘slow reading’. Its joys and challenges are not found in the security of closed categories but rather in the many conjunctions, confluences and intersections it presents. Family and friendship, community and Church, become radically open terms as we are shown how they become enmeshed together in transforming relationships and vulnerable entanglements. These take place not in some idealised sphere but in everyday encounters in the contemporary city. Wisdom dwells here, where all the busy roads cross. And her children are with her; waiting, working, and becoming wise together.” — Heather Walton, professor of theology and creative practice, University of Glasgow
“If theological education is inherently designed by/with/for affection, attention, and aspiration, then this book is a sense-filled choreography offered by an ever-creative artistic director for an entirely new “curriculum” that defies the paradigms of an age-old enterprise in desperate need of transformation. Chasséing in and out of in-between spaces, Maria Liu Wong draws us into (auto)ethnographic story-worlds that give witness to incredible, inspiring, transnational, interracial, intercultural, interdenominational, interreligious, and intergenerational bonds of love, courage, witness, and hope. Our senses are blown open by the sights, sounds, smells which this master teacher conjures. She even teaches us how to read her book differently. A clever recipe for dissolving our prior assumptions about the telos of theological formation, learning, and leading. Imagine theological education as a dance by/with/for children, youth, young adults, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, families, friends, neighbors, churches, and communities—for peace in the city and the flourishing of God’s people and world. What a wonderful new world: Theological education through everyday faith and life…for all…and it is possible!” — Mai-Anh Le Tran, associate professor of religious education and practical theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
“In this brilliant work of theological reflection, Maria Liu Wong articulates a vision of collective wisdom for faith and learning communities. From the places of family, friends, and educational community, the author makes both a compelling case for learning from and with difference rather than being pulled into the current social conflicts of our day, as she lays bare the limitations of Western individualism that plagues theologies in the North American context. The book itself is a well narrated journey of becoming wise with others through the power of multiple, diverse communities.” — Frank Yamada, executive director of The Association of Theological Schools
“Maria Liu Wong models what theology- knowing God - is all about, a holistic, whole-life adventure that happens in God’s messy but beautiful community. And theological formation is for everyone - not just the academic theologian! Through her personal stories, Liu Wong illustrates how power dynamics, human feelings, good intentions misunderstood, and ethnic/cultural/social differences intertwine, but when held before God in humility, allow wisdom to emerge. For all of us who desire to be deeply God-formed, this inspiring book models a way forward, not alone, but with family, friends, colleagues and the global church.” — Kathy Tuan-Maclean, national director of faculty ministry, Intervarsity Fellowship
“On Becoming Wise Together is as much about theological education as it is about friendship with God. Liu Wong’s beautiful memoir displays how our knowledge, love and worship of God is only possible because of the gift of others that God puts in our lives: family, colleagues, friends, and even strangers. They are the ones who help us to become wise, holy and ‘catholic’. Maria’s life and work is a radiant example of the kinds of theological education needed in this era of world Christianity.” — Emmanuel Katongole, Phd professor of theology and peace studies, University of Notre Dame
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