In this series on creative happenings in theological education the issue of books has already come up in relation to:
Distance Education (access to books and how students get training in research even with new technologies)
Poverty (when unresourced Bible Schools and seminaries don’t have much money the books item in the budget is often the first thing to be reduced)
Copyright (providing access)
Language and culture (many of the books are written by authors in different contexts and there is a need for books targeted for doing theology and ministry in the context of the readers). It is interesting to see the recent and vigorous discussion about whether the time is ripe for a new series of Biblical commentaries and theology books written by Asian theologians and for the Asian context.
Here are two more creative ideas that are happening in connection with books:
Roving pastor and chairman of the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), Isaac Yim, says in his travels, “I am experimenting with some simple approaches at the grass root level in remote places. [These include]:
* Providing 10 basic books for pastors in the language they can read and at the level of their understanding.
* Setting up theological libraries in remote areas, like the Baptist Bible College in Kathmandu, Nepal or some places in China. I have a project to raise funds to buy books for them in these two places—English books and Chinese books. I have friends who donate good used books to theological schools. English books are more readily available than any other languages.
Rod Benson is a pastor, teacher and Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics at Morling College, Sydney, Australia.
* Rod runs a book ministry called ‘Living Libraries’.
* He has many good books suited to undergraduate/graduate seminary studies and some funds to pay freight costs in sending them overseas. Most books donated to ‘Living Libraries’ come from retiring pastors or pastors moving from house to a retirement village.
* ‘Living Libraries’ is a vital ministry. Many students in Bible and Theological Colleges around the world have little or no access to even basic textbooks.
* The idea of ‘Living Libraries’ is simple: collect suitable books (new and used) from people, churches and other agencies and send them to people who need them.
* Where possible, they also seek to provide other assistance to colleges, such as subscriptions to periodicals.
* So far ‘Living Libraries’ has sent over 8,000 books to 14 locations in nine countries! More information is available from this link.
Thank you for these ideas. Are there any other creative schemes you are willing to share about ‘the parchments and the scrolls’?
Dr Geoff Pound
Further Comment received from South Africa Theological Seminary (SATS):
Just thought we would touch base again and let you know that in South Africa, as I’m sure in other countries, we have the Dramatic Arts and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO). Membership with DALRO, as an educational institution, provides us the opportunity to copy up to 10% of any published book to collate Readers for each of our subjects. This Reader is provided free of charge to our student as and when they pay for their study module. This has helped our students tremendously with access to appropriate theological resources. We have a number of websites also available to our students with access to theological journals and other resources. This of course aids distance learning considerably. Our full-time librarian is also able to scan a section or chapter of a required book and upload it onto our secure student site for a student to download – anywhere in the world. Information at our fingertips.
All the best,
In the three Theological Colleges I have visited this year the libraries were very sparse, due both to shortage of funds and lack of materials in the local language, though I was able to make good use of the Africa Bible Commentary (2006) which is in English. It has occured to me that one more long term answer may be to skip to the next generation of knowledge transfer and make use of something similar to the cheap wind-up laptops now being developed for distribution in third world countries by putting at least commentaries and classics in English on their hard drive. This would have the added advantage of getting more to the village pastors for whom TEE materials are the only resource.