Rev. Dr. Carolyn Schneider

Christmas 2016, Part I

Dear Friends and Partners,

Christmas greetings to you from me in Hong Kong. I want to share the Christmas message with you via the ceramic relief sculpture below, from the Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Macau. Macau is an island close to Hong Kong that was a center for many of the early Christian missions in Asia. I took the students in my History of Christianity in Asia course there last month to visit the sites that were so important for the spread of the church in Asia. This photo was taken by LTS student Ngui Au Sze, a Malaysian pastor now writing a Master of Theology thesis about the significant role of female deacons in the history of her church, the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia.

I love this nativity scene because everyone is there - all the characters from the story in Matthew's gospel plus all the characters from the story in Luke's gospel (plus some characters not mentioned in either gospel). It's not a quiet manger scene but a crowded and active one, appropriate to Macau and Hong Kong. Every figure, from king and soldier to angel and cow, is intensely interested in what is happening in the manger, although for different reasons.

Christmas in Hong Kong is that intense. It seems like everyone is here. The malls play Christmas carols endlessly, while thousands of people stream across the border from mainland China to go shopping. Most of our local students are working hard in their churches, and, although some of our international students go home, many stay in Hong Kong because it's too expensive to go home or because their visas don't allow re-entry if they leave before their studies are finished. I'm staying, too, and will spend Christmas day at church with Filipinas who are here to work in the homes of local families. Along with us all will be many people from around the world who have come to Hong Kong seeking refuge and asylum from war or persecution.
Rev. Dr. Carolyn Schneider

Christmas 2016, Part II

On December 20, after the last exam has been taken and the last term paper handed in, my LTS "family" of eight students and one English teacher, ELCA missionary Jenna Bergeson, will have a day of volunteering at Crossroads, an organization that helps refugees and other people in need. We will go bearing gifts in our backpacks: about 50 bottles of shampoo that were donated by a local Korean congregation. In order to get to Crossroads, we will have to go through some of those crowded malls because the main train stations of the metro system are located inside malls. Although I do not enjoy the super-crowds and I can easily become cynical about the Christmas carols, thinking, "Why do the stores play these songs that are meaningless to employees and customers alike?," I will let this nativity scene from St. Joseph's Church remind me hat Jesus is not present only in the quiet scene of a hushed stable at midnight. He is also at the center of the uproar, in the middle of the chaos, when everyone is there, including those who know that something is going on but don't have a clue what it really means.

I hope that what this picture shows is as welcome to you as it is to me. Living as a foreigner in another country, I often feel clueless about what is going on around me and what it means. I am so glad that the future of the world does not depend on the state of my mind, and that Jesus does not wait for everything to settle down, but the Savior is born right into this swirling world.

Christ's peace to you.
Rev. Dr. Carolyn Schneider

Easter 2016

Fu Huo Jie (blessed resurrection holiday)! In these past weeks, churches all over Hong Kong have gathered to celebrate Christ's resurrection with you. This year, Easter in Hong Kong has had an added twist because Easter Sunday coincided exactly with the traditional Chinese festival celebrating the start of spring, qing ming jie (spring festival).

One of the things that happens during qing ming jie is that families visit the graves of their loved ones to sweep and clean them. How fitting to have so much life going on around the graves on a day when Christians are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. The women went to Jesus' tomb to tend his dead body, but it was no longer confined there.

Epitaphs in the Christian cemetery just next to the seminary witness to the hope that Christians have that we, too, will share in the resurrected life of Jesus. We experience that new life in small ways even now.

Here is the grave of Anna Martinson, "awaiting the resurrection." She was the mother of the ninth president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Harold Hauge Martinson, who was in that office from 1956-1967. Four years later, the seminary would have its first Chinese president, Andrew Hsiao Ken-Hsieh (1971-1993). When he died, his ashes were placed by the fish pond in the center of the campus, where his epitaph proclaims the message of Isaiah 43:19, "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

How fitting, too, that Easter and spring should be celebrated together, when creation itself seems to witness to the possibility of new life. Hong Kong, which means "fragrant harbor," is truly fragrant in the spring. Many trees and plants are in bloom, including the bauhinia tress. The sweet-smelling bauhinia flower is the symbol of Hong Kong, appearing in stylized form on the flag of Hong Kong.
Rev. Dr. Carolyn Schneider

Meet Rev. Schneider

Carolyn teaches church history at the Lutheran Theological Seminary to help prepare leaders not only for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong, but also for the churches of the broader region in China and southeastern Asia. She works with students and colleagues on campus and participates in the seminary's pastoral and educational support of congregational ministries off campus by preaching, teaching, and administering the sacraments.

Scottish Country Dancing, organic gardening and landscaping, walking outdoors, cooking and eating international foods, listening to classical music.

Additional Information from Carolyn:
I am learning Mandarin in order to become more effective. I was a "missionary kid," born and reared in the Philippines. In 2005-2006, I spent 7 months participating in the World Council of Churches; Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. In 2012, I spent 2 semesters teaching at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt. I have published one book, "I Am a Christian: The Nun, The Devil, and Martin Luther" (Fortress, 2010). I am working on a second book about a fourth-century Coptic sermon from Egypt on love and self-control.
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