Recovering a Sense of Place
By Michael Nai-Chiu Poon
Professor Oliver O’Donovan mentored me in Toronto and Oxford. I am indebted to him and his wife, Dr. Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, for all I am able to do in my ministry. Professor O’Donovan taught me three courses at Wycliffe, Toronto: “Introduction to Theology,” Autumn 1977; “Philosophical Issues in Christian Ethics,” Spring 1979; and “The Church,” Spring 1980. Lecture notes and course essays, with O’Donovan’s page-long handwritten comments, are among my precious belongings after 30 years and many moves to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore. Sentimentality is not my reason for keeping them. Instead, I have revisited them on many occasions, each time with deepening understanding, for discerning present tasks, in lands and in situations with which O’Donovan had little personal contact.
O’Donovan arrived in Toronto in 1977, the year that Wycliffe College celebrated its centenary, from his previous work at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. This step across the Atlantic to the rising land, “true North strong and free,” as the Canadian national anthem describes it, was imbued with wider significance. The end of the 1970s was a time of profound global changes within North American societies and the worldwide Anglican family of churches.
The Anglican Communion, too, moved “out into the open sea,” as the Anglican Consultative Council said in its report from London, Ontario, in 1978. The Communion was shifting from scattered extra-provincial churches centred on England and America into a family of autonomous churches worldwide. The Primates’ Meeting, the fourth and final Instrument of Communion, came into being in 1978.
The Rev. Canon Michael Poon is director and Asian Christianity coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College, Singapore, and a member of the Living Church Foundation.