29 Sep The Ancient Art of Engaging the Campus for Christ
When I entered Singapore Polytechnic, I was a new Christian. Converted in 1972, I was enthusiastic to join PCF, which also underwent a spiritual revival at that time. During my time, PCF had three subcommittees taking care of three SP campuses: Ayer Rajah Campus (ARC), Princess Mary Campus (PMC), and Prince Edward Campus (PEC). On each campus, there were two main programmes organised regularly throughout the year. One is a lunch-time meeting (every Tuesday) and the other is the fellowship meeting (every Thursday).
On a good day, especially at PEC, the attendance at lunch-time meetings could reach up to 250 students. It was around 10% of the total population of SP and PCF was the strongest Christian presence on campus then. Why was it so popular? Most of the people who came for lunch-time meetings were seekers who wanted to know more about Christianity. Many talks were on Christian apologetics (e.g. Is there a God?). Another possible reason for its popularity, as I remember what Dr Peter Cooley (the PCF advisor then) noticed, was that PCF provided a calming and edifying presence. The campus was quite chaotic during those days as many students disappeared for days doing various counter-productive activities.
We were told to look out for each other, especially those who joined the fellowship meetings. All the students took this advice very seriously. We spent plenty of time organising casual gatherings for the PCFers. We even occupied one specific corner at PEC Canteen where we used to gather, hang around, and check up on one another through the week. We called ourselves Christians first (or PCFers first), and students second. We jokingly admitted then that was why most of our grades were not that great.
I remember one incident in the beginning of the 1974 academic year. As part of the “poly tradition”, the seniors were rowdy and often hostile to the new students. They would bully the new students with various orientation pranks and nonsensical idiosyncrasies. I could sense that many freshmen felt intimidated and scared. It created a tense atmosphere even before school started.
At one of our PCF Exco meetings, we discussed how we, as Christians, might do something about the situation to turn it around. So, we, a group of seniors from PCF, decided to protect the freshmen on the day of orientation day and escorted them to collect their welcome package. We made sure that the freshmen did not have to be the victims of those threats the seniors put on them. Were we terrified? Of course, we were. Moreover, some of us knew the seniors who were notorious for bullying. They were our classmates which we would possibly have to work together with in class projects. However, as we believed that defending the weak was the right thing to do, we persisted and got ourselves ready for the possible backlash from the seniors. Gratefully, it never happened.
Little did we realise that this unpresumptuous initiative made a real heartfelt impression upon the freshmen. They wondered who we were – a group of seniors, whom they never knew, but were caring and bold enough to protect them from school bullies. During further conversations with the freshmen afterwards, we encountered opportunities to live out the message of the Good News. Perhaps this is one little “ancient” thing which we did and can be considered as what FES now calls “engaging the whole campus for Christ!”
Looking back, my life in PCF has fundamentally shaped the way I lived my life many decades after. If I may, I would like to end by encouraging the future generation of students to read two of the most read books by the PCFers of my time: Give Up Your Small Ambitions and Take My Life, both by Michael Griffiths. Read them and I trust that your life will no longer be the same!
Vincent Hoon studied Electronic and Communications Engineering in Singapore Polytechnic (SP) from 1973 to 1976. He served as the chairperson of the Polytechnic Christian Fellowship (PCF) Exco in 1975/76. Vincent was a missionary in the Philippines for many years, and then pastored in different churches under the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He now oversees the English Ministry at Church of True Light.