Our Glorious Years in Union Biblical Seminary

Posted: June 20, 2021 in General

The Union Biblical Seminary (with the acronym UBS), Pune, Maharashtra, India, was our home during the last thirteen years (2008-2021). I still remember our first day in June 2008 when I alongside of my family members stepped into the UBS campus as a Faculty Member. I came to the seminary after four years of my service as a Junior Faculty member at the Serampore College, Hooghly, West Bengal. As UBS being a seminary affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College and accredited to the Asia Theological Association, I got enormous opportunities to grow up as a learner, teacher, preacher, conference speaker, researcher, scholar, and above all a servant of God. The faculty and students representation from wider geographical, ethnic, and denominational backgrounds revived and exposed me to the varied cultural and theological convictions of the country.

The period in UBS was some of the most productive days in my academic and spiritual life. On June 19, 2014, I defended my PhD Dissertation at Radboud University Nijmegen (under a renowned Johannine scholar, Prof. Jan van der Watt) while I was a faculty member in UBS. I had a wonderful privilege of doing a post-doctoral research on Saint Thomas the Apostle: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions in Ecole Biblique and Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Fuller Theological Seminary, California; Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey; Harvard Divinity School, Massachusetts; Tyndale House and Cambridge University; Oxford University; Oxford Centre for Mission Studies; British Museum; and British Library in UK. While a member of the faculty, I had wonderful privileges to attend international seminars and colloquiums like 500th Anniversary of Reformation in Wittenberg, Germany; Johannine Colloquium in Aarhus University, Denmark; SBL/AAR Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia; Johannine Research in Leuven, Belgium; and various research seminars in University of Amsterdam and Free University, Amsterdam; Theological University, Kampen; Utrecht University, Utrecht; Leiden University, Leiden; Groningen University, Groningen; and other universities in Holland. I made use of all those occasions to expand the connections between UBS and some of the prestigious universities across the globe.

Ministerial involvement was another area where I equipped myself alongside of the UBS graduates spread across the globe. I received large number of invitations from Nepal, Bangladesh, and different parts of India like Delhi, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and the North Eastern States for various involvements. The churches irrespective of denominational barriers in Pune, Nasik, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Mumbai, Ahmed Nagar, Solapur, Baramati, Paud, and other places often extended their invitation to me as a resource person. My continuous involvement in the ministry of the NICOG church in Pune was a great blessing for me and my family enjoyed it with all fondness. Churches in Pune and Mumbai like St. Paul’s Church, Oldham Methodist Church, CFCC Church, CORe Church, CNI Paud Church, IPC Church, First Contextual Church, Church of God, AG Church, and others often extended their invitation to me as a preacher, Bible teacher, and conference speaker. Organizations like YWAM ministries (Lonavala, Pune, Mysore, and Delhi), New Life Ministries (Borivali, Mumbai), Mukti Udharan Seva Trust (Pune), Pandita Ramabhai Mukti Mission (Kedgaon), Maharashtra Fellowship for Deaf (MFD), Asian Academy for Leadership and Peace (Daund), Kolhapur Churches Council (Kolhapur), Narayan Vaman Tilak Trust (Ahmed Nagar), YMCA and YWCA (Pune), and other organizations were a blessing for me to exposit the Biblical passage.

Institutions like Christian Institute of Management (CMI), Chennai; Ecumenical Christian Center (ECC), Bangalore; Vineyard Ministries in Malaysia; Church of God Ministries in Lalmonirhat and Dhaka, Bangladesh; Nepal Ebenezar Bible College, Kathmandu; Nepal Theological College, Kathmandu; Nepal Theological Association, Kathmandu; Everest Theological Seminary, Kathmandu; Beth-Shalom School of Theology, Kathmandu; Hindustan Bible Institute, Chennai; Rhema Bible Seminary, Kerala and others considered me as their well-wisher and ministry partner on multifarious occasions. UBS Extension centres like Tyrannus Hall, Women’s Studies Department, Nepal Center, Indore Center, Ahmednagar Center, Kolhapur Center, Bangladesh Center, and others opened their ministerial platform for me on various occasions.

In the academic level, I developed a lot of connections at the local, national, and international levels while remaining as a member of faculty in UBS. I published and completed some of my monographs and edited works as a faculty member at UBS, like: (1) The Nature and Function of Dialogue in the Book of Signs [John 1:19-12:50] (Proefschrift; Nijmegen, Holland: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 2014); (2) Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12:50 (Leiden/Boston: E. J. Brill, 2015); (3) Saint Thomas the Apostle: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions (Jewish and Christian Texts Series 25; London and New York: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2018); (4) Serampore Mission: Perspectives in Contexts (Edited work; New Delhi/Pune: ISPCK/Union Biblical Seminary, 2019); (5) The Gospel of John: A Universalistic Reading (New Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2020); (6) Yuhanna Rachith Susamachar (Hindi Translation; Pune: Union Biblical Seminary, 2021); (7) Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality (Edited work with Mathew Chandrankunnel; New Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2021); (8) An Asian Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2021; in the press); and (9) A Commentary on John: Asia Bible Series (Langham Press, upcoming). I also started organizing an edited volume for Oxford University Press with a title Reading the New Testament in India and awaiting its completion soon. More than three years I served as the General Editor of Union Biblical Seminary Journal and produced several issues of the journal. It was my privilege to contribute academic articles published in peer reviewed journals like HTS Theological Studies, Acta Theologica, MDPI: Religions, Journal of Asian Evangelical Theology, Asia Journal of Theology, SATHRI Journal, Bible and Interpretation, Bangalore Theological Forum, and many others.

What I learned and what I advise are that when we faithfully engage in God’s work, people around us are often disturbed. My conviction is that we should not do and involve in things that we are not called for. When we are not able to understand our divine call, we often involve in everything and remain frustrated by the end. People of this sort can survive only for a short span of time. If you are interested in a long lasting result, there is no substitute for hard work. Be acquainted with God and be friendly with people around. If someone disguise your genuine friendship to her/his personal benefits, identify such people and do not trust them anymore. Be yourself rather than becoming someone else. Ultimately God is with the righteous and industrious people. Let us please God, not Mammon!

My last working day in UBS shall be June 30, 2021. We earnestly pray for a smooth transition as we look forward for our future ministry for God’s kingdom and glory. UBS is always in our hearts and also in our prayers.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Union Biblical Seminary


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