Paul’s Correspondence and Today’s Distance Learning
Government officials are in disagreement whether to push through or not with the opening of classes this coming August 2020 due to the absence of a vaccine that could protect students and teachers from COVID-19. The president stated Monday night (May 25, 2020) that he is not keen on allowing schools to open in August unless a vaccine is available. Add to that the fact that not all students have access to internet for the online classes being pushed by public and private schools.
It is in this juncture that I remember Paul and his ministry of educating and nourishing churches and individuals while he is away or in prison. He used an extensive correspondence to manage, teach, instruct, appreciate, correct or rebuke churches and their leaders in the first century when internet and gadgets were far from being conceived in the minds and imaginations of our great inventors.
Of the 27 books of the New Testament, 13 was authored by the apostle Paul. These are letters to churches and individuals. Some call them Epistles or apostolic letters or simply put, correspondence with greetings, instructions, encouragement, and background information. Due to the rather large volume of Pauline correspondence, it contains most of the of Christian doctrine and application of Jesus’ teachings as described in the Gospels.
Let us take for example Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When we talk about this epistle, it is necessary that we talk about Epaphroditus too. He had brought information about the church in Philippi to Paul who was in prison in Rome awaiting his trial before the Emperor Nero, and delivered their gift to him. On his way home to Philippi he brought this letter of Paul which contains his thanksgiving for the gift that he received, encouragement and exhortation to the suffering community of believers in Philippi, who at that time was also experiencing some internal struggles. He urged them to emulate his examples and assured them that they will remain friends no matter what.
The church in Philippi was founded by Paul, Silas, and Timothy around A.D. 48-49. It is located at the eastern end of the wide plain of Macedonia on the very significant Egnatian Way, which connected Rome with Byzantium (later Constantinople and Istanbul). You may want to read the Epistle to grasp the entire message of Paul to this suffering yet generous church.
Epaphroditus traveled thousands of Miles from Philippi to Rome and vice versa, in his effort to bring Paul’s correspondence to his brethren. This epistle and the rest of his letters to various 1st century churches trained, encouraged, and developed their faith in Jesus.
Distance learning is defined as a method of studying in which lectures are broadcast or lessons are conducted by correspondence, without the student needing to attend a school or college (www.lexico.com). Teachers and students do not attend a school, or university but study from where they live usually being taught and given work to do over the internet (dictionary.cambridge.org). This is where the contention gets in because not all students have access to the internet, and not everyone has a mobile phone, tablet or computer.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in his virtual presser last Tuesday, May 26, 2020 over PTV News clarified that schools will have to “resort to flexible learning and will utilize television, radio and the internet” in conducting classes if “new normal” is not in place by August 24, 2020. Going back to the definition of distance learning mentioned above, this correspondence can also be considered as part of the flexible learning strategy where modules or teaching instructions will be delivered to the student’s residence and then collected afterwards for assessment and recording. This is added work for teachers and other personnel but this is something that all of us should think about.
Paul was able to instruct and teach his many congregations through correspondence during the 1st century, why can’t we do it today in the age of modern technology in terms of communication and transportation. Part of the problem is people’s initial and usual reaction to change. Most of us are uncomfortable when confronted with change. Let us try every available means first and adjust as we go along so no one is left behind. We learn as one!
Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart Douglas. Manila, Philippines: OMF Lit., Inc., 2002.
Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. ePub Format. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.