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Widening the Church’s Work

MDiv candidate Wing Yin Li on resistance, diversity, and the kingdom of God
News Wing Yin Li

Just a few months before Wing Yin Li traveled from Hong Kong to begin her studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, she found herself in the middle of a protest movement. Li was one of many Christians and others in Hong Kong who prayed and marched for democracy in the summer of 2019. Now, as a third-year MDiv student planning for future ministry, she hopes to help the church anticipate the kingdom of God in both its resistance to oppression and its care for diverse communities.

After studying philosophy and theology at the University of Edinburgh, Li worked in ministry for two more years in the United Kingdom before moving back to Hong Kong for a year. She knew she was called to further work in the church, and she knew she wanted to attend a seminary where she could “study theology in community.” That led her to Princeton Seminary, where she enrolled in the fall of 2019.

The Hong Kong protests broke out after Li had already decided to attend the Seminary, and they were still ongoing during her first year in New Jersey. “[The turmoil] really affected my first year of study here,” Li says, but she received support from Seminary community members, especially Professor Emerita Elsie McKee and Bryant M. Kirkland Minister of the Chapel Jan Ammon. She also gathered signatures from the Seminary community on a letter of support that was published in the Christian Times newspaper in Hong Kong.

Li serves as a student research partner at the Office of Multicultural Relations (OMR), and in 2021 she helped organize the OMR’s Forums on Faith, Culture, and Diversity. As she developed ideas, contacted potential speakers, and pulled together the event, she hoped to provide a platform for voices that often go unheard.

For Li, acknowledging that diversity is present in a community is “only the first step.” Next comes the work of “consider[ing] how such diversity can be welcomed, embraced, and included in the community.” This means not only listening to the concerns of everyone in the community, but putting marginalized people in positions to make decisions about how the community operates.

But it’s also not enough for the church to simply welcome more people into its doors, Li says. “I think the walls of the church have to be broken [down]. Church cannot remain inside a building, or even within just one community.”

Christian participation in the Hong Kong protests, Li says, is one model for this kind of social action. By singing hymns, holding prayer meetings, and marching in their precarious bodies on the streets as a means of resistance, Christian protestors were doing “embodied prophetic work.” Like the apocalyptic texts in the Bible, she says, they were resisting imperial claims to ultimate power and pointing beyond the reality one can see and toward the kingdom of God.

After graduating from Princeton Seminary later this month, Li will be working at Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Ewing, New Jersey as a pastoral associate. She hopes to become a pastor-scholar and study further the relationship between the apocalyptic and political resistance. “How can the apocalyptic traditions enrich the theology of resistance?” she asks.

In Li’s view, political resistance, diverse communities, and the witness of scripture all call the church to a wider kind of work in the world. “If our churches are going to respond to today’s world,” she says, “we have to reimagine the space for worship and the space for practicing faith.”

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church, Crystal City, Missouri

Joshua Noah, Class of 2015

“Through my field education placement at Trinity Presbyterian Church in East Brunswick, New Jersey, I discovered my gift to minister to all age groups.”