Going to the School of Theology means partaking of traditions that one is unlikely to ever experience anywhere else. Our SOT correspondent shares the thrills and spills of her team’s recent PA Week.
Life at the School of Theology is memorable for many things. To begin with, the entire cohort is divided into teams, and every student must belong to a team. These teams do nearly everything together.
One of the most unique (and fun) things about SOT is that every team will take turns to do Physical Arrangement or PA duty. Before I enrolled into this Bible school, I had heard many stories from alumni about the legendary “PA Week” and, to be honest, I was a little apprehensive. But now, having gone through the experience together with my team, I am glad to report that not only was it not stressful, it was a really creative and fun experience!
I was curious about how the PA Week came about and its history, so I had a chat with Cindy Ng, the school manager. She explained that PA Week started purely with the intention of getting a team of students to come early before school hours began to create a nice environment for the cohort to have their lessons. So the basic duties were to clean the classroom and common areas and to lay out the chairs. As the years went by, students started to get more and more creative, coming up with ideas to make the school week more joyful for the whole cohort. Decorations, providing food and snacks, entertainment (performances of worship songs, usually) even setting up prayer corners and giving out tokens of encouragement have become a part of PA Week for many cohorts.
Cindy explained that although none of these extra gestures are necessary, the SOT staff have indeed observed over the years that the experience of planning for a PA Week has bonded teams in a deep way. The staffers do remind the teams every year to be mindful of students, such as the young fresh-out-of-university students or the international students, who may not be able to afford too big a monetary contribution for the PA Week. Other than that, they are happy to let the students be as creative as they like!
SERVING THE COHORT
About three weeks before Team 5’s scheduled PA Week, our team met to brainstorm what we can do. Apart from the standard list of duties every team has to perform, such as setting up the classroom chairs, stage and digital board, the cleaning and ushering duties, every team is given free rein to be creative. Some teams choose to make beautiful decorations, others choose to provide snacks and drinks.
(Initially, we had grand plans of providing snacks and fruit platters, but unexpectedly, Pastor Kong called for a churchwide fast on the Tuesday to Thursday before the Easter weekend. So, to flow with the church’s direction and to encourage our fellow classmates to fast together, we decided to provide only hot beverages. Since it was the week leading up to Easter, we also gave everyone a chocolate Easter egg at the end of the week!)
The Monday of our PA Week, our whole team arrived bright and early at Jurong West with great anticipation. One last minute decision we made was to print a team T-shirt that we designed. Thankfully, the vendor was able to rush it out for us in time. I honestly felt so proud wearing the same tee together with my teammates on the first day of our PA Week. It made us feel so united as we embarked on our first major team project together.
The PA Week team has a list of duties to fulfil so we divided up the workload and different members handled different duties. Some handled attendance-taking of students. Some set up the classroom daily forming neat rows of chairs, ensuring that the digital board, pulpit, music stands and microphones are sanitised and ready for use. At the end of every day, we also had to ensure that the classroom and café were clean and tidy.
One of the key things the PA team does is to welcome the students to school every day, and that was when we had the most fun! We had different team members stationed at the lift lobby on Level 1 and at Level 4 (where our classroom is located) to greet the students as they arrive. The wide smiles and cheerful greetings of our ushers made every morning really happy and vibrant. I love the atmosphere in the morning before class—there is always such an air of expectancy!
The PA team is responsible for ensuring that students are seated for lessons punctually at the start of the day and after every break. Students are “chased” back to class by the formidable “ding ding ding” of the bell that every SOT student past and present would be familiar with. A small bell like that carries with it great authority! Five minutes before the start of class, the PA team rings the bell and then every minute thereafter.
It is such a comical sight to behold: once the first bell is rung, you see astonished faces and hear whispers of, “Huh, so fast??” and everyone starts scrambling to finish up their food, rush to the toilet or fill up their water bottles at the water dispenser. The ringing of the bell intensifies with every minute as fewer and fewer students are left outside the classroom. Honestly, it’s a lot fun for the PA team and every team member wants a turn at pressing the bell!
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
Team 5 prepared a Vision Board on the first day of our PA Week for the students to pen down what they hope to receive from the Lord during the week. Every day, different students would come by and write something inspiring. It was nice to read each and every comment and we really prayed that every one received what they hoped for and visualised!
Wearing our team T-shirts on the Monday got us “addicted” to coordinating our attires, so we decided to continue with it for the rest of the week! We had Blue Tuesday, Red Wednesday and concluded our PA week with team tee on Thursday again (It was a short week because Friday was Good Friday which was a public holiday and the first day of our church services). It was such a simple thing but we had so much fun doing it together. We took many photos every day and I still love seeing all our coordinated outfits.
Another mini project we did together was to paint and write Blessing Cards for every student, basing our messages on the Beatitudes as we were studying the Sermon on the Mount at the time. Every decorated card had one of the Beatitudes and we placed one on every chair in the classroom for every student. We pray whoever received the card was blessed.
Although being on duty for PA Week meant that all of us had to wake up earlier and reach school earlier than usual, I felt really proud to see all my teammates carrying out their respective duties with great diligence and joy. Each of them rose to the occasion and served whenever they saw a need. We felt especially happy when other teams told us that our team tee was nice.
PA Week bonded us together as a team for sure. What a great SOT tradition—we are already looking forward to our next PA duty!