Edinburgh-native Richard Brash returned to his hometown with his family in 2017. He had decided to complete a PhD in Systematic Theology - a decision that has now taken him to Japan as an assistant professor.
|Degree||PhD Systematic Theology|
|Year of graduation||2020|
At the moment
I work as assistant professor of theology at Christ Bible Seminary in Nagoya, Japan, helping to prepare people for a range of Christian ministries. It’s great to be putting my academic and professional training into practice and I enjoy the challenge of teaching in a foreign language.
Your time at the University
Another thing I appreciated about my years back in Edinburgh was the free courses I could take at the University’s Institute for Academic Development. I enjoyed studying a whole range of courses, on study skills, public speaking, mind-mapping, and more.
Edinburgh is my hometown and a place I love. However, before starting my course in 2017, I hadn’t lived there full-time for nearly twenty years. In the interim I’ve lived in Cambridge, Tokyo, Glasgow, London, and Oxford. So it was great to come ‘home’ to Edinburgh and get to know the city all over again, this time from the perspective of the University.
Starting a PhD course in systematic theology at Edinburgh was a decision made over several years, with my family, my home church family who supported my studies, and my mission network, Japan Christian Link. One of the happiest aspects of this move for our family was finding a church to join: Chalmers Church on Morningside Road. My wife and I led a weekly class at the church to teach English to non-native speakers.
Although I found my doctoral research itself fascinating, another thing I appreciated about my years back in Edinburgh was the free courses I could take at the University’s Institute for Academic Development. I enjoyed studying a whole range of courses, on study skills, public speaking, mind-mapping, and more.
I hoped to finish my PhD before turning 40. In the end, my viva was the week after my fortieth birthday!
Your experiences since leaving the University
After my viva in February 2020, our family was expecting to move to Japan shortly afterwards so that I could take up a post at my current workplace. However, the coronavirus pandemic put a spanner in the works. We had to move out of the flat we had been renting in Edinburgh when I was a student just before the UK lockdown, but the border to Japan had already closed and my visa was annulled!
Thankfully some friends in our church offered us a place to stay in the countryside, not far from Edinburgh, until we were able to travel. In the end, we finally flew over here in July 2020. There were less than 10 passengers on the plane that brought us over!
It’s been nearly a year since we moved to Japan. Thankfully we have settled in and although we miss friends in Edinburgh we’re grateful for the memories we have of our time there.
While a PhD student, I had my first book published - 'How God Preserved the Bible' - and the manuscript for my second book, 'Knowing Me, Knowing God', was also accepted by a publisher. This book came out in February 2021. Recently a Japanese publisher has agreed to publish a Japanese translation of this book, which I’ll be very excited to see in print.
Life during Covid-19
All of my seminary teaching here in Japan has been on Zoom. This has of course been the experience of many people in education and other fields, but here it felt harder because of the language difference and also because I had never met my students in person!
As an ordained Christian minister I know well the necessity of what we call ‘fellowship’ for spiritual health. This isn’t impossible online, but it’s often a poor substitute for face-to-face relationship and direct involvement in the lives of others.
The re-opening of society after various lockdowns has been such a relief in this respect.
It took me a while as a PhD student to find a rhythm to my work and life. In trying to find that rhythm, I wish I had helped out a bit more at home, especially in the early days. My wife and children were very patient.
If you come to Edinburgh for a research degree (in particular, a PhD) with a family, remember you have plenty of time. Share lots of it with your nearest and dearest, and look out too for community beyond your studies.