May is the month we celebrate family love but it’s graduation season too. Over the past year, my family welcomed first grandson; and this month, my son finally graduated from law school after taking a long detour in search of vocation. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy life, you realize time is passing by when you see babies grow into children and children grow into adults. Two Sundays ago, a high school grad from Atlanta stopped by our church for worship service on her way for a college tour. The young lady had the whole entourage including her grandparents, and her mother asked me to pray for her. I had baptized this young woman as an infant, and it was truly a pastor’s precious moment to be able to bless her now on the way to college. And it turns out, her father once lived in NY and worshipped in the very building which has now become our Manhattan mission center. He said, “It was really interesting to hear that First Flushing UMC turned that building into an urban mission center.” A young man from NY started a family in Atlanta, and now his all-grown-up daughter is coming back to the East coast for college. That’s how time has passed.
Last Saturday I saw the oldest members of our United Methodist Men taking up the cleaning task of our church education building. It was heartwarming to think that our children can be nurtured in a good environment thanks to the dedication and hard work of our seniors behind the scenes. At the church where I previously served, the chair of the new building construction committee once said, “Pastor, we ate from the tree we never planted. The way we can ever give back is to plant trees today so that our children can reap fruits from it tomorrow.”
Lately, First UMC in Flushing is being mentioned quite frequently in United Methodist News Service. This past week, UM News published an article covering how ethnic churches collaborated to feed New York neighbors since the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the story of a local church that didn’t have much missional engagement with the local community prior to the pandemic. It abruptly started the Food Sharing ministry and struggled without any know-how, but was able to grow strong thanks to other ethnic minority churches that shared information from their own ministry experience. As you may have guessed, the large local church that struggled is First Flushing. The article correctly underscored how the collective wisdom of several smaller churches helped to turn our amateur Food Sharing into a sustainable ministry that continues to feed a large crowd, like in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.
Another article two weeks ago covered the independent film “Happy Cleaners.” It turns out, all the co-writers and producers grew up in First UMC in Flushing, and our church also served as the base of productions for the shoot of this movie. The second-generation Korean Americans created this movie in an effort to share an authentic story of Korean American immigrant life and struggles. Along with films like “Minari” which also portrays a Korean American immigrant tale, it’s wonderful that a movie made by Flushing natives about life in Flushing has been released nationwide. What’s also interesting is that the actor behind the father figure in “Happy Cleaners” is Rev. Charles Ryu, the senior pastor of Morningside UMC in Manhattan. He was a devoted student leader when I did campus ministry at Boston University forty-some years ago. There’s been an increase in the number of Korean pastors in the Manhattan area. There are willing hearts for joint ministry partnership at our Mission Center in East Village, and I am tremendously grateful for it.
Increasingly the time calls for greater cooperation and sharing of our gifts and resources as partners in ministry. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, children and youth from another congregation joined in our Children’s and Youth Group and worshiped together online. What the experience opened our eyes to was the importance of working together towards mutual prosperity. The distinction between small and large congregations as we once knew it will dissipate in time. Whether big or small, each will be contributing with their respective gifts and graces in an integrated platform in an era of connected and shared ministry.
I pray God will use our church in the most beautiful ways for inter-generational and inter-church partnerships of tomorrow.