A Service for the Reconsecration of Jubilee Mission Center was held last Friday afternoon, and we were blessed to have NYAC Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton officiate the service. The number of gathered were few, but the pandemic could not limit the grace of God and our thankful hearts that filled the center’s chapel. One meaningful recovery, lifted up during the ceremony, was the vivid image of Jesus Christ in the chapel’s stained glass window. Among the gathered that day were members of the Bishop’s cabinet who have long known the building’s past with its complex legal issues. They were delighted to see the building’s transformation and especially moved by the newfound image of Christ that imbued a special layer of meaning to our renovated chapel.
Before saying the final blessing of dismissal, Rev. Bill Shillady of the United Methodist City Society read a traditional Irish blessing in acknowledgment of the German and Irish immigrants who first settled and worshipped in Manhattan’s East Village. It was a meaningful reminder that our prayers, offerings, and efforts to give birth to Jubilee Mission Center were an act of recovery and continuation of the devotion that early settlers put in place through the image of Christ. I’m reminded that we have the same connection in our main chapel in Flushing, which also started as a German Methodist Church about 200 years ago.
Back in 2017, the NYAC Board of Trustees had intentions to sell this property in East Village. But others wanted to see God’s mission reignite in this building – namely our district superintendent, Rev. Sungchan Kim, and then president of NYAC Korean Caucus, Rev. Yongbo Lee. Pressured by their demands, I wrote a letter to Bishop Bickerton requesting the transfer of the building’s ownership to First UMC in Flushing based on two grounds. First, Church as a missional community needs to maintain its presence in the city, in the very life context of so many young and unchurched. Especially considering NY Conference Center’s move from Manhattan to suburbs in White Plains, this East Village building must not be sold, I argued, leading up to my proposal: First UMC in Flushing will invest about a million dollars and transform it into an urban missional center for the next generation. I remember writing with an intentional bluntness because I saw it as an improbable request. So you can imagine my surprise when Bishop Bickerton replied that he agrees with the points raised. Shortly after returning from a visit to Korea, Bishop asked for the building to be transferred to First UMC in Flushing at the Board of Trustees meeting on September 5, 2017. The NYAC officially approved the decision in 2018, and that’s how it all began. We resolved all complicated legal issues and renovated the building. After delaying several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, we could finally hold the Reconsecration Service.
It has been God’s prevenient and sustaining grace that gave birth to Jubilee Mission Center, working together with our prayers, offerings, sweat and tears. Earlier I mentioned Bishop Bickerton’s visit to Korea because I owe my thanks to Bupyeong Methodist Church, who hosted the bishop and members of his cabinet that year. It was a church that embodied an exemplary and faithful ministry. Bupyeong’s then-senior pastor Rev. Hong explained to visitors from the NYAC that the Korean church’s spirituality is propelled by committed tithing and early morning prayers. “It’s the spiritual practices we learned from missionaries,” said Rev. Hong, and added, how his later father’s last request was to never forget the sacrifice of those who crossed oceans for the Gospel. “It was thanks to you that Korea received the Good News of Jesus Christ.” Standing there with them, I saw the tears in our Conference leaders’ eyes – the tears that sparked as seeds of hope, to rightly recover what was once so dear. I believe Holy Spirit touched our bishop’s heart as Rev. Hong spoke.
Inspired by the values of WeWork, I pray Manhattan Jubilee Mission center will grow as a “WeChurch,” where churches come together, nurture and inspire one another as we walk together to expand God’s Kingdom. By creatively building up the mission center where the ministry of Jesus happens for people from every nation, tribe, race, and language, we will cherish and keep alive the spiritual legacy of the immigrants who were a church before us in East Village as well as in our Flushing main chapel. The coronavirus pandemic has been holding us back on so many levels, but last week’s Reconsecration Service of Jubilee Mission Center was like a fresh new breeze that instilled in us renewed hope for God’s vision. The pandemic has opened the ground with a greater need for the image of Christ to be reflected, shared, and recovered. Thanks be to God of new beginnings, for opening our hearts to look forward to where he leads us.