While serving as an English-speaking pastor at a Korean congregation, Shawn Kang came to understand the particular struggles of second-generation Korean Americans. When he decided to plant a new congregation in the Houston area, he reached out to young Asian Americans ― and Pathways of Houston began.
As a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Kang had a lot of denominational encouragement, but the local governing body didn’t have financial resources to offer, so the small group met in living rooms and coffee shops. Kang’s wife, Sanghee, worked as a nurse and supported the family.
In another Houston neighborhood, St. Giles Presbyterian Church, whose members were mostly white and in their 60s and 70s, called Lynn Hargrove as interim pastor. The congregation wondered if she would be their last minister. When Hargrove heard members talk about closing, she led them through a discernment process … then the church got to work.
Soon after, when the temperatures in Houston dipped town into the 20s, St. Giles opened its doors and invited people to sleep inside. This was an important moment, said Hargrove. “When the doors of the church were unlocked, we became an active part of the community.”
The church was also beginning to understand that it might have to let go of the building. St. Giles members looked at a couple of options. They could sell the property and meet in another space until they spent all of their money. Or they could leave their building to Pathways.
A few months after Pathways settled into its new home, former St. Giles members began to worship with them. At a recent new members class, about 30 of Pathways’ 40 new members were from St. Giles.
In the process, Pathways has become much more diverse, racially and economically, as a result of white members from St. Giles and outreach to African Americans, Haitians and Hispanics in the neighborhood.
What St. Giles gave to Pathways has been a gift to the former members as well, said Hargrove. “It’s been a resurrection.”
Copyright © 2014 by the Christian Century. “Something old, something young” by Carol Howard Merritt is excerpted by permission from the August 20, 2014 issue of the Christian Century.
Carol Howard Merritt is a Presbyterian minister, popular speaker and writer, whose blog is hosted by The Christian Century.