At a pre-conference event as part of Big Tent 2015 held this week in Knoxville, Tenn., the National Asian Presbyterian Council gathered to share stories of ministry, address business needs of the council, and engage in a time of learning and sharing from those serving around the country and around the world.
The Rev. Wendy Tajima delivered the keynote address to a room of roughly 50 Asian and Asian American Presbyterians. Her address focused on the idea of potluck theology, and the importance of “staying at the table” especially in times of uncertainty and division in the church.
“As Asians, I think it’s safe to say that we can agree that we all love food, that we love to eat,” she said. “There are many lessons that we as a church can learn by looking at scripture that relates to food and fellowship.” Using scripture verses that relate to food and fellowship, Tajima outlined a few of those lessons she hopes the church and our society will learn.
Tajima began by recalling her “top ten” scripture verses and laying out key lessons from each; including inclusivity, having a spirit of generosity, openness to welcome those who may be different, and “a willingness to serve individuals as they need to be served, not as we think they need to be served.
“We cannot, for example, necessarily expect that those coming into the church from the streets understand how to live as Christians,” she said. “We need to think about ways to provide newcomers ‘tips’ on how to engage in the church. If we really want to fully welcome new people to the life of the church, we need to let them know where the potholes are and allow them to truly feel welcome and as part of the church.”
Tajima also spoke to the idea of keeping an open mind and welcoming those as they are, and in whatever capacity they choose to serve.
“Even if someone cannot contribute extensive time or money right now, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t an important piece of the church and the puzzle,” she said. “We need to be open to allowing all who come to the church to connect as they choose, and as they can. For example, not all youth or young adults—or parents who have young children—can commit to serving in major leadership positions in the church, as they are busy with other activities. That doesn’t mean that they can’t provide leadership to the church or don’t bring other valuable gifts that should be recognized. We also need to remember that as their circumstances evolve, so can their commitment to the church—but only if we welcome them openly from the beginning.”
In small group conversations held early Thursday morning, visions for unity, equality and openness were shared with, and by, attendees.
“My dream is that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard, and that they are heard equally,” one participant shared.
“You and I are living part of someone’s dream, and we are continuing that dream for the future. This may not be exactly what you or I had dreamt of, but that’s OK. We trust that God is in charge and in control,” added Samson Tso, secretary of the National Asian Presbyterian Council.
Tajima currently serves on the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and as the executive presbyter of San Gabriel Presbytery. To learn more about the National Asian Presbyterian Council, please visit www.pcusa.org/asian or contact Mei Hui Lai, associate for Asian Congregational Support.