July 15, 2010
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)
Dear Canaan EM brothers and sisters,
Upon hearing the news of New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s death on Tuesday, I actually mourned a little. I grew up cheering for the Mets, not the hated Yankees. So it surprised me that I actually had feelings for the “boss.”
You see, my childhood city was not a pretty place. The 1970s was a time of graffiti-covered subways, crime infested streets, and lots of urban blight. So I grudgingly confess that “King George” helped restore pride in New York City by turning a troubled baseball franchise into the “evil empire” that it is today.
Not many of us will ever be in the position to impact a city like Steinbrenner did. Very few of us will be as influential as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Bono, or Jerry Yang (not the poker player). A few of us may be called to lead in the marketplace. Some of us may even have responded to a call to ministry, mission, or social causes because we want our lives to be about transforming our world with the Gospel.
For the majority of us, however, our best opportunity to make a difference is to build up a healthy church community. It’s much better than wasting our lives in self-indulgence and insignificance, don’t you agree? Life is not worth living without a cause, a mission, or a purpose! Christ’s body, the Church, is called to proclaim God’s salvation, reconciliation, and peace for all humankind. And all of us – from the youngest to the oldest, the least and best educated, rich or poor – can be part of this profound mission.
So when so many of us joined the inaugural second floor English worship service last Sunday, tolerating the inconvenience and the uncomfortable chairs, I think it demonstrated that God is stirring something up in Canaan’s English ministry!
You see, most English ministries in churches planted by immigrants tend to develop a culture of dependency. The immigrant parents – the builders of the church – often hope that their children will grow up and take over their legacy. But this doesn’t usually happen. New immigrants from Asia and new friends that their children bring to these churches don’t feel the same parent-child relationships that the original families felt, thus, misunderstandings often erupt. Also, the control over church facilities and ministries exercised by immigrant leaders often perpetuates a culture of dependency. This is true even in instances where the immigrant leadership is as generous, benevolent, and loving as they are at Canaan.
Therefore, many English speakers who see themselves as builders (not renters) or parents (not children) chafe under this relationship. Losing patience, these are usually the first to leave the Asian immigrant church. Those who remain may unconsciously perpetuate dependency.
Virginia Woolf’s famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” may apply to us, too. In order to be healthy and missional our English ministry needs “a room of our own.” We need to be weaned out of dependency and into equal partnership with the rest of Canaan. But creating space for us to develop our unique place within Canaan’s mission is a prerequisite.
Worshiping on the second floor gives us a “room” to cultivate our identity, community, and mission. All three are essential ingredients for building a vibrant kingdom people who positively influence our society and world for Jesus Christ.
IDENTITY: As youth and young adults differentiate themselves from their parents, they develop their own tastes, interests, and goals. They also learn to assume more responsibility for themselves and others. The second floor, as bare as it is now, is also the raw materials from which Canaan’s English Ministry can create and cultivate a style, a personality, an aesthetic, indeed, an identity that is uniquely ours. Hopefully, it will also encourage a leadership ethos of responsibility – not just for the English ministry, but for all of Canaan.
COMMUNITY: Canaan’s English ministry is very diverse. We are blessed (and I’m not sarcastic about this) with members from at least five different age cohorts (children, youth, collegians, young adults, young families, and a few parents of teens). This is a reason why Canaan has called three staff persons for children, youth, and English ministry. We are also culturally diverse. Several of us are recent immigrants, others are 1.5 generation (i.e., equally comfortable with Asian and American cultures), and others are second generation or not Asian. It is a challenge to build a faith community with all our diversity. When we worshiped downstairs, we were inadvertently diffused into our various sub-groups. But “a room of our own” will hopefully give us one identifiable gathering to focus our energies.
MISSION: Without an identity and community, our unique mission cannot be articulated or even practiced. Even if we wanted to reach Asian Americans and North America for Christ, there would be nothing at Canaan to connect with these populations without a clear English ministry identity and community.
So, creating the “upper room” for English ministry is an important step towards helping Canaan to positively influence the Bay Area and North America for Christ. Without a vibrant English ministry, without you, Canaan cannot do MIMBY (i.e., missions in my backyard)!
Join us and make a difference! Come and cultivate, create, and build something exciting at Canaan!
Pastor Tim 曾 祥 雨
Interim English Pastor
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By the way, as I mentioned on Sunday, if you’d like to see an Arminian response (modified Calvinist is probably more appropriate) to Calvinism (in the Southern Baptist Churches) vis-à-vis Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable take a look at this website: