On a cold day in the morning in Ontario, I sat in front of the computer and searched on the web with two phrases: united church and intercultural ministry. As I typed these words, a website came up as a window on my computer. The name of the church was very strange to me: it goes like this: West Point Grey United Church. Are you familiar? I realized this church was looking for a minister, and without further thought, I applied for it since need a minister who knows about intercultural ministry and “turnaround” /revitalizing church experience. The process was very short, just over a month.
Last week when I went to the church, I came across our church outdoor sign, “Paddling into the Future.” This sign brought back my memories of the last five years with you, and those are mostly filled with much laughter and tears, joys and sorrows, challenging times and joyful ones. I think, and I hope you agree with me, it was a good one. I have enjoyed my ministry with you: There was a heartbreaking time, but most of the time was filled with gratitude.
In our ministry together, we have accompanied one another on the faith journey – welcoming new people along the way and saying goodbye to others. Together, we have explored what it means to be faithful and beloved children of God and followers of Jesus in the context of our own time and place. We have opened our doors and our hearts to others – learning and growing in relationships, understanding, and friendship with each other. Along the way, we have supported and cared for one another, shared in worship and study and fellowship together, joined our voices in song, and our hands in doing the ministry to which we have been called in this community of faith in this place. I would like to give thanks for the support and enthusiasm you have expressed over the years.
Since I grew up on an island, I love water. Maybe this is the reason I came to Vancouver. It was my hope to build my own boat while I was in Ontario, but I couldn’t finish it. Here in Vancouver, during COVID, I needed something to do, so I started to build a kayak. At that time, my theme for the new season in 2000 was “Let’s Paddle Together.” To enhance the theme, then our music director Eileen Padgett composed the theme song. The theme was well received, I think, and it was our inspiration for the ministry during COVID-19.
As I finish my ministry with West Point Grey, I want to remind all of us that our padding is not done. We are padding into the future. There are times on our life journey when we enjoy the calm water, sunshine and gentle breezes which help to sail our boat. On the other hand, we know that there are times when we feel as though we are being swept up by the power of a windstorm and drowning; our lives are out of our control. If we imagine our life journeys as if paddling a kayak at sea, how will we describe our lives? One thing I learned from canoeing is the importance of keeping the balance while we are facing rough waters. In Korea, there is a saying, “Even if a tiger catches you, if you keep your wits about you, you may live.” I believe faith is a matter of centring. Our Christian faith is about centring on God. The question for us is, “In what, in whom are we going to be centred?” This is a major religious question in our spiritual lives, “In whom are you centred?” Our Christian faith is about a deeper and deeper centring on God.
I believe that our congregation got through the storm of COVID-19. Even though the storm was mountainous, we paddled together and passed the storm. In the padding, we were not alone; you were my padding partners, and Jesus was in the boat to cheer us up. No matter what storms assail us, no matter what troubles enter our lives, and no matter how the pandemic shatters our lives, we can trust that God is with us in our concerns and struggles to centre ourselves in the storms of life. In this stormy weather, let us remember that we are not alone, and God is with us. With faith in Jesus, we will paddle together to get through the storms in the future.
The last five years here at West Point Grey United have been a blessing to me in many ways – and I will always cherish the friendships I’ve made, the faith and ideas we’ve explored together, and the laughter and tears we’ve shared. The image of paddling I will carry with me on the next stage of my journey of life and faith. And I pray that the seeds of what we have sown together here will also blossom and grow. May God bless us as we continue to do God’s mission in our time and place. Amen.