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Dear <<First Name>>!

July 8, 2022 

A culture of healing sees beyond the smile: I’ve come across many in churches who hide in shame, behind smiles, hard work, even behind ministry. E.g., In this blog post, I wrote about Jack, my former housemate who was known for his smile. Unfortunately, his shame led to suicide, a surprise to his church and his family.  We need cultures and churches that see beyond these modern-day fig leaves. In this letter, I want to highlight building cultures of healing on both the seminary and local church level.

The Gospel makes space for holistic healing. This aspect of our vision is baked into everything we teach, train, and write. For example, I spoke to a visiting class of Marriage Family Therapists (MFT) and Master of Divinity (MDiv) students from Fresno Pacific University (FPU) just last week (picture from 2018's class). Former board member Sarah Akutagawa who twice taught the class for KR summarized it this way: 

“We put together a presentation that thoughtfully explored the integration of ethnicity, theology, and city ministry. In particular, (we) found that the students resonated deeply with themes of embodiment, presence, vulnerability, and identity.” 

We believe this interdisciplinary approach brings greater relevance, concreteness, sensitivity, and holism. Another perk of partnering with FPU: our teaching often draws from their theology department because one of their profs (Mark Baker) co-authored the first ever biblical narrative on honor-shame. Through the years, we’ve loved developing relationships with their professors and instructors with this holistic vision in mind.

The long-term work of Black/Asian solidarity and healing: 

In April of 2021, I shared the impact of one of SF’s most respected African-American ministers (my friend Kirk Davis) speaking to First Chinese Baptist Church’s (FCBC) pastored by a more recent friend, Rev. Sebastian Ong to show his support in light of AAPI hate crimes. 

We’ve seen a lot of progress since then. For example, FCBC was so moved by Kirk’s heartfelt message of solidarity that Rev. Ong replied with the most vulnerable message I’ve ever witnessed from a Chinese senior pastor to an African-American faith community.

Both of these 7-minute messages to each other’s community are posted here.

One of these steps is immersion into each other’s neighborhoods and stories. These steps work in conjunction with preaching and Christian Education. E.g. Here is a sermon I recently preached on city immersion and worship at FCBC. Yet building solidarity cannot be confined to sermons like the one I preached. In the words of theologian Willie Jennings (from his Acts commentary), “The risk here is found not in believing in new revelations but in new relationships.”

Where are you and your community in terms of taking some relational risks for the sake of the Greatest Commandment? For the sake of the Great Commission? For the sake to see more of our lives under God’s rule and reign? With the ongoing pandemic, this is the time to take stock and plan! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any thoughts.  Drop me a line here. 

Grace to you, Steve

Copyright © 2022 Steve Hong/Kingdom Rice, All rights reserved.

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