A letter from Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan
We’re now several months into our stay in the U.S. In earlier times, this was called “furlough,” but in PC(USA) language this is our time for “interpretation,” when we share what we have been doing with local congregations. It’s been a fun experience so far, and my hope is that this newsletter will catch you up on what we are doing.
Our summer was a parabola that began in Chicago, dipped almost to the Gulf, and then swung us back up the East Coast. Along the way we visited Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Birmingham, High Point, Sanford, Suffolk, and Chesterbrook. We visited supporting churches, including Yorkfield Presbyterian Church in Chicago and churches in High Point and Pocket. I went to classmates’ congregations in Chester, W.Va., and Newlonsburg, Pa. In Cincinnati I preached at Knox Presbyterian and Pleasant Ridge. I visited or preached at a number of Taiwanese-American churches: Greater Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Chesterbrook. Also on the itinerary were visits to the presbytery meeting of Sheppards and Lapsley, the council for Cincinnati Presbytery, and a range of Bible studies, clergy groups, and education events.
The churches I visited included tall-steeple and family-sized; rural, urban, suburban, and mountain (is that even a category?); relatively young (started in 1990), and absolutely ancient; with all manners of pastoral leadership (yoked, interim, CLP, multistaff, etc.) and membership; and a variety of mission engagements. I loved being able to get the pulse of the PC(USA) across a dozen congregations and several presbyteries. It was helpful to see the range of topics with which churches were grappling.
A funny story illustrates the challenges in this cross-cultural work. My N.J. license expired in May. I’d tried to renew it several times from abroad, with no success. A signed lease beginning in September didn’t establish my residency. This meant two things: (1) Emily had to drive the first leg of our travel, which included several hours of heavy rain in Indiana during which Eva screamed continuously, and (2) I had to get an Ohio license, starting from a written test, proceeding to a driver’s permit, and culminating in a road test (I felt like I was 16 again). We survived all of this, but it was an example of the challenges in staying resident in two countries. We did all of this travel in Emily’s parents’ Mercury Sable (think station wagon), which they kindly equipped with a robust roof rack that can fit three large suitcases and innumerable pairs of shoes. The three kids were all rear-facing in their car seats, and in Birmingham we added a DVD player (a miraculous invention). I often told people that I felt like a turtle traveling with my house on my back. In September, for the first time in three months, we entirely emptied out the car in our new home.
Our home for the next few months is Princeton Seminary’s Payne Hall. It’s an interesting place to live. We’re on the third floor in a walk-up apartment, and there’s a small playground outside that our kids love. Payne Hall itself was built in 1921 as missionary housing, and today we share the building with Christians from throughout the world. We’ve already met scholars from Korea and New Zealand and look forward to meeting others soon. It’s nice to be in a familiar place. Yesterday morning Emily and Sam went to worship at Nassau Presbyterian, which was my home church and saw me through preparation for ministry, and in the afternoon we all went to the 115th anniversary of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton, where Emily is an elder and where Sam was baptized. Next week we go to the Autumn Festival celebration at Grace Taiwanese-American Presbyterian Church, where for two years I was the youth director. We feel grateful for the communities that have nurtured and formed us, and one of our hopes is that we can help others find this same sense of welcome and blessing.
We’re grateful for the many road mercies that PC(USA) churches have shown us. As we’re around in the fall, we’d love to continue to connect to local congregations and to share about our work in Taiwan.
Blessings, Jonathan (and Emily, Samuel, Eva, and Eli)