A mid-career minister follows her pastor’s heart beyond parish ministry
by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service
DECATUR, Georgia — “I really felt it was a call upon my life to be a pollinator of God’s love,” says the Rev. Yena Hwang, the latest guest on Everyday God-talk, a video series from the Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
Hwang talks with the Rev. Dr. So Jung Kim, associate for Theology, about the lessons of call she is learning in midlife as she integrates the wisdom of two recent sabbaticals, one sponsored by the Louisville Institute to visit her family’s roots and church home in Korea and one she calls “self-imposed” as a result of her discernment to leave her last call as an associate pastor of nine years to open herself up to the new way the Spirit is leading her to be a blessing to others.
In the first of the three-part interview, Hwang discusses the theology that shaped her from a very young age as part of her father’s family mission modeled on the figure of Abraham, who was “blessed to be a blessing for others.” Hwang’s father understood the impact that knowing Jesus had on people and believed his own family was blessed to know this early in their lives together. Part of what Hwang’s father considered his mission was supporting immigrant students and students of color who were first in their family to go to college. He did this through a scholarship fund that he collected and distributed through the cafeteria he and his wife ran as small business owners.
In episode 2, Hwang talks candidly about the difficulties in leaving a call that you love but have outgrown. She also describes her new venture in podcasting with other minority, female pastors called “Frequently Unasked Question.” Hwang discusses the importance of spreading the gospel in a way that is authentic to who you are even if it is outside the traditional bounds of ministry.
“There are no regrets for me, which is a good feeling,” says Hwang in episode 3, as she dives deeper into the lessons that she has learned through ministry transitions. Hwang explores the role that a strong support network plays in helping her stay true to her faith and her call to live it out authentically. Hwang gathers support from colleagues, friends and family as well as two clergy groups, one for Korean American Presbyterian Clergywomen (KAPCW) and one that calls itself the “M.Divas.” and has met bi-weekly for the last 15 years. “The M.Diva women sisters have been incredible in supporting me through not only just this phase, but through ministry,” Hwang says. “I always say I never want to do ministry and life without them.”
Support for ministers, church leaders and other people of faith is part of the vision behind this video series from the Office of Theology and Worship. According to Kim, Everyday God-talk serves as a space where we “talk about God in everyday language and through everyday perspectives.”
Kim invites guests to share spiritual insights, practical wisdom and embodied practices. “The new season of Everyday God-talk shares the stories of those who are resting and growing – pastors and teachers in-between calls, on sabbatical and retired,” said Kim. Her interviews with Hwang are a good reminder of the challenges and the grace that comes in living as holistically as a person and a pastor in a world in need of repair.
“I’m a pastor at heart. And that’s my calling even if I don’t serve a church,” concludes Hwang in her final reflection on understanding the internal and the external facets of a calling in light of her recent transition. “I know I have a pastor’s heart and I am a person of integrity … I don’t want to just talk the talk and not walk the walk.”
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