Category Archive: General

Nov 01

Let Us Pray “Together!”

From Pastor Kyung Mo Koo
Would you join me a word of prayer? Let us bow our heads. Let us take a moment for silent prayer!

Pastor Kyung KooThese are the words we most frequently say or hear during church services. As Christians, we not only worship God every Sunday, but we also participate in fellowship activities, attend Bible studies, and join in various mission and ministry opportunities. Before, during, and after such worship, activities, or events, we always pray. Why do we pray? Why should we pray?  Who should pray?

Every time we do God’s ministry or attend any meeting, fellowship event, or Christian education opportunity, we expect God’s intervention, guidance, protection, and provision. Unlike other social groups, we are looking beyond what we do. We expect God’s presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, we pray and believe in the power of prayer. If we don’t believe in God’s presence and work, we don’t need to pray.

But we do believe in God and His presence, power, and provision; so we need to pray before, during, and after whatever we do in the name of God. Prayer is not a ritual like the national anthem before a ball game. Prayer is asking for God’s help as we carry out His mission and ministry.

The first thing I do every time I enter the church is pray. Before I meet or share anything with people, I meet God first. I intentionally take time to personally talk to and hear from God first. As a spiritual leader, I ask God to lead me, guide me, and give me whatever I need to further His kingdom. We need that act of faith, too.  So, I suggest that you not only pray before a meal or bedtime, but also try to pray first thing when you come to church. Before you share a greeting or have fellowship with others, meet God first and take time to talk to God.

“Prayer is our major source of spiritual power and the proof of our intimate relationship with God.”

Praying Hands

Although I am still new to Lincoln Park, I am leading worship, attending committees, and participating in breakfasts, luncheons, and other fellowship events enough to share my observations with you. Because I am new, I can see things you may have become accustomed to, ignored, or don’t recognize.  With respect to prayer, I was surprised by the culture that Lincoln Park is much too dependent on the pastor. The majority at Lincoln Park seems to perceive the pastor as the one in charge of every prayer. Surely, the pastor should be a person of prayer in his/her own journey of faith and should guide others to pray; however, it is a misunderstanding that the pastor is the only one who can or should pray at every meeting, event, or fellowship. The pastor’s exclusive duty and role for the church is Word and Sacrament. Prayer is not in that category.

One of the biggest differences between Catholic and Protestant churches is the “priesthood of all believers.”  We don’t need a priest to act as an agent when we confess and talk to God. The pastor is not a mediator between God and you; God desires to communicate with you personally, so you can talk to God anytime, anyplace, and on any occasion. I came here not as a professional praying person, but as a helper who can shepherd Lincoln Park to become a praying congregation.  Remember, Jesus did not teach us how to preach, but how to pray.

My suggestion for you is that you try to lead a prayer, especially if you are a chairperson of a committee or a leader at any gathering. If it is new and hard for you, write down your prayer. If you’re asked to lead and pray for the group, do not fear or turn it down.

Our church staff and praise band team have begun to pray together before services every Sunday. We need to encourage and support each other, be one body of Christ, and ask for God’s help before we worship His name and glory. For Christians, whether clergy or laity, prayer is our major source of spiritual power and the proof of our intimate relationship with God.

I encourage all Lincoln Park members to pray in private, as well as in public. The pastor is not the designated one to pray. Each and every one of us is God’s child, whom He delights in and wants to hear from. Each one of us has the right and privilege to pray to God directly. So, let us pray “Together!”

Sep 01

In Our Transition

Pastor SunAe Lee-KooFrom Pastor SunAe Lee-Koo

Each time my family packed boxes for a new appointment, I thought of one of the most faithful men in the Bible – Abraham. It was not because I could identify with his illustrious faith in God, but because I visualized, with great envy, his journey of leaving behind everything familiar for the unknown where God led him. Thus, it’s been a habit of mine to ponder what Abraham might have been thinking when God called him to leave without a map or knowledge of where exactly to go.

This summer has been a season of transitions for the Koo family: packing and moving from the loving communities of faith in Maryland and Delaware where KyungMo and I served; moving to a new congregation, a different state, and a new Conference as co-pastors; sending away our son, Justin, to USMA in West Point, NY; learning new worship styles and hymns; unpacking and settling in to a new neighborhood in Berks County. Yet, this transition, filled with mixed emotions, has been a constant reminder of God’s guiding presence in our lives.

We have been blessed by you all throughout this transition. We didn’t know we would meet such a welcoming congregation in Reading, PA. We never expected to be blessed by the open minds and understanding “ears” of the Lincoln Park people. I had no idea KyungMo would be received as an exciting preacher. The divine blessings upon our journey have become clearer and surer since we began personal visitations. We have visited about 50 individuals with (and without) their families in the past six weeks. As we have gotten to know your faces and names, listened to your life journeys, and prayed with you when we meet, KyungMo and I feel that God has led us here to serve God and the people of God with you at Lincoln Park. Beyond our expectations, our good God’s love, shining through your welcoming faces, has touched KyungMo and me deeply.

Hence, we come to depend on God, seeking His will for every step of our journey with you at Lincoln Park. It is our prayer that whenever we come into the sanctuary to pray for the church, our vision will be fully aligned with God’s best will for Lincoln Park. It makes me think about how Abraham must have communicated with God throughout countless transitions in his journey: prayer. He must’ve been so intimate with God to be certain that he was going where God wanted him to be. The one certainty in the midst of Abraham’s journey and his courage to move forward into the unknown was God. Accordingly, it was God who was the center of Abraham’s thoughts and the anchor of his journey toward God’s promised land.

In sharing with you parts of my family’s transition, I imagine that some of our Lincoln Park members might go through a season of transition, if not already; you or someone around you might move jobs, move homes, begin a new journey, find a new vocation, lose a loved one, welcome a birth, meet God anew… As my family and I have been blessed by you in our transitions, I hope your transition may also be led by divine guidance and blessed by people like you. I hope you can be sensitive and aware of the blessed presence of the living God through prayer. I hope you and I can join in prayer, in our small daily, seasonal, and life-changing transitions, so that we can journey to where God wants each of us to be with confidence in God, with anticipation in God, and with a deepened relationship with God.

For this holy desire, I pray in the name of Jesus:

“I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19, NRSV)

Jul 01

Hello, Lincoln Park!

From Pastor Kyung Mo Koo

 

SunAe and I were so surprised by the hard work and dedication that the congregation was willing to invest for new pastors that many of them had yet to meet.

 

Pastor KyungI greet the Lincoln Park family in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I thank God for giving SunAe and me the opportunity to serve God with Lincoln Park. First of all, I want to express my gratitude to some of you whom I met during the transition period. I thank the SPRC members for their warm welcome. You opened your hearts and embraced SunAe and me at our first interview. It was a heart-warming and encouraging meeting.

Dan Christopher, the Chair, kindly guided us in our first steps through a series of conversations, emails, and phone calls. Meeting Beverly Perella, the Music Director, was another inspirational experience. She explained in detail the Worship and Music Ministry, followed by a touching piece on the organ. It was a refreshing and rejuvenating moment for my soul. Under the leadership of the Trustee’s Chair, Todd Beamesderfer, more than 20 volunteers came to the parsonage and did an Extreme Home Makeover. SunAe and I were so surprised by the hard work and dedication that the congregation was willing to invest for new pastors that many of them had yet to meet.

We truly felt loved by Lincoln Park. Thank you for your warm welcome and hospitality. I already feel at home with old friends.

Lincoln Park has many strengths for mission and ministry. Now we are adding one more characteristic: we have become a cross-cultural/racial congregation. Not only do we have some congregants from different cultures, but we now have a Korean pastor! This is a new experience for Lincoln Park, and there will certainly be some concerns and challenges along the way, but I believe it will be a unique and blessed journey of faith for us all.

I want to share what cross-cultural/racial ministry means and also tell you more about my cultural and religious background.

Ever since the Korean Methodist Church came into being (as a direct result of The United Methodist mission work 132 years ago) it has become the fastest growing Christian country in the world. According to the 2005 South Korean Census, Christians accounted for 25% of the population. Now, Korea has become the second largest Methodist community in the world. According to Christianity Today (March 2006), South Korean Churches have sent almost 13,000 long-term missionaries all over the world, which means that they are ranked second after the US.

After the U.S. immigration policy change in 1965, which was favorable to immigration from Asian countries, a steady flow of Korean immigrants began to arrive in America every year. This brought about phenomenal growth and development of Korean ethnic churches in the U.S. There is a Korean joke, “When the Chinese immigrate to a country, they open a restaurant; when the Japanese immigrate to a country, they establish a company; when Koreans immigrate to a country, they build a church.” Currently, there are about 600 Korean UMCs in U.S. and about 150 Korean pastors, like me, who serve in cross-cultural/racial ministry in The United Methodist Church. As a result, in The United Methodist Church, Koreans are the second largest ethnic minority group, right after the African-American church.

The Church’s affirmation of diversity is grounded in the biblical witness; that God uses people to witness across racial, national, and cultural boundaries. The experience of cross-cultural/racial ministry testifies to the Gospel and God’s mission, which are not locked within any one culture or nation.

I come from a different culture, and have various, unique experiences to share with and witness to you. The presence of a Korean pastor can be viewed as both a destabilizing force and a source of creativity. However, I strongly believe that our cultural and racial differences will enrich our understanding of the Bible and expand our perspectives of the global nature of Good News of the Gospel.

Under the context of our cross-cultural/racial ministry in Lincoln Park, we will learn, be challenged, develop, and help each other mature through a unique fellowship and spirituality in Christ.

May 10

Thinking Out Loud – May 2017

I have always been prayerfully attempting to weave these moments together into a more intimate knowing of your story — your family, your aspirations, joys, and sorrows.

All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly and as privately as possible. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; … only by experiencing that ocean of sadness in a naked and immediate way do we come to be healed – which is to say, we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace.
– from Small Victories by Anne Lamott

Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave McMillan

The intensity of my grief may come as a surprise to some. Ours has possibly been an hour a week together on a Sunday morning, a hello and well-wishing at the front door after a service, a brief conversation in the Wagner Room catching up on children. For others, there have been additional hours spent in Bible Studies, Sunday School, over church meals, meetings, Trustee Workdays, and visits. But I hope you’ve known that for me it has always been more than this. That I have always been prayerfully attempting to weave these moments together into a more intimate knowing of your story — your family, your aspirations, joys, and sorrows. I hope you have known that when I look at you, I have always tried to see you whole.

There will be many things I’ll miss about Lincoln Park: my drive down the hill on Jefferson Boulevard into our tiny hamlet, our beautiful brick colonial church. An introvert by nature, I’ll miss my second story office (which was my bedroom for six years when I served as associate pastor) where I could escape to read, prepare Bible Studies, and write sermons, while listening to the sometimes steady flow of traffic below — of people stopping by to drop something off or speak with Marilyn. I’ll miss our sanctuary with its high white ceiling, tall window, and soothing green painted walls, the same paint used by the trustees in the parsonage living room and hallway, bringing everything full circle.

Of course, what I’ll miss most are the people. I feel fortunate to have been able to work with a gifted, dedicated staff. There has been many a Sunday when our Worship Leaders, Mark and Becky, and Bev, our organist, pianist and Music Director, have helped carry a service, especially when I’ve struggled. The Music Ministry at Lincoln Park, with our Praise Band, choirs, and special music has been inspiring. Marilyn, our Office Administrator and Bookkeeper, while often sleep deprived, has been a joy. Carl, our Sexton, is one of a kind. Kyle, our Youth Leader, has connected with our youth and has great promise. And our Nursery Attendants, Kathy and Kris, have been Godsends. What endears me most about our staff is that they love our church and it shows.

If I were to start expressing appreciation for members who’ve been special to me over the years, it would be a long list. Each of you, whether we’ve known each other for a long or short time, have been special to me in your own way. But let me say that I am very grateful for those of you who have accepted positions of leadership while I’ve been here. Your love and commitment for our church has made us a better people and has often made me look good in the process. Where would we be without those who are willing to accept the call to lead and serve in the church?

While I believe in my heart that my choice to move to a new congregation and soon marry is the Lord’s path for me, it is bittersweet. But, this only reminds me of what a meaningful and wonderful experience I have had here: how much I have felt loved. I will always have a special place in my heart for the folks at Lincoln Park.

A forewarning: I imagine several of you will be showing up in my future newsletter articles. If you do, please know that it will be with love.

Mar 01

Thinking Out Loud – March 2017

From Pastor Dave McMillan III

 

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were once foreigners in Egypt.
— Exodus 22:21

 

I’ve recently returned from a Winter Pastors’ School on the campus of Stetson University in Deland, Florida. One of our three speakers was Dr. Carol Newsom a Professor of Old Testament in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Her three day lecture was entitled “We are the Refugees: Our Biblical Ancestors as Displaced Persons, Refugees and Economic Migrants.”

Over three days, she reminded us of our biblical heritage as a people who have often lived as “strangers in a foreign land.” In the book of Genesis, God calls Abram to leave his country and father’s house to go to a land that God will show him. That land, of course, was Canaan, a land already long inhabited by other peoples. In the book of Exodus, due to a famine in the land, Jacob and his family migrate to Egypt where there is work and food enough to eat. In the book of Ruth, due to famine again, Elimelech, along with his wife Naomi and sons, “live for a while in the country of Moab” in hopes of finding work and food. In the book of II Kings, King Nebuchadnezzar tears down the walls of Jerusalem sending many of the inhabitants of Judah into exile in Babylon with some Jewish communities surviving there, in what is today modern day Iraq, for centuries. In Matthew’s gospel, afraid of King Herod’s decree for all male children under the age of two, living in Bethlehem, to be put to death, Joseph is warned in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and flee as refugees into Egypt. The Holy Family remained there until they received word that Herod had died.

Dr. Newsom then helped to remind us of our own personal stories of dislocation. My story is part of the great Irish migration to the new world which lasted for close to a century, from 1830 to 1920. In the early 1820’s, lacking work at home, many Irish immigrated to the states to help build the Erie Canal and later the railroad going west. The largest wave of Irish immigrants came over during the Great Irish Potato Famine in 1845-1849. Many of these immigrants settled in New York City and would come to comprise a large percentage of New York’s northern regiments during the Civil War. There was another wave of Irish immigrants seeking employment opportunities and a better life for their families during the early part of the Industrial Revolution, 1880-1900. In the early twentieth century, Irish immigrants in large numbers continued to come to the new world for economic reasons and, for some, to find a husband. With many of the men in Ireland having immigrated to America for close to a century, available men at home were apparently hard to find!

My grandmother, Mary Inkster of Donegal, County Donegal, and grandfather, David McMillan of Ballymoney, County Antrim, arrived and settled separately in Philadelphia in search of work and a more hopeful future in 1916. My grandmother worked as a bank teller and grandfather in a grocery store. They met and married in Philadelphia in their late twenties and went on to have six children, including their only son, my father, David Junior.

While the descendants of most of us who were gathered at the Pastors’ School for three days had immigrated from Western Europe seeking economic opportunities, some could trace their passage to the new world back through slave ships from the Ivory Coast during the eighteenth century. Another Pastor, a Jewish convert to Christianity, could trace his passage to his grandparents who had emigrated during the Civil War in Russia in the early twentieth century to escape religious persecution. Not all of us could attest to the whereabouts of the legal documentation or the process of immigration that our forebears had followed. A few could trace their lineage through Ellis Island, while others were certain, their descendants had evaded immigration officials altogether.

Dr. Newsom’s stated purpose for her lecture was that of empathy. For various reasons there have been and always will be displaced persons: economic migrants and refugees. All of our families, at one time, have been one! Concerning the treatment of refugees and economic migrants, God through the prophets would often call Israel to remember that they too were once immigrants and refugees in a strange land. Empathy for others, especially the displaced, begins with remembering our own biblical heritage and story.

Image Credit: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nov 05

Thinking Out Loud – November 2016

From Pastor Dave McMillan

But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ for he is our peace. In his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

Pastor DaveOver 27 years ago, my sister and her husband spent many months and tens of thousands of dollars to become pregnant. In their mid–30’s (after numerous disappointments and heartbreaks) they decided to adopt a child. They explored several avenues and settled on adopting a child from Guatemala, where the waiting period and expenses were considerably less. They were able parents, ready to offer a child, any child, a loving home.

After a call from their lawyer that a young boy was available, they traveled to Guatemala City to receive their six-month-old package of joy. Though years have passed, I remember their excitement and our joy at welcoming my new nephew, Benjamin, home, into our extended family.

Over the years, we’ve remained close as a family, sharing birthday parties, weddings, holidays, and vacations. Ben has become as much a part of the family as any other member. Still, I’ve become aware — through things my sister has shared with me privately and from the rare occasions when Ben has willingly been forthcoming — that his life has been much more difficult than our own He’s had to live with feelings of rejection, alienation, and discrimination because of his physical features, dark black hair, and skin color.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been less than sympathetic towards Ben, at times inwardly questioning his stories of prejudice and discrimination, wanting to believe that most people are basically good and fair in their estimation and treatment of others. It couldn’t be as bad as he’s made it out to be. Is this his justification for not accepting the hard responsibilities of adulthood? Mm…How easy it was for me to judge — a white middle-aged male living in a predominantly white world, with all the privileges this affords me.

If there was ever a time in recent history when the Church could make a difference in the course of a nation, it is now.”

A few nights ago, my sister called me on her way home from work. She’d been on the phone with Ben, who has worked several years for an organic lawn service servicing wealthier neighborhoods. He’d pulled his truck to the side of the road and was unloading his spreader when a man drove up next to him. Lowering his window, he yelled that Ben’s truck was illegally parked; then looking at him, he said, “Just like you, an illegal immigrant.”

Something sticks in your gut when words like these are said to someone you love. First, you want to go and confront this person. At least, you think it. Then, all your own prejudices take the wind out of your sails. Who have I looked at and thought the same? Whose son, father or mother, whose nephew? How could we, white America, know what it’s like to be the object of such hatred and prejudice unless we’ve been on the receiving end ourselves?

There’s a lot of hate out there — and I’m afraid to say — a lot of hate in here, too…in our own hearts. In the past several months it seems to have been unleashed upon the world, even accepted and condoned. It’s more than the result of a presidential campaign; some call it the underbelly of America.

In my mind, it comes, in part, from economic uncertainties and a continued breakdown in community: in our homes and in the civic and religious institutions that have traditionally held us together. It comes as a result of the breakdown in human relationships, especially today, along the lines of race, which have been charged with renewed, deep-seated fears and mistrust. But, ultimately, it’s a spiritual problem arising from an insecurity born of feelings of being unacceptable or unaccepted. When a person feels fully loved and accepted in the eyes of God, he cannot help but love and accept all others.

If there was ever a time in recent history when the Church could make a difference in the course of a nation, it is now. By Church, I mean individual churches and Christians, each of us first looking honestly at ourselves in light of the life of Christ who confronted the social challenges of his day while also being a peacemaker and bridge builder.

As followers of Christ, we’re called to be a healing balm, reaching across existing hatreds to offer a way to relate to one another, to break down walls of hostility that separate us. We’re called to do this through acts of self-sacrifice, service, humility, and love…a love for all people, including those who do not look like ourselves.

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