Feel free to comment with your thoughts.
Feel free to comment with your thoughts.
With the blogger's permission Jason recommends you read this blog. It is entitled "ON BEING A MILLENNIAL PASTOR – LEADERS WHO DON’T REMEMBER THE GLORY DAYS"
2014, 11:30pm, December 31st. It was New Year’s Eve, and I was sitting at Kangnam Community Church in Seoul, South Korea. First time I had ever been at a church service for New Year’s Eve. In Korea, New Year’s is a time for families, and Christmas is primarily for couples; reversed from our understanding. As I sat, surrounded by 2,500 other people ready to ring in the New Year with a countdown in church, we were suddenly handed little bookmarks. Now I can read Korean just fine, but it doesn’t mean I know what I am reading. My friends had to explain to me that this was ‘my’ scripture passage for the year, a mantra for me to follow, the Word of God, for me. It’s a wonderful concept, and people come to worship just to receive this blessing and start the New Year in God’s house. It wasn’t until 2:00am that I got home (as staff we have to wait for everyone else to leave).
Fastforward 3 years later to Estevan, SK. I was very happy, with my partner Young, to introduce this practice within our liturgical year. We dressed in our Korean traditional dress, introduced the Korean NYE, and even had the chance to listen to Young use her amazing talent and sing for us. Following is part of what I said that day:
In both myself, as in each of us, varying personality quirks give us our uniqueness. One which often surfaces in me is that I am relatively determined and organized. I operate, I function, with and only with my black dayplanner. Anyone who has seen my little black book can attest to this. This past week though it goes to a whole nother level. I plan for the whole year, with stacks of papers and lists throughout my entire office. It is simply divine for someone like me! Now, this isn’t simply limited to the office, it spreads into my leisure time as well. When it comes to planning a vacation, I do it in detail. Itineraries, Googlemaps, Tripadvisor reviews.
Just as we are given words of hope and encouragement, or maybe a couple funny life lessons (I picked the scriptures, so you never know what you might get!) - Somewhere there is a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend, a colleague—or someone completely unknown to us on a street corner, in a shelter or a prison—who waits from us a word of hope, forgiveness, an act of concern or kindness. No matter that some of them have made their bed and are now lying in it. No matter that some have deceived donors about their desperation. The surprising thing is that God’s love at Christmas has claimed each of us despite our failures this past year. The surprising thing is that that very love has caught us by surprise and now empowers us to make new beginnings for the new year.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned an old Youth leader friend sent me a care package. In that care package was a little dayplanner, with notes every couple weeks for something fun to do, something that has nothing to do with anything else, and she penciled it in for me. Along with all the work and organizing I put into my yearly plan, I also left room for all of those little things, those God moments where anything can happen. Those moments, where one day, Young & I (&Lincoln!) might just pick a direction and drive for the fun of it. Where we might join the Magi and go home by another road. SO make your plans, your resolutions, but let’s all leave a little room for God. And for a little scripture on our fridge. Happy New Year everybody, may 2018 bring us more laughs, more joy, and more in community with God and each other. Amen!
As we begin a new ‘church year’ (September-ish!) I reflect on the things that I feel we are blessed with. People are happy, they are smiling as they come together here at St. Paul’s. There is an excitement, our laity is feeling that excitement and so many new things are happening. I am so humbled to see the Mom’s ministry continue, and to see a Women’s Book Study begin. At the same time, our Christian Education department is expanding to new and wonderful events this winter, as we embrace Messy Church, some Movie nights, and other themed events. We have begun a Youth group, as well as a Young Adult night. In the summer we voted to undertake Refugee sponsorship. As I write this, I just finished performing the second wedding of the season. We are privileged to be here, to have what we have, and the people that make up our church home. Thinking of this I was taken back to the sermon I preached on September 24th (Take a listen if you want to hear the whole thing). Here is part of it:
Over the summer I attended an event called the ‘Big Tent’ of the PCUSA in St. Louis. There, our amazing bible study leader, Eric Barreto, looked at this text of the wealthy landowner, as someone whose father was that day laborer his whole life, just trying their best so he, their son, could have a better life. To him, this scripture is about God’s justice meeting us where we are, where our needs are. You could stand all day and never get work, that’s a reality for the immigrant community, but you would stand at the same spot, with the same people, 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. These were your friends, they were family, you weren’t angry when someone got a day’s wage for doing an hour’s week, you thanked God.
Friends, grace has no measure. If I jump in the pool at the beginning of the day, I am no wetter than the one who jumped in just before it was time to get out. We are all blessed with that same grace at St. Paul’s. Feel it. Experience it. Let it drive you, as we push into this new year, happy and hopeful. We are also asked to thank God, always and everyday, thank God. For everything we have, for whom we have, and for Jesus our Christ. Happy Thanksgiving. Amen.
WOW, It happened!! After a journey of years, and years, and maybe a few more years, from places as small as Quill Lake, SK to as large as Seoul, South Korea, I was ordained on June 18th in Saskatoon, surrounded by family, friends, and my home church of McClure. I thank St. Paul’s for their generous gift of the handmade stole (in my favorite color!) with such beautiful embroidery. Although this does not change my ministry, it does reinforce the calling I feel from God within the hierarchy of our church. There is a sense of ‘Ok, we believe you, go get em!’ As I skipped up the steps for the ceremony (you know me, of course I skipped up the stairs!) I thought of all the moments that got me to that point. Challenge Day in Humboldt, SK. Working with Rev. Al Hingley in Watson, SK. Attending the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea. Meeting Young in Seoul, studying in Seoul. Joining Coffee Row in Oxbow. Experiencing a Mission trip in Nicaragua, and all the million other things that eventually brought me…. Here. To Estevan. We are so blessed to call this place our home, and I hope that with this renewed commitment of the wider church, and a buoyed confidence in my call, we will continue to journey together, wherever it may lead. Amen! God is Good! 😊
Easter! Has it already come and gone? Complete with a little snow just to keep us on our toes?
Christ has risen indeed, hallelujah! It has been a blessed first Easter at St. Paul’s International for Young, Lincoln & I. We began on Palm/Passion Sunday, a Contemporary service that saw me attempting some dramatic reading as a local citizen on the streets from the time of Jesus' arrest. I concluded with these remarks:
“How did we go from the parade of palms to this – streets littered with the stones thrown at the poor man, already so weak from a beating that he kept falling down? What has gotten into people? Are we such herd animals that all we need is a little nudge, a little scandal, or a suggestion of a scandal and we tear people down? We human beings are capable of such beauty, such creativity, such courage and compassion, and yet, when we are frightened or disappointed, or feel powerless, we are capable of such violence and unspeakable horror. Did they fear Jesus and his radical call to peace through justice rather than power? Are we so afraid of justice? Are we so afraid of unconditional love?”
From there we delved deeper into despair, as we entered Maundy Thursday. A communal service that took place at North Portal, with bread and soup, followed by a candlelit service done by Emily Gillies, Jim Pratt and myself. If the questions at the end of the Palm/Passion service left us wondering, this one continued with that vein. We left in silence and darkness, after hearing the story of the Last Supper and Gethsemane.
Good Friday saw our church try something new. Accepting an invitation to be a part of the worship taking part at the Church of God, we jumped into unfamiliar waters and embraced the Spirit of Christ. I was asked to lead the Prayers, and it was a little nerve wracking for me! Young could tell you how nervous I was to go up there, it was packed!
A few days went by, and a good friend posted how nice it was to hear ‘Liturgical Prayers’ for a change. I realized at that moment that the norm was to do the prayers of blessing, healing and power, not liturgy based prayers. I had no idea! I am glad we could bring a little ‘United’ into their service though, and that it went over well. 😊
Here is an excerpt of the Prayers from Good Friday;
“Oh, that change God, so powerful! Jesus announced the coming of God’s reign; a commonwealth not of domination but of peace, justice and reconciliation. He healed the sick and fed the hungry. He forgave sins and freed those held captive by all manner of methods. He crossed barriers of race, class, culture, and gender. Change is the very nature of your Way, O God, lived by Jesus, led by your Spirit, fed by your grace. May your light ever be our guide as we become ever more your people.“
Next saw us at the Lion’s pavilion across from Hillview for Easter Sunrise service! Growing up in Saskatoon, I attended the Easter Sunrise every year, snow, rain, wind, or shine, it didn’t matter. I knew I wanted to try it in Estevan and see how it went. The Anglican church and Trinity Lutheran also agreed to join, and we had a wonderful (albeit cold) morning service outside! I thank all those that came out, and for giving such positive feedback. I’ll see you next year!
Trinity invited everyone over to their church for a breakfast to follow, but I grabbed a plate and bolted down to North Portal for Easter Worship… and followed that up with Worship at St. Paul’s in Estevan. Thus concluded the whirlwind of a week filled with Holy moments, with prayer, with joy, and with tears. To, at the end of it all, stand in front of familiar faces, in familiar spaces, hear the story of Easter, and take part in communion, meant everything. It was a sigh, one of comfort and acceptance. There is something special about leading Easter in a church, it is, above even Christmas, where the tedium in preparation, makes itself seen and experienced in so many different ways. To be a minister leading a church through Easter, means you are here, you are a part of this community, you’ve taken the polar bear plunge, there is no where to go but forward.
I concluded my sermon that morning by saying ‘Christ is ahead of us, blazing a path into the future, and our duty is just to follow, to not be afraid and to follow.’ We now continue along that path, together. Amen.
I would just like to share with you today our utmost joy. Over the past few weeks, Baby Lincoln has been welcomed into the St. Paul’s International family twice, with a baby shower and a baptism!! Through him, we continue to feel the love of these communities, and it is a continual feeling of humbleness for us. Young and I wish to thank all of you so much, for your kind words and smiles, for all the gifts, and for opening our church to the pastor who performed our blessing ceremony.
The baptismal service in Estevan, attended by not just my family, but members of North Portal, Portal, Alameda and Oxbow was an inspiring moment. I was over the moon that day! Lincoln was an angel, and Ron McConnell coming so far to be a part of that moment with us, was too kind to put into words.
Young and I are so happy to be here, to be a part of the family, and to know that Lincoln is already so loved and supported. It means the world to us.
God bless all of you!!!
Jesus invites each and everyone one of us into an entirely different way to relate to each other, inviting us into relationships governed not by power but by vulnerability. We are those with the God-given potential to change the world, invited to live by Jesus’ radical ethics now, and model a new and different way of being in the world that we call the kingdom of God.
If this new order, this new community, is being built in the midst of the old order, what might that mean for our life as a people of faith? We can certainly see the effects of the old order around us: poverty is still rampant, people still settle disputes with fists and guns, nations still conquer nations, people still think that walls and isolation are the answer.
Are we the people who believe that faith is to be used and understood as a daily walk in the world? We have a choice; We can, in our worship, pray vehemently for the passing of the old order and quietly go about our lives for the rest of the week, or we could pray vehemently for the passing of the old order and plant seeds of the new by the living of our lives throughout the week as Jesus preached in our Gospel today.
What we aim for as Christians - is to break through the limitations of our excuses, we aim to destroy all reasons that we might offer to treat one person as less than another and to enter into relationships with each other that are based upon our equality before God. As a faith community, we can choose to put this type of radical love first. As individuals, we can live this out on a daily basis. A modern day discipleship!
My head is so full of ideas, and they excite me, I want to pass that on to you, I want us to do this together. Anyone, or Everyone is welcome to join. Old, young, woman, man, I don’t care! This will not be time consuming, it will be experiential, and done by facebook, email, face to face, phone, or text message! I want us to live as Christian disciples, out there, and see how that enlivens our faith, and our passion for Christ. I want to organize work bees, to throw a community party, and to see where in our own neighborhoods God is active, and how we can get involved. If any of those interest you, let me know! Where it will end up, I don’t know, but to me, that’s part of the fun. If you are interested, contact Me (Jason Richards) @ 306 – 485 - 6888 and please give as many ways to contact you as possible!
Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow!!! I’m a dad! We’re parents!! Young Seo & I (Jason Richards) are so happy to announce the birth of our son, Lincoln Taejun Richards, born on January 25th. Lincoln was born in Regina, so it made for a fair amount of time before we could bring him home, but we had such amazing care at Regina General, we couldn’t have asked for more (Oh and if anyone ever has a nurse named Miesha in Labor & Delivery, she is THE BEST!!). Nothing tops the moment of walking back into your own house, with your new son, and setting him down in his crib for the first time as he sleeps. We are so excited/nervous/joyous/anxious/happy to be parents, and everything in between. We hope you will all get the chance to see little Lincoln soon, until then, here a few pictures to keep you occupied!
I would like to thank the church for all of its support, and those that helped with leadership while I was away. Jim Pratt, Jeri-Lee Jones and Kaye Hemus were all wonderful in their offering of assistance. To everyone who has given us gifts, we thank you from the bottom of our heart, little Lincoln knows love, I am sure of it!
I want to share a little story with you as well. While we were in Regina (like every other time we go to Regina) we always have to stop at the Korean Market to get Young some food. The market in Regina is nice, and has a decent selection. My father and I meandered over there on our last afternoon, and started shopping with the list Young gave us. One of the items I could not find, and as I wandered the aisles, a woman came up to me and asked if she could help. I said what I was looking for, and she asked the man at the counter, he said that they had no more left. The woman introduced herself, and then brought over her husband, who as it so happens is the minister of a Korean church in Regina. Well, he loved our story, and was so happy to meet us, and his wife was overjoyed to hear of our new baby. The minister is looking to make connections in Estevan, so we got to talking, and had an amazing discussion. My dad had to pull me away! We exchanged phone numbers, and went on our way, as the woman promised that she would bring some food down to Young after a week! She kept that promise. A week goes by, and I get a text ‘We are coming down today!’ They drove two hours, and brought a weeks worth of food for Young. Young and the pastor found out they had a few mutual friends in Korea! They stayed only a little while before they went back to Regina, only driving down that day to deliver food for Young, Korean traditional after baby food. It was truly God’s providence to meet this couple, and we were touched by their kindness, as we are with so many people during this joyous time.
Christmas is truly a wonderful time. There is a sense of errant joy that just seems to permeate everything, and we just sort of wade through it, flapping our hands like a kid in their first pair of water wings. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I get so excited buying presents for people. I can’t wrap a present to save my life (tape is always the answer!) but buying something meaningful and/or funny really warms my heart. I’ve always been of the mind that if you tell me what you want me to get you, I never will. It takes all the fun out of it for me, but I’m quirky that way.
Not every Christmas has been this way, I have spent two Christmas’s abroad. The first one was in 2012, my first time in Seoul, Korea. I was studying at Hanshin Theological Seminary, and Christmas came near the end of the semester. It’s strange, I knew I was going home just three odd weeks later, but the season hit me hard. I missed my family, our traditions, and the ability to immerse myself in that permeated joy. I became incredibly sad, and made it through the season with the strong love and support of my (now) wife Young. She got a little tree for us, and took us to the countryside. Her kindness and understanding meant the world, but I can only imagine to reach cross-culturally and try to help me through something that would be difficult for her to comprehend, truly a feat of love and grace.
Two years later I was in Korea again, but this time I had learned. In November, I put a call out on Facebook, asking for Christmas cards to be sent to me to help me through the season, and promising a return card with a present. I had no expectations (I am not a big facebook poster, maybe no one would respond?) But after a few weeks, they started coming. In the end, it was over thirty. Some unique, and funny, with little presents, and the kindest notes of support and love, some from people I hadn’t spoken to face to face in a long time.
My sermon last week revolved around supporting someone, who in turn may support us as we progress and write new chapters in our own lives. It’s Christmas, and just like the support of people out on facebook came through for me in my time of need, I would invite each of you reading to reach out to someone as well. There is a name in the back of your mind right now, that you have considered calling/writing/e-mailing/texting for weeks, but haven’t quite gotten to that point. I’d invite you to take that last step. Trust me, it may be exactly what they are needing right now. With such selfless actions, an aura of joy can spread just that extra bit further, and reach even more people.
This Christmas, Young and I have put up our first tree, and are preparing to host some friends who have thus far in Canada yet to experience the full range of Christmas. We are joyously excited to host, and hoping not to burn the turkey (pizza places till deliver on Christmas right?) J
Best wishes to everyone!