As we near the end of May, we are speaking with Lutherans who are and identify as Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Island heritage. We are honored to share the stories of our AAPI siblings in Christ. Today we are speaking with Pastor Mary Chang.

Responses have been edited for publication.

How are you connected to the ELCA?

I have been an ELCA pastor for 28 years. I was reached out to by the executive director of Lutheran Children and Family Service of Eastern Pennsylvania, Bill Erat. At that time, I was a volunteer mission worker for them for Southeast Asian refugees in Philadelphia. And Pastor Erat was so excited to talk with Dorothy Ricks and Bill Wong from the ELCA, wondering why a Lutheran was working in a Mennonite church. Pastor Wong and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod were looking for a Chinese-speaking, English-capable person to serve. They were so excited, and that’s the basic reason the ELCA found me and started my process to become a Lutheran to serve the Lutheran Church in America. It took six years for me to become a Lutheran pastor.

What aspects of AAPI culture do you see reflected in your church community?

About our ministry today, particularly after the pandemic, we are a multicultural congregation for outreach to the population nearby our community in Sunset Park Brooklyn. Most likely we have four dialects represented by the Chinese people with us, but we speak our Chinese worship service in Mandarin. After the pandemic, our newly built-up congregation has younger people with families, so we are teaching faith using our Lutheran basics of the Small Catechism, the creed and the Lord’s Prayer to teach people about our heritage in the Lutheran tradition of the faith.

When do you feel most connected to yourself and your culture in a worship environment experience?

I love to use our language for Bible readings, hymn singing, sharing the message and testimony of our faith because 5,000 years of Chinese culture impacts our individual lives as well as the community of Chinese.

What gives you hope?

I think the openness of our church. As the ELCA we accept different cultures, but we have equivalent privileges as children of God in the same church so we have the same privilege and the heritage to explode Jesus Christ’s gospel to the hearers to become children of God. That’s the hope for the church and the church’s mission to unreached, untouched people of God. Regardless of if our original is Chinese or not, that’s the kingdom of God on this planet that’s our mission for now and here.

How do you believe the ELCA can better support and uplift AAPI voices and perspectives?

I think the ELCA can better support AAPI as part of the ELCA, for we are under the same umbrella as Lutherans, we have a common language as a Lutheran with our faith, and even with our different accents we are having voices with our accent. We can make a bigger circle for the people in this advantage to become the inner circle as God’s family as our church. I think that’s the last call for today’s church: our vision in action to make the kingdom of God here and now until we’re back to Jesus’ second coming to see the paradise in the future.

Kelly Wilkerson
Kelly Wilkerson is a content strategist for the ELCA.

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