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By Melanie Mar Chow

Photo by inna dee
The church may have been caught off guard when the pandemic came to the US.  Almost a year later, people still need best practices for corporate worship.  The question should always be:  How is our worship relevant to God, and then for God’s people?  One West Coast church learned a hard lesson on how the virus spreads in close quarters from person to person from their nose or mouth. This caused fear of being with others when it involved singing or talking in person.   

With vaccinations more available, my church is considering the timing to return to in-person gatherings. This journey has been challenging to honor the dictates of government leaders.  We trust God when we lack understanding.  Knowing the Holy Spirit is praying/groaning for our best interests allows peace. 

God created people with the ability to be amazingly creative.  For example, though many miss the ability to hug, an important realization is that embracing people is not limited to a church building.  Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us to consider how to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Pandemic meetings bring people to connect with God to be ready for the full reign of Christ. How?  To do what the author notes as part of our worship to God for the greater good.   

Living out our lives for God with God-given gifts moves us from not being alone to shared lives.  We cannot worship God if we are unaware of the reasons why we praise God for what He is doing. Hearing testimonies helps me know God is at work by a text, call, or a media post. Reframing perspective by employing creativity, my campus ministry students use connectivity sites like Slack, Discord, and others to better connect.  There are new sites like Gathertown or Gatherly that allow casual conversations in visually recreated spaces.  One group used Gathertown to translate their meeting room layout matching colors and the exact numbers of chairs and tables in each room!  

Creativity happens in abundance when we empower the priesthood of all believers. For example, we have been able to uniquely partake of communion at home.  Ashes for Ash Wednesday were dispensed to our pods, with enough that we could have shared with neighbors.  Baptisms have occurred on Zoom, as have weddings, funerals, and commissioning services.  The other possibility is to postpone these events until people can gather.  Though we miss being in person, life goes on.  The value of meaningful worship increases by employing God-given talents.  

What creative means have you engaged for worship relative to God and blessing others?  Commit to communicate with one person about one creative way to worship this week.

Rev. Melanie Mar Chow serves God through Asian American Christian Fellowship, the campus ministry division of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS). She has been an ordained American Baptist minister since 2004. A Pacific Northwest native, she currently lives with her husband and daughter in Southern California.

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Photo by Renee Grayson

By April Yamasaki

When I first started my website, AprilYamasaki.com, I used the tagline “Spiritual Practice, Faith, and Life.” I really didn’t know what to call my new blogging venture, but I figured I had to start with something, and I could always change my title later.

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Photo by Scott Akerman

By Joy Wong

When it comes to my faith, it’s certainly not the first time I’ve felt lost. Like in college, when I was convinced that God had shown me my future husband, complete with divine signs and confirmations, only to find him engaged to someone else the following year. Or when I had left my evangelical Asian American church to join the PCUSA where women were encouraged to pursue ordination, only to find it supremely difficult to fit into any existing local PCUSA congregation. I remember telling my spiritual director that I felt like a football that was thrown, but then fumbled.

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By Ajung Sojwal

Photo by R Boed

In these uncommon times that we find ourselves in, I have come to realize how much I took for granted the practice of my faith in its liturgical and communal rhythm. Maybe because the spaces where faith got expressed in tangible ways seems to be shifting, maybe because a rugged cross, once again, got dragged through the crowd by a mob ready to kill for their version of truth barely six days into a new year, maybe, finally, I have learnt to listen for God’s voice — whatever it is, I find myself taking a serious inventory of all the people in my life, the place I happen to be, the things I treasure and the emotions within to understand the relevancy of my faith for this moment.

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By Angela Ryo

Photo by a.canvas.of.light

What does faith have to do with me and my life? How would I be different if I weren’t a person of faith? And what exactly do I have faith in? As I ask myself such questions, the person that comes to mind is the woman in the Bible who had been bleeding for 12 years. I had preached on it not too long ago and wanted to share an excerpt from my sermon:

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By Casey Iwanaga

Photo by Stock Catalog

“In God we trust” a phrase stamped on each coin, each bill, in speeches and papers that founded this nation, spoken by politicians who don’t mean it and people who don’t believe it. A phrase that gets tossed around during the calm and quickly forgotten during the storm, making us the hypocrites as we throw a fit. Asking God to change our circumstances, our politicians, our daily life, all to selfishly benefit ourselves just for a bit. How do we submit and genuinely mean that phrase when we wanna quit? We take a step back and let God work in us, bit by bit. Until we don’t need money, politicians or the world to remind us who we trust in. Until that phrase isn’t just relevant in our lives but ingrained in it, so when the calm or the storm comes we can wholeheartedly mean it.

Casey Iwanaga is a junior at the University of California in Merced. Her father is a retired pastor currently serving as Chairman of the OMS Holiness Churches.

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By Sarah D. Park

Photo by Ricardo Franz

I am bothered when a church concerns itself about relevancy. That used to be quite the buzzword as we ruminated on how a church might be appropriate to its times and to the next generation.

But this past Sunday during church, my pastor spoke on the story of Eli and Samuel and by lectionary providence, she gave me the words to get to the bottom of my bother. Shame on me for only remembering the children’s Sunday school part of the story — when Eli helps Samuel respond to the voice of God — but Pastor Erina reminded us of the context before it, on why God communicated through Samuel of God’s coming judgment on Eli and Eli’s family.

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By Diana Kim

Photo by Marco Versch Professional Photographer

“Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” -Karl Barth

Wednesday January 6, 2021 will go down in history as a dark day for democracy. The world was in shock — though unsurprised — to see thousands of Trump supporters storm the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Described as a coup, domestic terrorism, insurrection, and sedition, the riot at the Capitol displayed the moral failings of our nation, as white men clearly marked in gear that depicts white nationalism and neo-Nazism claimed this to be the “beginning of the start of [the] White Revolution in the United States.”

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By Wendy Choy-Chan

Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer

2020 was a year of conflicts, here in many parts of the world including the US and Hong Kong. 2020 was a year of unrest, going through change after change with the Covid pandemic. 2020 was a year of testing of our faith, hoping that this time would soon pass. 

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By Tina Teng-Henson

Conflict is an apt word to reflect upon at the end of this tumultuous year of battling COVID, even though it is Christmastime. 

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