Pre-Amalagmation: Coming Together
What led North York Presbyterian Church to approach Living Stone Church about amalgamating?
I had a relationship with North York Church. I think part of the North York Church was Hanmin. And they were part of our presbytery, the Canadian Presbytery of West Toronto. I was the interim moderator appointed by the Presbytery. So I went to North York Church to invite their last minister, and I was the one who went through the process of calling him. We installed him as a minister there. And when this last minister left the church, the North York Church wanted to have me as their minister. And also they saw the vision of this Living Stone Church – their vision for the second generation ministry. So they wanted to be a part of that vision.
Until that time, the Korean churches had a history of division, conflicts, and fights. So the churches were constantly divided. By our time, the division was a little less. But we wanted to build a new chapter of history that focused more on amalgamation and unity. Rather than being divided, being united. We wanted to start that, so we were one of the first churches that amalgamated in a significant way. It’s not that both congregations couldn’t survive on their own. That’s not why they amalgamated. No, it wasn’t like that. Both congregations were viable on their own, but for principle they wanted to amalgamate instead of calling another minister. So North York Church approached Living Stone Church. Instead of calling a new minister for themselves, they wanted to think about amalgamating with the Living Stone Church. So that’s how the amalgamation happened.
What were some of the dynamics, feelings and decisions made during the time of the amalgamation?
I think right from the beginning I had to really teach them the importance of this unity. “Divided, we fall. United, we stand” kind of attitude, so that very strong theological message that we had to have. And that’s why everyone was trying so hard to make this unity possible. So we wanted to, not really for the sake of the benefits of being amalgamated, but it’s almost like a theology behind it. So we wanted to start a new chapter, a new history for the Korean immigrants. And so we really worked hard even though there were differences. There were definitely many differences, but they learned not to impose those differences on each other. They tried to get rid of those differences, or tried not emphasize them as much.
In the beginning we called it North York Living Stone Church. But we got a phone call saying, “Where are you? I’m in North York, but I can’t find your church.” But we were not in North York, we were downtown at Keele and Annette. So even though we liked the name Living Stone, we decided that we had to create a new name. We didn’t want any church to dominate any part of the church – like two circles, it’s like a couple, two circles gathered together. If there’s just one circle, with a smaller circle inside a bigger one, that’s kind of like abuse. That’s the secular world, that’s what they do – the bigger company absorbs the smaller company and the smaller ones lose identity, and they become one. We didn’t want that. We wanted both congregations to use their gifts and strengths but also learn to accommodate and embrace each other’s differences. Those differences didn’t disappear, but we learned how to embrace each other’s differences. After a few years, the line between North York and Living Stone disappeared. We were all just one together.
What were some of the differences in the two congregations?
Yeah, I mean, they’re all Koreans, Korean speaking immigrants. But still there are subtle differences in the way they work, the way they treat ministers and such. So many very subtle differences, but we had to overcome some of that and accommodate each other’s wishes and desires
What were some of the dynamics, challenges, and key moments during the early years of the amalgamated church?
During the early years of the amalgamation, for the KSM I had to be very, very conscious of conflicts, fights and division, because two different groups had gathered together. So I focused a lot on working together in unity. But for ESM, you know, there’s not really fighting going on, so I didn’t worry about them fighting. Rather, they got really excited because some new people came and gathered together, and the church became bigger. It grew about twice the size because usually at that time, the saying goes, “One plus one is not two, one plus one is at most 1.2 or even less than one.” Because they had different opinions about amalgamation.
So through the process of amalgamation, the church gets divided. That was the kind of attitude. But for us one plus one became two. Most people came to be amalgamated, so the English congregation grew, and then we became very creative. I don’t know how, but there were a lot of musicians in ESM – professional musicians, professional pianists and guitarists, all kinds of professional musicians. So we did a lot of concerts and it was really exciting. And also at that time we put on a play with the KSM and ESM together. We got a script and we put on a serious play. So we did a lot of creative stuff and church life was really enjoyable. So everybody felt really good about church and doing all of this creative stuff.
How was co-existence among the ESM and KSM?
The play is one good example. Both the KSM and ESM participated in that play, so they got to know each other through that. Afterwards, we had to continuously remind them that we are a coexisting model. Because sometimes the ESM people thought, “Why do we bother being with a KSM? Why don’t we just go out by ourselves. And have our own church and be more efficient. We can do our own things and also we won’t have to worry about the worship time.” But I had to continuously remind them how important it is, for the church to be together, to coexist. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, the spirituality and their blessings flow from one generation to another – like to the second generation. When it reaches the third generation, fourth generation, who knows, we may include the non-Koreans too. Church is not really an only ethnic community, but right now that is needed. It’s too early to just separate and then create your own. It’s a little bit too early. It takes time for God’s movement to happen. So we allow God to move through. We have to continuously teach them the theological importance of this coexistence model – how the spirit guides us, and moves and leads us.
So the second generation had a very good attitude towards the first generation. They treated them with respect and love, even though they are very different. They didn’t really patronize each other. They learned to not just accept, but value each other’s differences. I think that’s very important. Cultural values and manifestations are different, but they learned to value each other’s cultures – you know, the second generation valuing their first generation’s culture, the first generation respecting the second generation’s culture. And so they helped each other.
Table of Contents
- Community of the Word: 25 Years of St. Timothy Presbyterian Church
- Life and Ministry of Rev. In Kee Kim
- Early Years and Ministry
- Formation and Early Years of Living Stone (1992-1996)
- Amalgamation and North York Living Stone (1996-2000)
- Becoming St. Timothy (2001)
- Growing Roots and Growth (2001-2010)
- Maturation into Spiritual Community (2010-2020)
- Pandemic and What Comes Next (2020-Beyond)
- Hermeneutics and Approach to Scripture
- How the Community Shaped Them: Stories from Members
- Reflections from Rev. Jane Yoon
- The Message of St. Timothy
- Life and Ministry of Rev. In Kee Kim