How has the pandemic impacted our church?
Rev. In Kee Kim
I mean first time in my life, and first time in many, even elderly, people, they never experienced this. They experienced church being closed. It was the first time in our lives, to experience this globally – not just this country, in the city, but the whole world was dealing with it. And in the beginning, I didn’t know what that meant for the church, for the future of the church. So I kind of had a panic attack right in the beginning. I even went to the emergency room at the beginning of this pandemic [because of it]. Now I know what I can do, but right at the beginning, I didn’t know what this meant. “Is it the end of the church?” “Is [it] the end of the institutional church?”
So I mean, this made us really think about what is really important in life, and what is essential. What are the things that you don’t need to have? So those things I think helped the church. Also as we started to open up the church again, I mean for a while, I didn’t see them for I don’t know how many months – they didn’t even come to zoom service. So I don’t know whether they were there or not. But when we started opening up [again], the people that I didn’t see, they started coming. So I realized that that root is deeper than I thought – their loyalty to the church and to God was deeper than I thought. So I’m very glad to find out that. I realized that faith is very important to them, spirituality is very important to them, and this church – this particular church – is very important to them. So it was really encouraging to see how important what we are doing is for them. So in the future, who knows, we can never take anything for granted. We should always take things with gratitude and appreciation.
What are your hopes and wishes for the community and church for the next 25 years?
Rev. In Kee Kim
I mean I think what I did is only the beginning. I feel that it’s just a fraction of the beginning of reforming the church. Ultimately, we have to think about mission – that is the ultimate. It’s not to learn about God – that’s not the whole issue – it’s about doing the mission, what God wants us to do. The church needs to engage in that. So a few years ago, I went to an antipoverty seminar in the city and many different social organizations came. They [were] all really concerned about poverty issues in Toronto. At our church the only representatives, Paul Kang and I, the two of us went together, to see what they had to say. So things like that, we need to get involved. We were involved in the candlelight vigil for when the United States attacked Iraq and also for Black Lives Matter. So we did another vigil. But, we need to be a voice in the wilderness. We need to voice out what is right. Not necessarily certain political issues, but what is right in God’s eyes. So things like that. We need to get involved and poverty issues and the associations that are there around in the city and our people, if they’re equipped, now they give back. The church exists and God blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. So we need to bless the city that we live in, Etobicoke that we live in. That’s why we wanted to do something with the Willow Ridge community here. We are still continuously thinking about that.
This was a difficult thing to ponder over when I got this question. I don’t know. But I think we have to listen, we have to be open to it, and we have to seek it. Yes we have to wait. But at the same time, I think you have to go search, whether it be passively or actively search. But my hope is that this church is still standing of course, and that the young people now will reach my age in the next 25 years and look back with great memories and greater faith, and how faithful God and the people in it are. That’s my hope. I’m sure God will lead us whatever way. But we have to just keep listening, searching, and hopefully even talking about it and keep learning too. So hopefully even at 75, I’ll still be learning.
I hope to still be around. I’ll be 77 then. I have a lot of hopes. Like I said before, a lot of people have come through the doors. A lot of people have left and, you know, everyone has their own path. Everyone has their own journey. So I’m hoping that everyone who came through the doors and left, I’m hoping that they found a community that they can call their own and that they can commit to. But I also think in the back of my mind about that Korean word 아까워 [“A shame”]. A little bit 아까워 [“A shame”] to have all these people come through your doors and for whatever reason, it was not a good fit. And that’s fine if it’s got to do with a different philosophy or theological viewpoint or things like that, but where I have a bit of a sense of regret – and this is where the hope comes in – is that I just wish people would make a conscious decision to commit to this community.
I think it has to be conscious at some point. Sometimes it can be subconscious in the sense that it’s habitual. You know, you come. But then at some point, I think making a conscious decision to make this your own community makes a big difference. And I think if some of those people who had come and gone had made that conscious decision to actually commit, invest into the community, be part of the community, contribute to the community, I feel confident that not only would they still be here, but their lives would be enriched just as much as my life has been enriched. So my hope is that whoever’s here now, including all the young kids that we have (not just these guys, they’re old enough to make up their own decisions), but even like your [Simon’s] kids and then all the other kids. They’re here because their parents are here, but at some point, it would be awesome for them to make that choice [themselves].
So what I would hope is that everyone, young or old, whether you’re new or not or you’ve been around forever, think about it, reflect on it and make that conscious choice to commit in whatever way you feel you can commit. And I feel like when you do that, your life will definitely become that much more rich. You’ll benefit, but obviously the community will benefit that much more as well. And I think that that’s something that I really hope for over the next many years – that we will see people choosing to be part of this community and looking at ways to make it your own. It’s kind of like when you have your own business or when you have your own family, or when you have your own something that you call your own – you care about it that much more. You clean up, you pick up things if you see litter all over the place. And you reach out to people that you haven’t seen in a while because you miss them or their absence is felt. So those kinds of things, I think are little nuances of ways that you behave when you’ve made a commitment that this is your community. I think this community is very unique in many ways – in the way that we operate, in our viewpoints, our theology, and so many different ways. I can’t imagine what our lives would be like without this community. So I think we shouldn’t take it for granted. We shouldn’t take it for granted, but we need to contribute. We need to make that commitment.
Sook Ja Kim
If there is a wish, previously, when I was the president of the women’s group, myself and five pastors prayed together, one by one, at Youngnak Church. I prayed at that time, although our 1st generation started with a little bit of faith, and all we needed to do was to grow that faith.
I am worried about our 2nd generation. But what did the mothers of ancient Israel do? There’s a thing called Shema in the Bible. Shema is when they have the children sit down to memorize the Scripture and write it on their foreheads. It is written in the book of Deuteronomy 6:4. Having those thoughts made me worry for our 2nd generation children. But now we have ministers who are devoted. I pray that our ministers will teach them faith, and that they may grow in faith. We are limited in what we can teach at home, so they need to be taught at church. Those who went to Sunday school and those who didn’t are different. Come to think of it, as I was born in a Christian family, I’ve attended Sunday School and have been a Sunday School teacher. So I believe education for younger generation is very important. The second generation is growing now.
I believe God will lead us. Of course, when I think about hopes for the future, there are parts I thought would be nice if we can gather our strength together. I’m talking about education for especially KSM young families. There is not a lot of young families in KSM. So that was always my prayer topic and something I am continuing to struggle with. So what we decided was, although there might not be much that we can do, we decided to attend whatever gatherings there are like a stump, and to put that as one of our top priorities. However, I think for the parents to stay, the children must be happy. The children need to have friends and to enjoy coming to worship. If the children were not happy and did not want to go to church, then it’s hard for the parents to come to church as well. So I hope that many children come to well settled and developed Kids’ Church and Hi-C, where they will receive good education.
When we first come to church, people usually come because of the Senior Pastor’s messages or the pastoral staff. So thinking about the next 25 years, or few years later, I came up with few worries. However, in prayer, I felt that God told me that those are not things we should worry about. These are not things for us to plan. But when we journey together with the members and discuss together and go forward together, I believe God will lead us.
Kwang Sik Choi & Esther Jun
I think we will continue quietly like how we’ve been. We’re not the kind of church where we are very fired up and passionate. We quietly cultivate inwardly and faithfully, learn the Word, pray a lot, meditate a lot, and continue to do this in such a calm environment. As I said before, I hope that our church can be where the second and third generations can experience personal encounters with God. So the individual will change, and the church will change like this. So, I have some kind of vision that we can do the work of the Kingdom of God on this Earth, and I hope it will be like that.
I think it would be really good if we set a good example so that the good traditions of our St. Timothy Presbyterian Church continue and flow not only for the next 25 years, but 100 years after too. I hope that we can become a church where our children grow and worship with the adults.
Looking back, we used to think church is splitting up all the time. But our church in the beginning (yes) split up so many times and became Living Stone Church. When Living Stone Church merged with North York Church, we kept each other’s names as North York Living Stone Church. It was like that at first. But at some point, that division melted, and we decided to have a different name for the church. Isn’t this what becoming one looks like? As churches continued to separate in Toronto, we became the only church who merged together and became one. And there have been no signs of a split since then. And even when difficult things happen to the church, looking at it like this, I think we adults were quite wise. If you think the problem is going to get bigger, do this quietly while waiting for the right time. So, how we’ve naturally flowed seems like an invisible underlying power that has given strength to our church. So, whether 100 years go by or 200 years go by, I hope that we can continue this tradition of faith. So, through quiet and personal encounters with God, I hope that our faith is not something that just heats up and then cools down. I hope that our ever-growing love will just spread and we can become a loving church.
[I feel] so hopeful, so excited. Seeing the interns working so hard for the church, even the logistics and figuring out things like ‘What do you want on your hamburger?’ The thought and care that go into the very little things that the young people are doing for the church and the Sunday school teachers – my heart just explodes, for you guys. I am very hopeful for the future of this community, and I have a feeling that you’re going to do wonderful things. I think right now, during COVID, as we figure out how to get people back and how to connect, get the community engaged again, a word that is used a lot is being innovative and creative. I think as older folks, that’s not our strong suit, but looking at the younger generation, I have no doubt that that is going to come through. There’s so much hope that it’s just going to get better and more interesting and more deeper.
I think the COVID was a little bit of a pause. A pause of looking back. What was that all about? Like I was gung ho about doing all these things and what was that about? Was that really about God? Or was it about me? Or was it still the recognition of other people? I needed to look at that. I think that was a really, really good pause. So I feel we’re starting a new journey. It’s a new journey for the next 25 years. I’m going to be 86, so the next 25 years have got to be the best of the best. I’m really looking forward to it.
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