Tell us about the beginning of Living Stone Church.
Living Stone Church started from the split of the Central Korean United Church, where there were a lot of Korean church members. There were more Korean members at that church than at the Korean Presbyterian Church. Not long after, there was a dispute and people fought for a long time. Around the time when Living Stone Church was created, I was in LA because my father-in-law had passed away. I got a call from Elder Jeongil Lee. He told me that the church had split. I didn’t know that the church had split because we were in LA. I knew that there was a fight, but it was surprising to hear that they had split like that. The Presbytery could not handle the fight so they told them to leave the church – that is how the church had split. The church split when my father-in-law passed away. So we were told by the Presbytery to leave. But we had nowhere to worship. Since our living room was large, they wanted to have a worship service at our house. So what could I do? I had to say yes. Then, they said that they needed a key to come to work at our house. So they asked my kids for the key. Once they got the key, we started worshiping at our house. That was the beginning of Living Stone Church.
How was the name Living Stone chosen?
That was the beginning of how our church started, so now the question was – What should we name our church? So, people started suggesting various names for our church. My wife suggested the name, Living Stone. Jesus is called the Living Stone in the 1 Peter 2:4-5. So, we said let’s call it Living Stone Church. After hearing the name, someone said, “Why a stone?” So there were some who didn’t like it. And there were also a few other names that were suggested, however, I told them this – Living Stone is a word from the Bible, so let’s use this word from the Bible. At that time, I was the secretary of the Session, and I said let’s go with the name Living Stone Church. No one opposed it, so our church became Living Stone Church.
Why did you approach Rev. In Kee Kim?
During that time, we didn’t have our own worship space or minister, so we would go around and invite ministers who had time or did not belong to a specific church for our Sunday worship. Rev. Kim had left Toronto Korean Presbyterian Church (TKPC) at the time, so he did not belong to any church. So we decided to invite Rev. Kim as our minister. Rev. Kim is a Presbyterian minister. But, at the time, we had just come out of the United Church, so he was a bit hesitant. He said that he wouldn’t be coming to our church unless our church was Presbyterian. So we told him, “We don’t belong to any denomination yet, and in the future, we could go under the Presbytery,” and we invited him once again. Rev. Kim said that he would consider the offer. Not long after, he came back and agreed to be our minister. So that’s the story of how Rev. Kim became our minister.
Rev. In Kee Kim
How did your journey with Living Stone begin?
When I finished seminary, I wanted to study, but the church didn’t let me. By that time I thought, okay, finally, I could go back to my studies. So I was going to study further. Then I got approached by this group of people that needed help. They were small, and they just came out of United Church. There were a lot of conflicts, so they came out, and they had worship on their own. All together with children, there were about 80 people, not even 80. They were gathering together, and then they approached me, and asked “Can you help us?”. At that time I was thinking, okay, it’s a small church, so maybe I could study and then take care of this church. I can do both.” That was what I was thinking, but I was really going to study. That was my main thing when I left TKPC. Then I started getting involved in this church and small church – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a big church or a small church. I was so busy. So I couldn’t really go back to studying at that time. I mean, maybe it’s like God telling me you’re not supposed to be there. You’re supposed to be at the church.
I thought, okay, can I maybe do halftime, but once I get involved, I give it my all. I can’t give half hearted. That’s my personality. I gave it all. And for the first time, I was doing first generation ministry. I didn’t know the first generation ministry was this complex, with whole issues. Also I was doing both first generation and secondary generation. It’s like running two churches – two board meetings, two sermons, and two retreats. Everything was doubled.
What really attracted me was that they are very interested in building the secondary ministry. That’s what really attracted me, that they will support the second generation ministry as much as I want it to do. That’s why I started both secondary generation ministry and first generation ministry together, right from the beginning. I wanted to create two systems, but one. Under one roof, two systems, but spiritually connected. I wanted to give English service, financial freedom, financial independence. Not because they needed financial independence, but I wanted to teach them stewardship. At that time, the second generation, they didn’t know what stewardship was. They were always dependent on their parents. Their parents did everything for them. They provide a building for them. They provide ministry for them. They provided all the expenses for them. They just came to church. The future of the secondary ministry is in their stewardship. They cannot be independent financially, they cannot really survive. It doesn’t matter how many people, but how much offering you can raise. I wanted to really teach them the responsibility of taking care of the church financially, too. That’s why I wanted to give them financial independence.
What challenges and successes did you face in coexisting as a first and second generation?
They wanted to build up a second generation ministry. That’s why they called me. So their attitude was very positive towards second generation ministry. And that’s why they didn’t focus on themselves – they focused on the second generation ministry. So they wanted to be as supportive as possible.
At that time, I don’t remember that there was any minister who did first generation and second generation as senior minister. Either they had a senior minister and the second generation assistant minister that was a system, but this church was the first church who had at the head minister, senior minister, to take care of both congregations, the Korean speaking congregation and English speaking congregation. So, yeah at TKPC, I only did secondary school ministry, but when I came and did the first and second years of ministry together. So it was almost like one person take care of taking care of two congregations because they’re radically different languages, different cultures, different, and whole system was doubled. If there were meetings, there were two meetings: session meeting and board meetings. If I did Bible studies, then I had to do two Bible studies. Every Sunday I would do 2 sermons. Even though it’s a translation, you cannot just translate from Korean to English. And also right now it’s almost similar because I’ve been trained to do that for 30 years. So from the beginning, I think of both congregations, but at that time it was very, very challenging to think of two different cultures, two different congregations and prepare a sermon. So in terms of workload, it was quite a bit demanding at times I was so burnt out after a few years, I was so burnt out.
I remember driving to the church at the time, at Jarvis. I saw people on the street, the street people, and I said to myself, “They look freer than me.” And when I did funerals, the person who was in the coffin looked more peaceful than me. I went through periods of being burnt out, just briefly. I also did a wedding at the time because people that I knew before had asked me, they didn’t come to our church but they asked me to do their wedding. When I went to the wedding, I wasn’t happy at all. I said it’s supposed to be a very happy occasion, but in a way, I was very down and dark. It was hard.
Earlier years of Living Stone… we didn’t have any resources so I had to do everything. Even making bulletins, I had to make bulletins, and, even though the numbers were small, still, whether you make a bulletin for a thousand people or 10 people, it’s the same bulletin, you just make copies. So all the administrative work was kind of difficult. And also at that time, we didn’t have a church building. They just allowed us to use it for worship, but there was no office space. So we had to rent a room on Spadina, at Bloor and Walmer. There was a second floor room. So we rented a one room and we used it as an office. And so in the beginning, I did it all by myself.
But as soon we got a secretary. So a few people – Erica Shin, Helen Jun, these people helped me as secretaries. So they did bulletins. But ministry wise, I was the only one. And after a while we hired Danny Chung, as a Hi-C minister. And so we had a youth pastor who took care of youth, but I still had to do both Korean speaking and English speaking ministry fully. So that was challenging. And also, there were no Koreans around Jarvis and Gerard. No Koreans were around. The church was so small, it was almost hidden in an area where nobody knew. So evangelism was pretty difficult too. If people came to our church, they came intentionally. They wouldn’t just come by. They would have had to look for our church and come. So it was hard to really grow the church fast. Yeah. So the location was a challenge.
How did the process of moving churches happen?
So I was just called. I was the first minister that they called. About 50 to 60 people came out of Central United Church and then they found this place and it was close to their old building. Their old building was on Sherbourne and College. So they already found it, and so I knew that I had to find a new building and then we looked around. As we were looking at many different places at that time with Elder Jeongil Lee (이정일 장로님), I remember he and I walked on Wilson street and we just walked to one church after another. Nobody was renting out their space. So we stayed and then somehow God showed me a church Victoria Royce that was in the Keele and Annette area.
So we found that church. So we moved to that church. And then that church was radically different from the old church, Jarvis street, Baptist church. The Baptist church didn’t allow us to use any other space, but this church, Victoria Royce, it was almost like we were partners. It was their building, but we used it like our building. And so they let us use all kinds of space- we had a room, a minister’s room and secretary room and- and we used the whole space and we even made soybean paste (된장) and hot pepper paste (고추장). So it wasn’t like our building, but yeah, we had that kind of attitude.
We met with the session of Victoria Royce and said that it was my philosophy that it’s a God’s building where there’s just stewards right now, financially we are better or we’re doing better than you, so we’ll give more for the maintenance. And that’s how it was, that was the arrangement that we got. We didn’t really think about the money, how much rent we are paying, just let us maintain this building together. And so we have this budget, you have that budget, so proportionally, we will use it to maintain the building. So they had that kind of attitude.
And so they were thinking of giving that church to us. But you know, I got involved in the creation of HanCa Presbytery. I was the one who made a motion at the general assembly, and then that motion passed and HanCa Presbytery was created. So it was a little bit more difficult now because the building belonged to the Presbytery. So now we are Victoria Royce and Living Stone. We were in different presbytery. If we were in different presbyteries, then it would have been a little bit difficult, but before we were also Presbytery of West Toronto. And then Victoria Royce was also the Presbytery of West Toronto. So no problem. But now we are in different presbyteries. So there was a little bit of a complication there. Yeah. But I thought creating HanCa was more important than taking off with the building at that moment. Yeah. So, you know, a lot of challenges, you know?
What characterized the early years of Living Stone?
I think the attitude of the people was just tremendous. They really, really worked hard to build the church. Everyone participated, they had a very, very strong vision for the future of the church. So for example, if I called a session meeting tonight, they would all come. Even if they had other previous engagements, they would just cancel that and come. So when I called people to come over, they all came. So Bible study? They all came. Wednesday service, almost 90% of the Congress members came to the Wednesday service. And so their participation was just amazing! They had this pioneer spirit of “we can build, we can do it” kind of attitude, both in English speaking congregations and the Korean speaking congregations. So even though I was the only minister, it was possible to carry on the ministry because they took care of all the nitty gritty matters of the church. I just had to go to the visitation and prepare Bible study and preaching, of course I had administrative work I had to do, but if I asked people to help they were all willing to help. So that there’s not really key moments in some ways, but generally they were ready. They were willing to build a church. So we were really one together.
Especially I want to point out the Kwonsanims (권사님s aka Korean Woman Elders). The Kwonsanims worked so hard. They prayed so much for the church and they were love-giving people. They gave so much love – to me and to the church and were very loyal. And so those are the things that I remember. We did a lot of visitations every year. We did whole congregation visitations, so we would schedule them. Me, elders, deacons and kwonsanims, we visited every household.
At that time my wife, Young Mi, also worked really hard for the church. Every visitation she participated in, she helped out a lot. And also I was so busy, I was hardly home. So she took care of the kids and family, but not only that, in addition to that, she also did a lot of work for the church. So, everyone really worked very hard to build the church. It’s almost like an early church feeling that when disciples gathered together everyday, they gathered together and broke bread. So yeah, that attitude made the church possible in the beginning.
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