Monday, May 11, 2015

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow

Welcome to the blog series celebrating the 2015 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, inspired by the "Our New Day Begun" series celebrating Black History Month by the Rev. Tawnya Denise Anderson. This month, you will read profiles of Asian Pacific American Presbyterian leaders, spanning many generations and ethnicities. Check back throughout May for more profiles!

A look back at previous posts:
Presbyterians Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
The Rev. Charlene Han Powell
The Rev. Phil Tom
The Rev. Yena Hwang
The Rev. Joann Haejong Lee
The Rev. Shawn Kang
The Rev. Neal Presa
The Rev. Jim Huang

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow is a writer, speaker, pastor, former moderator, and walker of the dog in San Francisco, CA.

Are you a “cradle Presbyterian,” or did you come to the tradition later in life? 

I was born into the Presbyterian Church via Trinity Presbyterian Church. Trinity was founded by Filipino farmworkers during the labor strikes in the Central Valley in the 50's. My church, like many, struggles with being small, always on the fiscal edge, and meeting the needs of the "next generation" of members. At the same time, it is one that has always been had the heart of community organizing, takes on issues of injustice, and has been progressive in surprising ways.

What do you most appreciate about this tradition?

As frustrating and plodding as it can be, our commitment to the idea that we best discern the mind of Christ and the will of God together keeps me here. In a day and age where speed seems to be currency of the day, our willingness to move slowly together rather than to move quickly alone is what I value about our system and tradition.

What about it do you think needs to be changed or addressed?

We must embrace the reality that we can be Presbyterian in many forms. Coming out of a generation of monolithic denominational entities where we built one-size-fits-all communities, we have to break our addition to successful church models which are usually are about size, style, structure, and form. We must no longer treat emerging versions of being Presbyterian as merely side-projects, last-resorts, or not "real" churches and joyfully create denominational structures that can support the abundance of niche Presbyterian entities that may be coming.

How do you think your perspective as an Asian Pacific American can enrich the denomination?

Food, costumes, and dance? 

But seriously folks -- the denomination first has to understand, at a deep level, the diversity of the Asian American experience. With a broad immigration narrative and wide ideological representation, we, in many ways, can model this idea of "niche" churches. Like many people of color, we live in multiple spaces and have found ways to be Asian American in all of them. Our ability to step, jump, meander from cultural context to cultural context, once embraced, can provide a perspective on what it means to be "diverse" and "multicultural" beyond the window dressing that drives so much of our efforts.

What led you to pursue ordination as a Teaching Elder?

My mom told me to. Seriously.

I really wandered into the ministry. No dreams in the night or vision out of the womb, but a series of events that lead me to the possibility that ministry might be a path worth travelling. Like many young, brown folks who show a bit of interest in church, the "you should go to seminary" mantra was whispered into my ear early on. When this started, i was like, "Oh hell no. One, I am going to law school, and two, I see how some of you treat our pastor." But after a while, the seeds of justice-seeking planted by my mom and church began to tug me in the direction of ministry.

That said, I never felt called until after the first church that I served and eventually flamed out of. While not a big fan of the "failure" culture that is out there, this was definitely a fallowed season that forged my understanding of call, ministry, and what it mean to pastor.

Describe your current call. What is your role? What is the racial/ethnic composition of the place you serve?

Hmmm, the dreaded, "So what DO you do?" question.

After pastoring for 17 years I now spend most of my time speaking, writing, coaching, consulting, and parenting. I have written a couple of books, speak at events, consult with churches, coach church planters, and enjoy my time chauffeuring my kids from event to event. Our family worships at Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco which is a church that is liturgically formal, but theological progressive. It is not all that ethnically diverse, but it offers a community that shares in communion every week and lives that ritual out in abundance.

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