Archive for March 12th, 2008

Rev. Keith Andrew Hwang – A spiritual purpose

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The Rev. Keith Andrew Hwang has served as Executive Director of Connectional Ministries and Conference Secretary of the Western Jurisdictional Conference since 2003. Rev. Hwang was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was sixteen. He did his undergraduate studies at U.C. San Diego and graduate studies at University of Southern California. He worked as a computer engineer for more than 10 years on various projects and capacities, including management. In 1993, he responded to GodÂ’s call to ministry after many years of soul searching and began his seminary education at Claremont School of Theology. After graduating from Claremont School of Theology in 1996 with an M. Div. Degree, he was ordained as a deacon in 1996, and as an elder in 2000. After serving two local churches and as Secretary of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, he became an associate director of Connectional Ministries in 2000. Rev. Hwang has two grown-up children, Albert and Laura.

Keith, can you describe a typical week in your life as a minister.

The title of my job is Executive Director of Connectional Ministries but it is very similar to COO of a corporation. My work is divided into the following main areas: (a) supervision of 16 staff – 8 professional staff and 8 support staff (b) giving an oversight to annual budget of over $2 million – that means a lot of signing checks (c) communicating with national and international groups with the denomination as well as international organizations – which requires a lot of traveling (d) training – staff, churches and other organizations (e) consulting with churches and social service organizations (e) preaching at local churches on special occasions. I get to do what other ministers do periodically but I wish I could do them more often.

There is no typical day for a minister. Each day is unique and full of surprises. Life happens without warning. Being a minster teaches a person to be open to life’s surprises. There are common activities that thread through a minister’s life, however, and let me share them with you.

(a) Visiting the sick and the homebound. The homebound are visited once a month for conversation and communion. They really appreciate visits. The sick are visited as the occasion calls for it.

(b) Planning for worship services. Creating a worship service requires a lot of work. Volunteers need to be contacted for information and instruction. Music has to be decided. Bulletins printed. Other resources, such as balloons, flowers, etc., ordered and confirmed.

(c) Personal/communal spiritual formation. A minister has to devote a hour or more each day for prayers and reading of the Scripture. Also leads Bible study groups and prayer meetings.

(d) Administrative matters. Buildings need to be maintained. Legal papers have to be processed. Financial matters duly considered for action. This is the least favorite part of my life as a minister. Dry as bone but necessary.

(e) Counseling/Coaching. People seek counsels from clergy for various reasons – relationship issues, financial problems, spiritual confusion, psychological problems. I usually refer people to a professional counselor/coach after 3 sessions for two reasons: (a) the issue may be too complex for my training and gifts; and (b) I do not have enough time to see more than 2 or 3 persons at a time.

(f) Special services. Wedding, baptism, and funerals and other special services are periodically requested. It is always a special moment in the life of those who undergo a major life transition such as marriage, new baby and death. Blessing new homes. Blessing when people get into university or military.

(g) Other duties as required. There are amazing number of duties that come up. Helping those who seek financial help from the church – referring them to shelters, giving them money for food and transportation, etc. People calling for help because they are suicidal. Visiting special shelters for battered women. Prison ministry for those who get into trouble with the law. Offering prayer at public functions such as the LA County Supervisor’s meeting. Helping AA groups. Mediating community groups that are in conflict. Being interviewed by newspaper reporters on various religious and social issues.

A minister experiences the whole spectrum of life – from birth through death and everything in between. It is an amazing job.

Keith, as if that wasn’t enough, you also seem to travel pretty extensively. What is that about?

I serve on various national organizations and there are lots of meetings. During the last seven years, I have traveled to over 53 cities in the United States and over 12 countries around the world. Some travel has to do with representing the denomination or the regional body I serve.

What do you know that you need in your life in order to sustain all the giving you do?

This is a really good question….Ultimately it is spiritual practices that keep me going. Knowing the heart of God and staying in love with God is the key. John Wesley, who found Methodism, had three simple rules: (a) Do no harm (b) Do good and (c) Stay in love with Christ. The third rule is what sustains all servants of God. Deep prayers and meditation upon the Scripture is essential. When I neglect spiritual practices, my soul goes dry and hard and troubles inevitably pop up.

Some spiritual practices I engage in are: centering prayer, meditating upon the Scripture, walking meditation, journaling and writing, meeting with my spiritual director, daily intercessory prayers, pilgrimages to retreat centers and weekly worship.

Your beliefs are obviously a strong source of nourishment. How does your spirituality and the idea that we can create our own fulfillment and destiny coalesce??

The world view I hold is that God created each one of us as a unique human being with specific purpose for each of us. Each human being is given gifts and limitations that fit perfectly for what we are meant to be and do on this planet. This means we are not infinitely flexible in what we can be. While I fully accept and affirm *CTI’s basic tenets that we are naturally creative, resourceful and whole, the tenet cannot be accepted without conditions. For example, I know that I would never make a good soldier even though my father was a career military man. Sure, I have entertained thoughts of becoming a soldier, even considering going to West Point, but my nature was not wired for killings and warfare. The future self exercise points to the path that will lead us to be in harmony with the universe.

May Sarton wrote this poem… ‘Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places. I have been dissolved and shaken, Worn other people’s faces.’

Socrates claimed that self-knowledge is the start of wisdom. Research on emotional intelligence has revealed that self-awareness is a key component in emotional health. Spiritual formation is not about what we do but is all about becoming who we are “shaped” to be. Discovering our true shape can lead to so much happiness because we can escape from “oughts” and “musts” that the world heaps on us. The musts and oughts cause more pain in life than anything.

Keith thank you so much for your time, your widsom and for starting such a thought provoking dialogue.

Do you believe that you were born with a purpose or do you believe that you shape your own fulfillment? Let us know by posting a comment.

© The Red Barn Cooperative

Monday will see us paddling out with surfer and photo journalist Nicole Grodesky, see you then…

www.theredbarncooperative.com

*CTI – Coaches Training Institute (and if you are interested in experiencing the ‘future self’ exercise feel free to contact Penny or I.)

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