Last month, a member of Progressive Asian American Christians asked if anyone knew of a commentary or devotional that was maybe a little more progressive and maybe not written by a white man. No one knew of anything, but another member wondered if we could make one ourselves. Within 72 hours, she had gathered (and scheduled!) more than enough people to make one for every day of Lent, including not just writers but also illustrators and photographers and calligraphers and dancers.
Today is the first day of said devotional, and I couldn’t be more stoked. I haven’t done anything in Lent for years, so i’m looking forward to actually doing something. And more than that, I’m so proud of this amazing team for seeing a need and creating something beautiful to meet it.
A year ago today, I posted a piece on The Salt Collective about how lonely it is to be a progressive Asian American Christian. At the end of it, I linked a brand-new Facebook group that my brand-new friend Lydia Suh had just started. I had no idea that in the course of a year, that group would become a vibrant online community of over 5000, members would host meetups in 17 cities, we’d start a podcast with our new friend David Chang, we’d host a national conference, we’d launch a 9-month online intentional learning community with 28 dynamite fellows and 9 incredible speakers. I had no idea that this community would teach me so much, introduce me to amazing people and dear friends, and make me feel at home in a way that I hadn’t since I was 17. I had no idea how dramatically my life would change.
What a beautiful, crazy, transformative, humbling year it’s been. So thankful for Lydia and the many, many people who’ve made this experience so rich and meaningful.
Progressive Asian American Christians now has a podcast! Thanks to David Chang for making all our podcast dreams come true.
I sat in a plastic chair in the fluorescent-lit conference room, leaning on the small tablet desk attached to my seat. The chairs were arranged in a circle around the edge of the room, filling one by one as people trickled in. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. I could hardly believe it.
It was the first San Francisco Bay Area meetup of Progressive Asian American Christians, an online community I had inadvertently helped to start. Less than two months prior, I had written a piece about how lonely it is to be a progressive Asian American Christian. At the end of it, I linked a then-empty Facebook group that a new friend of mine, Lydia Suh, had created. It would be a place, I imagined, where people who resonated with the piece could go to see that other people like them existed — where they would see a bunch of profile pictures and feel validated and maybe post the occasional article.
Neither Lydia nor I expected what followed: Three hundred people joined the group the day after the piece went up; less than six weeks later, we had two thousand. But it wasn’t just the numbers that surprised us — it was the energy and enthusiasm that these folks brought with them. They immediately started sharing their stories, discussing controversial topics, asking when we could start meeting in person. The first meetup took place a month after the group started (in Minneapolis, impressively enough); within the next three months, eight more cities would start their own.
On this sunny Saturday afternoon in February, on the fourth floor of an office building in the city, the first Bay Area meetup about to begin. As I watched people rolling in — peering around, introducing themselves, finding seats — I noticed an unfamiliar feeling in my chest.
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For a long and formative time in my life, the Asian American church was my home. I came to faith at 15 in the high school ministry of a Chinese church. This was the place where I started to grasp the idea of a gracious God who loved me unconditionally; it was also where I came to terms with my Asian American identity, something I had been bitterly fighting for a decade. It was the first Asian American community I’d ever been a part of, and for the first time in my life, I felt normal. I now had friends who innately got how I interacted with my family, how I thought about school and college and the future — all the experiences that made me so different from my peers at school. I felt seen and accepted and understood, both by God and the people around me.
In college, I was part of a Chinese American campus fellowship — but as the years went on, I started to notice a disconnect between my friends there and me. I was beginning to care a lot about race, politics, current events, feminism. No one at my fellowship discouraged me from pursuing these things, but for the most part, they weren’t interested in discussing them either. Whatever the reason, when I wanted to talk about those issues, I mostly had to look elsewhere.
And then I went to grad school — a clinical psychology graduate program that was housed in a seminary — and my whole world got blown open.
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