July 2024

Greetings!

 

As I embark on a new journey with the WARM community, and as I prepare for this transition alongside First, Crystal Lake, and Parfreyville, I wonder if you will be able to pronounce my Korean name, “Hyunwoong” (it sounds like Sean-Oong or Zhanhoong). This thought takes me back to when I first arrived in America to study at Boston University’s School of Theology. Studying theology in a foreign country, with English as my second language, was exhausting. I often felt anxious and isolated. However, my friends at the school showed me hospitality regardless of where I came from. They helped me settle in and studied with me as peers. They even practiced pronouncing my original name, Hyunwoong, almost correctly. Through God’s grace, I was moved by my friends’ warmth and came to realize that God embraces us for who we are and sustains our lives.

 

As I move to Wisconsin, I have decided to stop using my English name, Harris, which was my Starbucks name. I was never able to fully embody Harris, who, in my imagination, was an older, eloquent English speaker possessing all the theological knowledge and pastoral wisdom. I cannot be someone other than myself, so I have decided to return to being a humble stranger in Wisconsin. It has been a difficult journey to embrace my original name, knowing that English doesn’t have a phonetic system to recognize it and that pronouncing it will be challenging for my new congregation. But when you practice my Korean name, it will give me time to learn to pronounce your names at the three churches and understand the uniqueness of each of you and the three churches.

 

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7). I believe that I am called to create a welcoming space for all, regardless of who you are, and to build a community where people can experience the depth of God’s presence. I hope WARM will help me learn how my cross-cultural and cross-racial grace and gifts can be shared with more people in my parish.

 

WARMth,

Rev. Hyunwoong Hwang