New England Initiative
Not Your Ordinary Mission Start
In Quincy, Mass., a New Ministry
Engages an Ancient Tradition
It’s not often that a Wartburg Seminary graduate heads out to organize a foreign-language congregation — in New England, no less. But that’s what the Rev. Wing Shing (Ryan) Lun is about with his outreach to Chinese Americans in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Lun, a 2010 graduate of WTS, is working among Cantonese speaking residents of this large bedroom community south of Boston. And there are a lot of them there. “A few years ago, Quincy was one-quarter Chinese,” Lun explains. “Now it’s approaching one-third.”
A native of Hong Kong, Lun knows the challenges of breaking through to unchurched Chinese Americans. “The older ones, who came here from China, came out of secular Communism. They learned, growing up, that religion is bad — maybe even evil. For generations, the state promoted atheism. It’s not easy convincing them to give Christianity a chance.”
On the other hand, younger generations tend to be more open, Lun explains. Many are seeking meaning and purpose for their lives. But even then, there are challenges. Lun describes one incident that illustrates the difficulties involved. “A new convert, a young man whom I invited to Christ, eventually told his father he’d become Christian. His father, a Communist, told him his conversion to Lutheranism was unacceptable. The father was a visiting scholar in the U.S. The family eventually went back to China. I have no idea what finally happened to that young man, religiously, after they returned.”
There are ways to reach out to a skeptical community other than confronting them directly in religious terms. Lun has developed several approaches. One is to celebrate the Chinese New Year with a party to which the community is invited. There is also a summer celebration that is visitor friendly.
And then there’s the whole area of computer literacy. Lun explains what he’s begun to do in that regard. “I am now teaching computer classes for older folks. People who are retired have time to come and learn technology. Some of them have gadgets their children gave them. Now they want to learn how to use them — iPhone, iPad, computers. I started the class. It’s a kind of outreach. After the class each time I can have conversations with these folks, and not just about computers.”
One older person who came to the classes was baptized last Christmas.
There have been Lutherans in North Quincy for at least 70 years. That’s how old Good Shepherd ELCA is, an Anglo congregationthat has generously opened its doors to Lun’s ministry. Now members of Good Neighbor Chinese Lutheran congregation meet in Good Shepherd’s space. There are two Sunday worship services, Lun’s flock meeting first, followed by the host congregation.
“Good Shepherd continues a good ministry and forms a mission partnership with us,” Lun says. “We try not to bump into each other [when sharing the physical space]. They average 50-60 at worship. I sit in on their monthly church council meetings.”
It’s hard work trying to grow a new congregation from scratch. Fortunately for Lun, his wife, Man Hei, also a graduate of Wartburg Seminary, helps out. Also a Hong Kong native, she’s a PhD candidate at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, but she has reached the point in her program where she no longer needs to live on campus in Pennsylvania.
Lun and his wife met in Hong Kong, where they married. They met at an Asian Lutheran conference in Indonesia. Man Hei had been serving with Lutheran World Federation and had served for a time at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
For his part, Ryan Lun came into the Lutheran Church rather serendipitously. “One of my classmates invited me to summer camp,” he remembers. “I got acquainted with Lutheranism in that way. I was baptized by a U.S. missionary stationed in Hong Kong, the Rev. Philip Bauman.”
Lun’s parents weren’t Christian, but they felt his becoming Lutheran was not a bad thing. “My mom attended my baptism,” he says. “She believed it was good for me to become involved in something that taught good values.”
Another ELCA missionary serving in Hong Kong, the Rev. John Peterson, suggested to Lun and his spouse that they consider enrolling at Wartburg Seminary. “I had been working for Lutheran Social Services in Hong Kong,” Lun explains. “I also had done youth ministry. Even though he himself was a Luther Seminary graduate, Pastor Peterson knew that Wartburg Seminary had a program with a youth ministry focus.”
It’s a long way from Hong Kong to Massachusetts, but Lun believes God has a purpose for his being where he is now. The Chinese Americans among whom he works are educated and motivated. They appreciate interaction with people who are professional and have an appreciation for education. “Many of the Chinese in Quincy are employed in the financial sector, some in real estate, some in banking, some in hotel management, some in the restaurant field. And they ask for something more in their life and that is where the gospel should be.”
Lun interacts well with these folks. The 40-year-old pastor draws support from other ELCA clergy serving congregations in Chinese American communities. “You can find Chinese Lutheran ministries in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston and Hawaii. Every year in September, the Chinese pastors have an annual gathering. We have good interaction and share ministry stories when we get together,” he says.
Of his seminary training, Lun says, “Wartburg Seminary is a good place for training for mission. ‘Learning and mission’ is an important theme there. The seminary was helpful to me in many ways. I got a good foundation in theological education. I liked being in the Wartburg community. My wife and I recently went back to visit. It was like going back home.”