Metro Boston Hope welcomes new District Superintendent
September 19, 2017
The Rev. We Hyun Chang is now one of only nine district superintendents in the New England Conference; a position, he says, that confers many privileges.
The Metro Boston Hope District welcomed its new superintendent on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, with a service at St. John’s Korean UMC in Lexington, MA – a fitting location, since the church also serves as the district office.
In his sermon, Rev. Chang said while privileges “make you feel special and make your life easier and your voice more powerful,” they are also often at the root of oppression and injustice.
“Because privilege, by its definition, is only for a few, for some people. If it is for everyone, we don’t think of it is a privilege,” he said. “Privilege is reserved only for one gender, one race, one sexuality, one educational and economic group … Privilege is, by its definition, exclusive.”
“All isms [racism, sexism, etc.] that have introduced discrimination and oppression into human history come from these exclusive privileges,” Rev. Chang said.
So, what are we to do with the privileges that may be conferred on us?
Convert them, Rev. Chang said, and do it by following the example set by Jesus.
Jesus, as the son of God, had what Rev. Chang called “the privilege of all privileges,” one reserved for him alone. The lesson for us lies less in Jesus having that “divine privilege,” Rev. Chang said, than in what Jesus did with his privilege.
“He traded it for the privilege of being a servant,” Rev. Chang said. “He converted divine privileges into servant privileges – converted exclusive privileges into inclusive blessings.”
Reading from Philippians 2: 5-8, he said:
‘Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that — a crucifixion.’
“He used his privileges to serve, not to be served. To save, not to condemn. To forgive, not to judge. To include, not to exclude. To release, not to dominate. To heal, not to afflict. To break the walls, not to build them. To suffer, not to harm,” Rev. Chang said.
“I will do my best to remember my most precious privilege of being God’s child, and to use my all earthly privileges to bring God’s blessings to others,” Rev. Chang said, as he encouraged those gathered to “use your divine privilege to open more doors and embrace more hearts with the love of Christ!”
In his welcome, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar commended Rev. Chang for doing just that.
The bishop pointed to Rev. Chang’s service on the United Methodist Korean Peace Plan (from 2012 to 2016) and his “instrumental” role in establishing the New England Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides legal services for immigrants and asylum seekers.
Bishop Devadhar said the District Committee on Superintendency sought someone who is “both a strong spiritual and social justice leader as well as an out-of-box thinker with administrative skills and a desire to work with the laity, clergy, and his Cabinet colleagues.”
“I strongly believe that We demonstrates these gifts passionately,” Bishop Devadhar said. “We is a Christian disciple who demonstrates his Christian faith courageously and honestly from his heart.”
The Rev. Dr. David Calhoun, superintendent of the Connecticut/Western MA District, welcomed Rev. Chang on behalf of the Cabinet, saying he’d like to offer his colleague some advice:
“You will not be able do everything your heart desires, but do your best. You are the extra pastor in your district, so walk with God and be led by the Holy Spirit,” Dr. Calhoun said.
You can’t be everything for everybody, he said, so he encouraged Rev. Chang to remember “that it’s important not to lose yourself in this leadership role,” and there will never be enough resources, but to remember “God will always provide.”
And he said, “You will never possess enough expertise, but be assured, you will be surrounded by the bishop and your colleagues on the Cabinet who will help resource you along the way, so lean on us, and we will lean on you.”
Rev. Chang encouraged clergy and laity of the district to remember their baptisms, and a renewal of baptism was included as part of the welcome service.
“At our baptism, God has called us God’s beloved,” Rev. Chang said. “All we need to receive and live out this precious privilege is to let go of privileges in us that keep us from sharing the suffering of the least, the last, and the lost.”
He asked people to come naming one of the privileges that is still “alive and well” and offering the “allure of domination and control, judgement and exclusion” and “trade it for the privilege of God’s love today.”
Rev. Chang was presented with the traditional symbols of the superintendency, including a stole presented by the Rev. Dr. Yoo-Yun Cho-Chang, his wife. Rev. Chang said these symbolic gifts (a Bible, water, bread and cup, a hymnal and a Book of Worship, towel and basin, a stole, a Book of Discipline, and a globe) belong to everyone in the district.
He asked the congregation to join him in responding to the commands saying:
“These symbols and what they mean for our connection and our ministry together are not just for me or my office; it can never be done without your connection and your support and blessing, so I humbly ask you, when these signs are presented, just imagine that these are presented to you and your congregation, and answer with me.”
Rev. Chang designated the offering received for hurricane relief. The offering raise $1,730.
He and Dr. Cho-Chang, who serves the Woburn (MA) United Methodist Church, have one daughter, Hope, who is a college sophomore.