Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Editor's Note: The Rev. Dr. Winston Wyman Ching, first missioner for Asiamerica Ministries in the Episcopal Church died last July 3, 2012. Memorial services were held in Christ Church in Rockville, Maryland (by the Korean Convocation meeting) last July 14, 2012 and in St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong on July 19, 2012. 

Similar services will be held in San Francisco on August 4, 2012 at St, John's the Evangelist Episcopal Church; Los Angeles on September 8, 2012 at St. Gabriel Episcopal Church. Services in New York and Honolulu will be announced.

The following is the homily by the Revd. Jenny Nam at a Memorial Service for Winston Ching at St. John Cathedral in Hong Kong on July 19, 2012. The service was well attended by both students and members of the Anglican Province of HongKong Sheng Kung Hui. Similar services will be done in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Honolulu. Homily copy courtesy of Peter Ng.
-Fred Vergara

St. John’s Cathedral                                                                                                         19 July, 2012
In loving memory of a dear friend, the Rev. Dr. Winston Ching by the Rev. Jenny Nam+

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” Jesus asked his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled. This was because he knew that his followers would indeed let their hearts be troubled in times of loss, grief and death. The news of the sudden passing of the Rev. Dr. Winston Ching sent shock waves to Ming Hua Theological Seminary, St. John’s College, the Cathedral community as well as his friends and colleagues in HK, United States and many other countries where he had left his mark.

No matter whether you have known him for decades or just in the last few years, people of different backgrounds and persuasions can’t help but be touched by his gentleness, compassion, creativity, wisdom, humility, intuition, humor and profound spirituality...thus our hearts were deeply troubled when we heard of his death. Tonight, we have come together to commemorate, celebrate and give thanks for his life and ministry.

Many are still asking why, what, how, when but we should learn to accept that life is full of unanswered questions. Perhaps in hindsight, our intuitive Winston could see that it was coming. Days before he left, he reminded some clergy brothers here to make preparations for the last leg of their earthly journey. Six months ago, when I mistakenly thought that I had a life threatening condition, I invited him to take part in my memorial service. This was his reply.
"I am glad to know that your tests were negative for now. I find that an experience such as you have--- had provides perspective and helps me to keep focus on what is most important for me to do with the time I have left. I am touched that you would like for me to be involved in your memorial service. However, given our age difference and actuarial projections regarding longevity of women over men, I wonder if it should not be me who is asking you to be involved in my memorial service.”

And then, about a month ago, his cardiologist told Winston that he had a mild heart attack recently, which he was not aware of. He then forbade me to tell anyone else because he didn’t want others to be worried. So to borrow a few lines from the poet Mr. Tsui:  轻轻的我走了, 正如我轻轻的来; 我轻轻的招手, 作别西天的云彩。 Very quietly I take my leave .As quietly as I came here; Quietly I wave good-bye To the rosy clouds in the western sky.”

Although Winston had chosen to leave quietly, his legacy shall stay in the hearts of many for a long time and there’s a lot that we can learn from his life and ministry. I would only mention a few

A fifth generation American born Chinese who grew up in Hawaii, he went to California for training and ministry, before becoming a staff officer in the National Church. In the recently adjourned General Convention of the Episcopal Church, a resolution was passed in Winston’s honor.

Be it resolved that the House of Bishops acknowledge and appreciate the contribution of the Rev. Dr. Winston Ching as Pioneer and first Missioner of Asiamerica Ministry in the Episcopal Church who dies on the eve of the 77th General Convention.

The motion went on to explain that Winston “pioneered the establishment of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry in 1973 and served for thirty years in the Head Office spanning four Presiding Bishops of the United States. His ministry was legendary in the many networks he has created and in assisting dioceses to plant new congregation and strengthening existing ones. Uniting the Asian diversity, he helped organized six Asian ethnic convocations: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Southeast Asia and South Asian meeting annually for National consultations.” It was in this context that we met in New York some 30 years ago as he gave me a scholarship when I was only a new kid on the block.

Some may not be aware of Winston’s pioneering and influential ministry. Like John the Baptist, he was not keen to draw attention to himself but to Christ. As a herald and a trailblazer, he helped Asians churches in the States to come to terms with their own identity and to integrate into the once largely White Anglo Saxon (WASP) Episcopal Church without compromising their cultural diversity. When he gathered Asian leaders in the 70s, “it was the first time that Japanese Americans had a real conversation with Chinese Americans because of political reasons.” He established many groups, e.g. EAM Advocates which is an example at a time “when Asians in North America, for many historic reasons, were loathe to stand out, let alone speak out. Deep inside his heart was a yearning to heal.” When he sees something that needs to be done or ratified, he would quietly do so for the well being of the Church that Christ died for. He was God’s secret agent and a quiet revolutionary.

I will remember Winston as no ordinary trailblazer but who one was humble and brings people’s attention to Christ, rather than himself.

Besides being a trailblazer, he was also a legendary mentor. If you read the blog from the Episcopal Digital Network, you would get an idea of the numerous leaders that he had been instrumental in raising, whether lay, priests or bishops. He empowered people to develop their talents and passions. Winston reminds me of the Negotiator in Star Wars, Obi Kenobi who “kept a cool in the thick of combat… was never at a loss for quick word of wisdom or humor”. Recognizing the strengths and weakness of Skywalker, Kenobi guided him with patience and understanding as a mentor. In his short span here in Ming Hua and St. John’s College, Winston had taken many under his wings and guided them gently and lovingly. One of seminarians writes:” Fr. Winston was a generous man, and a great counselor, often offered us the best advice we need as seminarians. …From now, the Dan Ryan in Pacific Place will be missing their favorite regular customer  ... I will be thinking of him each time I order his favorite Caesar Salad and Dry White Wine. He is watching over us now from above, with his gentle smile and his light hearted jokes!”

I know that Winston would approve my trying to include the comments of his student here, as he’s a very inclusive and accepting person. He would always find room for a younger person to take part. He did not think that just because he was the most experienced statesman or lecturer, then he should be the one having the final say. No, he always created opportunities for the young and inexperienced. And he would give suggestions and positive criticism afterwards. Unlike some Chinese Kung Fu masters, who keep the best for themselves, Winston was generous in sharing his time, his insights, his cooking and many resources with students, friends and colleagues. And he treated them all as his equal, never condescending.

I will remember this generous and legendary mentor.

In the three years that he’s been in HK, he fully immersed in the life of the province and he treasured each contact with clergy or lay. Once after a visit to a church, he wrote to commend the exciting ministry there. Although I personally did not think that he was into that kind of ministry, he was always affirming. Winston had not only depth but the breadth to affirm all types and forms of ministry, regardless of whether they were his cup of tea or not. Although we did not always share the same views, he would seldom insist that his way was the best way. He would always find room in his heart to include the views of others who differ, regardless of denominations and theological persuasions. He also had all kinds of friends. One minute he was sailing with his Buddhist friend in the Victoria Harbor, another minute he was talking to his god son in India about the latest mobile phone. Winston took each of the relationships seriously and he valued each encounter. Long time friend Rev. Bud Carroll writes: “Winston was a consummate gentleman, a lover of the IT world, but a strong supporter of the human spirit; gentle in speech with a ‘never-give-up’ attitude, and one who respected tradition but was always open to new ways.”

I will remember his breadth and his depth, and his openness to embrace those who have different theological views. He’s a trusted friend.  

No sharing of Winston is complete without a funny story. He reminded me of the clown in Henri Nouwen’s book Clowning in Rome. “Whenever the clowns appear we are reminded that what really counts is something other than the spectacular and the sensational. Clowns remind us of what happens between the scenes. The clowns show us by their ‘useless’ behavior not simply that many of our preoccupations, worries, tensions, and anxieties need a smile, but that we too have white on our faces and that we too are called to clown a little.” Here is a story that he told his Baptist friend some years ago. Winston was in Southwestern States, Navajo country for some business, and was sitting outside a “trading post’ on a reservation of the native Indians. He had on his cowboy hat and boots. Some tourists drove into the parking lot, saw Winston and asked him if they could take a picture with him. They had never met a “Live Indian” before. So Winston said “Sure, but it’ll cost you $20.” They paid him and took a picture.

Although we smile, inside we may still be in grief and pain.  Although we mourn, we give thanks to God for the gift of our dear friend and mentor. So, shall we let him go? Shall we let him go so that he can fully immerse himself in the many dwelling places that his loving heavenly Father had prepared for him? In the meantime, during our transit here on earth, whether it is to Guam, Hawaii or to Tsim Sha Tsui, let us go on loving, caring, clowning, as our way of celebrating this beautiful life. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I was blessed to have been a part of winston's life. He was the wounded healer and he was able to tap into so much of his spiritual side. He was so self accepting that it was a joy to spent time with him.