Not going to church, not having the framework of evangelicalism: it’s so freeing and it’s so disorienting. I wanted structure (but not the old rigid structure) and spiritual community (but not a “believe to belong” community and please, do not make me popcorn prayer.)
I found what I needed in the PAAC Fellowship. I have been given a foundation to think about Asian American history, theology, race, gender, and so much more, that I can turn to as I build this new life. Just as significant are the people l learned with and learned from. My small group! who became my friends and people I trust for advice, particularly in times such as these. And when one of those old embarrassing Facebook memories from my formerly conservative evangelical self pops up, I have friends to laugh about it with 😉
— Sheri Park
PAAC Fellowship meant community for me. It’s wild that I entered the fellowship, a scared, intimidated, closeted person, but when I finished the fellowship, I came out of the closet to my parents, attended my first protest, and forgave myself for a complicated past. This fellowship changed me from a person of fear to a person of action.
Making this transition to a PAAC, however, can be difficult and exhausting. But it does not have to be done alone. Hearing my small group’s weekly struggles taught me that there are others who believe what I believe and fight for what I fight for. It sounds cheesy, but it really does give you hope that you are on the right side of history with your fellow co-workers in Christ.
One moment that really stood out to me was when I told my white queer friend that I had come out to my parents and told them about how unaffirming my parents were. That person ended up saying something along the lines of, “If they don’t accept you, you need to leave them. That’s not right.” And it felt so painful that this person offered such a reckless, simplified solution to a complex problem. However, when I told my fellowship group about coming out, it was met with empathetic support and understanding. Then, it was met with more nuanced solutions, such as setting boundaries. It may strike you as puzzling that I came out to my parents, yet I am remaining anonymous in this testimonial. I do so because my parents asked me to remain closeted to others in our social circles. While PAAC equipped me with the strength to tell them that they had no right to enforce that kind of decision, I am still honoring their request for a little bit longer, in respect to their coming out journey. Only in a space like PAAC is that decision met with compassion and understanding, because the Christian Asian American intersectionality impacts our coming out journeys with its own obstacles. I have no doubt that that white queer friend meant well, but it’s this kind of shared struggle, hurt, and understanding that I came to truly appreciate and treasure in PAAC.
After this fellowship, your identity transforms from a burden and a pain to a blessing and a treasure. If you’re hesitant and intimidated about joining PAAC, please know that that’s valid. I felt that too; I can also say that it blessed my life to lean into that discomfort. I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if it weren’t for this community. Thank you PAAC Fellowship.
— Anonymous 2019-2020 Fellow
I came to the PAAC Fellowship looking for a thorough grounding in Asian American history, theology, identity, intersectionality, and social action. Throughout the year I have reaped so much more, thanks to my cohort of fellow learners and inquirers. The PAAC Fellowship gave me the knowledge, and the people, alongside whom I can begin to do the harder work before me: to interrogate, process, and integrate my multiple, intersecting, and mistranslated identities, so that I can move forward and figure out my vocation for the next stage of my life.
— Jennifer Lien
PAAC Fellowship has taught and shown me why community is so important in the work of deconstructing and reconstructing our identities. As someone who loves to do their own research on things like Asian American history and sociology, I have often missed seeing and being present with how others are taking in and responding to that information. Seeing and hearing others reflecting helps me articulate and put words to my own thoughts. While we learned and processed so much information, the fellowship has helped us build intentional community through personal and vulnerable sharing. It was a helpful outlet whenever I had something in my life that I was dying to share!
— Tim Liu
As someone who is perpetually participating in learning communities, the PAAC fellowship is probably the most unique one. It was integrative of multiple aspects of my identity that have been kept separate, but now, feel more coalesced. The solidarity I experienced, especially among members of my weekly small group, will continually remain with me and give me strength.
This past year, as a mother of three (ages 5, 3, and almost 1), I often felt that my self was disappearing as I increasingly became an extension of my children. The time I spent in the readings and group discussions was solace for me, since it was something I did exclusively for myself. However, what I gleaned from the fellowship has profoundly impacted my personal and family relationships as I more comfortably and confidently claim my PAAC identity.
— Rosa Tsay Jacobs
The PAAC Fellowship has been an absolutely transformative experience for me. I joined the Progressive Asian American Christian community because of the seemingly disparate parts of my identity that may seem irreconcilable and that can make a person lonely. And I joined the Fellowship because I was hungry to learn the breadth and depth of our legacy — our progressive Asian American Christian legacy — and how we fit into the future.
The fellowship has armed me with connection to our collective ancestry and with solidarity across a nation and myriad identities. Most of all, the fellowship and the friendships formed through it have expanded my view of the mystery of God and a deeper plumbline into God’s heart for justice.
— Ophelia Hu Kinney
Probably my whole life, I was this weird Christian that didn’t fit in with the other Christians. Then when Donald Trump happened upon us all, I really couldn’t unsee that Evangelicalism, Republicanism, Authoritarianism, and White Nationalism were just different names for the same thing. Not only did I want nothing to do with it, I wanted to actively resist it. At the time, I was already unchurched for a few years, inevitably isolated from those that I had previously been in fellowship with, and about as passive about my faith as I’d ever been in my life.
The PAAC Fellowship has been a fulfilling experience that has provided a new foundation for my still reconstructing beliefs. For the past few years, I had been on a self-guided meandering journey of deconstructing my old beliefs, but detoxifying is only the beginning of a process of becoming healthy. Layer by layer, through seminars, readings, and challenging discussions with other fellows, I’ve welcomed a different understanding of God — a God that is with us in the interstices, not above us. A God that loves everyone and wants us to love too. A God that is reflected in all people. In an unexpected way, multiplying the ways to see God and my Christian beliefs has actually simplified those beliefs. The pieces fit together better. There’s more integration and congruency between what I believe and how I want to live my life. By putting my faith in this complex God, I have found a faith that for the first time in my life has made me feel like a whole integrated person, where all my identities — as Christian, Asian American, and Progressive, are still differentiated but interconnected and complementary.
— Joseph Lee
When I first heard about the PAAC Fellowship, I was intrigued but hesitant. I was a brand new mom about to transition back into full time work from parental leave. Would I be able to do the readings? Would I be able to make all the webinar sessions and small group meetings? Would I even be able to stay awake?! With the full support of my wife, I joined the PAAC Fellowship. The readings and speakers have insightful and eye opening. But what has impacted me the most is my small group. The PAAC Fellowship provided just that for me: fellowship. My small group has become like family to me (and not just because 5 out of 6 of us are queer). Even if we didn’t do all the readings (yes, that happens), we are still able to discuss the topics or just share about each others’ weeks and support one another. The PAAC Fellowship has helped given me something that I didn’t even realize I had been missing: community.
— Serena Cerezo-Poon