First Asian American Young Adult Clergy Woman Elected Vice Moderator of PCUSA

Post Author: Fidelia Editors

Our Cloud of Witnesses is a venue for exchanging the stories of those who surround us with strength and grace. Some may have gone before us. Some may be journeying right along side us. Some may have spoken to us out of history. Some may be our favorite characters out of a beloved book. Some may be those who are the most unexpected.

The 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently elected Larissa Kwong Abazia to be Vice-Moderator. She graciously agreed to a blog interview for Fidelia.
Who inspires you?
My mother who, though the youngest child and only daughter in her family, proved that she could do just as much as her two brothers. She pursued her dreams and interests despite what others thought. My friends who are clergywomen of color. They inspire me by serving the Church in creative, innovative, honest and prophetic ways. But, perhaps even more significant on a personal level, they remind me to live unabashedly as a beloved child of God.

Who are your clouds of witnesses?

The unspoken, unknown women who have gone before me: those who raised children with a different vision for their future, worked in the church kitchen because that’s where people told them they belonged, served others who were in need without personal recognition, and sought a different world by pushing the boundaries. I am honored that, because these women have gone before me, they have paved the way for me to serve as a pastor and leader in all levels of the Church. These opportunities would not have even existed without them.
What are some challenges you see PCUSA church and the Church face these next five years?

::  There will not be a racial ethnic majority in the United States by the end of this decade and yet our denomination continues to be predominantly Euro-American, white. The Church must face the reality that we no longer reflect our country’s changing demographics and significant changes in leadership, process, and ministry must change in order to respond to this shift.
:: I continually hear that congregations and regional leadership want “young” voices but welcoming young adults requires more than just providing a seat. It may mean changing how/when we meet, changing aspects of life together, and recognizing the differences among young adults, themselves.
:: A new light has been shed on interfaith dialogue in the midst of the GA’s decision to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard. Technology and modern day communal life push us to recognize that we are interconnected with neighbors near and far. The Church is already and will continue to be challenged to uncover the ways to live in our pluralistic world.
:: Relevancy. Look anywhere on the internet or in print and you can find articles saying that the Church is dying. How can we remain relevant in the world today? How can our witness to God’s love in the world be proclaimed in honest, authentic ways?
What words of advice or wisdom would you give to young clergywomen, and specifically, young clergywomen of color? 
Remember who you are. Not who other people tell you to be. Not what culture tells you to be. Not even what the Church wants you to be. Remember that you are created in the image of God; a unique witness to God’s love in this world. As women, we know what it’s like to walk into a room and assess which “hat” we must wear. I dream of a Church where we can bring all that we are to the Table and, led by the Holy Spirit, arrive in places that we could have never imagined without one another. It is my hope that we can demonstrate a new way in the Church in which all people are valued for their whole selves.
LarissaLarissa grew up in a small Presbyterian church in East Hanover, New Jersey. The intimate congregation supported her faith formation, nurtured a spirit of leadership from a young age, and taught her that people of all ages and back- grounds are welcome at Christ’s Table. This strong foundation continues to drive her hope for the future of the Church as it moves forward by not only teaching the young, but acknowledges that the young have so much to teach as well.
Larissa received her BA in English Literature from Rutgers University and her MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. She also studied at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. Upon graduating from seminary, Larissa completed a year-long pastoral care residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, followed by four years as associate pastor at Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois. Subsequently, she worked as the Interim Youth Director at the First Presbyterian Church of Manasquan in New Jersey.
She currently serves as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills, a multicultural, multiethnic congregation in Queens, New York. Larissa’s experiences as a Chinese American, young adult clergywoman have exposed her to the positive and negative effects that others can have on one’s sense of identity. As a result, she is passionate about God’s call to beloved community where individuals are invited to bring all that they are to the Table.

Image by: Larissa Kwong Abazia
Used with permission
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