Pastor Hyunwoong Hwang, pronounced Zhanhoong Wong, was called to the Phillips United Methodist Church last July, smack dab in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about the challenges of beginning his role as a new clergy member in the midst of such confusing times, Hwang admits that there were inherent challenges with trying to lead a new congregation with stringent safety restrictions in place to protect the health of everyone. Much of the church’s mission had moved largely online via Facebook and video during the past year. Hwang laughingly confesses he became a bit of a cameraman as he learned to navigate the new waters of leading his congregation remotely. “I also learned from the parishioners,” he said as we discussed the unique challenge of keeping the church alive and its community’s spirit lifted during these ever-changing and uncertain times. “We need to rethink the church…its image is changing,” he muses as we contemplate bridging the traditional ways of the church with modern society. He went on to express the ingenuity of the congregation, describing them as “creative and engaging,” and largely credits their passion and devotion for how successfully the church has been able to continue its mission and message throughout the pandemic.