I have returned from Singapore and Hong Kong, and I am leaving tonight for CHICAGO!
The conference is part of a movement called the Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative. Started originally by religious studies academics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the movement was taken on by the PANA (Pacific and Asian North American) Institute at the Pacific School of Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. This year, the conference has moved to Chicago and is organized by the Centre for Asian American Ministries at McCormick Theological Seminary. Some of the major publications from the movement include New Spiritual Homes: Religions and Asian Americans (1999, ed. David Y. Yoo), Religions in Asian America: Building Faith Communities (2002, ed. Pyong Gap Min and Jung Ha Kim), and Revealing the Sacred in Asian and Pacific America (2003, ed. Jane Naomi Iwamura and Paul Spickard). The conversation every year is a very interesting dialogue among theologians, academics in other disciplines (like me!), and religious leaders.
This year, the conference theme is: Bridging Yesterday and Tomorrow: Memory and Generational Change in Pacific and Asian America. As the call for papers has it:
Plenaries feature a discussion on memory, the role of personal faith in academia, and an intergenerational panel. Plenary Speakers include Anju Bhargava (Member of President Obama’s Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships), Bandana Purkayastha (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut), Peter Cha (Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Soong-Chan Rah (Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary), Roy Sano (Bishop, the United Methodist Church), and Mai-Anh Tran (Assistant Professor of Christian Education, Eden Theological Seminary). Concurrent sessions will showcase research-in-progress, and structured mentoring sessions will be available for students and junior faculty members.
I am presenting a paper entitled The Silent Exodus in a Trans-Pacific Migration Context: The Challenges of Youth in a Hongkonger Church in Canada. It will be similar to the paper earlier this year I gave at the Association of American Geographers’ Annual Meeting in Washington DC. It will focus more on Generational Change, the session I have been slotted in for 7 Aug at 8:30 AM (early!!!). Here is my abstract:
Students of ethnic religious congregations in North America have often noted the phenomenon of “the silent exodus” (Carjaval, 1994), a quiet departure of the young people from ethnic religious congregations that has resulted in both diminishing numbers within ethnic congregations and the emergence of second-generation ethnic churches. The often-cited reason for this exodus is language: while the ethnic church tends to operate in an ethnic tongue, the second generation that has been educated in North America prefers English as a lingua franca. But the case of St. Matthew’s Church—the Hongkonger congregation in Metro Vancouver at which I conducted nine months of ethnographic research—has contributed nuance to this view in two ways. First, while the departure of English-speaking youth has been an ongoing concern to members of the church, I also note members of the second generation who have decided to learn Cantonese as a way of preserving their contribution to Canadian multiculturalism. Second, I demonstrate that trans-Pacific migrations also affect generational dynamics in the transnational Hongkonger church: 1) the second generation that knows Cantonese may migrate back to Hong Kong for work and become too geographically distant to attend the migrant church and 2) a ‘second wave’ of migrants from the People’s Republic of China currently takes up more attention in the Hongkonger church than issues of youth and generational transmission. This paper contributes to the study of generations in migrant religious congregations by placing their spiritual needs in the context of in a specific transnational geography of religion that problematizes the dominant view that young people pose the dominant challenge to the ethnic religious congregation in North America.
I’d love to see you there if you’re at APARRI! I can also make my paper available if you’d like a copy.
Chicago, here we come!!!!!