The Rev. Jonathan Kwon
The Rev. Jonathan Kwon arrived in Canada from Korea in 2000 and while pursuing his studies at Knox, was introduced to the Synod of Saskatchewan. After two summers serving as a student minister there, he realized he had a passion for rural ministry.
Following his graduation in 2005, he was called to serve at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Grenfell, Saskatchewan, a small and predominantly Caucasian community with a population of 1,150. Located 120 kilometres east of Regina, Grenfell lies nestled just off the Trans-Canada highway.
“As a Korean-Canadian, my passion for rural ministry was inspired by a sense of gratitude for the work that Canadian missionaries did in Korea 100 years ago,” he says. Since graduating with his M.Div. degree, he has been the Minister at Trinity as well as serving as Interim Moderator at two other congregations.
Jonathan has found that there can be resistance to change in his community, but by acting as a bridge-builder, he believes one can connect the people to the church and help both to evolve. “Many people today, especially the younger generation, do not come to church because it is a boring place for them. They think of the church as a funeral home, a nursing home, a wedding hall or a museum,” he says. “I think ministers need to build bridges over which people who are un-churched can easily and meaningfully enter into the church life, without us having to sacrifice our Biblical focus or our Reformed convictions.”
In order to grow Trinity, Jonathan has initiated a student ministry program for Bible students from Korea. Over the last four years, 30 students have been able to experience the Canadian culture through this cross-cultural ministry opportunity. These students are able to improve their English language skills and find support as they settle into a pastoral charge, while members of the congregation are able to experience the Korean culture through the students’ music, Bible studies, mosaic festivals, Tae-Kwon-Do demonstrations and healing programs. Since instituting this cross-cultural program, Trinity has doubled its size in just three years.
The congregation has warmly received Jonathan. Darnell Fraser-Gaw, a long-standing member of the Grenfell community, says “We at Trinity are extremely fortunate to have Reverend Jonathan as our Minister. His dynamic sermons and his advocacy for the sponsorship of young Bible students from Korea have truly enriched both our congregation and our community.” It is wonderful to hear such high praise for the cross-cultural ministry work that Jonathan has undertaken. It is an avenue that other pcc congregations are now beginning to embrace. Much of the credit for growth goes to the diverse ways in which Jonathan is engaging his community, both inside and outside of the church’s walls. For this, he is deeply appreciative of the education and encouragement that he received at Knox College. He feels that his preparation helped him to foster the wisdom necessary for rural ministry.
In the spirit of giving back, Jonathan has his own words of encouragement for current students, in particular those who are considering a rural congregation. “I want to encourage them to have a strong passion for ministry. From my present perspective, the passion for ministry is the greatest challenge in the church today. It is necessary to develop a model program for the future of the Church to rediscover our identity and our spirituality.”