Art gifts

In music, film, art, prayer and words, Asian Episcopalians celebrate their faith, roots and history – Episcopal News Service

Mel Soriano interviews musical artist and filmmaker Larissa Lam about her experience discovering Asian American history. Photo: Pat McCaughan

[Diocese of Los Angeles] Since musical artist Larissa Lam helmed the award-winning film film“Far East Deep South,” about her in-laws’ Mississippi roots, she has “made it her mission to help others learn more about the history of Asian American Pacific Islanders,” she said. she told attendees of the May 7 celebration of AAPI Heritage Month on the rooftop of St. Paul’s Commons.

Organized by The Gathering – A Space for AAPI Spirituality, a ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles, the May 7 event featured music, art, food, spoken word poetry and prayer. Additionally, seminarian Mel Soriano interviewed contributors to the show “AAPI Alive!” from The Gathering. Easter devotionwhich offers a new offering every day between Easter and Pentecost.

Lam, whose Easter devotional voice “I Feel Alive” contribution debuted on May 8, said she and her husband, Baldwin Chiu, were surprised when tracing her roots “that we ended up, not in China, but in the deep south of Mississippi.

“We discovered the kind of unknown story that most people don’t realize; that there was a large population in the Deep South, particularly in the Mississippi Delta, of Chinese over generations. It was an incredible testimony. »

Chiu was attending a screening of the film in Washington, D.C., she said, adding that the AAPI legacy celebration should take place throughout the year, “because the AAPI story, just like the black history is American history.

Lam and others interviewed also expressed their struggle for recognition, identity and authenticity within the ongoing racial conversation in the country, often primarily between blacks and whites. “As an American-born and Chinese person, I never really felt like I fit into a box,” she said.

Dustin Nguyen contributed a trilingual prayer, in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, to the Easter devotional. Photo: Pat McCaughan

“I joke that when I was growing up, as one of the only Asians in my class in elementary school, I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes, because all the popular kids looked like that. And then I grew up and got into music, and all my favorite artists were black. I was into R&B and jazz. My own style is closer to that. And then, I’m Asian. So , where do I fit in there? I wasn’t black. I wasn’t white.

The Reverend Peter Huang, a leader of The Gathering, echoed Lam’s sentiment that AAPI’s story is American history and as such should be recognized throughout the year. . The heritage celebration, however, represented “a wonderful mix of AAPIs from all walks of life, age, gender, ethnicity, level of acculturation, sexuality, coming together,” he said. “The sheer diversity of this group, to be able to come together and celebrate, is quite phenomenal.”

Both the Easter devotional and the rooftop celebration were filled with joy, he added. Joy “to come together, and that includes with allies and advocates among us, representing a sense of belonging, like a place where you can tell your story and feel understood and not have to explain everything and write it down page.”

The celebration also included musical performances by Arroyo Groupa ministry of All Saints Church in Pasadena, and performances of prayers and spoken poems.

Dustin Nguyen offered a trilingual prayer, in English, Spanish and Vietnamese:

“Almighty God who blesses us with the power of art, exalts the voices of artists from historically marginalized communities, breaks down the barriers that keep us excluded, multiplies solidarity to our cause, may our worthy stories transfigure our imaginations and our conversations and we rise together as a beloved community. Amen.”

Ravi Verma, left, describes to Mel Soriano his contribution to the Eastertide Devotional; a meditation based on the Indian lotus flower. Photo: Pat McCaughan

Ravi Verma, program director of the Stillpoint Center for Christian Spirituality, an institution in the diocese, told the gathering that he explored the paradox of finding beauty amid life’s challenges through the metaphor of a flower. of Indian lotus. His reflections will be published in an upcoming devotional.

In the context of Easter, the events leading up to Jesus’ death were distressing, but were followed by Easter, new life. Likewise, the lotus exists in muddy waters, he says, but opens up, revealing its beauty, which is always available. “Beauty is not separate from the domain. We must take the time to cultivate beauty.

Despite the pain and suffering “there is always a call to recognize the beauty that surrounds us, it is what gives us strength”, he said. Looking at Echo Park Lake, he added, “I see the flowers, I see the ducks, and I see the wind in the trees. No matter what I’m going through, they’re there at the same time.

Dustin Seo is a cellist with Chamber music from Laosa group of classical musicians based in Los Angeles supported by the Church of Our Savior in San Gabriel, and is also associate artistic director of street symphonya group dedicated to building bridges between music and Skid Row communities.

“I find a lot of my joy and artistic passion in what may not be my heritage,” said Seo, who grew up in South Pasadena and described the cello as a “very white Western instrument. “. And yet, I believe it’s part of the Asian American experience and more, as an offshoot of that, as my experience as a Christian.

Dustin Seo, cellist of Laós Chamber Music and Street Symphony, describes how his musical talent helps him connect to his faith and identity. Photo: Pat McCaughan

“I really struggled with my faith and how a big part of my identity as a Christian was a big part of how I assimilated as a child of an immigrant family,” he said. he told the rally. “I had all these thoughts like, did my relationship with a Christian God and my faith in Christianity actually take me away from my Asianness?”

He added: “I found that, it’s okay to say that I like to play the classical cello and that I go to church and that I worship a Western religion. And it’s natural to say that it is, authentically who I am. I feel like my art is my identity and who I am as a person, and it intersects with faith and a lot of complicated things.

In “Resurrection,” a devotional from April 21 entrance Seo performs a set of gavottes from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite in D Major for Solo Cello because “it captures the childlike, innocent sense of wonder,” a feeling he feels about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. .

“Each year I find myself filled with such joy and admiration for how amazing our Lord is and the kind of incredible mercy and love he has for us,” he says in the ‘entrance. “It’s really cool to be able to celebrate it every year and honestly every day. Nothing about it gets old. Every day I wake up like an innocent child and I feel the love and I feel this overwhelming feeling of gratitude and I think this may be one of the greatest gifts we receive as children. I hope you feel that sense of childlike jubilation and wonder for our Lord.

Performing Bach’s piece also represents complex issues of identity, Seo said. “It’s so complicated, so nuanced, … you can get stuck in the trenches trying to learn how to play the part or learning to struggle with your relationship to your faith. And if you zoom out a bit, it’s really just a dance.

Drawing by Joshua Wong.

“When I think of the cross, I think of the wonder and its simplicity. That we celebrate Jesus dying on the cross every day for us. And it’s simple, it’s beautiful. Like watching the sunrise all For a long time I tried to think of God the way I would think as a cellist… these chords are too hard, I can’t do that – (but) it’s a simple pastoral dance, everything as the cross is a simple testimony of his love.

Joshua Wong, former advertising art director and shoe designer, Bloy House student and candidate for Holy Orders, came up with a monochromatic drawing of a standing person with pigeons nestled on his head and shoulders. This drawing, he says, reminds him of the Trinity and identity.

“It represents the journey of bicultural people and how we go from American to Chinese to American to Chinese. And in my case, also as a gay person. So it means a lot to me that this trinity also represents my life in these three areas, three identities that I have. And these are the three identities that God feels and brings together. Not just for me, but for anyone who finds themselves in a dilemma of whether God loves them or not.

Joyce Swaving, member of The Gathering and parishioner of St. George’s Church in Laguna Hills, offered a poem:

Welcome to the gallery of beauty and wonder.
Free entry. No need to be silent. Or whisper politely.
Feel free to touch and be touched by anything you encounter.
Move at your own pace, enjoying every view and every space.
Notice the intricate lines on the gardener’s face as a means of transportation?
while he prunes the trees? The arborist in motion, sculpting branches and foliage
Take a look out the window, look at daddy,
as he places a glitter-dusted masterpiece on the fridge with a magnet, their private exhibition, curated with joy and love.
Did you see the twinkle in the fruit seller’s eyes
as she sprinkles a generous sprinkle of tajin on slices of mango in the overflowing cup?
Look above your head and marvel at the vast space
endless possibilities.
Places where we are invited to create spaces of love and connection.
Wherever your eyes light up. There is beauty and pleasure in imperfection.
Focus on the faces and squares on your screen.
assembled like an intricate quilt,
each one unique and wonderfully made
A rich and amazing collection in all shades.
Lives filled with moments of laughter, tears, celebrations and fears.
Oh, the splendor of seeing and being seen.
We don’t need to seek beauty, we can just savor
in the wonder of nature and in each other,
Let us be both an artist and a patron of the arts, of gratitude and admiration.
Let’s keep walking side by side.
Noticing, watching, watching, dancing at sunrise and sunset,
Maybe collect glitter and confetti on our soles and our souls,
as one feasts on appetizing mangoes, touched with tajin.
The world says beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Maybe it’s being filled with love, gratitude, and wonder.

The Easter devotion will continue until Pentecost, Sunday, June 5, when The Gathering will hold a worship and celebration at 3 p.m. at All Saints Church in Pasadena.