Aneeta Saroop & Nathan Fong
Rev. Aneeta Devi Saroop
Hi I’m Pastor Aneeta Saroop, born Hindu, raised agnostic, baptized Christian and Lutheran by choice. My love and belonging in this church doesn’t come from any family tradition but from my baptism alone in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. A colleague once asked me, “what’s a nice Trinidadian woman like you doing in the Lutheran church?” I think he meant in all sincerity, “why are you here, if you don’t have to be?” or “Why would you want to hang out with us?” There aren’t a lot of Trinidadian Lutherans and if you’re reading this and you are a Trinidadian Lutheran or Anglican…. Hey! We need to meet! There are a ton of reasons why I want to be in this church and even more reasons why I love hanging out with Lutherans and Anglicans (Luglicans? Antherans?) having served as an incumbent in the Diocese of B.C.(ACC) and now as a pastor in the BC Synod (ELCIC) I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
But for starters, here’s a little bit about who I am – I was born in Guelph Ontario, lived in Scarborough for a bit and then moved to Prince Rupert, BC before fourth grade. I graduated high school in Rupert (that’s what Rupertites call Prince Rupert) and then attended the University of Victoria where I studied Sociology, English Literature and was called Aneeta from PrinceSaroopert by my university friends.
I never attended church. I was never a part of any religious community. I was a frazzled university student unaware of the traumas I had suffered, unaware of my languishing mental health, unaware of systemic racism as anything other than the bad luck of being born with brown skin in Canada. And so, one day in the University Center at UVic, quite by accident, a Lutheran Chaplain asked me the most profound question of my life: “How are you?”
How. Dare. You. I thought. How dare he ask me that? A stranger? I ended up ranting to this random God-Guy about the mess my life was in now. Mess that nobody, let alone a religious nut, could possibly understand. He looked at me, as he processed my oversharing, unphased by the intensity of my answer and said quite certainly, “I think God was with you the whole time”. Ashes. Embers. I think God was with you the whole time.
I’m looking forward to being at CLAY 2023 Waterloo and sorting out with all of you what it means when our dreams and expectations die away, and we’re left among the ashes, fanning flames of hope. I’m looking forward to reflecting on what it means to fully embrace our life together as co-conspirators in the gospel of Jesus who has been with us the whole time. See you at CLAY!
Rev. Nathan Fong
Hi everyone! I’m Pastor Nathan Fong of Grace Lutheran Church in Burnaby, BC, which is on the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Musqueam) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) speaking peoples. You may remember me from… well from about 2 lines ago when I just introduced myself, because chances are you have no idea who I am and so I’m going to spend the next couple of paragraphs telling you a bit about myself.
I was born in Vancouver, BC, which is just a stone’s throw away from Burnaby (literally across the street). I can almost see the hospital where I was born from my bedroom window until they built all those buildings around downtown. My parents are immigrants from China and raised my 3 siblings and me in the Lutheran church. Actually, it was more like just our mom did, our dad didn’t want anything to do with church or faith or not watching TV on a Sunday morning. But out of the 5 of us Lutheran-church-goers, I’m the only one left (in the Lutheran church, that is).
I didn’t always want to stay in the Lutheran church as I was growing up, however. The church we went to was predominantly Chinese (it even had “Chinese” in its name) and the services that I attended were slow paced and boring, unlike my friends’ churches that were so super cool and hip (do kids even use the word “hip” anymore?). Once I finished high school I jumped around from denomination to denomination and even went to a Baptist bible college thinking that I’ll become a pastor at one of these cool and hip (I’ll use “hip” anyway… deal with it) churches and so maybe perhaps I could be cool and hip too (ok that’s the last time because it’s overkill now).
But… something was missing in my undergrad experience. The gospel as presented didn’t hit in any meaningful way. I didn’t feel whole or like I could be myself. It was like God wasn’t really real to me at that point in my life.
Then a bit of time after I graduated and was working at that Chinese church I grew up in, I was convinced to go to a Lutheran Seminary, which I did (albeit begrudgingly, but surprisingly enough it was my non-church-going dad that supported me the most in my family for this decision). And let me tell you, I fell in love with the Lutheran stuff I was learning! Like the actual meaty stuff about grace, about forgiveness, about the GOSPEL (I don’t know why I put that in all caps, I don’t normally talk that way). And I even developed an appreciation for the worship style, which is something that I never thought would happen to me. It actually was awesome. I graduated somewhere near the bottom of my class and have been serving as a pastor ever since. And so here I am, looking forward to exploring with all of you the ashes and embers of this strange thing called life, and how God plays a role in fanning those flames of our faith, love.