Winston Ching, first Asiamerica missioner, remembered

By Pat McCaughan
Posted Jul 5, 2012

Winston Ching

[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] Friends and colleagues remembered the Rev. Dr. Winston Wyman Ching as a trailblazer, a trusted friend, and a legendary mentor.

Ching, who died suddenly July 3, had enjoyed a long and distinguished career as staff officer of the Episcopal Church Asiamerica Ministry, including developing the ministry in 1973 and coining the term “Asiamerican” to include all Episcopalians of Asian descent.

The news of his death while traveling from Hong Kong to Hawaii sent shock waves through the church community at the start of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

“I can’t believe it,” said the Rev. Winfred Vergara, Episcopal Church EAM missioner. “We had hoped to honor him for his contributions next year at our 40th anniversary of EAM.

“He (Ching) was the first missioner for Episcopal Asiamerica ministries and served under four presiding bishops — (John) Hines, (John) Allin, (Edmond) Browning and (Frank) Griswold,” Vergara said. “He continued to serve as my de facto consultant and advisor and friend and mentor.”

After his retirement from the Episcopal Church Center in 2002, Ching served as interim pastor at the Church of the Good Shepherd in New York City.

In October of 2009 Winston moved to Hong Kong to accept the responsibilities of chaplain, academic tutor in psychology, and student counselor at St. John’s College at the University of Hong Kong.

He also taught pastoral counseling and practical theology as an adjunct lecturer at Ming Hua Theological College (Anglican) in Hong Kong.

A cause of death was not immediately clear. Apparently he died in Guam while traveling from Hong Kong to Hawaii, Vergara said.

“His only brother, Jonathan, is on his way to Guam Memorial Hospital” to handle arrangements, Vergara added.
The Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, retired peace and justice officer for the Episcopal Church, said he was “just devastated” to learn of Ching’s death.

“It’s hard to believe his gentle and thoughtful presence is gone from us,” he said via email. “His ministry to Episcopal Asian Ministries is legendary for the many networks he created which supported local congregations across the United States. He leaves us with a more vibrant church because of his extraordinary ministry among us.”

The Rev. Eric Law, founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute, said Ching was instrumental in nurturing seminarians and youth ministries throughout the church.

“He was wonderfully supportive of Asian youth and young adults; he was 100 percent behind them,” he said.

Law had once observed that the “EAM network is very unique, it is very strong and one of the most organized Pan Asian organizations in any denomination” largely due to Ching’s facilitation and organization.

“When the Rev. Winston Ching gathered Asian leaders back in the 1970s, it was the first time Japanese Americans had a real conversation with Chinese Americans, because back in Asia we were enemies,” Law had said. “But in the United States, we were in a different context. It was the first time many of them had encountered other Asian groups. Asian-American became an identity that did not exist before.”

EAM was created after the 1973 General Convention and began organizing consultations the following year.

The Rev. Keith Yamamoto, rector of St. Mark’s Church in Upland, California, credited both Ching’s and EAM’s support with “giving me a sense of identity about who I am, as a Christian and as an Asian American, a Japanese American.

“He helped me form an Episcopal identity, and broadened my horizons to give me a bigger picture of the church as a place of fellowship, as well as a bigger picture of myself in it,” he said.

“There were lots of great friendships that were made through EAM’s influence. They were foundational in helping me see myself as a leader in the Episcopal Church and, eventually, as an ordained person in the church,” he said.

“Winston Ching was a very humble person, he had a very profound spirituality,” Yamamoto added. “He had the ability to raise up leaders for both lay and ordained ministry. He helped organize and facilitate and network people in amazing ways.”

Ching was ordained to the diaconate May 10, 1968 and to the priesthood Dec. 21, 1968 in the Diocese of Hawaii.

In 1970, Ching was appointed vicar of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in San Francisco, where he founded St. John’s Educational Thresholds Center, a tutoring and language-training program geared toward the children of the neighborhood that later became a separate nonprofit.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.


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Comments (16)

  1. The Rev. T. James Kodera, PhD says:

    Fond and grateful memories of Winston are many and varied for so many of us, especially Episcopalians of Asian heritage. Winston inspired and invited so many from all around the country, including Hawaii, not only to embrace with pride our Asian heritage but to form an alliance among us. “Asiamerica” is his coinage not to separate but unite Asian Americans with Asians. His vision was global and inclusive. His impulse ran counter to the divisiveness that continues to plague Asians. He empowered people to develop their talents and passions, including prophetic ministry. Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Advocates is an example at a time when Asians in North America, for many historic reasons, were loathe to stand out, let alone speak out. Deep inside his heart was a yearning to heal. His deep and abiding pastoral ministry was the path to which God called him. We shall miss him dearly.

  2. Ian T. Douglas says:

    When I arrived at The Episcopal Church Center in 1984 to work in the then “Overseas Department” at the age of 26, Winston reached out to me, included me, and taught me how things worked. He was the best kind of mentor: a kind sage who always had time for my naive and uninitiated questions. His gentle, wise, and loving presence always empowered and challenged me to be the best I could be in service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world and The Episcopal Church is better because of the gift of Winston. We will miss you in this mortal life, dear teacher. Ian

    1. Bishop John Wilme (Toungoo Diocese,Myanmar) says:

      Winston helped me to come to do my M.Div at Virginia Theological Seminary from 1986 to 89. He always give his kind assistance when needed while I was doing my M. Div program. Those days it was not allowed for people in Myanmar to go overseas for theological studies but he was able to bring me out of Myanmar to complete my M.Div as the first clergy who was able to do theological degree after 1960s. I give thank to the Lord for his life and faithful ministry. May his soul rest in peace now and forever. John (VTS class 89,Toungoo,Myanmar)

  3. Wise, gentle, funny, practical, shrewd, intuitive, brave, loving, accessible — I don’t know enough adjectives to capture what Winston was. I mean, what he IS: ” for us, life is changed, not ended.”

  4. The Rev. Canon Timothy M. Nakayama says:

    As a very young Priest in the early 1970’s, The Rev. Winston Wyman Ching, accepted a surprising challenge that came from another Asian American Episcopal Priest, the Rev. Canon John H.M. Yamazaki, Rector of St. Mary’s, Los Angeles (a Japanese American Episcopal Church). Fr. Yamazaki, a nationally well-connected Priest of the Episcopal Church, recruited Fr. Ching, as Executive Secretary of a national entity, brought into being by the National Executive Council of the Episcopal Church of which Fr. Yamazaki was a member. In 1973, this entity with a new coined name, “EAST” – (EPISCOPAL ASIAN-AMERICAN STRATEGIES TASK-FORCE), received another name, created by Fr. Winston – “EAM” – EPISCOPAL ASIAMERICA MINISTRY! Several “Convocations” were created to identify these ethnic constituencies: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indochinese (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, Cambodian). These ministries existed in isolation in the dioceses. EAM became the vehicle, enabling these ministries to become aware of each other, and in turn, the National Church to become aware of these fellow Episcopalians through a National Ministry and their Ethnic Convocations! The Rev. Winston Ching, a 5th generation Chinese American, became the first “Executive Secretary” or “National Missioner” of EAM!

  5. Tony Gomowad says:

    Hafa Adai (Guam version of Aloha) All,

    As of today, July 6th on Guam (we’re at least 17 hours ahead of the West Coast), we are set for the blessing and then cremation of the remains of The Rev. Dr. Winston Ching on Monday, July 9th at about 10:30 AM (5:30 PM-Sunday-West Coast USA.) His ashes will then be shipped to his “sole survivor brother, Jonathan Ching, in Fresno, CA.”

    While sudden death such as that of Dr. Ching’s is certainly shocking, Guam could be a perfect choice as a launch pad to the heavens! Guam, with an area of 212 sq. miles and home to about 152, 000 people, could be the tallest mountain on earth. Measured at its base in The Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench floor, it would be at least 38,920 ft high. In comparison, Mt. Everest is, 29,028 feet high. Dr. Ching has been known to many as a dedicated advocate for outreach, ethnic ministries anywhere; he personally touched many persons and yet he was global. We’re honored here on Guam where he made his last stop in (physical) person. We join everyone in commending him to our Father as we thank God for giving to us and for the powerful work in and through him.

    1. Rev. Bud Carroll, Hong Kong says:

      I knew Winston for nearly forty years – mostly in ecumenical gatherings in New York City and across Asia.. Since our mutual retirements, we had many occasions to be together in Hong Kong. Sunday “yum chas” after services at St. John’s Cathedral; his hosting numerous international students for American Thanksgiving dinners; and jaunts to every conceivable camera shop in HK! Winston was a consummate gentleman; a lover of the IT world, but a strong supporter of the human spirit; gentle in speech with a ‘never-give-up’ attitude; and one who respected tradition but was always open to new ways. Winston – R.I.P!

  6. The Rev, Donald Sullivan says:

    I am saddened by the news. Winston Ching was a seminarian at CDSP when we met. He was the cause of my return to the Episcopal Church. He had the most remarkable way of getting you to do things you didn’t know you could do. As vice president of St. John’s ETC at its founding I thought we were having lots of fun. Fr. Ching shared his vision after the fact. That ETC thrives today is a most honorable legacy. Winston Ching went on to bigger and better things in New York. He always had time for a visit and seemed never to be overwhelmed with work. I think it is because he continued to surround himself with people who did more than they thought possible. I have enjoyed Dr. Ching’s hospitality when visiting New York, always having a key to his home. My heart and prayers go out to Jon Ching, who has a formidable task on 6th street. May Dr. Ching rest in peace.

  7. David Crean says:

    I was saddened by the news of Winston’s death. He was a good colleague and a friend. When I joined the Church Center staff in 1980, our offices adjoined each other. Our secretaries had a predilection for piling up papers, etc. on their desks, leading to another colleague to predict that one day the two piles would collapse toward each other, thereby trapping us irretrievably in our offices. This vastly amused both Winston and me. One of Winston’s great gifts, of course, was knowing the best restaurants in Chinatown, which stood us in good stead on several occasions. Rest in peace, old friend

  8. Mei-Mei Lin says:

    I met Fr. Winston Ching after I gave my paper in an international conference to celebrate the 100th year of Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (1912-2012), and the Anglican/Episcopal mission history in China, at Hong Kong, from June 7 to 9. Fr. Ching briefed me some information about the relationship between the late Bishop Harry S. Kennedy, the Missionary District of Honolulu, and their contribution to the establishment of Taiwan Episcopal Church in the conference. He also took me and the Rev. Dr. Peyton Craighill to visit the family of the late Bishop James Pong at Hong Kong . His hospitality and his devotion to mission work will be appreciated and remembered by so many old friends as Dr. Craighill and new acquaintances like me.

  9. Katie Choy-Wong says:

    I worked with Winston at the God box when I was on staff at the American Baptist Churches USA in Valley Forge. We had an ecumenical group of us all assigned to Asian desks in our denominations. I still remember Winston’s story about how he was in Navajo country for some Episcopal business, and was sitting outside a “trading post” on a reservation. He had on his cowboy hat and boots. Some tourists drove into the parking lot, saw Winston and asked him if they could take a picture with him. They had never met a “live Indian “ before. So Winston said “sure, but it will cost you $20.” They paid him and took a picture.

  10. Jimmy Cheng says:

    I met Fr. Ching through God’s calling at Church of Our Savior, NYC. His eager, kind, caring and never give-up mind set have touched many others’ heart. The way he preaches gives people inner peace. The way he smiles takes away people’s grief. I will always remember his kindness, smiles and how he dedicates his Christian life to help others. It’s sad about his departure but it is just another chapter of his eternal life to God’s Kingdom. My dearest friend and father, Rest in Peace.

  11. Vickie Ling says:

    News from Hong Kong
    下星期四 (19/7) 晚上7:00於香港中環花園道4號聖約翰座堂為 Fr. Winston W Ching 程惠文牧師 舉行追思活動,敬希各位預留時間出席
    Fr. Winston Ching’s memorial service will be held next thurs, 7pm, St. John’s Cathedral, 4-8 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong.

  12. Sze-kar Wan says:

    I’ve been out of the loop and just found out about my good friend’s passing. Winston was instrumental in my becoming an Episcopalian when I was looking for an ecclesiastic home. He was a gentle giant capable of the greatest of leadership and the tenderest of personal touch. Such a soft-spoken man who has done great things for the church and touched the lives of many! I will miss you, my dear friend.

  13. Michael Nai-Chiu Poon says:

    Winston went out of his way to provide funds for two Macao young women to attend a meeting of Asiamerican gathering in California in the early 1990s, at a time when young people in ‘small places,’ especially women, hardly had such opportunity. It was their first trip overseas. Over the years, Winston had always been an encouraging friend and caring pastor for colleagues who were working in isolated and difficult places. He never judged; he accepted everyone, esp. his colleagues, as they were. I last met Winston at Saint John’s Cathedral on Sunday 6 May this year during an ARCIC III meeting in Hong Kong. He greeted me with a broad smile and gentle clasp – I had no idea he was in Hong Kong. That final encounter with Winston was a foretaste of what meeting God would be like on the other side of Jordon.

  14. Rev. Avicotu. George Mathew says:

    My father , Rev. A.G. Mathew worked with Rev. Winston Ching in the year 1984-87 for the Asia america ministry. Ever since he had been a close friend with our family. He has also participated in the Maramon convention and many programs of Mar Thoma Church. For a short period we lost contacts and was able to get back to each other in the year 2007. Rev. Ching visited India in December 2011. He had spent a couple of days with my father and our Metropolitan Bishop Most. Rev. Dr. Joseph Marthoma. It was a re-union after many years. If anybody needs the photo graph, kindly let me know. IF ANYBODY HAS THE EMAIL OR PHONE NUMBER of Mr. Jonathan, (Rev. Ching’s brother , kindly email it to me.
    Deep condolences from Rev. A.G. Mathew and family.
    Mathoma Church, Kottayam, India

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