The first Sunday in July is the start of a new liturgical year in The United Methodist Church (UMC).

In that spirit, Centenary United Methodist Church welcomed its new senior minister, Rev. Ki Tae Jamaal Choi, and his family during the weekly worship on Sunday morning, July 4. Rev. Choi’s appointment by Bishop Grant J. Hagiya officially began on July 1.

Beginning the virtual worship that was broadcast from the Centenary UMC  sanctuary, Rev. Mark M. Nakagawa, West District superintendent, joyfully introduced Rev. Choi and his family.

Rev. Choi previously served at Faith United Methodist Church in Torrance for 13 years, overseeing  ministries that spanned a wide variety of ages from children to seniors. He was ordained a full elder in the United Methodist Church last month during the church’s Annual Conference Session, attaining the highest ordained position in the UMC.

Rev. Ki Tae Jamaal Choi

Offering a brief autobiographical sketch, Rev. Choi shared that his early childhood years were spent living in Pittsburgh, Penn., which is why he is a big fan of the Steelers NFL team. Later on the family moved to Los Angeles, where they lived near Crenshaw Boulevard and the 10 Freeway. In his younger days, he and his friends came to Little Tokyo and frequented the former Yaohan Plaza bowling alley, next door to Centenary.

Reflecting on “how surreal” it is to come back to Little Tokyo as Centenary’s senior minister, Rev. Choi stated: “My family is excited for this opportunity to serve this faith community called Centenary.”

He proceeded to begin his inaugural sermon, “Break, Not Bend.” Fittingly, his first sermon was inspired by the book “Art Plus Faith,” authored by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Makoto Fujimura. Fuller Theological Seminary is Rev. Choi’s seminary alma mater. 

“Art Plus Faith” is about kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art form of repairing broken tea ware by reassembling ceramic pieces and creating pottery that is new and more valuable than it previously was. Rev. Choi linked the kintsugi concept with the brokenness of contemporary U.S. society, the challenges that threaten to pull The United Methodist Church in different directions.

“In order to grow in Christ, sometimes we need to break, not just bend, in order to be shaped by God … Kintsugi is my reminder that it is because we are broken that God will piece us back together, even in a new way. It is when we are broken that we find ourselves closest to our God.”

Centenary UMC continues to worship virtually on Sunday mornings, and more information can be found on the website: www.centenarydtla.org.

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