Forrest Claassen calls Cedar, “selfless, humble, brave.” Tom Cramer adds, “she is a beautiful example of God at work through a ‘clay jar’ open to his Spirit.”
On Sunday, March 26th, Cedar made history.
When Rev. Huong Dang, affectionately nicknamed “Cedar”, was installed at the Vietnamese Presbyterian Church in Garden Grove, California, she became the first female senior pastor of a Vietnamese-language congregation in the PCUSA.
After the ceremony, Cedar expressed her gratitude by saying, “I am not deserving to be loved and honored like this. But thanks be to God, I’m sincerely happy and grateful to be loved and honored through the miracles that God has done for me and His church.”
By all accounts, it’s been a long and challenging journey.
Cedar first came to the church 13 years ago while a student at Fuller Seminary. Over time she rose through the ranks, first becoming a member, then an assistant to the pastor and finally an associate pastor.
Meanwhile, the church struggled as it “tried out” many men in the role of senior pastor, only to end up with a long-term vacancy.
The former senior pastor of VPC and current president of the NVPC*, Rev. Dr. Cuong Huu Nguyen, confesses, “Our church has gone through many changes and has been without the senior pastor for many years. The issue of the lack of a senior pastor has caused more than one-third reduction in the congregation size.”
Nevertheless, he believes God was present in the process. This difficult time, according to him, gave Cedar “the opportunity to learn to know the work, the people, and the needs of the church.”
The congregation noticed and called Cedar to be the senior pastor.
Cedar attributes her successful transition from an associate to a senior position not only to the foresighted congregation but also to the support of the presbytery. “I cannot express enough my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the leadership team of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos for what you have done for me in my ministry.”
Highlights of the service (see video) included the affirming words of Cedar’s colleagues in the presbytery and the participation of the children from the church.
Forrest Claassen, the Co-Executive for Governance and Congregational Leadership, noted her resolve. “The choices you have made have helped hold this congregation together, even in some very difficult times.”
Tom Cramer, the Presbytery Co-Executive for Vision and Mission, was effusive in his praise of the kids. “When the children sang and danced to ‘I’ve Got the Joy in My Heart,’ I sensed they were expressing how all of us were feeling throughout the day, just overflowing with joy for what God has done, and is doing, through your congregation.”
Out on the patio at the after-party, Tom Cramer savored the Vietnamese hospitality—from the egg rolls to the flan. He spoke for all of the guests when he said, “Thank you for extending God’s table to such a multitude, giving a vision of the heavenly banquet—elegant, colorful, delicious and welcoming.”
*National Vietnamese Presbyterian Council