Sharon Remembers PANA: Fall 2009
The PANA Institute for Leadership Development and Study of Pacific and Asian North American Religion (“Engagement at the intersections of faith, society, and Asian and Pacific Islander culture”) is a center of Pacific School of Religion, a member school of the Graduate Theological Union of seminaries in Berkeley, California.
For nearly ten years (2000-2009), the PANA Institute was a holy place, a place where smart, funny, political, hip Asian American and Pacific Islander religious and ethical leaders from many ethnicities, denominations and walks of life, gathered to deepen our understanding of our own and each other’s lives, to find intellectual and spiritual renewal, and to raise our public voices on the issues of the day. It was a political think tank, an organizational incubator, a unique and vibrant spiritual community.
I attended my first PANA event on Chinese New Year 2003, enjoyed it thoroughly, and was delighted to be invited to join the staff and “PANA Family” a year later. Like many others, I have been profoundly changed by the PANA experience. Deepened, strengthened, healed, and challenged.
In June 2009 PANA’s founding executive director and organizational mentor, elder professor of theology Dr. Fumitaka Matsuoka, retired at the end of a distinguished career. Sadly, the new director, at his first meeting with the PANA staff, lost no time in announcing that his own understanding of the PANA budget did not include room for any salary other than his own, nor time to explore alternatives. The staff were dismissed without any consultation with the constituent community, nor any gesture of gratitude or grief. All programs were dissolved and related websites promptly deleted; the community Oversight Committee was dissolved. Within two months of Professor Matsuoka’s retirement, nothing was left of what had been built but dust in an empty building. It was a very sad chapter in the history of the seminary.
A few programs, those whose legal structure chanced to reflect the spiritual tone of shared ownership that flavored all PANA endeavors, were able to escape the immediate organizational destruction, including:
Others, when the wounds of betrayal and grief have had some time to heal, may yet find a path to resurrection or new ways of organizational existence. Survivors and thrivers and new seeds may yet emerge. Time will tell.
But whatever happens next, for all that PANA gave me, in the years of the sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, boar, rat, and ox, 2003-2009, I am forever grateful.
Many thanks to the PANA staff and leadership who blessed my years there, in particular Rev. Deborah Lee, Mr. Michael James, Ms. Lauren Quock, Dr. Fumitaka Matsuoka. Rev. Michael Yoshii, Rev. Allison Mark, Mr. Jeffrey Acido, and the R2W CLI community.
Love also to my collaborators and circlemates in NRJ-API-LGBT 2004-2009, including Debbie, Oneida, Lauren, Elizabeth, Robert, Clarence, Belinda, JohnO, Lina, MikeY, Miak, LaiShan, MiCa, and the many others who marched with us, worshiped with us, joined our circles, and helped to make the work amazing.
The journey continues.
–Sharon Hwang Colligan, November 2009