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Requiescat in Pace: A Personal Remembrance of John Hwang

By David Chao | November 9, 2023

(John Hwang’s obituary can be found here.)

I first met John on November 17, 2020 on a Zoom call. From that very first Zoom call during the pandemic, little did I know that John and I would be meeting on Zoom nearly every week for almost three years. There is no colleague I have spent more time working with than with John. Our relationship became more than work. We got to know each other. We eventually met in person at Princeton and at conferences. I remember the first time we met in person. Because we had only ever interacted via Zoom, he said he was surprised by how tall I was, and I said I was surprised by how tall he was. We broke bread together, talked about our families, and prayed for one another. John became my friend. His passing leaves a deep hole in my life.

John was a visionary. He had a big message to share about Christian public scholarship. While I spent nearly nine years in book publishing doing marketing, sales, and acquisitions, my ideas about scholarship were based on models going back to the Gutenberg printing press from the 15th century. John’s vision for online public scholarship catapulted the work of the Center for Asian American Christianity into the 21st century. Right off the bat, I was impressed with John’s entrepreneurial spirit and his theological commitments that motivated his engagement with the church and world. John was a kindred spirit.

John’s vision and presentations about “content creation” and “content distribution” that served the audience’s “hero’s journey” are so deeply intertwined with the center’s own vision and work that I cannot tell where John’s thoughts end and where my thoughts begin. John’s vision to bring Christian scholarship into meaningful engagement with the world around us was also mine. Many at Princeton Seminary have been touched by John’s work and shared their sadness at John’s sudden and unexpected passing.

In addition to John’s brilliance as a strategy consultant on Christian public scholarship, the thing I will remember most from my weekly interactions with John is his kindness, patience, and persistence. John encouraged me to start a podcast (I would say that I didn’t have time), John wanted me to start a blog (I would say that I didn’t have time), and John wanted me to use a new virtual conferencing platform (and I would say it is too hard for me to learn to use!). But John was kind and persistent. He got his way with me! I now do all those things, perhaps not to the level of excellence John desired from me, but I am doing all those things now.

I trusted John deeply. I felt that he was a person of integrity and character. Over three years, I saw how unwavering and persistent he was with his kindness and patience. Often I would show up to our weekly meeting not having done the homework he had assigned me, but he was always patient. Spending time with John was always time well spent with someone who was kind and patient. John touched my life as a positive light.

John, I miss you. Your spirit will continue in the work that you helped build with me and our team. I look forward to breaking bread with you again in our Lord’s heavenly banquet.