The Reverend Larissa Kwong Abazia, Vice Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has been diagnosed with cancer.

“I have learned that I have breast cancer after a series of diagnostic tests in the past several weeks. I will be starting chemotherapy on March 24,” she said in a letter to the congregation she serves as pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills in Queens, New York.

“I know many of you have faced cancer or supported those who have gone through cancer. I value all of your prayers at this time.”

Kwong Abazia is a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University and Princeton Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Dan Abazia, have one son.  She was elected Vice Moderator last summer during the General Assembly meeting in Detroit and is serving a two-year term with Heath K. Rada, an elder in the denomination.

“Larissa is and has been a shining light for this denomination both in terms of leadership and personality, and I am honored to serve with her,” Rada said. “We surround her with love and prayers as she journeys through this challenge.”

It’s not clear yet how Kwong Abazia’s diagnosis and medical treatment will affect her moderatorial schedule, but “I hope to continue to lead as normal of a life as possible,” she said.

She and PC(USA) Office of the General Assembly staff will keep people updated and provide reflections on her journey through a web page being created on the PC(USA) website. People will be able to leave thoughts and comments for her there too.

“We encourage people to walk with Larissa on this page,” said the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. “We support her as she courageously battles this disease, and are in deep prayer for her healing.”

The special page will be accessible March 25 via Kwong Abazia’s Vice Moderator’s page.

“The theme of this summer’s General Assembly was ‘Abounding in Hope.’ In the past few months as Vice Moderator and in partnership with Heath Rada, I have seen our denomination’s faithful response to live into God’s beloved community,” Kwong Abazia said.

“As I face this diagnosis, I approach it with the same spirit-filled hope that there is nowhere that we can go where God is not there with us. My work does not end nor does my call pause. I look forward to the ways I will continue to participate in the life of the church in the remainder of my term.”

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