Hong Kong native serving two churches in Gloucester

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Aug 07, 2019 - 01:29 PM

Photo: The Rev. Ann On Lin Tang prepares a typical family meal that would have been served when she lived in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

The Rev. Ann On Lin Tang prepares a typical family meal that would have been served when she lived in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

 Ann Tang, Hong Kong native who has been living in the United States for 27 years, has made a positive mark on many. She is now minister for Salem and Olive Branch United Methodist churches in Gloucester, but her career began in Washington, D.C.

Ann grew up in Hong Kong, China, with three brothers and one sister, starting to learn English in the first grade. Ann was the younger of two girls, “Thus I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother. She was a good cook and I learned from her. I learned also from my home economic classes I took in high school. Basically our foods were steamed or stir-fried. We used a lot of vegetables and seafood. Hong Kong is as a port city so seafood was readily available. Hot tea was generally served with each meal. A family meal would generally be an appetizer such as crispy noodles, one meat, one vegetable and rice. Maybe dessert sometimes.”

Explaining that food has always been an important part of her family’s life, Ann said that at a banquet there are always nine courses. When it comes to the Chinese New Year (2019 is the Year of the Pig), eating food and celebrating can go on for days. Today Ann misses the food of her homeland but has adjusted to American foods, even trying fried okra. “Had never had that before. We had McDonald’s in Hong Kong so American food was not new to me.”

Ann’s parents moved to this country in 1985, and after living in England for two years, she decided to join them. In 1994 Ann began working as a hospital care staffer at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. “There were many Vietnam veterans who needed help.” Her work at the hospital led to attending the Wesley Theological Seminary in the capital city and becoming a Methodist minister. At the same time, Ann decided to become a member of the Army; she joined in 1996 as a lieutenant and retired in 2016 as a lieutenant colonel.

Ann’s parents have passed away but she has a brother living in Maryland, a brother in Australia and her brother and sister and their families living “back home.” She last visited Hong Kong in 2010.

Ann arrived in Gloucester in 2017 to serve these two churches, one of many rural areas to which she has been assigned. Cooking just for herself, Ann says she uses the microwave the most, but when it comes to cooking a family meal as her mother did, she is very much at home. She stirs with long chop sticks, no salt on the meat, just soy sauce, and doesn’t overcook the broccoli leaves, otherwise “they’ll turn yellow.”

Asked what plans she has for the future, Ann replied, “I want to write a book. It will be my biography and God hasn’t finished with me yet.” And asked what American foods she likes the best, she said, “I’m fond of your vegetables, you have so many fresh ones, but I love your Southern fried chicken.”