Tuesday, December 23, 2008

[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews] Christianity in Korea

Unless something significant happens, I'm on my way home in the next couple of months. However, I've wanted to do a series on religion pretty much since I started this column.

The first in this series was published today. My goal is to just give a bit of information on the people who help us out spiritually. I've never been much into the party scene here, which consists of drinking to excess and a so-so bar and club culture. However, most of the major religions are here and have houses of worship.

I've started with Christianity simply because it's the day before Christmas, but we'll cover as many as we can including, but not limited to, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam.

Christianity in Korea

This is the first part in a series looking into religion in Korea. The first objective is to learn about the lives of the expatriate clergy. The second is to give expatriates a springboard from which to develop spiritually by providing the contact information and service times for their religious services. Feature articles will examine Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Sikhism. -- Ed.

In the expatriate community it's easy to find a group of friends to drink and party with. However, it can be more of a challenge to establish a spiritual sense of belonging.

Pastor, missionary, scholar Reverend Paul Mooney English-language Ministry at Seoul Cathedral

Reverend Paul Mooney, from Dublin, Ireland, describes himself as a "city boy and a Dubliner at heart," because he was born and raised there.

He first came to Korea in August, 1980 and stayed until 1982. At that time, he was a theological student doing his missionary training in Korea. He had been studying with a Roman Catholic organization called The Columban Fathers at their school in Ireland -- St. Columbans. During that time, he studied the Korean language at a language institute named Myongdowon, which no longer exists.

When asked when he decided to become a reverend, he quickly corrected the question, saying, "I don't know whether people actually decide to become a reverend or if something decides them to become one."

What brought him to the church?

A crucifix at the Seoul Anglican Cathedral [Photo by Matthew Lamers/The Korea Herald]

"For me, it really goes back to the time I was a teenager and I started to feel some way attracted to becoming a priest, for want of a better word ... specifically a missionary. So I suppose, I've had that kind of leaning since I was about 16.

"For me, the funny thing is, I'm actually living half a mile from where I lived in 1980, and I'm working sort of half a mile from where I studied in 1980."

He explained that he came back to Korea after all these years because in his heart, he is more of a traveler. When he left Korea, he was Chaplin of the Mission to Seafarers in Busan. After he left Busan he was in the same ministry in Brussels, Belgium. After Brussels, he returned to a parish in Ireland.

"What attracted me to come back? Well, I was looking through the job section of the Church Times website one day, and I saw they needed a chaplin for the English congregation in Seoul."

He said he had visited York Cathedral a year or two earlier. "It was somebody that had died and it said 'pastor, missionary, scholar' on his (epitaph). I said 'that's what I want to have on mine.' So this kind of makes that possible to do what I feel is my own calling.

"I knew I was ready. The job was there and the job was open. I came over and interviewed and it worked. I'm very, very happy. It's one of the most satisfying experiences I've had, ministering with the foreign congregation here."

He explained that "the word Anglican basically means English, so Anglican Churches are churches that derive in some way or other from the Church of England.

The Anglican Church is located in downtown Seoul beside the British Embassy, across from City Hall. The services Mooney presides over are in English. The Eucharist service is every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in the church's crypt chapel, which is downstairs from the main chapel. On Sunday at 5 p.m. there is the Evening Prayer.

The church has a Bible study for adults after the main Eucharist service. He added that the church has Sunday school for children. For readers who are not in Seoul, but are interested in Anglican/Episcopalian services, there are English speaking services in Daejeon. There is also a service in Namyangju in Gyeonggi-do which focuses on migrant workers.

"For a start, it's English speaking. The largest, but there is no majority; I would call U.S., which would be closely followed by Canadians. ... They include people of all possible types that you would find within North America."

He said that includes Korean-Americans, Nigerians and other Africans, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Australians and Europeans. He said Korean nationals also attend.

"Either Koreans who lived and worked abroad for awhile and who like to still worship in English. Maybe they started coming to the Anglican Church when they lived abroad or went to a similar type of church like a Lutheran Church and just find that they like coming to a liturgical Protestant church. And, from time to time, we have a few Koreans who just like to worship in English. I would think because we're a liturgical Protestant church, which is not really part of the Korean mainstream of Christian religion in Korea, we don't tend to have as many Korean-national worshipers as other English-speaking congregations might have."

He also explained that because his congregation is so spread out, that most events take place on Sunday simply because it's easier for everyone to attend.

For more information on Seoul Cathedral: www.skh.or.kr/cath%27e.htm

Pastor-in-training: David Shaw The Onnuri Bucheon English Ministry, Presbyterian

David from Perth, Western Australia, was born in Nottingham, English which he playfully describes as "Robin Hood territory."

He has lived in Korea for almost five years. "I'm a reverend in training, but doing the job. I've done two out of three years in a master's of divinity course here in Korea.

"I'm going to a school called Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology. I took a year off because I had to marry a beautiful woman. I'm going back next year to finish my study and training," he told Expat Living.

Similar to Reverend Mooney, Shaw described his entry into ministry as not so much a choice, but more as a calling. "When I was about 21, 22 (years old) I went on a short-term mission trip to Africa. We went to Malawi.

"A little thing happened before we left. I was asked to preach before we left. After the service a man came up to me. Never seen him before, never seen him since. And he said, 'God has a word from the Bible for you.' I'm a conservative Baptist. I don't believe in people coming up to me with the whole 'God's word' thing. But he took me to a passage of scripture in 2nd Timothy that basically said 'do the work of an evangelist and a pastor. That's where you're going.' That freaked me out because basically I wanted to be a physical education teacher.

"I didn't think much of it, but later in the same evening, a woman -- a deacon in our church -- came up to me and she said 'God has a word for you.'

"She opened her Bible and gave me the same, identical verses from the Bible."

In his own words, he said he was freaked out, but chalked it up to coincidence.

He said a week later he was boarding the plane and his youth pastor, who didn't know what had happened a week before, had written a Bible verse for every person going on this mission trip. She gave him the piece of paper and it was the same verse.

"For me, I look back on that day as the day when God confirmed his call to ministry. So I did a Jonah and ran the opposite way. I continued to pursue phys-ed teaching, including coming to Korea. And, five years later, I find myself having ministered for two years. So I didn't choose it, it came to me."

He went on to describe his church. He said he works at a church called Onnuri English Ministry in Bucheon. Onnuri is a campus church. They have campuses in Seoul, Seobingo and one in Yangjae.

"I happen to work in Bucheon. We have a congregation of about 30 people. On a good week we can hit 40 or 50. (It's) mostly foreigners, although some Koreans come as well."

Onnuri is a church with about 40,000 members.

"Onnuri is certainly the biggest English ministry in Korea. It has the biggest resources for people who need help with maybe counseling or special needs or Korean lessons. They're the best resource to help people where they're at."

All of the churches have a small group ministry or Bible studies for people seeking those kinds of spiritual activities.

When asked to distinguish his church, he focused on the "core beliefs" that Christians have in common. He believes if those core beliefs are practiced, for example, Trinitarian God and virgin birth, then they're a Christian church.

The service is in Bucheon is near the Sangdong Home Plus in Bucheon. You can learn more about Onnuri's Bucheon English service at oembucheon.com and the Seoul Onnuri Churches at onnurienglish.org

Go to ttgst.ac.kr for more information on the Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology.

By Regina Walton /Expat Interviews

Regina Walton can be reached through her blog http://expatjane.blogspot.com

English language services

Seoul Anglican Cathedral

Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

www.skh.or.kr/cath%27e.htm

(02) 730-6611

Onnuri Bucheon English Ministry, Presbyterian

For information, including service times and contact information, see oembucheon.com for Onnuri Bucheon and onnurienglish.org for Onnuri Seoul

Jubilee Church

Inter-denominational, English ministry in the Gangnam

Sunday service at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (Children's Ministry at 10 a.m. only);

Morning prayer from Tuesday to Friday at 7a.m.

Wednesday night service from 8 p.m.

Phone: (02) 569-2293-4

Daeduk Hanbit Presbyterian Church

English service is at 12 p.m. Sunday

Sunday Bible study at 1:15 p.m.

Phone: (042)-863-0725

Seoul Union Church

Evangelical and ecumenical church

Located near Foreigner's Cemetery Park, north of the Yanghwa Bridge

Phone: (02) 333-7393

Somang Presbyterian Church

English service at 1:30 p.m. Sundays

Offers English Sunday school

Phone: (02) 512-9191~6

Community of Christ

Sunday services at 11:00 a.m. English translation is available.

Non-denominational

Advanced English discussion club meets weekly

Located near Yonsei University

Phone: (02) 334-7912

Yongsan Baptist Church

Sunday school at 9:45 a.m. and English worship at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Nursery care available

Bible study at 9:40 Sunday morning

Located near the Crown Hotel in Yongsan.

Phone pastor Bill Ecton (02) 796-0284

Youngnak Presbyterian Church

English worship on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Service Building

At 3 p.m. in the Mission Chapel

Located in Jung-gu, Seoul

Phone 2280-0228 or 011-613-5896

Website: www.myiwe.com

Yeouido Full Gospel Church

For full schedule, go to www.yfgc.com

Located in on Yeouido Island, Seoul

Hannam International Church

Celebrates Mass in the Franciscan Chapel at Hannam-dong

English Mass at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

French Mass Saturdays at 6 p.m.

German Mass Sundays at 10 a.m.

Italian Mass Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

Spanish Mass Sundays at 12:15 p.m.

Phone: (02) 793-2070

Hyewha-dong Catholic Church

Mass every Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Phone: (02) 764-0221

Myong-dong Cathedral

Sunday Mass at 9 a.m. preceded by confession in English.

Phone: (02) 774-3890

Yongsan Chapel Community

Mass at Memorial Chapel at 5 p.m. Saturdays and 12 p.m. Sundays.

Phone: (02) 7915-8176

South Post Chapel Mass at 8 a.m. and Catholic religious education at 9:30 a.m. Sundays Phone: (02) 7918-4044

St. Paul Orthodox Church, Seoul

Irregular English service

Phone: (02) 362-7005

English Bible study in Apgujeong

Mostly native English speakers, some Koreans

Near subway station

Phone: 011-359-1317

At 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon
Here is the .pdf version on the article:
kh12242008

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