Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Korea 6 -Wednesday 8th May 2012

For my final day in Seoul I visited a seminary of which the dean in Rev Dr Heon Soo Kim, whom I had met through being on an ICRC committee together. We last met in Philadelphia.
The seminary was about 50 minutes drive from my hotel and I was picked up by one the of students. This is a small seminary with four students, committed to the Reformed faith and belonging to a denomination of six congregations. I was asked to deliver the same lecture as I had given to the Conference on "The Letter of Jude and its Relevance to Reformed Theology Today." The students were avidly interested and we discussed the lecture and other aspects of Jude's letter for about an hour afterwards!
I saw round the seminary building, built and maintained by this church. The church building is situated just across the road from the seminary in a very quiet part of Seoul. Even the sound of the traffic is hardly noticeable! Dr Kim is assisted by others in the teaching programme but he is full-time dean of the seminary.

Dr Kim and I, accompanied by a Korean Chinese student then went to a very pleasant Chinese restaurant a short drive from the seminary where we enjoyed a splendid Chinese meal. I think I counted seven courses! Actually each was quite small, necessarily, but very tasty. I tried some sea creatures I had never even heard of before and a marinated egg which had been prepared Chinese style by being left marinating in sawdust for one month! I'm not sure what my chickens back home would say to that! It was very tasty!

In the evening I preached at the church's mid-week meeting. I had been asked to preach a sermon on the message of Jude, which I tried to do, taking as the main points: (1) The Entrance of Nominal Christianity; and (2) The Battle for Biblical Christianity. Dr Kim had expressed an interest in this theme as one which he saw as relevant to the challenges facing the Church in Korea at the present time. After the service I joined Dr Kim and the minister of the congregation in a custom which they have in this congregation and was a first for me. We went up each aisle bowing to each pew while its occupants bowed to us. I can imagine the faces in the pews at Garrabost if I suggested doing this after every service! I was then taken back to the hotel by a member of the congregation Mr Sam Oh, who lectures at Sungkyunkwan University.

I have enjoyed my busy week in Seoul, but look forward to getting home. The Koreans are very hospitable and kind people and I have met with courtesy and respect everywhere. They are also a very efficient people. Everything seems to be so well organised, from airports to conferences. They take pride in their work and are concerned to provide an excellent service. I'm sure they have their problems like we do, and the Church there is facing challenges similar to those we face in the West. However, they seem to be concerned to stave off a threatening decline and are passionately committed to mission at home and abroad. If I take home but that concern it will have been a worthwhile trip.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Korea 5

Monday 6 May

Back to lectures today. In plenary session we began with a Korean professor, Dr
Jaesung Kim, who spoke eloquently about Reformed Theology in Korea, It's Origin and Transplantation. His grasp of theological development in Europe was impressive let alone his knowledge of how it had been transplanted to Korea and then developed there. Dr Julius Medenblik, of Calvin College, USA spoke on rethinking the leadership of higher education and he was followed by another Korean professor, female this time, Prof Heeja Kim
the first female vice-president of Chongshin University, who gave an inspiring lecture on Korean "Bible Women" and how they were and are a spiritual "engine" in the church. These "Bible Women" have an honoured place in the Korean church, acting as missionaries and evangelists.

After lunch we had an afternoon of lectures in various rooms again. I attended one given by Dr Joseph Pipa,
Greenville Theological Seminary, USA. His lecture was on worship in the Reformed tradition.

I then delivered my lecture on "The Letter of Jude and its relevance to Reformed Theology." Around 30 students attended and I can say that I enjoyed and felt uplifted by the experience.

Each lecture is followed by an evaluation given by a Korean lecturer or Professor and then for a few minutes students may ask questions on the lecture subject. I think I managed to cope, but then we have good preparation for this kind of situation by having to open the Ceist! One thing at least in hich we are ahead of the Koreans!

At 3.30pm a Korean musical was held for our benefit. This was a moving and a very professional account of the life of Pastor Joo, a Korean minister of the Presbyterian Church tortured and killed by the Japanese when they ruled Korea. The acting was very good conveying dramatically the pastor's inquisition, his family's trauma and also his death.

We had dinner together at  Korean restaurant on the way back to the hotel. Beginning to see images of sirloin steak, creamed potatoes etc! Not that I dislike Korean food, but I like home fare much more. But then again at home I am just thoroughly spoiled!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Korea 4 - Sunday 5 May

Sunday 5 May

Today I preached at 4.30pm at Seongsil Presbyterian Church. I was picked up by a
couple of the young assistant pastors there at 2.30, as the church was a good hour from the hotel. The senior pastor of this congregation is Rev Youngbok Kim who has visited Lewis on two occasions. We had time to go round the church building. Amazing! Five stories high, complete with lift, and containing dozens of rooms and halls used for many church activities involving every age group in the congregation.

Seoul is a massive city of some 14 million people but remarkably there was actually a real, genuine Rudhach in the audience! They do get everywhere don't they! It was easy to pick her out as everyone else I could see were Koreans, but I did appreciate her coming to hear me from Anseong, about an hour's travel from Seoul.

Just look at what I came across  doing the rounds with Pastor Kim! Couldn't resist a photo!

Alongside the building is the old building, still used as a teaching and activities centre. A set of four houses for single assistant pastors stands in between the two buildings. There are four services every Sunday, three of them taken by Rev Kim, so we had at least one thing in common!

with Rev Kim
There are booths for private prayer, rooms for teaching children, giving guidance to young couples and for teaching new attenders. Last week they had 49 new attenders! New attenders are welcomed by individuals or couples in the congregation who are then "attached" to them until they are established. In addition they attend a 12 week course to teach them the basic aspects of the gospel.

At the conclusion of the service the group of newcomers who had finished this course today were formally presented and given a gift by the congregation. Rev Kim then prayed for them and after a photo with them I was taken to a room to meet them and say a few words. This was a real thrill for me and I could not help thinking how good it would be if we had enough newcomers at KFC every week to require such a course!

with newcomers
This congregation has 2,500 members, but what is impressive apart from its size is the volume and passion shown in its various services and activities. They have 15 assistant pastors, a social care unit where deprived and disabled people are cared for every weekday, and every Sunday 1,500 people have lunch in the church dining room!

Later Rev Kim and I met up for a meal with Rev Changwon Shu and his wife Myoung Ja, their daughter Jiheh and husband William, Rev Yong Oh Kim , who will be coming to the Free Church Assembly, and Prof Andrew McGowan. This was a most enjoyable time of fellowship after which Andrew and I were taken back to the hotel.

with Rev Yong, Rev Kim, Prof McGowan, Rev Shu and Myoung Ja

Korea 3 - Saturday 4 May

Saturday 4 May

Guess what? I made it to the early morning prayer meeting! The church was only a few minutes from the hotel. There were around 300 people present at 5.30am. Unlike the early prayer meeting I attended on my first visit to Korea the minister preached for about 40 minutes this time. Apparently this happens at most early morning meetings. After the sermon the minister led in prayer during which the people also prayed as they sat in their pews accompanied by a piano! I doubt we could incorporate this into our KFC early morning prayer meeting! The video clip below gives you an idea of what it was like.

After breakfast we were given a video presentation of Korean culture at a Korean restaurant, followed by a session of discussion as to how how to build on this conference and develop relationships further. The restaurant also provided various Korean cultural items of entertainment in music and dance, for observation not participation I hasten to add! Korean costume is so beautiful and colourful as you can see from the clip below.

The afternoon gave us a choice between attending a meeting to explain a venture in Europe called Refo500, and a tour of various sites of interest in Korean church history. I chose neither, deciding instead to rest back at the hotel. I had already seen the sites on previous visits and was more in need of sleep than anything else.
The conference is going well and the programme well packed, some would say too much so. There are nearly 30 people at the conference from outwith Korea, from 11 countries. The main difficulty will be in carrying things forward from the Conference and in establishing what the ultimate aim of it has been. It has certainly been good to have shared in discussing the variety of situations found in Reformed Churches in the countries represented here.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Korea 2 - Friday 3 May

Busy day! Today's sessions were held in the main lecture theatre at the university. This brought happy memories for me. I preached here on my last visit to Korea to 1200 students.
The first address today was by Prof Yonggu Park of Chongshin university who spoke movingly about the great Korean revival 1901-1910. This was a defining period in the Korean church.

The second address was given by Prof Dongmin Chang of Baeksoek University.
He is a direct descendant of the subject of his address, Dr HyungNong Park, 1897-1978, who was one of the most important and influential figures in the Presbyterian church in Korea. He was a contemporary of Dr J. Gresham Machen in the USA, and like him he led a movement against the influx of Liberal theology which had introduced a flawed view of Scripture opposed to the Reformed view of the Bible as the inspired word of God.

We then heard Prof Jerry Pillay, President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, who adressed the gathering on Revival and Unity of Reformed Churches: how to deal with this Challenge. Prof Pillay's paper emphasised the importance of unity in the Reformed Faith, but did this with a view to engagement in mission, justice and social ministry.

Getting as much as possible into the morning session we had a fourth address! Phew! Not even a break for coffee! Not even a Lewis communion packs as much into three hours! Prof Giho Park spoke about the Missionary Movement of the Korean Church. With thousands of missionaries already in places throughout the world the aim of the Presbyterian Church of Korea is to have 100,000 missionaries in various fields by 2040! Mission is such a great emphasis with this church and one of the benefits of being here is to get a feel for their passion for mission as well as other important facets of being a gospel church in today's world.
From 11.50-12.30  we joined with the students for worship. Wonderful singing! Rev Andrew McGowan, Professor of Theology in the University of the Highlands and Islands, preached on Union with Christ from Romans 6.
We had lunch at a Korean restaurant close to the university. It was good to share a table with Dr Joseph Pipa, Greenville Theological Seminary, USA, Rev Changwon Shu and Prof Jeffrey Jue. Dr Pipa has the distinction of having been to Lewis, and Dr Jue of having attended Bon Accord Free Church while a student in that city during Rev Iver Martin's ministry there!

After lunch we had the first set of lectures, as distinct from the main addresses mentioned above, took place, from 1.50-2.50pm. There were 6 lectures in total, all held at the same time in separate seminar rooms, so obviously we had to choose which one we wanted to hear. I attended one given by Prof Johan Buitendag, University of Pretoria, South Africa. His lecture was called The Dialogue between Theology and Science and the Orthodoxy's Notion of the Fall. The room was packed with students. Mmmm, must confess I had a bit of a problem staying awake! Choosing a lecture with lots of philosophical ideas after lunch was not such a good idea!

Another session with everyone together from 3-4.30pm, heard addresses from Prof Jeffrey Jue of Westminster Theological Seminary, USA and Prof Bruce Baugus, Reformed Theological Seminary, USA. Prof Jue's paper was Reformed Theology for a Global Church in the Twenty First Century. Prof Baugus spoke on Presbyterianism Now, The Urgency of Church Polity in the Mission to China and the World. Both these papers were excellent.
Dinner was at followed by a much looked forward to concert. This was the first ever public concert in this new music hall. Very enjoyable if you like classical music.

We got back to the hotel at 9pm, and jet-lag is all too obvious. I have serious doubts about my ability to be at the the first item in the morning, because we are to have a wake-up call at 4.30am so that we can attend an early morning prayer meeting at 5.30am! I'm making no promises!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Korea 1 - Thursday 2 May

Arrived at 8.15 this morning (Korean time) after a good flight with BA. Got a nice surprise at London when told I had been upgraded to World Traveller plus! Reckon it must have been the result of the early morning prayer meeting! Ahead of UK by 8 hours. Got some sleep early afternoon.

The conference opened tonight at 6pm, after which we enjoyed a wonderful garden dinner in the grounds of Chongshin university. Fabulous buffet dishes with 15 main courses and other stuff that I had no time to sample. Did not see mashed potatoes with butter though!
The food was provided by the Marriott hotel where I am staying along with the other guests from outwith Korea. Today was misty and thundery in the afternoon but brightened beautifully for the dinner. The opening worship was led by an old friend who preached memorably in Knock Free Church a few years ago, Rev Changwon Shu. Here he is with his wife Myoung Ya. It was so good meeting up with them again.

Afterwards three more speakers gave addresses. The Chairman of the Board of Chongshin University Rev Youngwood Kim spoke about the Presbyterian Church in Korea and thee President of the university Prof Dr Ilung Chung spoke on "What we believe." Below is the chairman in his traditional Korean outfit.

One of the highlights tomorrow evening will be a performance by the Chongshin Choir and Orchestra. Really looking forward to that. I'll try and get some video footage of it along with photos. Must now get some sleep.