It was my honor to represent the diocese of Olympia at the 42nd Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries Consultation and 125th Anniversary of the Anglican Church of Korea at the Seoul Anglican Cathedral in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
I was last in Korea in 2001 visiting friends, Jonathan and Kunai Kim, founders of the Bishop John Daly Mission Center in Kumi (now Gumi). Prior to that, I was stationed at Kunsan (now Gunsan) Air Base in 1984-85.
A Trip to Korea – Sep 29 – Oct 7, 2015
Monday-Tuesday September 28-29
The first day of travel was the usual airport shuffle and long hours in an airline seat. It was my first time to fly Singapore Airlines and I was pleased with the overall flight. I had booked through San Francisco instead of a direct flight and that turned out to not be a good idea. San Francisco airport security and immigration was like the “Keystone Cops.” I arrived at Incheon airport on time, at 5:20 pm, Sep 29th, and was met by representatives of the Anglican Church and driven to my hotel (the New Kukje Hotel) in Seoul.
I was impressed by the changes I saw since my last visit in 2001; multilane interstate style highways and huge population and industrial growth in and around Incheon, and south of the Han River in Seoul.
In Seoul many of the main streets are 6 to 8 lanes with underground tunnels to cross the wide streets. The Anglican Cathedral (Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Nicholas) has been surrounded with high rise hotels and office buildings.
Wednesday Sep 30th
My first day in Seoul I had time for some sightseeing and visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main royal residence during the 14th to 19th Century. The Japanese destroyed much of the palace during their occupation of Korea. I happened to be there on the last Wednesday of the month, which is “free” day for the Palace tour.
I also visited the National Folk Museum, including the Children’s museum. It was a great display of traditional Korea life. I especially liked the display of “Kim Chai” the annual preparation of Kimchi and the many varieties of Kimchi. When I was in Korea in 1984-85, I saw a group of neighbors gathering to make Kimchi in the traditional way. There was an outdoor display of a Korean town that looked very much like what I saw in the mid 80s.
Later in the day was registration for the EAM Convocation. It is always great to see old friends from all over the country and world. The opening session, Emceed by The Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara, missioner to Asiamerica Ministries of The Episcopal Church, included a welcome from The Most Rev. Paul Kim, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Korea, and The Very Rev. Peter Lee, Dean of the Cathedral.
We had dinner hosted by the Cathedral in the lower level of the Cathedral undercroft (several flights of stairs). Dinner was complete with Korean beer and Soju and great fellowship with the local clergy and EAM visitors.
Thursday Oct 1st
We began with breakfast at the hotel and the Opening Eucharist in the Cathedral. Our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was the Celebrant, the EAM Council Clergy participated as Concelebrants, and Fr. Fred Vergara was the preacher. Fr. Fred talked about the “Asian spirit” and the work of the EAM over the past 42 years. He reminded us that the Asian population in the United States is one of the fastest growing, and ministry opportunities in the Asian community are also growing.
Our first Keynote session was “Celebrating Our Partnership”, with presentations from The Most Rev. Nathaniel Uematsu, Archbishop of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Church of Japan), and The Rt. Rev. Allen Shin, Suffragan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Both speakers talked about the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Churches of Japan and Korea. Bishop Uematsu presented a short history of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, including the time of WW II.
After lunch, we walked to the US Ambassador’s Residence for a reception hosted by the US Legation in Korea.
That afternoon we had the first session of Workshops. I wasn’t able to attend the workshop as I was beginning to feel sick and had gotten wet walking to the post office to mail postcards to my grandchildren. I regret not being to attend as I was looking forward to the workshops about the Social Ministries in the Anglican Diocese of Seoul and the Asiamerica New Initiatives, especially the Hmong and Southeast Asia Church Planting (I’m a participant in the committee supporting The Rev. Toua Vang in this work). Fr. Toua is the first Hmong priest in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.
I was able to attend the dinner hosted by Mr. Francis Kim, CEO of Hanhwa Group. After dinner we heard presentations from The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, COO of the Episcopal Church and The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of General Convention. They both expressed their appreciation for the work of EAM and the Asian communities’ contributions to our Church in mission and ministry.
Friday, Oct 2nd
We began our day with Morning Prayer led by the EAM youth and young adults, followed by the second keynote presentations “Uniting our Mission: The Future of Asia-American Partnership”
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the EAM to “keep doing what you’re doing” and went on to describe her perspective of the significance of EAM’s work and the example to the rest of the church for mission, ministry, outreach, and church planting. This was Bishop Katharine’s last time with EAM as Presiding Bishop and we will miss her. She has been a strong advocate and supporter of EAM and has attended most of the EAM convocations during her tenure as Presiding Bishop.
The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Yang, former president of Sungkonghoe (Anglican) University presented his perspective of the mission work to establish the Anglican Church in Korea and the history of the church’s development over the past 125 years.
In the afternoon, we boarded five tour busses for a tour of Ganghwa Island, the location of the first Anglican mission in 1890 and the first Anglican Church consecrated in 1900.
Our first stop was Ganghwa Onsu-ri, St. Andrew’s Church, built in 1906. The old church building and gate still stands and is now a museum of sorts. A new church, which was under construction when I visited Ganghwa Island in 2001, stands majestic on the hill above the original church. After a tour of the old church we had lunch hosted by the congregation and a presentation about the history of the parish.
From St. Andrew’s we drove up Ganghwa Island, through the security check point for the controlled buffer zone near the coastal area of the Han River separating North and South Korea. Our destination was the Ganghwa Peace Observation Deck “A place to wish for peaceful reunification” it is both a memorial and place for hope, with displays of Korean history before the division, the unending war and plans and hopes for peace and reunification. North Korea is 1.5 Km from this point across the Han River. Across the river is their own “buffer zone” against invasion by South Korea, fields of rice, and an inhabited “show” village.
I got some interesting insight into North Korean society and culture from a professor of Sociology at Kyung Hee University. He described how the North Korean society and culture continues to be patterned after the ancient royal dynasty. After the separation of the country following WW II, the military dictatorship took the role of the Emperor and continued the ancient societal pattern. This helps me understand why the North Korean people accept their government as legitimate and are not concerned with overthrowing the dictatorship
Next stop was Ganghwa Up, St. Peter and St. Paul Church. The building was consecrated in 1900 by Bishop Charles John Corfe, the first Anglican Bishop in Korea. Like St. Andrew’s original church, the building was built in traditional Korean style (much like a traditional Buddhist Temple). I also visited this church in 2001, and noticed new paint and repairs to the building, still used by an active parish. After a tour and history of the parish, we had dinner prepared by the congregation.
After dinner we went to a community center for a performance of tradition Korean music, with an added modern flair. The beginning of the performance was all traditional Korean instruments, The Ajaeng – an instrument with seven strings of different thickness, played with a stick of peeled forsythia branch painted with pine resin.
Ajaeng The Ajaeng has 7 strings with different thickness. The Performer plays on it with a stick. The stick is made of a peeled branch of forsythia painted with pine resin. The Ajaeng produces a low sound.
Hae-geum The Hae-geum is a very nice instrument. On top of a small trunk there is a bamboo stick. On this stick there are two strings which are supported and stuck to the trunk. The bow is made from horse hair and bamboo. It is rubbed against the string. The two strings make different simple ‘eastern’ sounds.
Jang-gu The Jang-gu is a drum. The left side is covered with cow skin and the right side with horse skin. The trunk is made of paulownia. The left side produces low tones, the right side high tones. It is a percussion instrument used in almost every Korean musical performance.
Saturday Oct 3
The big day for the Anglican Church of Korea with the celebration of their 125th Anniversary. When I arrived at the cathedral there was seating in three outside areas complete with big screen TVs and an altar. EAM clergy were invited to vest and we were given a special white stole with the Anglican Church of Korea Cross and “125th Anniversary” in English and Hangul. Most of the Korean clergy were present and together we represented the largest group of vested clergy I’ve ever seen. We gathered in the courtyard preparing for the large procession of distinguished guests, bishops, priests and deacons.
Before the procession a statue of the first Korean Anglican priest was unveiled and dedicated. The Rev. Mark Hee-Jun Kim was baptized November 7, 1897 and attended St. Michael Seminary in Ganghwa in 1914. He was ordained deacon June 7, 1914 and priest December 21, 1915. He served the Ganghwa-up church from 1925 to 1938 and died in 1946.
The glorious Eucharistic Celebration began with the procession to Korean drums and “The Church’s one Foundation” sung in multiple languages together. The Cathedral nave was filled to capacity with people standing and multiple video cameras set up by one of the major Korean TV networks. Outside the seating was filled as they participated in the worship via the big screen TVs.
Archbishop Kim preached (in Korean) and we were provided an English translation of his sermon. “For the New Day and the New ERA. ‘O Lord, send me’ (Isaiah 6.8)” He noted that this day was a multiple celebration: 125th Anniversary of the Anglican Church in Korea, the 100th Anniversary of the ordination of Hee-Jun Mark Kim, the first Korean priest, The 50th Anniversary of the consecration of Choen-hwan Paul Lee, the first Korean bishop, The 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Dioceses of Seoul and Daejeon, the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Pusan, The 90th Anniversary of the Society of Holy Cross and the Mother’s Union, and the 50th Anniversary of the Girl’s Friendly Society.
He focused on the history of the Anglican Church of Korea through the difficult history of the 20th century and the mission and ministry on proclaiming the Good News, and mission for education and medical mission, and care for the poor and alienated through orphanages and relief works.
He concluded by inviting us to turn to the person next to us, take their hand and say, first in Korean “Lord, here I am. Send me” then in English “Here I am. Send me.” “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen”
A highlight of the day was meeting my friends Jonathan and Kunai Kim, whom I knew from Western New York and visited in Kumi in 2001. They went to Korea in 1998 and began a health care ministry, The Bishop John Daly Mission Center. The sisters of St. Francis were also there and another friend, Helen, who had visited us in Western New York in 2002. I had lunch with my friends and made arrangements to travel to Kumi on Tuesday morning to visit them and the Mission Center. Helen helped my book train tickets to Kumi on Tuesday and returning to Incheon airport on Wednesday.
After worship, I had to return to my hotel as I was beginning to feel sick again and I missed the Mother’s Union choir concert and most of the concluding EAM business. I felt better and was able to attend the Archbishop’s Banquet.
Sunday October 4
I still felt ill on Sunday morning but braved the two block walk to meet our ride to church. Dr. Francis Jae-ryong Song was our driver and Bishop Stacy Sauls and I were the only two going to church in Incheon. We were welcomed by the clergy and congregation of St. Nicholas’ church in Incheon. Bishop Sauls was the preacher, talking about his experience of Korea through the adoption of his two Korean sons.
Dr. Song, Fr. Bede Ahn (Vicar), the Senior warden, Bishop Sauls and I went to lunch at a very nice restaurant. I continued to feel worse and the group, particularly Bishop Sauls, thought I should go to the hospital emergency room. Dr. Song took me to Gia Hospital in Incheon were they diagnosed me with a UTI and/or kidney infection and gave me IV medications. The doctor insisted that I either stay for further tests or go to a hospital in Seoul on Monday for further evaluation and treatment and would not give me any medications to take after I left the hospital. I left the hospital feel much better.
About midnight the symptoms returned and by 9 am I decided it was time to take the Incheon doctor’s advice and go to the local hospital. The hotel desk ordered me a taxi and gave the driver instructions to take me to Yonsei University Hospital. I went to the ER and once again was given IV medications and an X-ray and CT Scan. The doctor agreed that I had a UTI and possible kidney infection and after about 5 hours discharged me with oral medications.
After my second ER visit it was obvious that I was not able to make the trip to Kumi – the one big disappointment of the trip. I rested pretty well on Monday night and Tuesday was determined to do some shopping for Debbie and the grandkids. I walked to Namdaemun market and found most of what I was shopping for and made my way back to the hotel. The Anglican church office called to check on me and offered to help me get to the airport on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning I checked out of the hotel and a young woman and a priest from the Cathedral staff helped me get my bags to the airport shuttle. I made my flight from Incheon to San Francisco. When I arrived at San Francisco I found a comedy of errors with the set up and staffing of both the Immigration check station and security to access the boarding gates. Next Asian trip – direct flights from Seattle.
My overall experience was wonderful, obviously tainted by being sick the last four days. It was great to see my friends from Korea and the EAM and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be part of the 125th Anniversary celebration.
I did not accomplish part of what I intended: to talk to the Archbishop about Korean church planting and Fr. Fred and Fr. Toua about a Hmong church plant in the Diocese of Olympia. Archbishop Kim was fully occupied with the anniversary celebration. I did have a couple of conversations with Fr. Toua about Hmong ministry and hope to meet with him when he visits our diocese in early 2016.
I’m grateful to Bishop Greg Rickel for his invitation to attend these events on behalf of our diocese and for the cost of the plane ticket and convocation registration.