Korea's Anglican Church shares Sunday services with TOPIK peace conference

November 17, 2007

Members of the Anglican Church of Korea (ACK) opened their hearts in peace and welcomed the international visitors attending the conference, Towards Peace in Korea (TOPIK), to their worship services on Sunday, November 18.

"The division between North and South Korea not only impacts politics, society and culture but it also seriously and adversely affects the integrity of our lives," ACK Presiding Bishop and Primate Francis Park said in his Gospel of Peace. "A bird needs two wings to fly, but if one wing is broken or damaged, the bird is unable to fly."

Park issued the Gospel of Peace to be read in all churches November 18 in honor of TOPIK, the Anglican conference gathered in Seoul to discuss peace and a unified Korea.

"Real peace cannot be achieved where a great disparity exists between rich and poor and where men are unemployed or have no security in employment," he said. "Where human greed becomes a way of life great damage is caused to the environment and not only is nature destroyed but fear is seriously increased among people.

"We are the ones who have to be signposts opening the road to peace," he added. "We have to go on before politicians or business people. It is our role to make a path for peace with a genuine selfless giving of ourselves."

Evoking the Beatitudes, Park's conclusion set the tone for his sermon as well as the conference: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God."

The international Anglican visitors gathered for TOPIK fanned out to churches and sharing houses throughout Seoul for Sunday worship.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was warmly greeted at the Bong-Chun Sharing House of Nanum, where 75 children and adults crammed into four rooms for worship.

The congregation sat cross-legged on red pillows placed on the floor, while a Thanksgiving array of fruits, beans and vegetables dominated the center of the room. "It's Thanksgiving Day in the calendar," explained the Rev. Kim Hyan-Ho, a TOPIK organizer who assists at Bong-Chun. "So we have two Thanksgivings, this one and the Korean Thanksgiving in September."

Joining Jefferts Schori were the Rev. John Deane of Australia, the Rev. Laurence Minabe of Japan, Kirsten Laursen Muth of Episcopal Relief and Development, and the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director of Peace and Justice Ministries.

In honor of their guests, the congregation sang a popular traditional folksong, Lonely Ariran, about love, life and sorrow of the Korean people. The song included the words:

Fresh water from Mt. Geumgang runs to the East Sea,
Fresh water of Mt. Seorak also goes to the East Sea,
However where is our mind going?
When will we be united into one?

Following the service, members of the Mothers' Union provided a variety of Korean food for the worshipers and visitors, served family style and accompanied by much laughter and conversation, while children playfully darted among the diners.

Sharing houses began in Seoul 20 years ago, and currently there are three in the city with seven throughout ACK. Hyan-Ho explained that sharing houses were developed to provide assistance to people who came to the city for work but had no food, money or place to stay. During the past two decades, sharing houses have grown to offer an array of social services.

Located on the south side of Seoul amid high-rise apartment houses, Bong-Chun is a one-story house opened in 1991 providing a place for worship as well as social services. Bong-Chun conducts programs in three locations including a safe haven for runaway homeless teenage boys, services for the elderly, and an after-school program for poor children.

Jefferts Schori reflected on the sharing house concept, noting that worship in homes can be a seed for church growth and for building Christian communities. Commenting that in some areas land is incredibly expensive -- "it's $1 million an acre in Las Vegas" -- making the purchase for church grounds and buildings prohibitive, Jefferts Schori said that worship in homes should be viewed as another avenue for church growth.

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