Drawing on these questions, when the KNC Minister’s gathering was held in July, we explored the theme, “Your Story, Our Story”. How can we cross over the boundaries between “you” and “me”, “we” and “they”, and who might be able to do that? More specifically, between “Koreans” and “Anglos”, “Koreans” and “other ethnic groups” and “Koreans and different others”.
For Koreans, “We” - translated as “Oori” in Korean - is not a new concept which needs to be redefined. Oori is part of our Korean DNA. It is a part of our lives and of who we are. Oori always comes before “I”. So if there may be a profound individual tale, it has always been recognised and understood within the boundary of oori. For example, oori son, oori daughter, oori minister, oori church, oori country, oori story.
However, since the concept of oori has largely been understood as “oori Koreans” within the Korean community for a long time, it may not mean the same as the Uniting Church vision of being united in our diversity, where importance is placed on respecting individual values.
For Koreans, oori has a meaning which is directly related to their ethnic identity. In other words, people who use oori language, share oori sentiment, understand oori culture, eat oori food, get along with oori. To others, it may be seen as isolated, exclusive and insular to others.
Yet, that observation may overlook the colour and the depth of the Korean understanding of oori. Significantly, oori is a concept which transcends individuality for Koreans. For oori, they sacrifice their individual self. This deeply embedded cultural tradition applies to most relationships such as oori family, oori church, oori country and so on. Therefore, as soon as they feel they are recognised as part of the other oori or they receive others as their oori, they give themselves freely and generously to the new oori as in the understanding of oori in Korean culture.
Then, how might the Korean oori be expanded and recognised as the bigger oori of the Uniting Church? How might our Korean members come to feel that they are part of oori Uniting Church or the Uniting Church as their oori? If that can happen, the enormous power and potential which oori generates in our culture would flow like a tide into oori Uniting Church.
What is important to the Korean community in the Uniting Church is to have confidence that our faith stories are recognised by the wider church as precious, important and life giving in the wider oori. I believe this ministry of encouragement must be carried out not only by individuals but also by the wider church. Other cultural groups may share similar understandings of community and belonging. When we feel encouraged to take a step to be part of the oori Uniting Church, we may all become one and oori in the Lord, which glorifies the One who has made us one in him.
Undoubtedly, the journey will accompany many challenges and fears. However, we are on the track when people graciously give their support and encouragement to the little oori to feel part of the big oori.
At our gathering in July this year, the honest and sincere life sharing from the guests including the President Mr Stuart McMillan, Rev Dr Apwee Ting, Mr Levon Kardashian and Rev Dr Clive Pearson made all the participants feel that they belong to the oori Uniting Church.
I can sense the movement of the Spirit among us, leading us to a certain direction to make us one big oori in the Lord.