Monday, 24 September 2018

Together in Christ

By Paul Dongwon Goh, Justice & CALD Multicultural and Cross-cultural Officer, SA Synod

“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!...For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1,3)

It was like a catchment of water from which 'Abundant Grace and Liberating Hope' were overflowing. My fellow Korean ministers who are serving either in Korean or English-speaking Uniting Church congregations, and candidates from across Australia, held a three-day gathering from 16-19 September 2018 at Mt Schoenstatt Retreat Centre in NSW.  This was the first Korean National Conference gathering since the 15th Assembly.

Graciously, but honestly, we shared our joys and laughter, but also concerns in our life and ministry within the Uniting Church. One of our conversations was responding to the recent Assembly Resolution about same-gender marriage. At the same time, we felt blessed and grateful to have Assembly leaders, including President Dr Deidre Palmer, join our gathering. It made the Conference rich, informative and encouraging in terms of building mutual understanding and strengthening the relationship between the Korean National Conference and the Assembly.

President Palmer’s presented on her hopes and visions for the Uniting Church. Her key themes for our present and future, including “being a multicultural, cross-cultural and inter-cultural Church,” challenged us to ask what gifts and dreams we want to share with our fellow Uniting Church members. Rev Dr Clive Pearson helped us to imagine what Apostle Paul might say in his 'missing' epistle to the Uniting Church. He also helped us to explore how we form our moral mind in Christ so that we are able to engage in difficult questions using four sources: Bible, tradition, reason and experiences. Both were an excellent exercise in our continuing task of theological discernment and ethical response to contemporary contentious issues, problems and challenges.

We also greatly benefited and refreshed our understanding and visions by listening to Associate General Secretary Rob Floyd, Rev Dr Ji Zhang and Rev Dr Apwee Ting on the work of the Assembly Resourcing Unit.

One of the highlights was praying together and for each other in the heart-warming presence and movement of the Spirit, Comforter and Life-giver. Delightfully accepting a prayer request, we prayed for the Assembly leaders and newly-elected KNC leaders in a unique and special Korean prayer style called “Tongsung Kido.” Tongsung means, “cry out together loudly,” and Kido means, “pray.” Tongsung Kido has a strong connection with the idea of Han, a term used to describe an experience unique to Korean people. Han is defined as an unresolved resentment or psychosomatic pain that is carried by a person, it is a kind of internalised grudge. Han is frustrated hope, resentful bitterness, and can be interpreted as “the wounded heart of God”.

Throughout their modern history Koreans have experienced hard times, such as the Japanese colonisation (1909-1945), the national division between North and South, the Korean War (1950-1953), and the military dictatorship (1961-1992) in South Korea. Because of these painful experiences, Koreans held Han in their hearts for a long time and Korean Christians prayed to God with their pain, suffering, and broken hearts. We couldn’t pray silently and quietly. Rather, our pain, tears, and bitterness mixed with Han made us cry out to God loudly and ardently.

Through this time of praying together, we there was a deep sense of unity and togetherness in Christ: we belong together, we live and work together. This sense of unity and togetherness reassured our vocation that we are called to be Pilgrim people of God toward the reconciliation and renewal of all creation in worship, service and witness.

May God bless my fellow Korean ministers to be blessings to the Uniting Church, our own “uniting” Korea, a multicultural Australia and the divided world in abundant grace and liberating hope. Amen.