Thursday, 24 October 2019

A Treasured Partnership

The Uniting Church has warmly welcomed church partners from Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) on a commemorative visit to Australia.

A 30-strong delegation led by PCK Moderator Rev Dr Taeyoung Kim and General Secretary Rev. Changbae Byun travelled to Melbourne and Sydney from the 2-11 October 2019.

Their purpose was to remember the historic Australian Christian mission to their country in 1889, and honour the lives and work of those missionaries.

In Melbourne, the delegation visited the graveside of members of the Mackenzie family at Fawkner Memorial Park.

Rev. James and Mary Mackenzie were Presbyterian missionaries who pioneered healthcare services in Korea’s second city Busan from 1910 to 1939. After the Second World War in 1952, James and Mary Mackenzie’s daughters Helen and Cath went to Busan and founded the Ilsin Christian Hospital.

The sisters worked at the hospital until the late 1970s, and their legacy is still cherished by Korean Church members today. Helen Mackenzie passed away in Kew in 2009 just before the 120th anniversary commemoration of the Australian mission.

The PCK delegation shared meals and worship with a number of Uniting Church groups across Melbourne – the Korean Church of Melbourne, Toorak Uniting Church, the Centre for Theology and Ministry, Ormond College and Caulfield Grammar School.

On Sunday 6 October, UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer and Moderator of the UCA Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Rev. Denise Liersch joined the PCK delegation for Sunday worship at Hanbit Church in Box Hill.

PCK Moderator Rev Dr Taeyoung Kim preached and he, Dr Palmer and Rev. Kisoo Jang from Box Hill presided over Holy Communion. 

Later that day, the delegation and UCA leaders gathered at Deepdene Uniting Church, where Rev. Kim and Rev. Byun led a service of thanksgiving for the life-giving mission to Korea, “to place a light of God in the dark period of colonial history”. (Korea was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945.)

Rev. Liersch paid tribute to missionaries and their family members for their service, recognising “this mission of the past has laid down the foundation of love and peace for Korean-speaking congregations to become part of the life of Uniting Church today.”

Dr Palmer offered a prayer for the enduring relationship between our two churches.

“We give thanks today for the blessings we receive from being part of a global communion of churches”. Dr Palmer said.

“We continue to learn from and encouraged by each other and the ways we are embodying the Gospel of Christ in our cultural contexts - in Korea and Australia and through the witness of Australians in Korea and Korean members of the Uniting Church”.

In Sydney, Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer warmly welcomed the delegation on a tour the Assembly’s Sydney offices.

“We are honoured by your presence here and by your presence with our Church.”

“We treasure our partnership and our relationship together, both what it has been since that first missionary but also what it will be in the future.”

“At the last Assembly meeting we prayed for Korea, for peace and the future and we continue to do so,” said Ms Geyer.

An exchange of commemorative gifts took place with PCK and UCA leaders also exchanged commemorative badges. 

Among the gifts, a ballpoint pen made by victims of South Korea’s 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster to whom the PCK continues to provide pastoral support.

PCK General Secretary Rev. Changbae Byun also presented Ms Geyer with a hard drive of video interviews recorded with former Australian missionaries to Korea for the 120th anniversary 10 years ago as part of a documentary made by Korean television channel CTS.

“This contains part of your history and our history,” said Rev. Byun.

The PCK delegation was given several mementos including Rev Dr Paul Goh’s introduction to the Uniting Church in Korean and copies of the Assembly’s Vision for a Just Australia.

While in Sydney the delegation also connected with the Sydney Korean Community Church in Lindfield, the Che Il Korean Uniting Church in Concord, and the Uniting Theological College in North Parramatta.

Members of the UCA’s Korean National Conference (KNC) acknowledged that it was a historical and meaningful opportunity for them.

“We affirm that the mutual relationship between churches are still vital and there is a hope that both denominations and its churches in South Korea and Australia serve together,” said KNC Chairperson Rev. Ju Min Hyung, who is the minister at the Sydney Korean Community Church in Lindfield.

“KNC gives thanks to God for our long term relationship which has become a solid foundation to build up Christ’s community especially for Korean migrants for many years.” “We pray that our culture and heritage may nourish the identity of the UCA as a multicultural church and a church who prepares tomorrow.

“We hope that the wider church will be able to in the richness of Korean migrant communities within the UCA, which has been built upon the sacrifice and servanthood of Australian missionaries to South Korea since 1889,” said Rev. Ju Min Hyung .

The PCK tour was coordinated on the UCA side by Assembly Theologian in residence Rev. Dr Ji Zhang.

Rev. Dr Zhang encouraged KNC congregations to keep participating in God’s mission and ministry in their Australian contexts.

“As second peoples and first generation migrants, we struggle to practice our own faith traditions and settle down in various ways in this foreign land.”

“Pursuing ecumenical relationships with other churches may seem difficult under these circumstances but the fruits of the Australian missionaries and their history, show the rewards of venturing beyond denominational boundaries to a place where all are welcome in the gospel of Christ.”

For more information on the Australian Christian Mission to Korea, read the 2009 book “Witnessing Grace” by Rev. John Brown, which records profiles of 126 missionaries sent by the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Uniting Church in Australia to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and service in Korea since 1889.

Brown observes: “The lingering feeling in the hearts of the missionaries was, ‘We gave so little; we received so much.’”

Photo Credits: Melbourne pictures courtesy Rev. Dr Ji Zhang, Sydney pictures courtesy Michael Zewdie.