"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

10 June 2013

Unexpected Places

Anglicanism is not exactly what one thinks of when one hears "Korea."

Admittedly, South Korea is the second largest sender of Christian missionaries in the world.  North Korea's capital was the site of a phenomenal outbreak of Christian revival in 1907, and the very heroes of the Korean independence movement of the early twentieth century were, the vast majority, Christians.

People virtually worshiped in North Korea as state super-stars... were Christians.

Now granted, most of the churches that got a foothold in South Korea were Methodists and Presbyterians; that's what makes the Anglican presence on Ganghwa Island unexpected.

All of unified Korea was a "hermit kingdom" until just before the turn of the twentieth century.  It was a capitol offense to be white in Korea.  The Koreans were terribly suspicious of the west, of colonization, of ulterior motives.  But once Korea opened up to westerners, it didn't take long for the first Anglican missionaries to make their way to Korea... and oddly enough they set foot first on Ganghwa.

Ganghwa is an island just off the coast of Korea, near Incheon, famous for yet another western landing only a few short decades later.  The missionaries worked hard to faithfully wed the Christian faith with the beauty of the Korean landscape, culture, and architecture.  And on Ganghwa, a small island, they planted two churches which converted local hanok style houses (traditional Korean homes which have, largely, been leveled in the South in the name of progress... although you can still find many of them functioning and lived in on the island) into literal house churches.  It is the first, and to date most aesthetically pleasing and successful ecclesiological and architectural fusion between East and West. 

Curved rooftops and sculptures on the corners that kept the evil spirits away in native religious practices stand as a silent testimony both to the respect for the indigenous culture and the reality of a demonic spiritual realm acknowledged by Christianity.  Above the sculptures, however, rises a simple cross at the roof's peek.  All things are subject to Jesus, after all.

A Buddhist style bell (though adorned with all sorts of Christian symbols and some text I can't read) called Christians to worship with its tone familiar to the natives.

 A cross is overlaid on the traditional yin-yang, on each of the entry gates.

Overall, the architect (who in fact was a royal palace architect) managed to create an entirely new style of church architecture.  A style which reflects the ancient idea of house church, quite literally, and has been true both to the liturgy and worship of Anglicanism and the surroundings and culture in which it finds itself.  Really I find this Anglo-Korean fusion to be quite attractive.
There was a service in progress so we did not (considering our language barriers especially) dare to barge in, but this is a place I'd definitely like to visit again.  Both Ganghwa hanok churches remain active parishes, now over a hundred years later. 

05 June 2013

A Look into North Korea

Last week, I looked into North Korea.
Yes, with my own eyes.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't walk into North Korea.  My feet were planted firmly on Ganghwa Island, fully within South Korea.  But Ganghwa is just across a river from North Korea, Kaesong and a bunch of North Korean farmland and mountains.  From Ganghwa, the view is direct, and frankly beautiful.

Yes, beautiful.  Never forget, no matter what you read in the media, this is a beautiful land.  The mountains rise up like the Rockies, but gentled by the weathering of the years.  There are vast fields for planting.  There is waterfront, beach even.  And that's just from what I saw.

But most striking was this:
On the road, on the South Korean side, as we drove to the overlook, we saw farmers, painstakingly tending the rice fields.  They were wearing hats to protect themselves from the sun, boots to protect themselves from the flooded fields (rice needs that to grow), and they were bent over in planting, walking between the rows, scratching out a living the way Korean farmers have for hundreds of years.

From the observatory, across the river, through those funky coin operated binoculars, in North Korea we saw... the same thing.

This is one people, separaed by far too much barbed wire and political intrigue.  The peace observatory (which yes, does rest behind (and well above) a high fence topped with barbed wire, dotted with checkpoints, and surrounded all about by South Korean soldiers) was built for South Koreans who were separated from family in the North to have a way to look towards loved ones, lost homes, and ancestral lands. 

There is a room to "wish for reunification" with a striking tree on which the leaves are people's notes and prayers that Korea may again be one.

And beyond that room lies North Korea. A beautiful land full of people who just want to live their lives in peace.  No, I'm not denying the news reports about the leadership of that land.  I'm not claiming that North Korea is any kind of utopia.  But I am reminded sharply through that view finder what I read (and shared with you all) a few weeks ago.  There are awesome people in every country. 
There's beauty in every land.