It is my joy to share what the Holy Spirit has done and the grace and hope we have found at the 6th Korean National Ministers Conference in Bellambi NSW in July.
Though it was a great honour for me to have been elected as the Chair of KNC at the AGM in August last year, I was not much prepared to take the significant role representing the whole Korean community in the Uniting Church. It seemed to me a big responsibility at the beginning but thanks to the dedicated Execs who have willing spared their time for the benefit of KNC, the burden turns into joy.
The big question that we thought important to us was the direction of KNC as part of the Uniting Church. In other words, what is God’s plan for KNC in the Uniting Church? how it might bring glory to God in its own way? And it all culminates into a question as to what kind of vision we have.
I would like to give thanks to God that there was a group of people including the Execs who have joined in prayer to discern where God’s will is for KNC. As a result, we’ve come up with the theme, “Your Story, Our Story” for this term. How would we be able to cross over the boundaries between “you” and “me”, “we” and “they”? and who might be able to do that? These are the questions the Korean community in the Uniting Church have been asking and praying to find an answer. More specifically, between “Koreans” and “Anglos”, “Koreans” and “other ethnic groups”, and “Koreans and different others” etc.
For Koreans, “We” – “Oori” in Korean, the informal first person plural pronoun and it is often translated into “we”, “us” or “our” – is not a new concept which needs to be redefined. Oori has been living in them as the DNA and part of their lives and of who they are. Oori always comes before “I”. Oori has been the root of their identity. So if there may be a profound, special or bouncy individual tale, it has always been recognized 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 what Uniting Church endeavours to bring unity in diversity whose values are founded upon the respect on individual values. For Koreans, oori has a meaning which is directly related to their ethnic identity. In other words, the community they think might mean a gathering of people who use oori language; share oori sentiment; understand oori culture; eat oori food; get along with oori; can be part of oori, which might possibly be seen as isolated, exclusive and insular to others.
Yet, it might be a shallow observation overlooking the colour and the depth of their understanding of oori. As mentioned earlier, oori is recognized as a concept which transcends individuality for Koreans. For oori, they sacrifice their individual self. This deeply embedded cultural tradition applies to most of relationships such as oori family, oori church, oori country and so on. Therefore, as soon as they feel they are recognized as part of 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 their oori, the Korean oori might be expanded and recognized as the bigger oori at least in the Uniting Church? and what would be the way they can 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 they have which oori generates in their culture would flow in like a tide into oori Uniting Church.
What looks important to the Korean community in the Uniting Church is to have confidence and self-respect that their faith stories which have been taken for granted in their community and which has not been much recognised by the wider church are precious, important and life giving in the other oori and in the wider oori. I believe this ministry of encouragement must be carried out not only by individuals but also by the wider church. It may apply to other ethnic groups which share similar cultural aspects. When their own oori can see the light to feel encouraged to make a step to be part of the oori Uniting Church, we may be able to make a big move to 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, wouldn’t it be possible to be on the track if there are those who would graciously give their support and encouragement to the little oori to feel part of the big oori?
What seems to be the best achievement of the Korean National Ministers Conference this year is that the conference has provided the ministers participated with an opportunity for them to realize the potential they have in their ministry as well as in their own stories can be welcomed and valued as part of oori Uniting Church.
The honest and sincere life sharing and lecture from the guests including the President Mr Stuart McMillan, Rev Dr Apwee Ting, Mr Levon Kardashian and Rev Dr Clive Pearson have made all the participants feel that they belong to the oori Uniting Church. I would like to thank them for their effort, encouragement and insights they have brought to the conference on behalf of KNC.
Another positive outcome of the conference was that it was abundant with lots of future-oriented and constructive thoughts and ideas. How would we be able to effectively share the grace that we have found at the conference with other members of KNC? and with the wider church? and how can we share oori stories with other oori and become one big oori? How can we encourage our 1.5/2 gens and women members to actively join the conference? and what should be our next step from here?
It is true that the Holy Spirit is one. From the theme of KNC, “Your Story, Our Story”; the recent “Gospel Yarning Conference”; the theme of the next NSW&ACT Synod, “Telling Our Story”, I can sense the movement of the Spirit among us in leading us to a certain direction to make us one and big oori in the Lord.
Rev. Steve Lee, St David’s Haberfield NSW
Chairperson, Korean National Conference in the Uniting Church in Australia