Rev. Dr OhWang Kwon is minister at Knox United Church, Consort, AB and wrote the following reflection following attending the September 27-28th’s Intercultural Ministry Education Event in Edmonton. You’ll find more Intercultural Ministry Education Reflections here
Since last December, I have been encountering new spiritual and cultural challenges in The United Church of Canada (UCC). One of them is intercultural circumstances in Canadian ministries. In the era of globalization, people are living in association with those who have diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. My seven years living in California provided me with the first opportunity to seek answers to ministerial and theological questions such as “What does it mean to live as an intercultural minister?” and “How do ministers deal with those people of religious and cultural diversity and look for ways to live together harmoniously in Christ?” After my life in California, I was called to ministry in Kangnam Presbyterian Church in the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) and involved in diverse kinds of ministries for about 10 years. One of the urgent tasks that the PROK has been facing is how to deal with intercultural issues which have emerged because of cultural transformation in South Korea in the age of globalization. However, I did not have much time to work on these topics.
Now, intercultural ministry is one of my meaningful and real issues. As the first PROK minister with The United Church of Canada’s mutual recognition of ministries, I have been involved in my ministry in Consort Pastoral Charge. For the church, I am an intercultural minister. Thankfully, I felt that the church welcomed my family and accepted cultural differences warmly. Moreover, the Pastoral Charge is very willing to embrace new spiritual challenges that their new minister is making. They truly respect my culture and ways of life. I am very happy to work with and for our members of the church. So, I wondered how ministers, theologians and lay people in the UCC had been struggling with intercultural issues in ministry. In this situation, “The Church’s Struggle to See Jesus from Intercultural Eyes” was very interesting and exciting to me because I expected that this seminar would be an effective tool for enhancing my perspective on intercultural ministry.
The event of the first day was impressive. Those who have different backgrounds had a great intercultural pot-luck supper at Edmonton Korean United Church. This supper reminded me of a community of Jesus, where people gathered and shared food with one another. A shalom community may be traced back to a meal with Jesus. Opening service was also a valuable time to listen to diverse spiritual voices from different perspectives. In particular, the Korean Choir of Edmonton Korean United Church praised God by expressing the cultural spirits of Koreans. The special lecture given by Dr. Mary Philip theologically challenged participants. Focusing on diverse stories and experiences of the oppressed, she suggested that we read the Bible and interpret messages from a different hermeneutic angle from that of dominant theologians. Dr. Philip attempted to read the story of Naaman, paying attention to the young maid who, as being regarded as the least of the figures of the story, recommended Naaman to see Elisha. Dr Philip’s challenging suggestion that we should interpret the Bible in terms of accompaniment also encouraged us to see a possibility of living together with others by acting as bridges and crossing boundaries. Group discussion was also very exciting because it motivated participants to listen to different voices and to understand one another concerning intercultural topics.
On the way home, I gave thanks to everyone who prepared for this adventurous event, and to God for letting us have a great opportunity to struggle deeply with significant topics. Now, our task will be applying what we discussed and explored to our ministries. A church can be a spiritual center of representing the core value of life together. Recognizing the importance of others, respecting them and listening to their stories will be a good step toward a harmonious community. Interpreting the Bible from intercultural perspectives and accompanying others will be a great step toward a united community in love and diversity. I hope churches will struggle with intercultural topics, establish solidarity and pursue oneness in diversity toward common goods.