Zion Korean part of Yale's 2015Congregations Project

June 04, 2015

Zion Korean United Methodist Church in Warwick, RI, is among seven congregations nationwide selected to attend the Yale Institute of Sacred Music (ISM) Congregations Project Summer Seminar in June 2015.

For the seminar, leadership teams from the congregations gather with ISM and guest faculty on the Yale campus for five days to form a diverse ecumenical community of ministers, musicians, scholars, and other church leaders.

The curriculum is shaped by the theme – this year it is From Generation to Generation – and designed to support the congregations’ individual projects, which build on their particular strengths in worship, music, and the arts; to expand their capacity to serve the surrounding community; and to nurture ecumenical partnerships.

“By participating in the Congregations Project, we would like to share Zion’s current work while being better informed and motivated by other faith communities,” said Rev. Hyuk Seonwoo, pastor at Zion Korean.

At the Yale seminar, Zion Korean will work on a project called “Culturally-Conscious Weekly Communion for Every Generation.” Team members are Choah Kim, musician; Hai Lanne Hahm, lay leader, and Rev. Seonwoo.

“Our project reflects 13 years of experiences in which we have practiced intergenerational, culturally-conscious worship and ministry,” said Rev. Seonwoo. “Since the first Sunday of Advent in 2002, we have practiced weekly communion, learning the significance of the two tables: the table of the Word and the table of the Meal.

They were motivated to recover the two tables, Rev. Seonwoo said, because “we realized that worship, which is the center of the congregational life, also creates an enormous gap between the young generation and its parents’ generation, especially in Korean-American congregations (and) other immigrant congregations.”

We believe that culturally-conscious worship encourages the whole congregation, including children, to have self-respect as Korean American Christians, which is the first step toward respecting others, said Rev. Seonwoo.

“As Zion KUMC attempts to make the best use of the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit embedded in each culture, we are steadily moving forward to embody the reign of God in our personal and communal lives, too,” he said.

In describing Zion Korean’s worship, Rev. Seonwoo said:
In our worship service and educational environments, Korean and Korean American cultures are appreciated and incorporated. We intentionally choose hymns from diverse traditions and cultures; various musical instruments, including the Korean traditional drums are played whenever the musicians are available. … We often experience that music becomes an important common language among the generations.

It has been a trend that we have increasingly more newcomers who have had no Christian background or who have not attended church for years.
Recently, our congregation included Korean-Americans, Koreans (international students and visiting scholars), Korean-Chinese (international students), and intercultural families. This trend keeps challenging us to examine whether or not our worship and ministry warmly invite, welcome and communicate with those newcomers.

“We are on the journey,” the pastor said. “We have experienced not only joy and excitement but also challenges and frustrations.”
 Some enduring and/or emerging questions are:
  • Is every age group well represented in worship?
  • Do all ages participate in planning and designing worship?
  • Are the lyrics of the hymns and praise songs easy to understand for children and newcomers?
For more information about Zion Korean or this project, contact Rev. Seonwoo at cultus4u@gmail.com

The Yale Institute of Sacred Music is an interdisciplinary graduate center that educates leaders who foster, explore, and study engagement with the sacred through music, worship, and the arts in Christian communities, diverse religious traditions, and public life.

More information about all the congregations and their projects can be found at ismcongregations.yale.edu/congregations.