When Rev. Cari Copeman-Haynes of North Delta’s Crossroads United Church spoke at a rural church in South Korea last month, she gave a sermon on the importance of hospitality.
As part of a delegation visiting the country to celebrate a partnership, the subject was fitting. She and eight other representatives from B.C. visited the Gyeonggi South Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea from Oct. 19 to 27.
The trip recognized a partnership between the United Church of Canada and the Presbyterian Church formed last summer.
“(It’s) a formal relationship with mutual recognition of ministries,” Copeman-Haynes said. “We can share ministers back and forth in a much easier way. Previously, folks would have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops.”
The delegation spent a week visiting the Gyeonggi province and visiting places of cultural significance. They took in cultural performances and visited churches and a building that once housed United Church of Canada missionaries.
“They were so welcoming of us, they were so warm and full of hospitality. And they fed us and fed us. It was delicious,” she said, adding meals included lots of Korean barbecue.
The trip took a somber tone as the group visited the demilitarized zone on the border of North and South Korea, where peace ribbons hung on barbed wire and a bullet-riddled train represented what Copeman-Haynes described as sorrow and sadness.
“That was quite a moving experience because we knew going there [that] there’s a strong desire for unification among people of South Korea, particularly among this denomination.”
When the group split to visit local churches, Copeman-Haynes went to Yangsung Church in a rural, off-the-beaten-track area where many congregation members harvest rice crops for a living.
Her sermon was translated into Korean by a recent university graduate, Park Ye-Chan, who had just completed a bachelor’s degree in English.
“I talked about intercultural relationships and how important it is to show hospitality to one another in Jesus’ name and try to understand where other people are coming from.”
She found she had much in common with local Rev. Nam Ki-Hong, including newly-constructed churches, drum-playing daughters and about 15 years of service with their respective churches.
Most importantly, she said, both denominations value social justice.
“They have built a whole social welfare centre across from the back lane of their church. They have a bread-baking ministry, they have a food bank ministry,” she said. “[They’re] really engaged in their community, which I appreciated. I thought, ‘Wow, they’re doing good work with the people who need them.’”
Along the way, the delegation presented gifts of aboriginal prints from artists like Bill Reid.
“Our emphasis was really on reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.”
A trip to B.C. by the South Korean delegation is in the works for next spring, with planned visits to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and an aboriginal community. Copeman-Haynes said the hope is for the two delegations to learn from one another.