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Experience Creative Worship during Korean Conference

by Paul Ryan

Participants in conference offer blessings in songs of praise.

     “Psalms: Lament to  Praise,” the 2010 Korean Conference on Worship & Music at Columbia Seminary, July 12-15,  is for musicians, pastors, worship leaders, and their families.*
Artistic, creative, and intergenerational worship and learning sessions will be offered in Korean and English.

     Many Korean Americans feel their worship has “little connection to their Korean roots,” says Paul Ryan, who participated in the 2009 conference. “Most Korean Christian worship is traditionally Western, learned originally from American missionaries who taught  Western hymns and liturgies. Many Korean Americans thus have trouble incorporating traditional Korean culture in worship, and some actively shun such enculturation.”

     Few, Ryan says, can articulate what is unique about Korean-American worship. “Other than using the Korean language, most feel their worship is indistinguishable from traditional Presbyterian or Methodist services of worship. Many express a longing for more connections with their roots.”

     During the 2009 conference, one creative worship experience was an adaptation of a traditional Korean folk play to the purposes of Christian worship and community building.
“During this session, conferees sang, danced, and played using traditional games, melodies, and prayers of thanksgiving for harvest,” Ryan says. “At the same time, these elements were sanctified, as they were directed toward God in thanksgiving for God’s blessings and in petition for God’s mercy and justice.”

     One second generation Korean-American told Ryan that this experience of traditional Korean folk play was “healing.” He felt that more such experiences would be significant for his generation.  Leaders of the Korean-American church are actively searching for ways to reach and retain second generation Korean-Americans, Ryan says.

     In the worship services during the 2009 conference, “we meditated on music, visited prayer stations, experienced silence, heard the Word of God preached, held stones, picked up seeds, ate watermelon, viewed dramatized scripture readings and projected images, listened to the sound of pouring water and torn fabric, gave high fives, and processed congregationally into the worship space –  taking two steps forward and one step back,” Ryan says.

     Each worship service during the conference was “highly creative, participatory, intergenerational, bilingual, visual, dramatic, and eclectic musically – while at the same time following a classic pattern of worship. All the elements were artfully and sensitively done.”  This event includes program tracks for pastors on worship and preaching, for church music, for emerging worship, and for children/youth. These tracks meet twice daily.

     During the young people’s track, the children and youth prepare elements to be used in the worship service. “Because of this, the worship services have been intergenerational!” Ryan says.
Each morning begins with a plenary session, and each afternoon offers additional practical workshops open to all the conferees.

     Keynote presenters during this summer’s conference will be John Ahn, Old Testament Professor of Austin Theological Seminary; Michael Morgan, CTS musician, and Paul Junggap Huh, CTS professor of worship.

     This is the 13th annual conference, meeting for the third time at Columbia Theological Seminary. The conference is being held at CTS in part by funding provided by the worship renewal grants program of Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

     After attending this event as a workshop presenter, learner, and observer, Ryan says his “heart was filled with gratitude for the creative worship experiences, meaningful conversations, gracious hospitality, and for testimonies of the good work of God within and among the Korean-American churches.”

     *The comments from Paul Ryan in this article are excerpted from the Worship Blog of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship:

     For details and to register for this event, click here.

     NOTE: There is NO on-campus housing available for this event. For information about nearby lodging, click here.