I was invited to visit the Diocese of Seoul by Rev Ambrose Kim, well known to CMS Asia and to CMS in Britain. This was something of a surprise but I felt that it was a good thing to do and agreed to go for a week.
Ambrose spent a day with us at CMS pioneer training in the pilot year 3 years ago. Unknown to me he tucked it away in his mind to see how one day he could see if S Korea could get something similar going. The backdrop to this is that through visits by Phil Simpson and others from CMS there has been lots of sharing about mission shaped church and fresh expressions. And Ambrose and others translated and published Mission Shaped Church in Korean. There was also a visit by a group of clergy to an international conference organised by Fresh Expressions in Sept 2011 (I think that was the date).
The diocese is small – around 50 churches. It is traditional and formal especially around liturgy. Its members are by and large older so it is very aware of the need for change.
I met with the diocesan staff of the mission and education departments to share about pioneer ministry and training. I gave a public lecture at the cathedral in mission, culture, pioneer ministry. They seemed to relate most to stories. It was quickly clear that for the Anglicans this was all very new and the creativity especially around liturgy and worship was quite a surprise. There were also others there who were a bit more up to speed on missional approaches including someone from IVP who had translated Alan Hirsch’s Shaping of Things to Come into Korean. It turned out that Stuart Murray Williams was also in Seoul lecturing at a seminary at the same time!
I went to the Anglican theological seminary and had an evening with ordinands in informal conversation. Again stories won the day.
I took a 3 day workshop for around 25 people – all Anglican apart from one. They were mainly ordained and from 3 of the four dioceses in S Korea. I took 6 sessions which pretty much fried my brain after all the translating. But on day 2 something shifted. It’s hard to put my finger on what made the difference but after lunch when we talked about pioneering I asked who identified with it and 8 people said they did. We got them in a circle to share their experience and stories with everyone else sat around and you could have heard a pin drop. I asked for it not to be translated so it flowed so I just got summaries afterwards. One person told how she had left her role being a priest because she just couldn’t fit. After she spoke one of the people said – “I approve you a pioneer” and everyone started cheering. It was amazing. By the end of the conference they had agreed that they need to start a network to keep talking and seeing how they can develop things.
I also spent some time showing some of the training we have developed, although I was very keen to stress the importance of making whatever they do fit Korean soil. My tour guide when I had free time was Benedict. He has finished training to be ordained and really wants to try and pioneer something new. So we had lots of time to talk that through. He is keen to visit the UK and see some fresh expressions and maybe join a module of pioneer training. I think this could really help as there are quite few models at least that are Anglican in S Korea.
I had breakfast with the Bishop of the Diocese of Seoul and one of the things he said in conversation was that he thought they should get one or two people to come and visit some things. So watch this space.
It was great for me personally as I had not been to East Asia at all so I feel I have gained some good cross cultural learning. My chopstick skills have improved and they seemed amazed that I just ate everything they put in front of me (which was quite a lot). Thank you to CMS for sending me!