Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gangneung Presbyterian Church

Some time ago, after mentioning to Eun Shin that I was Christian, another teacher at the school asked me, through Eun Shin, if I would like to attend church with them.  (I'm not sure if she had planned on inviting me before, though I suspect that is the case, or if Eun Shin mentioned I was Christian to her, or what... it just happened and that's great.)

I had several weekends where I was not going to be in Gangneung, but I made plans to attend at least once with them.  A Korean church certainly would be a cool experience, culturally and... religiously?  I'm not sure what word to use there.


I met my best friend(!) from my teachers English class that I teach, we got picked up by the lady who invited me at 8:30 AM, and then we picked up one more teacher before heading out to Gangneung Presbyterian Church.  The church is all the way out by Gangmun Beach so it would be around an hour and a half walk on my own.

Read: thank you for friends of friends with cars.

The church was really big and very nice!  As with everything in Korea, it's multiple stories tall so we went up to the upper balcony where a special pew section was "Reserved for Foreigners" (it's not meant to sound bad, but it always just sounds a little bad.  Korea you should try the phrase "Foreign Guests" or perhaps "Foreign Visitors" instead.  It's less abrupt... but perhaps that is American culture right there: we have to be politically correct all the time and never offend anyone).

An older woman who served as one of the two Korean-English translators greeted me and explained how the translation service would work.  She brought over a small received with headphones which I could wear during the service to listen as the other translator (a male) translated the pastor's sermon in real time.  She also brought over Korean-English bibles which had Korean on the left-hand columns, English on the right, and included a hymn book in the back with both Korean and English lyrics.

It was difficult to listen to both the Korean followed by the slightly lagging English translation, but I had the passage in front of me and could take notes on my Kindle NIV Bible.  It was also interesting to sing the hymns in English while my group sang in Korean.  I wasn't going to attempt to read the hangul that fast; I know I'm not ready for speed reading!

After the sermon we headed down a few floors to the church cafeteria where we ate lunch.  A free lunch.  I think it is so awesome that the the church provided a meal to its' members.  There was rice (*insert comment about obviousness of having rice at a meal here*), a delicious white radish soup, a mandarin, and some spiced cucumbers as a side dish.  We finished around 11:15 or 11:30 AM.

Then we went outside where the lady who invited me had me take a picture with the other two teachers (Hahaha!  But I'm glad for the commemorative shot!).

Overall, it was a positive experience and the English translator was a very nice and well-spoken woman.  I've had plans every Sunday since then so I haven't gone back (and my next few Sundays are also booked), but it was a really good experience so I would recommend it to someone who would like to go to church in Gangneung.  I would recommend having a friend who goes or a car or a good handle on the bus schedule that heads that way because it is quite a distance (by foot) from the main part* of the city.

*By main part of the city, I mean Home Plus and the next intersection east of it.  That's kind of where I judge the "city proper" to be from my perspective.

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