Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Little Church Around the Corner

Beyond the Psychic Aunt we also have a Preacher Uncle, a Methodist minister building up a small congregation in Busan. We'd agreed to meet up with him a few days ago oblivious to the rather important facts that the day arranged was not only Sunday but also Christmas Eve. While Christmas is celebrated after a fashion here, and it is actually a public holiday, Korea lacks the sense of urgency followed by the total shut-down that is a British Christmas.

So we were picked up at a station and driven to Preacher Uncle's church which was located on the second floor of what might otherwise have passed for a small shop and office building. We were late arriving and I was a little embarrassed to find that this had caused a service to be held up - as soon as we got there Preacher Uncle dashed to the front of the assembled congregation (admittedly of only around fifteen people) and started the proceedings. We sat down and further disruptions followed as various people tried to find me a bible and hymn-book to follow. Due to a vast over-estimation of my Japanese language abilities Preacher Uncle - who'd spent time in Japan - stuck a Japanese hymn-book under my nose but I found the Chinese characters heavy going. In fact, I was surprised to find it quicker to follow the Hangul in the Korean book than the (mostly) Hiragana in the Japanese one.

It was a basic service but very participatory and informal. I declined to sing a carol in English but there were a couple of other karaoke-style performances. At the end of one the singer said a few words followed by "Jesus, fighting!" - a play on the "Korea, fighting!" slogan disturbingly prevalent here.

We ate afterwards and I talked a little with Preacher Uncle in Japanese, which thankfully turned out to be less rusty than my Japanese-reading abilities. Then we had a far-reaching talk about spirituality and the nature of religion - via transalation - but I didn't manage to bring him round to my way of thinking.

Unfortunately after considerable discussion on my part on the importance of living life based on a Christo-Buddhist philosophy of doing the right thing in all one's actions, as opposed to merely attending church, my debate with one of God's people came back to haunt me three hours later when I failed to do enough to help a hungry and probably homeless boy at Lotteria.

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