I have mentioned before in previous posts that I had attended a church while I was in Seoul. What I haven’t spoken about was what the actual experience of going to a Korean Church was like. And to be honest, it wasn’t that different from Church back in the UK. Except for, y’know, it was in Korean and there were slightly different elements to the service.
However, I’m going to tell you all about it anyway because I really think that it will be a big part of my life once I move there. I feel I made some really good friends and I can’t wait to go back.
I will start with its appearance. Almost all of the Churches I saw in Korea were in modern buildings (except for the hanok style church on Kanghwa-do). St Bede’s church was in a multistory building, 6 floors to be exact, and had a pharmacy on the ground floor. I had met my friend Agnes – 진영 언니, 안녕하세요~ – at the exit of my train station, after getting horribly lost that morning, and we walked down the main street to the Church building and rode the lift to the 4th floor where the church’s nave was . I didn’t remember to take any pictures of the inside looked like (sorry) but it looked like a chapel in say a hospital or an airport. It had a high ceiling, neutral but warm colours on the walls, modern and bright stained glass windows. And throughout the building there was art made by members of the Church, including a cross made by the children in the Church which was beautiful. During the service I read along with the order of service, which meant I proved to myself that I can definitely read Hangul (so yay go me). It followed almost exactly the same structure as the English order of service, but there were some more Korean style elements too. At the end during the notices, I was introduced to the congregation, so I stood up and bowed to everyone and then promptly sat back down for fear that I might be asked to say something. By that point it was hot, it had been raining all day and I had arrived late and flustered, so I wished I had brought a hairbrush and had worn a better outfit for the humidity.
I was told that after the service itself, the Church all had lunch together downstairs. So I walked down to the basement with Agnes, who then asked me to sit in a separate room while she went to find some of the members of the church youth group. Before I had arrived in Korea, Agnes had already arranged for me to meet the young people at St Bede’s, and I’m so happy she did cause they were all so lovely, and it was great to make some friends who were my age. I felt so welcomed by them, even if at first they were a bit shy.
In fact, I was surprised by how generous they were with their time and efforts. I was shown round part of the National Museum of Korea (to look round the whole museum would take more than a day, its that big) and it was all so beautiful and interesting. Unfortunately, jet lag was starting to catch up with me at that point so I probably wasn’t as alert as I could have been, but I learned a lot about Korean history, art and culture. I would really recommend a visit is you get the chance. Not only are the exhibits beautiful and interesting , but the museum building itself is just stunning.
Once the tour was over, we drove back to the Church building and went up to the roof where, I discovered, they were throwing a BBQ party. I had sneakily been asked before if I liked Korean food, and what Korean food I liked. While I had looked around the exhibits at the museum, other members of the group had bought and prepared food and drinks, had started building the barbecue and by the time I got back had also brought snacks to eat while we hung out. By this point I felt like some of the shyness and awkwardness had fallen away and it was really nice to chat and joke around with everyone. The snacks were also very appreciated cause I was seriously lagging because of the time difference. The boost in my blood sugar levels helped a lot.
As the afternoon drew on, the coals were lit, cool drinks were poured and I was served some delicious seafood broth (I had mentioned I like seafood) which had mongge or 멍게 in it, which I tried for the first time. It was… interesting. I’ve never eaten anything like it before and I wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but I was taught by my friend 정윤 – 안녕 정윤아~ – how to eat it and so I did. It wasn’t until after I ate it I thought I could look up the translation for 멍게 on my phone. For anyone who’s wondering what it was I ate in English, it’s called a sea squirt. I ate a sea squirt. As it got darker the soft drinks became chilled cups of Beer and Soju (which my new ‘oppas’ made sure I had plenty of… so, cheers for that guys) and we played music on some speakers. I had been told, again by some of the same guys who poured drinks, that they weren’t fans of k-pop. That certainly wasn’t the case by the evening when they were singing and dancing along to the music. The best part for me was after we had eaten all of the samgyopssal and ssam and we were just hanging out, laughing around and talking. I felt so comfortable and lucky to have found a Church where I already felt happy. I can’t wait to go back and see them all again.
Have you ever gone to a foreign Church? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
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