“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.” –Coretta Scott King
When I was in Korea, I wrote a blog post about how I enjoyed attending two worship services every Sunday. Back then, I was surprised that I would ever consider going to church twice in one day.
Now in New York, I don’t regularly attend two services every Sunday. But I do attend two different churches. My home church is Broadway Presbyterian church, the main work site for my site coordinator and one of my fellow YAVS. I really enjoy this church’s soup kitchen and homeless outreach services.
The other church I attend is Woori Presbyterian Church (뉴욕우리교회), a Korean church that I found when my site coordinators from Korea came to New York to discuss the YAV program. I can only attend about once a month because it is pretty far away by New York standards. The congregation has been welcoming to me, even though I am not Korean. This church incorporates traditional and contemporary worship songs, which I really miss from my YAV year in Korea. They also have a fantastic choir. Even though still I don’t understand much of the Korean worship (though one church member does translate for me sometimes which is really nice!), participating in the worship and singing songs in Korean is helping me in my transition from my previous YAV year. This church provides the opportunity to build new relationships, and transition into a new life in New York. There is also an English ministry for young adults, whose pastor is interested in having me talk about my year in Korea and at the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN. I feel very blessed to have found such a community.
Interestingly, at the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN I am learning about the role of the faith community on a larger scale, in an international context. One thing that makes the Church and faith community unique is that they have personnel on the ground around the world. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls these personnel mission co-workers, who work alongside partners in various countries to help alleviate poverty, promote peace, and provide theological education. Because of this on the ground presence, those church partners can keep the PC(USA) informed on political, economic, and social developments. The Presbyterian Ministry at the UN then can advocate on the church policies based on that information. In short, the church and the Ministry at the UN have a direct connection to many areas of the world.
This direct connection also makes the church different from national governments. Governments of one country may sever any connection, humanitarian or political, with another country’s government because of political disagreement. For example, the United States has withdrawn diplomatic personnel from Syria, pulling out troops and humanitarian aid. But that doesn’t mean the Presbyterian Church has pulled out. Despite the US policy, the Church maintains support of mission co-workers and partners, teaching children and providing food to those in need. The faith community was working in Syria before US leadership made the policy to pull out, and the Church will be there after the US administration has changed many times over.
I bring all of this up to say that the faith community matters. Its role is vital here and there, locally and abroad. The church isn’t perfect, but its importance cannot not be overlooked.