It has been more than a year since I began regularly attending a Korean Presbyterian Church. I sing on the praise team and play drums, participate in cell group leader training, and occasionally preach. Starting in January I will probably join the paid staff of the church.
All this time I’ve been waiting. I’ve observed some of the challenging dynamics of an intergenerational immigrant congregation. I’ve even commented on some of them here on this blog. I’ve gone on retreat, worked through the terrifyingly effective yet opaque bureaucracy of a Presbyterian church while learning the difference between elders, deacons and ordained deacons. I still don’t know who is who within the church administration. I’ve wondered over and again and prayed as to whether or not this is the place to which God has called me, since it is so far out of my previous experience, and offers little in the way of marriage opportunity (which if we would be honest, is a singularly important consideration for those of us who are not yet married).
And still I wait.
For what am I waiting? I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m waiting for the inevitable crash and burn, horrific dysfunctional evil Korean church drama that I’ve been warned about, read blogs about and have come to expect. I’m waiting for the church split, the dictatorial leadership, the… well, you know; all the things that are supposed to happen.
So far… nothing. Perhaps I am naïve and it is my ignorance of the language or the relative inscrutable nature of the leadership or any number of things that have blinded me to what is right before my eyes. Perhaps I have a really good pastor, or maybe I’ve never been in a church situation that is especially good, so this one doesn’t seem so bad, although I don’t think that is true.
Please, don’t get me wrong. My church has issues; plenty of them. And I am certain to run into more as I get more involved in the life of the church. And it could well be that more is coming, or that my outside insider status protects me from some of the more egregious dysfunctionalities that may lurk just below the surface.
What is different for me though, than for many of my peers and even co-parishioners is that I am indeed an outsider. As such, there are few if any expectations placed upon me by folks in the KM. In this way I can be conveniently forgiven for not adhering to all the cultural and family expectations that others in the EM experience. Likewise, I do not carry with me the burden of expectation for them. I have no family history with them and am not encumbered with the challenges of having my parents at church, with all the joy and challenge that bring.
My experience so far has not too terribly different that what I’ve encountered in other churches. There are of course, some things that are problematic that really are unique to the church and the cultural nuances therein represented. Many of the people in the EM are quite immature spiritually and otherwise. I wonder about some of the piety of the elders, and other leaders. There are some things that bug me about the church. All in all though, its been good. And I will enjoy it while it lasts. I’ve been in much worse church situations.