A reflection on the role of liturgy in Christian life & worship from one of our Seminarians, Yein Kim:
I was born as the youngest daughter of an Anglican priest in a small island, called Ganghwa Island, in the estuary of the Han River on the west coast of South Korea. Twelve of the fifty-nine churches in the Diocese of Seoul are located on this small island. Growing up, I kept track of time to the sound of the church bells as I woke up in the morning or went home for meals. I would usually sit in the pew on Saturday afternoons, watching people prepare for the Sunday services. My babysitters and tutors were then deacons who later became priests. I wasn’t ‘going’ to church; I was ‘living’ in it.
As soon as I graduated from high school, I joined St. Cecilia’s Choir at the Seoul Cathedral. In the ten years of serving as a member of the choir, my fascination (and obsession) with the liturgy grew fast and deep. It is not very surprising that I chose Liturgy as my special competency as I pursue my Master of Divinity in the seminary. However, my idea of “the right” liturgy had become rather rigid until recently. Gradually, my sense of comfort and openness grew as I experienced different kinds of liturgy in the various contexts. Last year, I was a Chapel Editor in the Chapel Committee at Episcopal Divinity School. Although daily morning prayers were pretty typical, final-year students preached on Mondays and faculty took turns creating liturgy for Thursday Eucharist. Even with the basic elements of the Anglican/Episcopal liturgy, every service was different and some were eye-opening. I also started doing my field education for the Boston Chinese Ministry during the weekdays, and regularly attended services at SSJE. I went to Christ Church, Cambridge on Sundays for my “choir fix” and to Church of the Advent for the Holy Week and other occasional services. All these experiences made my love for liturgy richer and fuller. I am still in love with bells and smells of the high church liturgy. However, I am also happy to explore the possibility and participate in other types of services with total unpredictability and unfamiliarity.
I attended the 40th Anniversary of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry in San Francisco this summer. During the Closing Eucharist, Taiko drums (Japan), gangsa players (Indonesia), and lion dancers (China) led the procession and we sang Sarennam (Indian hymn) during Communion. If I had been there two years ago, I would have described it as ‘interesting’ liturgy at best. To me now, it was the perfect ending to four days of celebration and I have never felt more comfortable listening to languages that I did not understand. My hope is that I continually stay open, yet pay attention to what is happening in the liturgy of the church, everywhere and all the time.