At the WCC General Assembly – Days 1 to 3

Wednesday Oct. 23, 2013

PSR is one of seven US theological schools sending a small group of students and a faculty member to participate in the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute in Korea in conjunction with the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan. The Institute has students and faculty from all over the world. The PSR students are Jorge Bautista (UCC), Darnell Fennell (DOC) and Rachel Cosca (Episcopal Church). Randi Walker is the PSR faculty member. The course counts as a cultural immersion course for the PSR students, and there are three more students back at PSR taking the course following the GETI curriculum who were not in the group traveling to Korea. The course focuses on the history and theology of the ecumenical movement, especially the World Council of Churches, the history of Christianity in Korea, and the issues coming before the WCC General Assembly, namely how to broaden the participation of more churches of the world in ecumenical community, and the churches in relationship to war, poverty, and human rights. In addition to traditional classroom activities such as lectures and seminary groups, the students will participate in much of the WCC Assembly program offerings and special tours.

Our flight was long. By the time we got to Seoul it was the middle of the night our time. We were glad to see the welcome volunteers from GETI waiting for us as we emerged from customs. They had us registered, supplied with bus tickets, T Cards (These cards can be used on almost any form of transportation and in some convenience stores in lieu of cash), and basic information and on our way to our hotel for the first night. It was an hour and a half on the bus to the hotel, maybe more, and by that time we had been awake for 18-20 hours. We ate and went to sleep. Tomorrow we move to the Academy House Hotel for the course to begin.

Friday Oct. 24-Sunday Oct. 25

We have begun to get settled into the GETI course. On Friday night the entire class and all the faculty gathered for dinner and orientation. There are around 170 students and about 20 faculty from all over the world. The faculty members lead seminar groups of 7-10 students. We looked around at a group of young theology students from the churches of the world and listened to stories of their churches and their travels to get to Korea. We heard about a few who could not join us because of visa problems or illnesses. The lectures and readings are available to students in courses in many places who were not able to be part of the class here. You can find these materials on this website: where anyone can register to use the working group following the instructions on the website. You can also follow the progress of the GETI group on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday was our first full day of worship, lectures and seminar groups. Sunday each seminar group visited a different church in Seoul where we attended worship and experienced lunch afterward with some people from the congregation. Randi’s seminar attended the Yoido Full Gospel Church, which claims to be the largest congregation in the world. They have seven services on Sunday mornings, each one hour. The group attended the 11AM service and had lunch afterward with some of the younger ministers followed by a short tour of the facilities. The service was in Korean but key information was provided in translation on a screen in the auditorium. There were headsets for simultaneous translation of the sermon and prayers into several languages. Music was provided by a large choir and orchestra in a classical style. The sermon was from the story of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel of God interpreted as a pattern of spiritual life. The hymn “Precious Lord Take my Hand” translated into Korean wove in and out of the worship as a response to prayers and as a response to parts of the sermon.

The real ecumenical conversation begins tomorrow with more lectures and two seminar sessions.

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