Indeed a gift

This is Post #7 about my trip to Korea for the WCC. Please click on these links for Post #1Post # 2,Post #3Post #4Post #5 or Post #6.

I have not blogged since the official first day of the WCC and now it is the night before the last day. But that is because I’ve continued to drink from a fire hose. I’m practicing self compassion concerning my lack of blogging and not being too hard on myself 😉

We have been going going going for 2 weeks straight. In that light, I have made decisions that tended toward time with new friends and not depriving myself excessively of sleep, so the processing of this intense experience has been largely put on hold. Thankfully though, my notebook has captured 92% of what I have heard and experienced, even if I have not been able to digest it all yet.

But I think I will start my processing with this: This time here has been a gift.  It may take me days and weeks and months and years to unpack all that I have learned, experienced, and discussed, to see and know the fruit of this time, to realize the immensity of this opportunity and see its effects on me and the world. But nonetheless, it has indeed been a gift.  A gift that I will steward.

That does not mean my time in South Korea as part of GETI alongside the WCC has been all rosy. It has been exhausting, challenging, frustrating, disheartening, and difficult at various times. We have experienced difficult large group dynamics, small group frustrations, and intercultural challenges.  We have heard about more church politics than my poor heart can handle, listened in solidarity with all those who shared about injustices in their home contexts, battled the exhaustion fueled by an ambitious schedule, and caught various  colds and other sicknesses because our bodies are run down.

But we have also had experiences of pure gift.  We’ve shared and appreciated each others’ various cultural contexts and Christian traditions. We heard enlightening speakers both as GETI students and in the larger WCC assembly. We have discussed various ecumenical issues with our small groups and wrestled over hot theological topics over dinner and drinks at night. We’ve walked to and from the convention center a few times to soak in some needed fresh air and we’ve bonded over shared bus-weariness after many hours cooped up together on various occasions. We know we have beds we could sleep on in all corners of the world now and we know we have fellow travelers on the journey in our common goal of Christ and the Kingdom of God, despite our theological variations and our real differences.

I’m grateful for it all. The tough parts and the more frequent, “wow, is-this-real-life?” parts. I’m thankful for this challenge and this gift. I’m in awe at my new friendships, my mind is exploding with all it has learned and will learn in continued study of these topics, and my heart has been expanded 1000 times over in love with God, with God’s people, and with the whole world.

I’m grateful for renewed hope. Confronting the despair of politics in the church, the despair of human suffering and injustice, and the despair of disunity in the Body of Christ, my hope is surprisingly rejuvenated and enlarged. It is more real and more fervent in light of it all.

I’m thankful for the role this experience has played in helping me become the person I’m meant to be.

And despite so much gratitude, I’m ready to come home. I’m ready not to eat out for two meals per day plus a hotel buffet for breakfast (though don’t get me wrong, that was an incredibly generous provision and I’m grateful). I’m ready to see my Chicago peeps and receive oodles of pics in real time of my new niece (born today!). I’m ready to face real life and catch up on my homework (because I’m in the right field and love my classes and miss my school). I’m ready to sleep in my bed, go running regularly, and eat lots of vegetables (not at breakfast though, which is when they’re most available here).

Tomorrow is our last day! Time to catch a few Zzzz’s so I can soak it up 🙂 

With a grateful heart,

P.S. Speaking of Zzzz’s… I’m finishing this really late after a spontaneous round of late night (one) beer and theology session so I hope it has a semblance of coherence despite the late hour.

My seminar group sans one. I clearly did the common Korean picture sign too soon.
My seminar group sans one. I clearly did the common Korean picture sign too soon.
An Orthodox, a Catholic, and a Protestant, walk into a coffee shop...oh wait, that happened today
An Orthodox, a Catholic, and a Protestant, walk into a coffee shop…oh wait, that happened today.
Victor was passing time while holding my camera.
Victor was passing time while holding my camera.
At our host church in Gwanju with one of our hostesses and Noria, my seminar group friend from Malaysia
At our host church in Gwanju with one of our hostesses and Noria, my seminar group friend from Malaysia
In Gwanju over the weekend
In Gwanju over the weekend


The First Day.

This is Post #6 about my trip to Korea for the WCC. Please click on these links for Post #1Post # 2,Post #3Post #4, or Post #5.

Today was the official start of the World Council of Churches. It was quite exciting! So much to take in and experience.

Adam, Sarah, and me outside the BEXCO, a conference center even bigger than McCormick in Chicago!
Adam (USA), Johanna (Germany), and me outside the BEXCO, a conference center even bigger than McCormick in Chicago!

As GETI participants, our day started with two lectures, one from Michael Kinnamon of Seattle University, and former General Secretary of the United States’ National Council of Churches and one from Henriette Hutarabat-Lebang, General Secretary of the Christian Churches in Asia. I was blown away at their clear explications of the future of the ecumenical movement in the 21st century.

Dr. Kinnamon asked three tough but essential questions of the ecumenical movement:

  1. Are the churches involved in the ecumenical movement still committed to the goal of visible unity?
  2. Is the ecumenical movement in danger of becoming too ideological?
  3. Is this a movement that truly trusts in God’s leading?
One of our morning speakers, Michael Kinnamon
One of our morning speakers, Michael Kinnamon of Seattle University

After a vigorous but short Q&A session, we hurried over to the main worship hall for the opening prayer of the WCC.

Oh.My.Goodness. Beautiful, heart-wrenching, and inspiring.

The prayer service began with lamentations from all regions of the earth.  What a humbling way to begin this gathering of Christians, who are complicit in so much hurt and pain, and who have been hurt and pained by a world that still yearns for the justice and peace of God’s Reign. A sampling:

Your beautiful image in Africa has been deformed as the greedy have raped its resources… the powerful have raped the less powerful…Your people’s lament is echoed in your deep groans that drain rivers dry… (Cries and Hopes from Africa)

Empowering God, we see you in the resilience, resistance and creativity of the weary and heavy laden, the crushed lives and broken relationships. Transform our greed to consume into a thirst to share…(Cries and Hopes from Asia)

Comfort us so that our souls are healed from the wounds of wars and conflicts. Gives us your light that we may walk out of the shadows of death… (Cries and Hopes from the Middle East)

Lord, have mercy on us, for we mine the resources of our own lands and those of the south, leaving in our wake environmental devastation… (Cries and Hopes from North America)

(c) Peter Williams/WCC
The lamentations were accompanied by artistic interpretations of the laments. (c) Peter Williams/WCC

There was a Gospel reading (Emmaus!), sermon, song, and common recitation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, gave the sermon at the Opening Prayer (please ignore the speaker that was blocking my view)

We sang a challenging, moving song at the end based off a Bonhoeffer quote called,

“Peace must be dared.”

After the opening prayer, we broke for lunch. We saw some protesters of the WCC on our way back in. We actually had seen hundreds of them when we arrived in Busan on Tuesday, but they were much fewer in number today. These protesters were Christians who think the Christians who support the WCC are being misled and are in fact, going against the will of God. More on them later, probably 😉

"Oppose the WCC" sums it up pretty well I suppose
“Oppose the WCC” sums it up pretty well I suppose

Then we headed back to the convention center for the official opening of the assembly complete with a welcome from the General Secretary, the WCC Central Committee moderator, 4 young people sharing their expectations, various welcome greetings, and an artistic presentation on the assembly theme (“God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace”) and the experience of the Korean churches. That was such an unexpected treat!  I didn’t know to expect something like that.

Cardinal Kurt Koch reading the greetings of Pope Francis!!!!
Cardinal Kurt Koch reading the greetings of Pope Francis!!!!
From the artistic presentation on the theme and Korean history
From the artistic presentation on the theme and Korean history

We then moved to the General Secretary’s report on the WCC and all that has been happening since the last assembly in Porto Alegre in 2006.  So much. More on that later.

Then, as GETI, we headed back to the hotel for our seminar group discussions where my group actually got into some pretty interesting (read, occasionally tense) discussions. No one said unity was easy.  But it is worth it. It is our beautiful, daring calling to work that all may be one (John 17:21). Then, after a brief evening prayer, our day was finally over at around 830pm. Woah.

I doubt I’ll be able to keep these (lengthy) updates up as they take too much time, but I felt the first day was totally worth the effort because it was so powerful and it set the tone and mood for the rest of the conference.

Thanks be to God for the opportunity to be here and to be transformed by this experience.

God of Life, Lead us to justice and peace.


Drinking from a Fire Hose

This is Post #5 about my trip to Korea for the WCC. Please click on these links for Post #1, Post # 2, Post #3, or Post #4
Today, Monday, was our last day in Seoul for our pre-program with GETI. Tomorrow, we travel to Busan where GETI will continue and where the WCC will begin on Wednesday. 

The other day, the Dean of GETI used this phrase to describe what we were experiencing. I’m not sure if the phrase translated well for others, but I certainly think it is an apt metaphor. I hardly know where to begin as far as reflecting on what I have experienced so far. But I will not be too hard on myself for not taking in more or put to much pressure on myself to give neat summaries or astute synthesis yet. I will just appreciate the gifts that are being offered to me right now. My notebook is capturing as much as I can. Synthesis can wait. Sharing deeply about these gifts and their affect on me will come. But right now, these gifts, I need to receive them first. I need to drink deeply from the well, or the fire hose , whatever metaphor works, right? So in the spirit of drinking from the fire hose, I will share some of the “sips” I’ve been experiencing:

  • Talking about (rural) African perspectives on pastoral care with my seminar group member from South Africa
  • Sharing a love for Henri Nouwen with my new friend who is in seminary here in South Korea
  • Hearing about the priests and sisters and other Catholics and various Christians who are involved in nonviolent resistance in Jeju island here in Korea, protesting a U.S. Naval base that is destroying the local village there.
  • Listening to lectures on Korea history, realizing that the Cold War is still said to be going on here because of the divided nation of the Korean peninsula (Korea was divided along the 38th parallel at the end of WWII by Russia and the U.S., just days after Korea was freed from Japanese occupation)
  • Talking with the only other Catholic woman here, who is from Australia, about what her context is like as the only younger female studying theology at her grad school.
  • Totally having a fangirl moment when the official Catholic delegation to the WCC showed up this morning, that is, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU).  CTU people- Steve Bevans was all cool, like, “Yeah, I know most of these people,” and I was like, “I read about this council and here they are in person! Plus, there aren’t many other Catholics around here usually.” There were several women too. Very happy to see.
  • Being blown away and deeply challenged by Professor Namsoom Kang (Brite Divinity School at TCU). She reminded us here that for those of us here at GETI who speak English as our first language, that means that we inherently are the power-holders and others are marginalized. The first step is to be aware.  That’s all we’ve got so far.
  • Going on a spontaneous walk with my new friends from lunch from Korea, Germany, and Sweden.
  • Discussing my American (Catholic) context with my German friend who practically knows more about American politics than I do, I discovered this as we discussed evangelicals, polarization in the Church, and the religious backgrounds of American political leaders.
  • Asking “who is defining culture? What interest does it serve?”
  • Bonding with my Slovakian group member who considers himself Czechoslovakian because he was born before the split and I consider myself 1/4 Czechoslovakian because my grandma was from the undivided nation as well.
  • Visiting a Presbyterian Church here in Seoul. With a German pastor preaching the sermon (who was part of a delegation on their way to the WCC) haha
  • Having only 30 minutes to shop/explore at the market for souvenirs and such.
  • Discussing with my friend from the UK/USA (Seattle) about her Jesuit school that is uber ecumenical, and her friends’ experiences of being Catholic women in ministry.

These are just a taste for you, a few sips. Multiply this by 10. At least.  I’m so thankful for this fire hose of experience and information. I know it will just continue to multiply as we head to Busan tomorrow for the actual start of the WCC on Wednesday!

More later, friends. But for now, pictures!

GETI Catholic contigent: Antonia from Australia; Victor, SJ, from Boston; Steve Bevans, CTU professor; Edmund Chia, former CTU prof now in Australia; and me!
GETI Catholic contingent: Antonia from Australia; Victor, SJ, from Boston; Steve Bevans, CTU professor; Edmund Chia, former CTU prof now in Australia; and me!
10-27-13 David Field 2
Eating a traditional Korean meal on Sunday
10-27-13 Noria (37)
Me, Gift (South Africa), Saleem (Jordan) at some palace in the middle of Seoul
10-27-13 Noria (38)
Posing for the camera… because it’s what I do 🙂
Professor Steve Bevans talking with his friend, the General Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Professor Steve Bevans talking with his friend, the General Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
My lunch table today!
My lunch table today! Sweden, Korea, the US, and Germany, all represented!

Thanks for journeying with me, friends!

Much love on the road to Busan,

What is GETI?

(This is Post #4 about my trip to Korea. If you missed Post #1 or Post #2 or Post #3, click on those links to check them out!)
It is the end of our first full day here. I arrived in Seoul at 3pm on Friday and arrived at our hotel at about 8pm after about 3 hrs in traffic! I passed out on the bus though because I hardly slept on the plane. My bus group caught the end of the welcoming address for GETI that night. 

In the spirit of offering background information on what I’m up to in Korea, today we’ll explore the specific program that I’m participating in alongside the WCC.

So what does GETI stand for?

GETI is an acronym for the Graduate Ecumenical Theological Institute.

What is the Graduate Ecumenical Theological Institute?

The Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI) is a major event for about 150 younger advanced theology students from all regions of the world and all Christian denominational traditions.  It began in Seoul on October 25th and on October 30th we will transition to Busan to study alongside the World Council of Churches’ 10th Assembly.  We will conclude on November 9th, the day after the end of the WCC.

What will you study and do?

The curriculum focuses on “the future of ecumenism and the transformation of World Christianity in the 21st century” and will be geared to the theme of the WCC Assembly “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” GETI is meant to be a place where we are formed as ecumenical leaders, where we engage in intense theological learning and mutual dialogue as well as inter-generational dialogue with leaders in the ecumenical and evangelical movement.

What will your days look like?

Well, first, here in Seoul, on Saturday, and Tuesday, we begin the day as GETI participants in communal worship. Then we have morning and afternoon lectures. Later in the afternoon, we meet as seminar groups which consist of 8-9 students and one faculty member. We have  worship led by a particular “confessional”/tradition in the evening to close the days. Tomorrow, Sunday, we will go to various churches in the area to experience our Korean Christian context more concretely.

In Busan, we will participate in the WCC sessions during the mornings and early afternoon, which include Bible Study, morning prayer, morning “plenary” (all-conference assembly), and ecumenical conversations on particular topics. Then, the the late afternoons, we will meet with our GETI seminar groups and have evening prayer as a GETI group again.

Throughout the weeks, we also eat together as GETI and have time for informal sharing of our cultural context and our faith.

Sounds busy!

That’s for sure!

So why did you want to partake in GETI?

Well, not gonna lie, the opportunity to go to Korea (um, for free), piqued my interest. But then, I realized I totally believe in the reasoning behind the ecumenical efforts of the WCC and I appreciate this opportunity of GETI because it seeks to form us as future ecumenical leaders. My heart longs for “us all to be one” (John 17:21). GETI is teaching me about the complexities and challenges of seeking that oneness, but also  about the progress we have made and about our hope for unity in our diversity.

Why did they decide to put on GETI alongside the WCC?

I can’t speak to the specifics of GETI (and I’m too tired to research too much!), but I can speak the world-wide ecumenical movement’s desire to keep the flame alive in younger generations. In the constitution of the WCC,the concern for ecumenical theological education receives a high priority. It is defined as one of the primary purposes and functions of  the WCC to “nurture the growth of an ecumenical consciousness through processes of education and a vision of life in community rooted in each particular cultural context” (WCC constitution par III).  At GETI, this is happening, in a particularly intense way. Our ecumenical consciousness is being raised, and we are sharing our particular cultural contexts.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

  • Friends from around the world (already happening)
  • An expanded heart and mind.
  • An expanded worldview
  • To be transformed by God through the diverse community, through the lectures, through the communal prayer
  • To be able to articulate what I have experienced and relate it to the needs of our church and world.  According to the Joint Working Group between the Catholic Church and the WCC,

All persons who have experienced the transforming power of ecumenical encounters should be encouraged to see themselves as witnesses, and should be prepared to offer testimony to the ways in which their experiences with other Christians have been blessing that have deepened their own spiritual roots.

I will steward the gift. But it will be a long-term process of course 😉

One day in, every single one of these things is ALREADY beginning to occur. Woah. Thanks be to God!

Some teaser pictures:

My lunch partners: Jutta, from Germany and Myoung, from Germany and Korea
My lunch partners: Jutta, from Germany and Myoung, from Germany and Korea
10-26-13 (9)
Namsoon Kim (middle), one of the afternoon lecturers, and professor at Brite Divinity School. We loved her lecture!
10-26-13 (13)
The view from Hashin University where we were today. Woah.

Peace, love, and kimchi,

Blessed for the Journey

(This is Post #3 about my trip to Korea. If you missed Post #1 or Post #2, you can find them here and here.)
I leave tomorrow morning, that is Thursday, the 24th at 7am! I will arrive in Seoul on Friday, the 25th at 3pm, 18 hours later.  I expect to be up for well over 24hrs (eek!) unless a miracle happens and I can sleep on the plane. One can hope 😉 

This post, post #3 of my Korea musings, was half-way finished as a post called “what is GETI?” but it has now transformed itself and “what is GETI?” has been relegated to Post #4. So stay tuned for that! In the meantime, I just had a few night-before-big-trip thoughts to share.

Today, in my class, my fellow students organized a blessing for me as I embark on this journey. The class is called “Religious Life for the 21st Century: Creating Communities of Hope on a Global Scale.” Long title! But a beautiful, hope-filled, challenging, inspiring class. For those of you outside of the Catholic bubble, the term “Religious Life” is not meant generically but is Catholic jargon used to denote vowed life as sisters and brothers in community, i.e., nuns/sisters, brothers, priests who are in orders, etc. My class, like the rest of CTU, is incredibly diverse. We are young, old, male, female, from the U.S, from Bangladesh, China, Korea, Mexico, you name it, (vowed) religious, and lay students (2 of us!).

To have this community pray for me.

To be blessed in Korean, for my trip to Korea.

To be blessed in song.

To have my forehead signed with the cross by each classmate and my professor.

To hear words of encouragement and hope.

To be told “May you find joy in the friends you meet there, like the joy you exhibit with people here.”

To be “welcomed” to Asia.

To be sent from one community of beautiful diversity to another.

To have my hands and my heart held.

These graced moments.

They touched my heart and freed me to leave behind my fear, my to-do list, my anxiety.

Nothing could have made me more ready. Or reminded me it’s okay if I don’t feel “ready.”
Not the 3 hours of packing I did this morning, not my triple-checked lists, not my self pep-talks.

I’m so excited. I’m leaving on a jet plane. At 7am tomorrow morning. I will fly to San Francisco first, which ironically will be the exact same flight that is previously my longest flight I’ve ever taken (4 1/2 hrs to SFO). Then I will embark on my longest flight yet in my life, to my first place outside of North America I will have ever been! My only other experience of international travel was living in Mexico for two months. An international conference for two weeks in Asia will be quite different! And I am so grateful for this opportunity. To expand my horizons, my heart, my relationships.

One of the poignant ponderings from our Religious Life class readings for today was on our relational “web.” I know I don’t make this journey alone. I take my communities with me. I take you with me.  And I will return with magnificent additions to our web, our communities of hope. And that gives me such encouragement.

Thank you for journeying with me. Thanks for being excited with me. Thanks for asking for updates. Thank you for your blessings.

With joy on the journey,

So what is the WCC? And…ecumenism?

(This is post #2 of posts specifically related to my trip to Korea for the WCC. If you missed Post #1, check it out here!)

So I keep saying I’m going to Korea for the World Council of Churches (or WCC for short) but most people I talk to don’t know what that is, or why it exists. I sure didn’t know until I applied for this opportunity! So I thought I would share with anyone who was interested what the WCC is.

What is the WCC?

In their own words:

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, “so that the world may believe.” (John 17:21)

In short, it is a group of churches (some might say, denominations), with all their diverse practices and doctrine, united in prayer and common life, visibly expressing and seeking unity for the sake of the world.  The WCC officially held its first assembly in 1948 in Amsterdam, but it has its roots in the missionary movement of the early 20th century.

It is the broadest and most inclusive expression of ecumenical effort in modern times. The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches.

I see. Coolio. So you’re going to the WCC?

Yep, I’m going to the 10th Assembly of the WCC.

African delegates in procession at the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, New Delhi, India, 1961. (Credit: WCC Photo)
African delegates in procession at the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, New Delhi, India, 1961. (Credit: WCC Photo)

What is an assembly of the WCC?

The assembly is the highest governing body of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and meets every seven years. It is a moment when the fellowship of member churches comes together as a whole in prayer and celebration.

There have been nine previous assemblies.  This year is the 10th assembly and it will take place in Busan, South Korea, from October 30th through November 8th.  This video is not only informative, but will get you pretty pumped about how inspiring the WCC is:

So how did you end up going to something as cool as the WCC?

Haha, great question. Well, I am going not as a delegate or an official observer, but as part of the Graduate Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI),  a program/course for “younger theologians” from around the world. GETI begins before the WCC, on October 25th. I heard about this opportunity to apply for GETI through an email that my school sent out and well… here I am, 2 days away from leaving for Korea!

8th Assembly of the WCC, Harare, Zimbabwe 1998. (Credit: Christ Black/WCC)
8th Assembly of the WCC, Harare, Zimbabwe 1998. (Credit: Christ Black/WCC)

What will you do as GETI participants?

Stay tuned! That deserves its own post!

So you keep saying “ecumenical.” What the heck does ecumenical mean?

Ecumenism comes from the Greek word, oikoumene, which means “the whole inhabited earth.” It has come to be applied to the efforts at healing divisions among Christian traditions for the sake of the world, in response to Christ’s prayer for unity (John 17:21).

It’s like interreligious dialogue, but for Christian traditions. One might say it is inter-denominational efforts at common ground and fellowship.

Does this mean my particular faith tradition doesn’t matter?

Nope.  It matters. Most Christians have a church “home” where they feel most comfortable and where the majority of their theological understandings lie. This is good. The unity that Christian churches seek is not a call for uniformity, but a longing for unity that values the diversity of gifts brought by various Christian traditions. Diversity does not have to be a threat.  But we do simultaneously recognize the limits of that diversity.  Profound divergence can occur and undermine communion. But we have our most perfect expression of this unity in diversity is the Holy Trinity-absolute oneness and distinction of persons.  Woah. Quite an example!

But why is ecumenism important?

Well, in the words of the Decree on Ecumenism  from the Second Vatican Council, division [in the church] “openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature.”  Christ wills that all His people are one, for the life of the world. Our divisions contribute to the world’s pain, instead of offering healing and hope. Ecumenical efforts seek unity, not for its own sake, but for the world’s sake.

Ok, I can get behind this odd word now.

Great! Stay tuned for more info on what GETI is and for updates on my trip.

Thanks for journeying with me in anticipation,  friends!

With increasing excitement,

A Gift I will Steward

(This will be Post #1 of updates and musings specifically related to my trip to Korea for the World Council of Churches).

For months after finding out I was chosen to  go to South Korea for the World Council of Churches (WCC) as part of a program for graduate students in theology or young theologians, the Graduate Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI), I tried very, very hard not to be intimidated by this opportunity, specifically, by my fellow “young theologians.”

But the more I learned about my fellow GETI participants, the more intimidated I became. I felt inadequate, unprepared, and out of place… and we’re not even there yet! Some students are working on PhDs, some already have them, some are decades older than me, some have taken class upon class on ecumenism, some have a plethora of practical experience in ecumenical efforts. You get the picture. I’m a 24-year-old, 2nd-year Master of Divinity student, a degree that while still academic, prepares one for ministry, not necessarily for the field (the competitive battlefield?) of academia.* My experience with ecumenical efforts is solely relational: some of my best friends are Protestant or Orthodox Christians, and I am a Catholic Christian. My lack of professional experience in the field made (makes?) me feel like I have a sign on me that says, “I am not worthy to be here.  You all are better prepared for this than me.”

But then one day it just hit me. My mindset was all wrong.

This isn’t about the fact that a lot of the students are older than me and have had more exposure to ecumenical work- both at the academic and practical levels.

This isn’t about the fact that “young” is defined loosely and that some of my fellow students are 30 and 40-somethings working on PhDs or already with them.

This isn’t about the fact that I feel I was chosen because they needed someone from my demographic: female and Catholic. 

This isn’t about the fact that some of my fellow students are ordained and pastoring churches.

This isn’t about my smallness.

This isn’t about my fear.

This isn’t about me.


This is about you and me, us, the Church, the world.

This is about building up the Body of Christ, finding unity in diversity.

This is about receiving this opportunity as a gift that I will steward.

This is about faithfully accepting this opportunity and giving it the time and energy it deserves… for the sake of the human family.

This is about being gentle with myself, honoring the gifts I bring, and using them to let this gift, this experience, bear fruit for the life of the world.

This is about not getting caught up in my to-do list and my fears and everything else related to this experience, but instead getting caught up in the movement of the Spirit, uniting us as the People of God.

I was so focused on my own smallness that I was missing the huge sign of life and hope that will be unfolding before my very eyes next week, that is already unfolding in the work the WCC behind the scenes or in the interactions we’ve had as GETI online.

So I have resolved…to acknowledge my fear, but to choose to live from a different space, a different mindset. To own who I am without apology and without jockeying in the competitive arena of “who has more to offer.” Instead, I will go with open hands. Open hands to accept the gift of this opportunity, open hands to experience the beauty of Korean culture, open hands to embrace my brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world, open hands to offer and continue to receive the beauty of ecumenism I have known: relationships.

In the weeks to come, as I head off to Korea, I will share more about this trip, including semi-logistical updates (possibly) for those who care, explanatory posts about the WCC, GETI, and what is ecumenism, reflections from things I experience while in Korea, and musings that occur as I unpack the experience of the WCC in Korea. Thanks for journeying with me, friends!

Preparing for the journey,

*I should note, I use this term lightly for two reasons: 1. I don’t mean to offend the field of academia. I’m a fan of academia in general 😉 But there is a lot of acknowledgement within the field about the pressures involved: publishing, tenure, the process of getting a PhD, etc. That’s all I’m referring to. and 2. While this experience is an academic one, among other things, I don’t want to imply that this GETI class is like a competitive battlefield. I don’t know or think that my group of fellow GETI students is particularly competitive. Our first assignment was to give a thorough background of our faith and academic lives, as well as share our interest and experience with ecumenism. Thus, the basis of my fear. I don’t mean to imply anything about the beautiful people from around the world that I have yet to meet. 
Now, please forgive me for belaboring a point that I didn’t want to emphasize! Let’s pretend this never happened.