'Celebration' an Apt Term as Bishop Shamana Launches Cho-un Korean UMC

May 16, 2008

With a traditional greeting in Korean that means, "I am very glad to see you. Grace and peace to you," Bishop Beverly J. Shamana delighted a packed house on Sunday, May 11 at the Chartering Service for Cho-un Korean United Methodist Church in Sacramento. It was Mothers' Day – alluded to several times during the ceremony as the former fellowship was birthed into existence as the first new church in the California-Nevada Annual Conference since 2004.


It was nothing if not joyous. Women in brilliantly colored traditional dress handed out programs, the Cho-un Praise Team led the congregation in spirited song (in both Korean and English), the youth group sang and danced, and the children of the Cho-un Korean Language School offered an ode to mothers and presented the moms present with corsages in celebration of their special day. "Make this church the mother of a thousand souls!" prayed the Rev. Sungho Lee, pastor of Korean UMC of Santa Clara Valley.


And when Bishop Shamana declared "… that Cho-un Korean United Methodist Church of Sacramento is duly constituted and organized for the glory of God, the proclamation of the gospel, and the service of humanity," there was an eruption of riotous applause, punctuated by loud whoops. Like a basketball player after a particularly decisive dunk, the Bishop pumped the air in the universal "Let's hear it!" gesture and the congregation took to its feet. The applause lasted for a very long time.


Cho-un was started in July, 2000 and on some Sundays the pastor's family made up most of the congregation, according to the Rev. Donna Van Maanen, who at the time was pastor of the Citrus Heights UMC where Cho-un meets. She and five members of her church – Lila Fraizer, Barbara Brady, Diane and Audrey Clipp, and the Rev. Vernice Otto, now retired – faithfully attended Cho-un services while its pastor, the Rev. Hyun-Sup Jung, worked tirelessly to build the congregation.


"We didn't understand each other, but we suddenly had Pentecost [on that first Sunday]," Van Maanen told the 300-plus worshipers at the Chartering Service, "and we had Pentecost every Sunday afterward!"


("I love their worship services," says Otto, who still attends, maintaining that a language difference is no barrier to shared worship. Or as current Citrus Heights pastor, the Rev. Shim Habte, put it on Sunday, "In the kingdom of God there is only one church!")


Cho-un began as a result of the Western Jurisdiction Korean Mission, established in 1988 to develop local bodies of worship within the Korean American populations in the Western Jurisdiction and to nurture them into becoming self-supporting, chartered churches. As of last year there were 80 Korean American congregations in the jurisdiction, 15 of them in Cal-Nevada.


"This is a very special day in the life of this congregation and in the life of the California-Nevada Conference," said Bishop Shamana in her sermon. "You are a sign that God has many great and wonderful things – a wonderful ministry – for the people of this church and for this community.


"You have a vision to keep on making disciples of Jesus Christ … to spread the gospel for transformation of the world.


"We think of the vision – that little glimmer of light that began with just a few people who came together and said, ‘Don't you think we need a new Korean UMC in Citrus Heights on Highland Avenue, where people can come to worship Jesus?' – and the seed was planted. And you began to water it with the Spirit of Jesus.


"Sometimes it's been difficult: one step forward, two back – but always with hope, deep belief that you would arrive at this day – because God was leading you. And you had faith and trust in the dream, vision, plan God had given you.


"Now here we are," the Bishop said. "You knew you would get here. You didn't know it would be Mothers' Day, but you knew you would get here, because God was leading you."


Joining Bishop Shamana and Cho-un pastors Hyun-Sup Jung and Hyesung Kang for the celebration were the Rev. Won Kie Kim, Mission Superintendent of the Western Jurisdiction Korean Mission; the Rev. Linda Wiberg, Conference Director of Connectional Ministry and a member of the Western Jurisdictional Korean Mission Council; the Rev. Ted Virts, Conference Superintendent, Delta District; retired pastor and District Superintendent, the Rev. Suk-Chong Yu; KUMC of Santa Clara Valley's the Rev. Lee; and the Rev. Wewoong Kim of Bethel Korean UMC.


Wiberg, who extended her "heartfelt congratulations" to the new church, said it serves as an example of the three general rules of Wesley: "do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God." The partnership between the Conference and the Korean Mission has been a blessing, she said.

View video highlights here.