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Bridging Boundaries - Issue #131

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Oakland Korean United Methodist Church is a historical church that has served the Korean American community in northern California for nearly one hundred years. Throughout its long history, the church has experienced waves of change as new Korean immigrants who spoke little English and second generation families who spoke little Korean found a home in this congregation. Their common culture and traditions have been essential in shaping the identity of this congregation.

Finding itself in the midst of changing demographics, the church is building upon its racial and ethnic heritage and reaching out in ministry to a community that is increasingly diverse. The first step in moving beyond their traditional ethnic boundaries was to transform their Korean-centered Sunday School into a multi-cultural and multi-racial ministry. They have been particularly intentional about inviting Chinese American children and youth, as well as providing a Sunday School class for Chinese speaking adults. Through participation in an Oakland celebration of Mandarin and Cantonese music, the church is forming new relationships in the greater Chinese American community in northern California.

For many racial-ethnic communities, the church has been instrumental in passing history and culture from one generation to another. Often as an unintended result of this focus, families of mixed heritage experience difficulty in finding a congregational home. Oakland Korean UMC has been intentional about reaching out to couples in which one spouse is from one racial-ethnic group and the other spouse from another.

Oakland Korean UMC is proud of its heritage, and is finding new ways to offer the Gospel to those in their multi-cultural and multi-racial community.

Questions for Discussion

  • How is your congregation celebrating its heritage while also reaching out to those new to your community?

  • Would a family of mixed ethnicity find a place of welcome in your congregation? What unintentional messages does the congregation send that might discourage participation?

David Kwangki Kim is Director of Korean, Asian American and Pacific Islander Ministries at the Discipleship Ministries. He can be reached at [email protected].

In 2007 church leaders throughout The United Methodist Church in the U.S. were invited to identify churches that demonstrated the vision of discipleship described in the twelfth chapter of Romans. Over 200 churches were surveyed or visited. Issue #131. © 2012 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this page for use in United Methodist congregations.

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