Sunday, August 05, 2012

Yoido Full Gospel Church

Early this morning, a number of teachers took the bus in Seoul to the Yoido Full Gospel Church. Located in Daejo-dong on the outskirts of Seoul, this church has grown immensely since its inception in 1958, when it only had five attendees. Today it boasts with a membership of 780,000, making it the world's largest church. We took the elevator to the 4th floor and sat in the foreigner's section. For the 9AM service (one of 5 on Sunday), simultaneous interpretation was offered via headphones in English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, and Indonesian. 
Having arrived early (traffic was quite light this morning), we had time to enjoy the pre-service music. The pews below and in the balconies began filling up; at near capacity, Koreans began filling in any empty seat in the foreigner section as well. The massive (and excellent) choir and orchestra led the music worship, with the lyrics being posted on a large screen in multiple languages. Two other large screens displayed different areas of the church, zooming in on sections and worshippers. Several times our section was featured as well. Talk about having to be on your best behavior!

After the sermon (translated through the headphones), a massive Communion was offered to the entire church. A large assembly of white-robed men passed out the tray duet containing crouton-sized bread pieces and another tray containing individual wine cups. Passed from person to person for several rows, the distribution went rather efficiently. After some more hymns (even some we recognized) and some lively prayers (many worshippers and the head pastor were quite charismatic and displayed Pentecostal-style actions), the service was over and we promptly followed the crowd out of the church and waited for our bus to come.  

The Yoido Full Gospel Church has set up 370 domestic churches, nearly reaching its goal of 500. Additional missions are being undertaken in North Korea. Several prayers were related to the people of North Korea and a sincere desire for reunification.

This massive church service was definitely an experience unlike any I had experienced. Next week I'll try out a Lutheran church.

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