Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hana Church, Buena Park

"Reverend Anderson?" A woman approached me from among dozens of people at the entrance of Hana Church in Buena Park, CA. Perhaps she recognized me because she was told I was tall, but more likely it was because I was the only Caucasian man in the building. She was part of the church staff and had been told by the pastor that Mindy and I would be attending the 11:30 am Korean language service.

I had met Pastor Joshua Park last June at the graduation of both of our daughters from Knox College. At the time I told him about our church visiting project in the upcoming year, and he invited us to come to his church, an ideal place for Church #2 in ESL Church Month.

One of the best essays I ever read about worship (by Dale Burke while he was pastor at Fullerton Evangelical Free Church), was about worship languages. At the time there was controversy in his congregation about worship: hymns vs. choruses. He argued that people prefer to worship in the "language" they used when they first came to Christ. Again, his argument was really about musical worship.
 
But Hana Church is a place where the congregation must deal with both the issues of worship languages and, you know, language languages. Therefore, they have three services with three different orders of worship. The 9:30 service is in Korean with traditional worship, the 11:30 service is also in Korean but with a contemporary worship style, and the 1:30 pm service is in English with a contemporary worship style (and a few non-Korean attendees).
 
Pastor Park usually preaches in all three services (the Sunday we attended a prospective new staff member preached the English language service) using the same text and structure. But in the traditional service he uses illustrations that relate better to the older congregation with little in the way of American pop culture. In the 11:30 service he uses different illustrations and throws in the occasional English word or phrase (we heard "Anaheim Stadium" and "Mars Hill"). And the English language sermon will use wholly different illustrations than the first service.

Mindy correctly guessed that the sermon was from the book of Hebrews which was confirmed when Pastor Park quoted in English, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" from chapter twelve. Though we couldn't understand what was being said, the congregation certainly seemed to be tracking, chuckling on occasion and occasionally either reading along with the text or responding in some liturgical format that was lost on us. 
If we had known the first service was so different, we would have attended it as well. We arrived as that congregation was departing, and it certainly was an older, more formally dressed crowd compared to the later services. As people left, they picked up treats in a tented booth outside the building.

The second service is the largest service of the day (the first is a little smaller and the English language service substantially smaller, which Rev. Park attributed to a recent church plant, to which the congregation sent out a number of families).

Three different worship teams serve the three services. The worship team in the second service had 22 members including two keyboard players, a guitarist, a drummer and singers. I didn't recognize any of the songs until I heard the tune to "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand". Mindy and I couldn't sing along, but we could clap.

The second service is also time when the children's Sunday School classes and youth group meet, along with the one service that offers a nursery. I talked with one of the youth group leaders who told me that they use English fairly exclusively in their meetings, though almost all of their students are Korean (they do have one student of Indian descent).

We met with Rev. Park after the final service. He told us he had immigrated to the United States when he was 14 years old. He said it takes work to maintain both Korean and English language skills. He launched Hana Church (Hana means "one") as a store front church in a strip mall back in 1997, but he said it began as a Bible study at his parents' home. In 2004 they bought a former roller rink in order to convert it for use as a church. Hana Church has no denominational affiliation but defines itself as evangelical, maintaining ties with Bethel Korean Church in Irvine, which supported the launch of Hana Church financially and spiritually.

I asked Pastor Park (admittedly in the capacity of devil's advocate) how he reconciled Paul's call for a church that was "neither Jew nor Greek" with an almost exclusively Korean congregation (there is occasionally a little more diversity in the English language service). Rev. Park responded that the ministry responded in a utilitarian manner to people's needs. There are people that speak only Korean, and the church serves that need. Then there are people who prefer Korean. The English language service helps the church continue to reach second and third generation Koreans who prefer or only know English, while maintaining a Korean cultural identity.

The church's ministry statement says their goal is to be a multi-generational and multi-cultural church. To that end, they are starting an Spanish language Bible study to reach out to the neighborhood, which is largely Hispanic.

Statistics:
Service length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Sermon length: 51 minutes
Visitor treatment: People were quite friendly. Since we'd met previously, Pastor Park introduced me in the service as a graduate of the world's finest seminary (we both attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Our rough count: 200 people
Probable usher's count: (if youth and Sunday School was included) 260
Snacks: Served after every service, traditional Korean fare after the first service and pastries and hot dogs after the second and third service. There also is a coffee bar with an assortment of drinks and snacks for sale.

Songs: You may find the names of songs included in the order of service found below. You may not. I have no idea what it says.

Distance traveled to church: 478 miles
Total California miles: 4544 miles 

-- Dean