Reno Korean Presbyterian Church
This morning I had the pleasure of attending one of the most beautiful, elegant Christian services that I’ve attended since I started doing this column more than three years ago. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could stop right there and leave all the space beyond that sentence blank? But this is journalism, and I think it was Dorothy Parker who defined journalism as the challenge of filling space. And away we go.
I looked the church up online, but the website is entirely in Korean, so I couldn’t even decipher the time of the service. Fortunately, the phone number was in English, and the service was at 11 a.m.
I was welcomed at the door. I could tell the greeting was sincere, and the young man was actually glad to have me in. I told him who I was and what I do, and before he escorted me into the sanctuary, he got my name so I could be introduced as a guest.
The sanctuary had about 200 well-padded chairs in it. There was a fairly large chancel with a baby blue background, and the walls and ceiling were egg shell white. On the chancel and kind of spreading across the front of the church were musicians and instruments: a piano, keyboard, drummer, guitar, and five singers in black and white vestments. Hanging above were two banners with Korean characters; one held the words, “In Christ everything is possible.” There was the usual screen for flashed lyrics and citations from scripture. There was also a simple, oxblood colored cross to the right, a clear, smoked and white plastic lectern in the center, and a couple of bouquets sprinkled around.
It was a different color palette for a Christian church, and I’m guessing it’s related to the Korean sensitivity. I didn’t even know there was a particular Korean palette, but I recognized the pastel shades from advertisements, of all things. Be that as it may, the sanctuary is beautiful, simple: elegant.
The congregation, too, was well put together, dressed neatly church-formal. There were only a few children in the sanctuary. I think the rest were in Sunday school, since the congregants’ ages would have suggested quite a few school-aged children. There were about 70 people in the sanctuary when the service started, including more people in black and white choir vestments seated to the left.
The music and musicians were excellent. The styles were varied, from traditional hymns to more upbeat, modern-sounding songs. But the piano and harmonies really stood out. Since it was all sung in Korean, I was able to let the music wash over me, enjoying it as someone who enjoys music, its spiritual message mostly lost to me. It was pure feeling. Later in the service, the Gabriel Choir came out, and again, thrilled the congregation with their harmonies and impeccable timing.
The sermon was interpreted in English over headphones. The interpreter had a much more measured voice than minister Rev. Jong-Sik Park, whom I could tell spoke with passion and a familiar, fatherly style. The topic of the sermon was “Our Foremost Investment and Best Income,” which was based on Matthew 6: 19-24, the conflict-of-interest scripture that ends with, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Basically, the reverend said that God and the Bible do not forbid owning, saving or happiness, and that money is not evil on its own. But as soon as gaining money becomes a person’s primary reason for existence, that person is putting his eternal richness at risk.
“Material happiness doesn’t last, and after this, we will have emptiness in our hearts,” he said. “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God.”