Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I visited Yeouido, home of the world's largest Christian church.

Yoi Island (Yeouido) is an island in the Han Wikipedia can explain to you.  I visited it because "see the world's largest Christian church" was on my list of things to do before leaving Korea.  While I'm at it, let me refer you to Wikipedia for the answer to any question you may have about the church itself.  All the background is covered more than adequately by the internet; why should I bother to type anything beyond my personal experience, as yet unrecorded?  (I shouldn't.)  So let's get on with it.

Yeouido is home to Yeouido Park, almost all of which is paved.  It's probably Korea's largest parking lot.  It's like Tienanmen Square except smaller and with a lot of bikes instead of history and impressive monuments.

At one end of the park is the "Ecological Forest," which surely must be Korea's most barren "wildlife zone."  The pole next to the pond exists to provide a vantage point for the CCTV camera trained on said pond (1.2m deep), for the purpose of filming drownings or something.  Not pictured is the attraction at the other end of the park, the "grassy field," the exploration of whose mysteries was foregone by yours truly.

Yoido Full Gospel Church holds 26,000 Penties at full capacity, about 1/2 as many people as Yankee Stadium, and is too far from the nearest subway station.  The Church is rich and also owns several other large buildings on the block.

Inside the house that Jesus built.  I was present for the last evening service of the day, so I can't say how crowded the place is at peak times.

Yoido Full Gospel worships Anglo-Saxon Jesus.

I've encountered Yoido Full Gospel before.  Here they are singing praises and distributing literature at a subway exit.  I've also encountered them disseminating the church newsletter on subway trains.

My goal in visiting YFG was to gain some first-hand insight into Korean Protestantism, a subject with considerably interesting history.  I failed.  Turns out YFG doesn't use any English in its sermons, despite having an English ministry and an English website with a schedule of services on it, in English.  I was expecting at least subtitles.  I suppose the chasm between me and the content of the service was valuable in one sense, viz. by eliminating any chance of my grasping the subtle differences between YFG doctrine and the generic American Evangelism I'm familiar with it forced my attention onto what the two traditions of ritual practice have in common, i.e. everything but the language.  The experience I had at YFG was equivalent to sitting in a typical American megachurch being visited by a pastor who speaks only gibberish. Praise/worship music, impassioned rambling, a choir, neon lights, hands in the air, acoustic guitars, self-stimming, microphones, giant crosses, television cameras and projectors:  I've seen this show before.

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