Churches seek to heal ethnic rift Uniting: Clergyman's planned Thanksgiving service for blacks and Korean-Americans is one example of how county clergy are helping two groups meet each other halfway.

November 24, 1996|By Katherine Marks | Katherine Marks,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

An article in Sunday's Howard County edition of The Sun gave inaccurate information about a Thanksgiving unity service. The pastor organizing the service is the Rev. John Wright of the First Baptist Church of Guilford. A trip to Korea mentioned in the article was organized by the Council of Korean Churches in Maryland.

In the same article, lay pastor David Han's name was misspelled. A quote attributed to Han about a town meeting in Baltimore should have read, "It was an effort toward working together positively. I was glad the minister came and prayed for us and sent us home."

The Sun regrets the errors.

Groups of Howard County blacks and Korean-Americans will worship together on Thanksgiving in an effort to ease tensions between the groups.


A growing number of local clergy feel the two communities are at odds in the county, which prides itself on cultural diversity.

The Rev. Frank Reed of First Baptist Church of Guilford on Oakland Mills Road, will hold an open service for his congregation, which is predominantly black, and members of the Korean-American community in Howard County. Services will begin at 10 a.m. and will be followed by lunch at the church.

Reed was one of 25 black and Korean-American ministers and community leaders from Howard and Baltimore who traveled to South Korea over the summer to visit churches and learn about that country's history.

The trip was organized by the Council of Korean Churches in Howard County. Organizers hoped to soften stereotypes about Koreans and promote learning between the two groups. Church leaders say stereotypes exist because the two groups know little about each other.

And they say misunderstandings can be aggravated because Korean-Americans and blacks often compete for business.

Reed said he enjoyed the Korea trip and learned from the experience. The Koreans' dedication to family and education could provide a valuable example for all Americans, he said.

Since the trip, Baltimore-area Korean-American and black pastors have held monthly meetings to organize more joint events among churches, said David Hun, a lay pastor at Korean American Church of Philippi on Red Branch Road near Columbia.

Last month, Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church on St. John's Lane in Ellicott City held a worship service for blacks and Korean-Americans that was attended by almost 400 people.

Reed cautioned that many problems in Howard County -- poverty, unemployment and ethnic divisions -- were not openly discussed. "There is still a lot of segregation and a lot of work to be done," he said.

Last month in Baltimore, a televised town meeting at Bethel AME Church addressed relations between blacks and Korean-Americans in the Baltimore area. Three of five panelists were on the trip to South Korea.

The Rev. Jonathan Song, pastor at Church of Philippi, said that the hourlong meeting was intense and that more than a few "raw" remarks were exchanged. "I found the tension existing was more profound than I realized," said Song, who was a panelist.

Song said he believes such meetings help establish strong bonds between community leaders. He said the tension at the meeting made the communities resolve to work together.

Another panelist, Jay Park, a Korean-American who owns a liquor store on Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore, said that he learned from the meeting that many blacks know little about Korean-Americans.

"All they see is the Korean-American has the store on the corner, and they're trying to make money off them," Park said.

Park said that the audience at the town meeting was hostile but that he thinks churches are helping to open the communities.

Park said that churches would have to be the leaders in easing the communities' conflicts. He said that the trip to South Korea and town meetings are important steps in that direction.

Other panelists also said that churches should be leaders in establishing communication between the two groups. "Churches play not only a religious role, but societal, community and political roles as well," Hun said.

The Baltimore meeting wasn't long enough to hash out differences between the two groups, but it ended before the sharp divisions could damage any gains that had been made, he said.

"The minister came and prayed for us and sent us home before we started killing each other," Hun said.

Pub Date: 11/24/96

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