Hong Kong — 2016

Greetings from Hong Kong, where the second of the East Asian Liturgical Conferences has now begun. The first day had us being welcomed by the Principal of Ming Hua Theological College, Gareth Jones, before he had to leave for Australia, and starting with an opening reception and Holy Eucharist. We were honoured to have Bishop Andrew Chan, the bishop of West Kowloon, as presider and preacher. Many thanks to him, for adding this to his busy schedule, and for preaching about ‘living liturgically’ far beyond the Sunday morning obligations! The first night also had a presentation by yours truly, dinner on the “basketball court”, and the presentation of John Kater. More to come!!

Belated reporting from the East Asian Liturgical Conference in Hong Kong…on Wednesday November 9, we had a very full day that included provincial reports and updates on prayer book revision from Hong Kong, Seoul, the Philippines, and Japan. The reports were extensive, what follows are some of the highlights:
The Hong Kong Province presented a long list of new liturgies, including new Advent books, a marriage rite for a mixed marriage, and expansion of the funeral service for children, for deaths through suicide, and potentially for non-christian catechumens. The ordination service will be inclusive of family and friends, and new eucharistic prayers are being written. Particularly interesting was the hope of inclusion of an early Syriac EP which might reflect and remind of the earliest Christian presence in China.Revising the sanctoral cycle to include more local saints, and a moveable sanctoral based on the lunar cycle were also presented. The new additions in booklet form are the result of experimentation in two local parishes, which after a review of the standardized prayer book attempts in earlier decades, seems to be a better vehicle for sharing the new liturgies. There is hope for a new prayer book in 2019, but in the meantime education (particularly through Ming Hua) to raise up lay leadership is a priority. Some of the other working projects include a hymnal that is more reflective of Anglican theology, initiation rites based on Toronto 1991 IALC priorities. (with thanks to Chun-wai Lam)
For the Korean Anglican Church, the 2004 prayer book is being corrected (a rushed presentation resulted in many typos and errors) as well as expansions where theology and ritual do not line up. One rite of focus is the funeral rite, especially the reality of cremation. Particularly interesting is the manifestation of the church and civic combining in that the funeral homes are generally attached to the hospital where many people die, and crematoria are generally owned by the city, so rites need to adapt to this situation, plus a better alignment with cultural rituals. The preparations for a new prayer book (targeted for 2020) has resulted in a restructuring of the committee, and analyzing global practices of emergent/missional church practices (such as Fresh Expressions, Emerging Church, Ancient/Future), and the localization of globalization – in many ways the opposite of inculturation. Some of the particular goals are to include more lay people in the process of evaluating and adapting liturgies, to continue the work on funeral rites, to reshape the daily offices, and to develop a broader education in liturgical theology. Issues of translation and the ecumenical hopes for that were also discussed. The arrival of a 2015 hymnal has broadened the ecumenical and cultural resources for congregational music. A particularly interesting issue was the big change the “prayer App” has for shaping daily prayer and the calendar – the ‘church’ always with each Christian! (thanks to Nak-Hyon Joo)
The Church in the Philippines had no provincial report as the committee is in transition, but we heard of the problems in trying to fix typos in the 2001 prayer book. Particularly in this province there is a need for both hymnals and prayer books to be published in simpler pew editions so that they can be more readily available. As with other provinces, the Philippines is reconsidering the sanctoral cycle with hopes to add more local saints not currently in the official books. Funeral were also at the heart of writing prayers and adapting the funeral rites when bodies cannot be brought to the church, as well as how funerals in particular fit with local cultural practices. Probably the largest issue is the work of translation. With so many different languages and cultures, the question was whether a single prayer book for the Philippines is possible. Perhaps the solution is to have an outline or basic structure of the essential (immutable) elements of liturgy with a secondary list of suggestions for the elements that should change from place to place. (thanks to Tomas Madella)
The Anglican Church of Japan has been busy with biblical translations and lectionary issues (the two are directly related because different translations have different versification which affects lectionary pericopes. In addition, a new format of initiation places communion before confirmation (as of June 2016), with a wonderful program of catechesis for first communion presented at the meeting. Part of the result of Anglicanism formed from four different missionary endeavors is a difference of opinion about reserved sacrament which impacts lay led and diaconally led liturgies, a growing reality for several communities. The 2014 prayer book has many helpful updates, but there are still challenges, such as needing prayers and rites for specific events (such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami), and more contemporary language and imagery for marriage in particular. There are 6 particular foci as the new prayer book revision begins:, to take into consideration the 5 marks of mission; to expand lay-led liturgies; to develop a more coherent initiation theology; to respond to contemporary issues, to recognize the ecumenical reality where Christians are a small minority (here especially RC, Lutheran, Anglican), and lastly to take into consideration the Asian perspective (prayers and rites not just for Japan but for all Asian Anglicans) (with thanks to Shintaro Ichihara)
Each provincial presentation (and prayer book update) was followed by an extended and rich conversation on Wednesday, interrupted by a wonderful lunch (with the unsettling news of the US election running on the restaurant TVs). In the evening, the last of the public lectures was presented by Phillip Tovey of the UK. Each of the three main addresses (Larson-Miller, Kater, and Tovey) will be posted on the IALC website as soon as the new site is up and running. Photos show meetings and presentation on this day of the conference.

The third and final report covers the remaining sessions (Thursday and Friday mornings) were spent on IALC issues directly. On Thursday morning, after celebrating the Holy Eucharist with the clergy of the diocese of Hong Kong, followed by breakfast at the cathedral, the conference met again. After a brief review of the history of IALC and the recent changes to meeting patterns (and therefore changes to the very structure and face of IALC), the East Asian Liturgical leaders traced their history that led up to this conference. Beginning with conversations in Auckland in 2009, where the idea was suggested that “if we Asians can get together, it could be of great benefit to us in individual provinces and in shared wisdom”, the conference itself and plans for the future included conversations about adding missing voices (Taiwan to start), and shaping an East Asian network (gathering autonomously from IALC but still linked internationally) were discussed. The present conference was reviewed financially (made feasible because of the support by IALC concretized by the participation of the chair of IALC which allowed local fundraising to be more effective). The 125th anniversary of Seoul Cathedral supported the first gathering there, and Ming Hua and the Cathedral and Hong Kong Diocese supported the second gathering. The hopes for the fruits of this conference included: overcoming visa issues for participants from different countries; Christian education in all the provinces (specifically liturgical catechesis); collaboration between the provinces (such as the work on a shared eucharistic prayer); a clear way to offer advice to liturgical commissions; the support for English as the working (and common) language; developing relationships with the Council of churches in Asia; and praying for one another (developing the prayer list).
Regarding the relationship and contributions of the regional IALC gatherings to the larger IALC network: there were suggestions of better communication by assigning a contact person for each “region” as part of a communication chain (and figuring out who was actually the right person in each region with whom to communicate); the sharing of training and training tools; the need for international breadth of scholarship being shared (and support for the continuing of the two “branches” of IALC participants: scholars and diocesan leaders). In addition, there was a request for more respect of multiple languages (time for translations as well as a plea to English speakers to slow down); shared strategies for fundraising; provincial financial support (and episcopal support); and news of other prayer book conversations.
Friday morning concluded with a chance to hear all the voices of participants and what was important for them. Part of the desire (and challenge) is to articulate what is truly Asian liturgical inculturation in each province, and with a conversation on the important shift in liturgical theology to speaking of liturgy not just as something we do, but a space in which God acts on the participants in liturgy, “what does it mean to be formed by liturgy in Asia?” remains an important question. The combination of “private conversations” (conference participants) and public lectures was applauded, and suggestions of future sites leaned toward Seoul. From the Japanese perspective, all opportunity for catechesis is helpful (doesn’t even have to be a specific “themed” conference), but before deciding on the next topics, some time of reflection is needed, and learnings need to be communicated to clergy at home. Perhaps professional translators would be helpful, an encouragement to laity to join in, and financial support from wealthier provinces to subsidize the poorer provinces.
Our working sessions on Thursday and Friday mornings were interrupted in a glorious way by a field trip: first to Stanley where we met with members of a “church plant” in a kindergarten, itself located in a subsidized housing development; and after a wonderful lunch a trip to Victoria Peak for the glorious view over Hong Kong, followed by a ride on the Star Ferry over to Kowloon and one more extended, rich, glorious dinner with Bp. Andrew Chan. With many, many thanks to Nak-Hyon Joo and his team for a successful conference in Seoul, and to Chun-wai Lam and his team for a second successful conference in Hong Kong. Here endeth the report.