Worshipping From Memory at Dachau Concentration Camp

Dachau 1 As I wandered through the Dachau Concentration Camp, devastated by the images and memories of what happened seventy years ago, I was reminded of the Orthodox Resurrection Sunday service that took place just days after Dachau was liberated. Fr. Dionysios, a prisoner of Dachau himself wrote this after worshipping in the prayer room at Block 26, as quoted by Douglas Cramer . . .

They aren’t wearing golden vestments. They don’t even have cassocks. No tapers, no service books in their hands. But now they don’t need external, material lights to hymn the joy. The souls of all are aflame, swimming in light.

Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox prisoners at Dachau couldn’t rely on the elements of worship that they used before imprisonment. But those things that they committed to memory before they were imprisoned, the Holy Spirit brought back to remembrance.

This was evidenced by the fact that the priests who did that Resurrection Sunday service, did it largely from memory. Douglas Cramer also quotes Gleb Rahr (also a prisoner at Dachau) on what he remembered from that service,

The Easter Canon, the Easter Sticheras—everything was recited from memory. The Gospel—“In the beginning was the Word”—also from memory.

And finally, the Homily of Saint John Chrysostom—also from memory. A young Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and recited it with such infectious enthusiasm that we shall never forget him as long as we live.

Dachau 2How would we worship if we were in a similar situation? Would we be able to sing the hymns without the words on PowerPoint? Would we remember any Scripture, other than John 3:16? Justin Long, a missionary researcher, recently attended a worship service that was designed to be like a prison service in a restricted country. With his permission, I have posted a portion of his article below . . .

For one thing, we would not have speakers or amplifiers or microphones. So those were unplugged. We would not have PowerPoint, so the computer was shut off. We would not have sheet music or lyrics printed out, so those were put away. We probably would not have our Bibles, so those were closed.

How would you worship – if all you had were the songs and Scriptures you could personally remember?

For about an hour, that’s what we did. Various people would start up a song–maybe only remembering a snatch of it–and it was amazing how the rest of the group picked it up and carried it forward.

Others would pray aloud, just briefly, mostly (in this context) for their people group or for people they knew.

Others would start up a Scripture, and maybe finish it, or someone else would.

This was an amazingly powerful thing to do, and a good reminder of the need to hide God’s word in our heart. What if we did this in our churches on occasion?


Posted in persecution, religious freedom, Worship | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Kim Kyo Shin, Conclusion: Why He Matters Today More Than Ever

Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, Voice of the Martyrs Korea President, concludes this special 8-part series on Kim Kyo Shin, one of the greatest martyrs in Korean Christian history whose voice needs to be heard today more than ever, by Korea and the world.


What Kim Kyo Shin attempted—a Holy Spirit-led transformation of the nation through the personal transformation of its individual citizens according to the word of God—was daring indeed. But the recent beginning of the decline of the Korean church (cf. Hwang, 2012, 23) suggests that the effort may not have been reckless but instead essential. If so, then it may be as relevant and necessary today as it was in Kim Kyo Shin’s own time. Time may be running out on the model favored by some early Korean church leaders where an American form of Christianity was embraced as “a cultural instrument for advanced civilization” (Lee, 2011, 99). Kim Kyo Shin continues to point the way to something more radical: a renewed commitment to rediscover a truly indigenous form of Korean Christianity, one totally faithful to the Bible and to Korean culture, and one capable of being shared with the world, as driven by providence.

If it sounds unrealistic to believe that Korean churches would repent and embrace such an approach, it did to Kim Kyo-Shin as well; but this did not stop him from believing that God would bring it to pass. As he wrote in the first issue of his magazine in 1927:

‘Sungsuh-Chosun’!  You shall go to Koreans who have Korean spirit rather than to so-called established Christians!  Go to countryside, to mountain villages; make it your mission to comfort a woodcutter (Kim, 2012, 214).

 If comforting a woodcutter does not sound like the start of the kind of international Biblical revolution that Kim Kyo Shin advocated, it is only because our understanding of what it takes to make a Christian is shaped more by proselytization and church growth strategies than by the experience of teaching that leads to genuine conversion and personal transformation. For Kim Kyo Shin, such teaching only ever happened in small numbers, and it always happened over time. His own work reflected this patient, intimate approach. As the compiler of his collected works noted, “Subscribers (to Sungsuh-Chosun) numbered 300 at the most and associate members were not over 10–20. At times, he continued Bible study with one audience in his living room for some time. He did this, saying, ‘A true regeneration of Christian occurs once over 3 years, one or two in 5 years, or 3 or less in 10 years’” (Kim, 2012, 178). If it was a strategy that was sand is unusual to Korean, it does not appear to be unusual by New Testament standards.

It was the New Testament that Kim Kyo Shin took as his sole standard, using this as the measure to evaluate the Korean church and the fruit of its labor. He grieved that the Korean church portrayed Christianity “as a path, not to the cross, but to health and material well-being” (Wells, 2001, 168). He quoted Mark 8:32-38 (in which Jesus rebukes Peter for failing to see the necessity of the Cross) and Luke 12:49-53 (in which Jesus warns that his word will divide families and bring fire to the earth) and urged Korean Christians to renounce the world’s ideas of power, along with Western-influenced conceptions of the Christian faith (Wells, 2001, 168).

All of this brings us back to the KPC ordination study guide with which this essay began. The guide asks, “What were the problems of the Non-Church Movement by Gyo Sin Kim?” It answers its own question by saying that the problems were the rejection of the established church, the denial of the church’s authority and ordination, and the refusal of baptism and communion (KPCA Ordination Exam, 2015).

It is not hard to imagine Kim Kyo Shin replying to the examiners that in fact the problem of the Korean church is that tends to regard such things as serious problems while neglecting its divine mandate for national and personal transformation.

In this day in which the decline of the Korean church has begun, it is not hard to imagine that perhaps he may be right.


Works Cited

Hwang, S.C. 2012. A theological analysis of the Non-Church Movement in Korea with a special reference to the formation of its spirituality. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham.

Kim, J.C. 2012. Recollection of Kyo-Shin Kim. BibleKorea.net. Accessed November 30, 2015 at http://www.biblekorea.net/articles/Recollection_of_Kyo-shin_Kim.doc.

KPCA Ordination Exam. 2015. Korean Church History. Accessed December 2, 2015 at http://www.kpcaep.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Korean_Church_History_Study.pdf.

Lee, S.C. 2011. Revisiting the Confucian norms in Korean church growth. International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 1(13): 87-103.

Wells, K.M. 2001. Providence and power: Korean Protestant responses to Japanese imperialism. In Reading Asia: New research in Asian studies, ed. F.H. Huskin and D. van der Meij. London: Routledge Curzon, 154-172.

Posted in Kim Kyo Shin | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Peace is Not Something You Ask For From Others But Something You Give To Them Yourself

What does it mean to promote peace? This week, the Chosun Christian Federation, an organization in North Korea, wrote a letter to South Korean Christians asking them to promote peace by supporting the peace plan of their Young Marshal, Kim Jong Un.

But as Pastor Foley shares, peace is something we first give to others, not something we request that others give us. It does not come from following a certain political leader or ideology, changing regimes, or waging war with military power.

We can promote peace only when we first experience peace ourselves by following the ways of Jesus. Then, in word and deed, we can share the ways of Jesus with others so they can also experience peace.

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

Posted in Preparation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment