Two Korean United Methodist clergy came together to record free hymns and special music for use during the Lenten season and on Easter Sunday.
The Revs. Yohan Go and Juhee Lee of the New England Conference worked with musicians to record 47 songs and make them available on Google Drive for any church that needs music to use freely.
All of those songs are from United Methodist hymnals, so any church with a CCLI license can use them for its online worship without worrying about copyright.
In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, most churches halted in-person worship and replaced it with online services.
Unlike churches that may have music ministers on staff, smaller churches often had difficulty in preparing and choosing music for their online worship service.
While there is a lot of music on YouTube, there are legal limits to the use of music for worship. In some cases, use of music is limited by region, even if the music source was purchased by the church, and this has led to some churches limiting their music options due to concerns about legal disputes.
The two Rhode Island churches that Go and Lee serve — Zion Korean United Methodist Church in Warwick and Haven United Methodist Church in East Providence, respectively — were familiar with the difficulties when they prepared the music for their online worship services.
The Zion church has been participating in a ministry called the Creative Callings Project, which is connected to Boston University School of Theology. In January 2018, the school began a $1.5 million, five-year grant to create an innovation hub to foster creative vocational reflection in congregations. And the project has helped energize churches that seek new vocations and pursue meaningful lives through creative ministries for change. Zion was one of the grant recipients.
Go did not initially plan on a music recording ministry.
“For the Creative Callings Project, we designed and set up a ‘Music School for Everyone’ to provide low-income children an opportunity to learn a musical instrument for free,” he said. “We wanted to teach them to play instruments so they can play songs together, and eventually help them to experience church as a welcoming community.”
However, in the face of a deadly pandemic, the project changed his ministry direction.
“As in-person education was also restricted, and even the opportunity to gather was deprived, I thought about how we could serve the community differently,” he said. “Then I decided to challenge and alter the project to help small churches worship online with a music project.”
Go and Lee began recording music videos and sharing them with their community and Seacoast District local churches in the New England Conference that needed music for their online worship services.
The music videos were recorded with the help of three violinists (Lee, Eunsil Kim and Christine Song), a clarinetist (Cheongmoo Kang), a pianist (Da Eun Ryu) and an organist (Beverly Rathbun).
Their ministry has spread beyond the surrounding churches to the wider district and conference. The Rev. David Calhoun, Seacoast District superintendent, said his district has been very supportive of the musical school that Lee started at Haven United Methodist Church.
“The Revs. Yohan Go and Juhee Lee are very gifted musicians and this is not the first time they have shared their gifts with the district, conference and beyond,” he said. “They truly embrace John Wesley’s philosophy: ‘The world is my parish.’ I am reminded of the Bible passage, ‘The gifts they give are … for building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).’
“I believe that God has blessed Yohan and Juhee and called them into this important ministry. They in turn are sharing their abundance with others.”
“These have been challenging days for our clergy and congregations, and helping each other through sharing knowledge, talent and resources is part of our United Methodist DNA. The connection is vital, and I think the isolation of COVID-19 is making that more evident than ever,” DiCocco said.
The Association of Korean American United Methodists also welcomed the music videos and plans to distribute them to all members of the Korean community.
“In the era of virtual worship, many churches are struggling, and I am very grateful for worship materials that can be used for the Lenten season and on Easter,” said the Rev. Jae Lew, association president. “When things are difficult, this music ministry may empower and comfort each one of us everywhere. The heart of using God's gifts in difficult times is precious and priceless.”
The Rev. Paul H. Chang, executive director of the Korean Ministry Plan, said with more materials needed for online worship, he’s grateful that the pastors have shared their videos.
“We hope that this will be the beginning of an accumulation of various worship ‘content’ among us (to) help each other's ministry. We (at the Korean Ministry Plan) also will work hard to discover and develop materials for worship.”
Joyce Young-Eun Kang, whose husband, the Rev. SeungRi Victor Han, serves Houlton and Hodgdon United Methodist churches in Maine, said she appreciated the music videos.
“You don't know how grateful we are for letting a rural church like us sing through this high-quality music,” she said. “You don’t know how much the members of the church like and rejoice these videos.”
Kim is director of Korean and Asian news at United Methodist Communications. Contact him at 615-742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.
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