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Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Everyday Church" in Hong Kong

While visiting Hong Kong recently, I learned about a remarkable example of flexibility in the LDS Church to better meet local needs. While attending church services in the beautiful multistory red-brick building on Hong Kong island where several wards meet, I learned that there are actually church services every day of the week to meet the needs of the large population of foreign housekeepers, mostly from the Philippines, who have only one day a week off, usually a day other than Sunday. Many of these hard-working Latter-day Saints would almost never be able to attend church were it not for this "every day church" approach in which one unusual ward arranges for sacrament meetings every day of the week to meet the various schedules of the members. I don't know if this is an unusual pilot program or if it has been done in other cities where the demographics justify it, but knowing a little about the strenuous demands on housekeepers in China ("a-yi" is the Mandarin term), I'm very grateful for this flexible approach.

Do any of you have more information about the program?

By the way, I was so happy to attend church in Hong Kong at the beginning of this month, even though I was late after crossing the border from China and missed sacrament meeting. When I introduced myself in priesthood meeting while sitting in the back of the room, someone toward the front jumped up and said, "That's my old high school friend!" It was one of my closest friends from high school who had just moved to Hong Kong, to my surprise. The audience chuckled in approval (I hope) as we ran toward each other, and my wife and I ended up spending much of the day with his wonderful family. How glad I am that we went the extra mile to attend church when we had to make a visit to the Hong Kong area.

Some of my best business travel and tourist travel experiences have been from attending church when possible, including making valuable new friendships, learning important things about an area, or having life-changing encounters with new heroes or unforgettable lessons and sermons. Plus I guess it's a good thing to worship the Lord, now that I think about it. I strongly recommending building that into your itinerary.

Today was an unfortunate exception. I traveled from South Korea to Indonesia. Making it a little more international in flavor were the Chinese and English Ensign magazines I brought along to study (though most of my reading time was dedicated to the English translation of the Chinese classic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms), and while reading, I was listening to a stunningly beautiful performance of The Quran, sung in Arabic of course, that just fascinated me with the rhythms and inflections of the beautiful language (no, I don't know any of it--was just listening because it was available on the audio track of my Indonesian flight and I was curious). But wasn't able to make church services, and don't have an everyday LDS church to attend here in Indonesia where I am tonight (it's evening as I write).

9 comments:

Geoff B said...

I will be going to church in Hong Kong in a few weeks. I did not know they held church other days of the week -- interesting.

ji said...

At Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico during the summer, there is a sacrament meeting every day of the week at 7:00pm. Officiating is a LDS chaplain appointed by the Church's General Young Men Presidency...

Rebekah said...

I have a friend who told me about twice-daily services in Hong Kong on his mission in 2003, so if its a pilot program, its a long-term one.

Glenn E. said...

The "every day" groups started in approximately 1999, while I was serving as a missionary in HK. At first there was just a Saturday group in addition to the regular Sunday meetings, then a Wednesday group, then eventually it was expanded to every day of the week. (I believe it was a decision of the district presidency, although I assume they also obtained approval from Salt Lake.)

The daily meeting groups are (or at least were when I was there) part of a single branch, with the husband of a senior missionary couple serving as branch president. (Most of the branch members were sisters from the Philippines - not many priesthood holders.) The missionary couple thus was blessed to attend church every day of the week! Young missionaries typically administered the sacrament.

I was blessed to serve in the branch for a time, and the members are among the most wonderful, welcoming people I've ever encountered. As Jeff indicates, these sisters would usually get only one day off each week, and would generally spend the entire day together (much of it at the church building), worshiping, sharing meals, attending the frequent branch baptisms, etc. (We were even lucky enough to often have them share some of their delicious dishes with the missionaries.)

Many of these dear sisters had left families in the Philippines, and were hoping for the day when they had saved sufficient funds to move back home for good. As missionaries, we thus had mixed feelings of enjoying their association and fellowshipping but wishing they could return home to husbands and children!

Thanks, Jeff, for bringing back some fond memories!

Anonymous said...

Everyday sacraments? Once again, religion accommodates itself to the structures of the secular world....

I find this post interesting as an example of the decoupling of religion from its cosmos. Bear with me for a moment. Growing up Jewish, I was of course taught about the meaning of the Sabbath. Part of that meaning involves its connection to the Priestly creation story. We do certain things on that day because that day harks back in an unbroken chain through the ages to the day specially set aside by God as part of the original creation of the cosmos. Instead of accommodating spiritual study and worship to the structure of the society, one is supposed to do the opposite, to accommodate the society, if only in this one way and for this one day, to the structure of the cosmos (which of course is not at all the same thing as the human-created world of a capitalist economy). Among other things, this would help ensure that the human-created world would continue to conform in some way to the cosmos itself.

Obviously, all this runs counter to the modern mindset, which doesn't see why one day should be any different from another. (By "modern mindset" I mean the mindset of the Enlightenment, science, capitalism, etc.) That mindset is disconnected not just from the cosmos (by which term I basically mean the universe as it is conceived by, and invested with meanings by, a religion) but also from "nature" as it is understood by science. Note how, in the Jewish cosmos, the Sabbath begins at sundown rather than some clock-time. Sundown is connected to the real world; clock-time is an abstraction we impose on the world for our own convenience. We can make the same distinction between New Year's Day (abstract, artificial) and the Winter Solstice (a genuine cosmic event, not a human invention).

So while there are obvious advantages to holding everyday services (at a set clock-time*), it also seems to me yet another little triumph of modernity over religion. And that's a pity, because one of the very best things religion does is to remind us in concrete ways (through bodily rituals, through the liturgical calendar, etc.) of the importance of things beyond the human.

-- Eveningsun

* Note that the LDS Church does not follow the ancient Jewish practice of conforming its rituals to the ancient cosmos (e.g., like the Jews lighting Sabbath candles at sunset). This is evidence that it is a modern invention and not, as it claims to be, the restoration of an ancient church.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't prove that the restored gospel is a modern invention, it demonstrates the covenants necessary for salvation that needed to be restored and therefore some of the ancient Jewish customs were man made.

Steve

Cameron Hoppe said...

This is an interesting change and it looks like an improvement to me. The LDS church is like the Catholic church in that it is leadership is selected through a seniority system. This gives it a long institutional memory but it means changes also come slowly. Increasing the number and diversity of the members makes it necessary to accommodate a wider range of human needs and obstacles while maintaining the group's identity. Glad to see the LDS church becoming more accommodating. It has a long way to go, but don't we all?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, there's another thing I noticed about this very interesting post. You write that "while reading, I was listening to a stunningly beautiful performance of The Quran, sung in Arabic of course, that just fascinated me with the rhythms and inflections of the beautiful language."

This strikes me as yet another instance of how religious and aesthetic experience (in many ways they're not much different) gets warped by the exigencies of modern life, in this instance by modern life's incessant demands on our time and attention, which too often leaves us doing things like "appreciating" great art while also doing something else (in your case, listening to the singing of the Koran while also reading).

What modern life, with its incessant demands for multitasking, is always taking away from us is the habit of fully immersing ourselves in profound experiences.

-- Eveningsun

mkprr said...

Hey cool, thanks for sharing this. It feels like we are finally getting closer to following Paul's council in Colossians 2:16-17. I always did think he had a good point here.