The Dream of a Common Language


I recently had the opportunity to cross the green ocean (i.e. our turf field) between our English-speaking congregation (EC), Korean-speaking congregation (KC), and now our Student Ministry Center (SMC) buildings and participate in the KC-sponsored ODPC Band Academy.

ODPC Band Academy is a week-long summer intensive program that teaches both newcomers and veterans alike how to play band instruments, improve their singing, and even arrange music.  All the lessons are administered by studio musicians.  For example, my own instructor Hyunil Lee was recruited from Dallas, Texas as a professional jazz guitarist.  My experience learning under him was most eminently “blue chip” as he joins a cast of similarly talented artists ranging from dance choreographers to performance vocalists – you can see the complete instructor list and bios here.  In a brief interview with program director Yonghak Lee, he mentioned that the objective of ODPC Band Academy is to cultivate the musical arts within the local community.

Among my classmates, I met Joanna Kim who at the tender age of 11 years old is already on her way to becoming a guitar prodigy (move over Jung Sungha!).  Other members included high school sophomore Kevin Park from ODPC’s youth group and college student Stanley Yoon who are also both first-rate electric guitarists. In my conversations with Kevin, we both professed a mutual admiration for John Mayer while Stanley and I debated the virtues of Kiesel guitars. From this program, there is no doubt in my mind that our future is secure in the arena of the musical arts.  In my ensemble class, I was blessed to meet Ji Hyun Min who was visiting from Annandale Presbyterian Church, and Deacon Daniel Hong from ODPC’s Korean congregation.  When I asked Ji Hyun what she thought about this program, she said she had learned much from her vocal instructor but it was her desire for inter-church community that prompted her to join.  Deacon Daniel Hong on the other hand, had just returned from missions in Cuba and decided it was high time to advance his guitar skills; I was privileged to be his practice partner.

Perhaps the most inspirational member of our ensemble team was Mr. Daniel Kim.  Mr. Kim is nearly 70 years old and constituted our oldest member (our youngest was nine years old and one of our drummers on rotation!).  In perfect English, he introduced himself as a budding bass guitarist for his new church plant in McLean, VA.  It’s rare to meet someone like Mr. Kim who immigrated to the U.S. in 1963 at the age of 15 and who not only speaks excellent English but still actively serves in his local church and community.

Our ensemble director Jake Bay probably said it best when he described our team as one big family.  We each fulfilled our roles through the different instruments we played and by practicing and listening to one another, we could perform beautiful music.  This is the basic concept behind ensemble which in French means, “together”.

As the band camp progressed, I was amazed at how the common language of music had the power to unite people regardless of age, background, or place of origin.  This was a moment where everyone put aside all social prejudice, job titles, or church leadership positions to celebrate a collective love for music.  Here, I can’t help but think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his treatise on community “Life Together” when he quotes Psalms 133:1: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (ESV).

Now that we’re entering into a season of small groups, maybe this is a good reminder of what it means to have authentic community except instead of music, we speak the common language of Christ.  In a recent sermon on God’s creative beauty in small groups, Pastor John Cha described an improvisation performance by a jazz band in Chicago and stressed the importance of listening and fundamentals.  By extension, we are also called to improvise in how we love to create a perfect harmony with others – and that’s even if we’re sometimes flat, sharp, or right on key.  Because to once again reference Bonhoeffer, Christ exists not only within ourselves, but also in our small groups and communities.

ODPC Band Academy is an annual summer program sponsored by the Korean-speaking congregation, check out their website for additional details.  Special thanks to ODPC Band Academy Director Yonghak Lee for his collaboration on this article.