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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, December 10, 2009
“I love preaching”
By Saranac Hale Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND Through the opaqueness of a second language, Charlie Yang’s message is clear. Maybe even clearer because of it.
Preaching is more than sharing words, said the South Korea native who recently moved to Voorheesville from his station in Vermont to lead the Methodist church here. “They experience my sermons,” he said of the English-speaking congregation.
His technical command of the language doesn’t carry the nuance he’s able to convey in Korean, he said. But, he recounted what a congregant had told him years ago. “Your English is quite different, but it’s not always a minus… it makes us concentrate more,” she told him.
Having been ordained in Korea after studying theology there, Yang came to the United States to pursue a Ph.D., attending Southern Methodist University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Boston seminary. He briefly considered staying in academia, but, he said, “My heart is in preaching… I love preaching.”
It is an avenue that requires communicating with more than just language, he said, remembering a sermon for which he received high marks from a professor, but little response from his congregation in Korea. Academically, it was solid, but it had no relevancy, he concluded.
Each sermon he writes, Yang said, he bases on two principals: first, it is biblically grounded, and, second, he makes the verse relevant to his parishioners. The Bible might give a wonderful message, he explained, but if it isn’t made relevant and accessible to people, it fails.
Yang begins writing his sermon on Sunday afternoon for the following week, he said, and spends about one hour writing for each minute of delivery a 20 minute sermon takes 20 or 25 hours to write.
Preaching in a different language is a challenge that he welcomes, but admits that it is “difficult to deliver the delicate shades of words, meaning.”
Born to a farm family in the countryside of South Korea, Yang was one of six children, he said.
“My family was the only Christian family,” he said, guessing there were about 100 households in the rural community.
It wasn’t always that way, though. His older brother, by 13 years, went to Christian mission school and was encouraged by his chaplain to go to church.
“My father tried to stop him,” Yang said, explaining, “People thought it was against Confucianism. My brother was determined to go to church.”
Eventually, his father came to Christianity and as it ended up, Yang said, “He was quite devoted.”
Five of his six brothers are preachers and the other is a carpenter Yang laughed when he pointed out that Jesus was a carpenter.
He described his environment growing up as a plural religious society. “I was surrounded by Buddhism, Shamanism, even atheists,” he said. “We were religiously different, but still friends.”
In high school, Yang decided to pursue religion, he said, and attended seminary after graduating. He’s been in the United States for several years, having gone to school and then led a church in Vermont for seven years.
“Language is a product of a culture,” he said, adding that the Inuits have more than 100 words for snow.
“Americans are more head oriented; Koreans are more heart oriented,” he smiled, holding two fingers to his temple and a palm to his chest.
So his sermons need to be logical, he said, “That is my frame,” but the content is for the heart.