Karen Ann sings End of May, a favored song mentioned by a few of my oral English students. As is customary at the beginning of each semester, in the student profile provided at the beginning of the term, is included a mention of their favorite English song. I would then locate the lyrics and use them as a teaching tool to further the depth of their language comprehension and the fluency in their speaking.
End of May has come, the end of spring, and now a dry sweat in a scorching summer. China is already in the scourge of summer, expected to last until late September with no relief in sight, according to our meteorologist.
May was the month that a dear institution I related to for most of my conscious life, the United Methodist Church, concluded its quadrennial session in Florida. I had since forsaken membership of the institution, not out of emotional despair or intellectual disdain, but simply getting tired of organized irrelevance.
The much quoted Lutheran reformer Dietrich Bonheoffer who bucked the German citadels that saw fit to align themselves with the swastika, or, at least, be uncritical of the insidious Nazi occupation of the German soul, paid dearly for his involvement in the attempted assassination of Herr Hitler. He wrote: "The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church.exist[s] for others."
Jesus was the paradigm for "man for others" (“man” = “human” in today’s lingo) and the whole structure of Christendom was for this man’s disciples to follow in his footsteps, in the manner appropriate in their own time and space.
We left the Roman Catholic communion a long time ago so we will not delve too much on Benedict’s predicament in the Vatican, now that his butler turns out to have some rather incriminating documents in his possession. Suffice it to say that his critique on the sisters of mercy in his domain being "humans for others" in family planning are criticized for not explicitly condemning the use of contraceptives!
I will stick to my own recent grounds. The UMC General Conference (GC2012, to the technocrats) once more saw homophobia reign, a bellwether sign that the institution trails the evolutionary path of progressive inclusiveness in society.
Only 53 percent of those in attendance would extend unconditional grace as foundational to church membership. The institutional captivity of the UMC stems from the long shadows of U.S. Midwest missionaries who waylaid the inroads of modernism in the mission field (Asbury and Wheaton Colleges were started to stem evolutionary thinking in academe) and left faithful families of local oligarchs who continue mid-19th century teachings. Heartless science was left to define divine saeculum (the created order), ripe for ekklesias (household of YHWH) taking, if I may be allowed these archaic metaphors.
The Immanuel United Methodist Church, with its Caucasian, Pacific Islander, Korean, Chinese and Filipino communicants gathered at Koblerville, was the reason for my moving to Saipan more than a decade ago. I was promised minimal interference from a heavily episcopal structure whose basic decision-making loci is Pasadena, SoCal. We will just say that the arrangement did not work well. A parting of ways was mutually agreed upon and though Sarang hae still echoes from my lips on occasion, in memory of the generous Hanggul Saram at Kobler, the congregation that prides itself as practicing the ethos of open minds, open hearts, and open doors, is susceptible to the charge of fraud and false advertising.
What I did carry out from the tradition, aside from a radically redefined articulation of the Christian message, is neither theology nor ontology but epistemology (pardon the use of ancient words)-methods. I became methodical, at heart, save that my quest is no longer in being a "follower of the way" as it is a pedagogue in the art and science of being "human for others." There is a sense in which I always understood that to be my vocation, but we were once equally guilty in being too preoccupied in polishing the silver when we might have been more focused on the meal!
We cater to a particular menu in the classroom. We wrote our own syllabi, a furlong distant from the university stated aim of preparing students to pass standard tests, inviting students to meet their images of themselves while learning the intricacies of a communication tool called "English." Through the discipline of learning the language that originated in the British Isles, we invite our students to describe their objective experience of their own lives, express the feelings and articulate their thoughts, and take on the task of making choices in a culture accustomed to relying mostly in the deterministic stoicism presented by external causes and the longed for chance of good fortune.
In the process, somehow their inherited identity and vocation is affirmed, and in some cases, a few even get around to meet the depth, height, breadth and greatness of their own personal existence.
My former Saipan religious colleagues, the last I checked, now meet in CK. Wonder what “method” of humanness they are up to these days.
It is the end of May.