The Chung Dong Methodist Church of Seoul, South Korea, came to First UMC Lancaster bearing generous gifts in song, sermon and sculpture on Sunday, Oct. 23. Yet, their generosity seemed surpassed only by their gratitude for the gift they received over 130 years ago. That’s when Methodist missionary the Rev. Henry G. Appenzeller (1858–1902) left his beloved First Church to bring Christianity to Korea.
After studying at Lancaster’s Franklin & Marshall College and then Drew University Theological School, Appenzeller was inspired to journey to Korea in 1885 with his new wife, Ella, and four other missionaries to convert the resistant pagan culture to Protestant Christianity and help establish democracy, modernization and independence there. He translated the Bible into Korean and established a school, medical missions and several Methodist churches, including Chung Dong (also spelled Chong Dong), where he served as pastor. Today, there are over 5,200 churches and 1.4 million members in the Korean Methodist Church.
Pastors of the thriving Chung Dong Church’s Korean and English-speaking congregations both came to preach at First UMC. They brought the church’s 60-member Sitos Choir, which days before had performed in concert at Drew, offering a special composition, “Sitos: Prayer of Appenzeller.” They also brought and presented a luminous sculpture of Appenzeller cast in bronze and Korean granite, which now hangs in First UMC’s Appenzeller Chapel, along with a bronze cross gifted to the chapel in 2010.
“Henry Appenzeller became a Methodist in your church,” said the Rev. Ki Sung Song, Chung Dong’s senior pastor, in his interpreted sermon, “and you sent us the greatest treasure to bring us Christianity and build our church.” Extoling Appenzeller’s “pioneering missionary spirit,” he recalled how the founder, although ill, returned to his work in Korea after a brief hiatus in Philadelphia and soon died during a ship accident while trying to save a Korean girl’s life. “We remember his holy life and sacrificial spirit.”