A Rainy Morning at Church
Like many of our experiences here in Thailand, attending Karen church was both deeply familiar and foreign. We could tell that Western influence runs deep in Karen Christian culture.
Anyone who has attended an evangelical church in America would be familiar with the basic elements of the service.
Brief history lesson: the first western Christian influence with the Karen people occurred in the early 19th century. American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson baptized the first Karen convert, Ko Tha Byu, in 1828. Christianity spread rapidly. By the 20th century, over 800 Karen churches sprouted up across Burma and Thailand. (Eugene Myers Harrison)
Back to 2016.
Many aspects of the Karen church service in Noh Bo were very familiar. Anyone who has attended an evangelical church in America would be familiar with the basic elements of the service: singing, praying, offering, sermon. The beginning of the service began with contemporary worship music that was played by a praise and worship band. Many prayers were offered as well as monetary offerings received. The youths in the congregation sang several songs and there were several hymns/songs sung by the entire congregation. As expected there was also a sermon. Besides the language barrier, the biggest difference from a standard evangelical church service was the gender separation. Men sat on one side, women sat on the other.
The most interesting music tidbit was when the kids got up to perform a few songs. Check out the recording.
Sounds very western-influenced at first listen. Some similarities to Appalachian shape note singing, which is a very fascinating art still practiced in many churches in the western world.
As we continue to visit Noh Bo, we will be researching these connections more.
By Rev. G. Winfred Henrvey; Chancy R. Barn (The Story Of Baptist Missions In Foreign Lands.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Adoniram Judson Biography.” Adoniram Judson Biography. Accessed May 26, 2016. http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/judson/ajbio.htm.