Valentine Wedding on Chinese New Year:
Cultures Interact in Mission Setting
New York, NY, Feb. 15, 2010--The first wedding at the Bowin United Methodist Church near Bangkok, Thailand, took place on Valentine's Day, blending Christian and traditional Thai cultures in ways common to many mission settings. It fell on Chinese New Year, a major festival in Thailand.
Valentine's Day is "Love Day" in Thailand and, while not native, was the date one young couple, Jurirat and Sompap, members of Bowin Church, chose as their wedding day. That February 14, 2010 was also Chinese New Year's Day added to the excitement, according to the Revs. Mike and Sherri Morrissey, United Methodist missionaries affiliated with Bowin Church.
Christian weddings in heavily Buddhist Thailand incorporate many Western motifs, including long white bridal gowns, but include traditional Thai elements. For example, Jurirat and Sompap cut their multi-tiered wedding cake with a long sword.
Mission theology today includes an awareness of the need to incorporate traditional cultural expressions in Christian ceremonies and observances.
The Chinese New Year follows a lunar calendar, placing it on different days in the western month of February. It is a time of boisterous, loud celebration, including firecrackers and drums, explain the Morrisseys, missionaries through the General Board of Global Ministries, in their online blog.
"Children visit their grandparents on this day to honor them and to receive gifts," the missionaries wrote. "Thai children receive many gifts; it is comparable to Christmas in America. One part of Chinese New Year that our grandchildren, Madeline and Isaiah love are all of the bright red Chinese lanterns that are hanging in the streets and in all the stores and shops. It reminds us of hanging Christmas lights."
These days, the Thai people celebrate New Year's three times a year: the Western festival on January 1, Chinese New Year in February, and the Thai New Year, Soingkran in April, a time for merrymaking and water-tossing.
Bowin Church is located about two hours southeast of Bangkok. It is a relatively new congregation seeking to grow in numbers and outreach. It is also seeking to improve the economic situations for members and their community. One project is a chicken farm cooperative.
Assistance in building facilities for the cooperative, including bamboo structures, has been provided by a Volunteer-In-Mission group from the New York and Greater New Jersey annual conferences. A blog archive of a visit earlier this year can be found online at nyac-thailand-cambodiavims.blogspot.com/2010/01/we-made-it-to-thailand.html. (Scroll down on the right side to find the start of the archive).
Mike and Sherri Morrissey also maintain an online blog that chronicles their work. It is at msmorrissey.blogspot.com and includes a great many photographs of the Valentine wedding and the chicken farm cooperative.
Date posted: Feb 17, 2010