I was thinking of posting some pictures, but I got a really big blister from walking the town today, so I don't want to go back upstairs and get my camera. You'll just have to suffer through my text and look for pictures on facebook later.
Today was a pretty fantastic start to the trip. My roomie and I did a lot of non-sleeping last night, but for some reason the crisp Hong Kong air was helpful for getting us going. Walking down a gigantic hill first thing in the AM probably helped. And also the fact that we're in China!! We started out with breakfast and then headed out to a market, where we saw lots of carcasses and some of us (ahem) did a little bit of gagging into our scarves. We then took a pretty complicated trip over to "the peak" which required train, subway, ferry, and tram. It's definitely different for a born and bred midwesterner like me (well, mostly) to be in a place so crowded, to take several different forms of public transit, and to not be able to say "excuse me" after running into somebody.
Up on "the peak," which is a high point in HK where you can look down at see pretty much the entire city from the top of a mountain, we stopped at Starbucks to caffeinate some of the droopier members of the group (a tradition no matter what country you're from, apparently), and ended up having an impromptu conversation, which I am now too tired to remember, but trust me, it was deep. Following that we wandered down to a beautiful cathedral where we happened to stumble into a service, and stopped in to listen to some beautiful choral music and the reading about the body of Christ, and all members of the body being equally important, etc etc (you know the passage I'm talking about). Between the music, which was clearly very western, and the conversation at Starbucks and the reading, I got to thinking about the different extensions of the body. We usually think about it that passage as applying to how things function in our own congregations, like God uses the ladies who make casseroles and the musicians and the people with very good diction or who listen to everybody's problem, but hearing that passage here in Hong Kong was especially striking, because it leads into some thoughts about the function of the different church bodies around the world functioning in such different (or sometimes similar) capacities, but all serving the whole.
One of the things we noted in our group discussion this evening was that there seems to be a lot of western influence here in the church (for obvious reasons, British colonization and all), and some pondering about what an "authentic" Christian experience is when you strip away all the western liturgies and theologies. It's kind of fascinating to explore those ideas together--what is authentic Christianity in a different culture, and does that influence the ways in which these churches function in relation to the whole body of Christ, the entity which serves the world, which works to share Jesus and help heal a bit of the brokenness. Does finding that authentic church help to define the members and hone their purpose, or is there even such a thing as an authentic church, if we are all called to be a part of the same body? This is not to imply that western influence is necessary or even ideal as a model for the body, but instead to think about whether or not authenticity is an illusion, because no matter how much adaptation takes place in China or Kenya or Alabama, we are still part of the same body.
Clearly, I can't answer any of these questions right now, but it is a conversation that has started stirring among us. One thing is certain, at least in my mind, though, and that is that in this context or in our home context, Christ is present, and people are working and singing God's praises, and that is very cool to see.