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'Sing new song,' Koreans, blacks told Unity is stressed at church service


More than 400 members of Baltimore's black and Korean communities joined yesterday to "sing a new song" of peace and unity at the church where Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke worships.

"We have many problems in our city, but I think this event will show that there's more that brings us together than divides us," the mayor told worshipers at the two-hour ecumenical service -- given in English and Korean -- at Douglass Memorial Community Church in Bolton Hill.

The church was filled with black and Korean members of more than 30 area churches. Tensions have arisen in Baltimore and other cities where Koreans operate small businesses in black neighborhoods. Although Baltimore has avoided serious incidents, Koreans were the victims of racial violence during the recent riots in the Los Angeles area.

"Because of original sin of human beings, we cannot avoid a little friction, especially in this kind of multi-racial society," said Dr. Dong Sup Cha, president of the New Jersey-based Federation of Korean Associations.

But in his sermon, the Rev. Michael Curry of St. James Episcopal Church urged the two communities to "sing a new song," following the example of the multitude described by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelations.

"I want to suggest . . . that the old song will kill us," Father Curry said, pausing frequently to allow Dr. Sam Park of the Young Nak Presbyterian Church to translate both words and emphasis.

"The old song is sung out of my fears and your fears. The old song is sung out of your stereotypes and my stereotypes. The old song is sung out of your demons and my demons," he said.

"In America, I feel that those demons are legion. . . . We must cast the demon out and sing a new song," Father Curry said.

Dr. Cha said that Koreans have much to thank the black community for, including the civil rights movement that was led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He said that movement made life easier for all races and nationalities in the United States.

"We are greatly indebted to the African-American community for this kind of benefit given to us," he said.

Mayor Schmoke encouraged the service and had his staff help organize it. He praised his pastor, the Rev. Marion C. Bascom, for being the host.

"He is once again affirming that in God's sight, there is only one race -- the human race," Mr. Schmoke told the group, which included Baptists, African Methodist Episcopalians, Disciples of lTC Christ, Presbyterians and United Methodists.

John Yu, secretary of the Korean Businessmen's League of Greater Baltimore, which also helped organize the service, said the Korean Society of Maryland is planning to hold a similar event in September or October.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore's African American Ministries Office will hold a prayer service at 10 a.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Liberty Heights Avenue and Edgewood Road. The service will focus on the Los Angeles riots and Baltimore's own racial divisions, and also will serve to launch an effort to promote voter registration and racial harmony.

In his sermon, Father Curry warned of the hatred in the world's violent regions.

"The old song is sung in the chaos of Lebanon. Shall America become that?" he asked the congregation. "The old song is sung in the terror of South Africa. Shall America become that?"

"If not for ourselves, then for our children and our children's children, we must sing a new song."

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