ALCOA, Tenn. (Sept. 19, 2019) – Bishop Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor was visited by a group of Korean clergy at her office on Sept. 17. Their mission was to invite her to visit a school in Korea, named for and founded by missionaries from Holston Conference.
“I visit your conference today to express respect and appreciation for your Korean mission 120 years ago. Also, I politely request that Bishop Taylor visit to Korea,” said Bishop Seung Chul Ahn, former bishop of the Nambu Conference in South Korea.
Holston Girls’ Middle and High School is now located in Daejeon, South Korea. In 1899, Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South raised funds and sent a missionary, Arrena Carroll, to start a school in Kaesong, Korea.
“The school was named Holston Institute because of this gift from Holston Conference,” according to the book, Women and Missions in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, by Sara Estelle Haskin (1920). “The building was a handsome gray stone structure located on a commanding hill in the center of the city.”
When the school was started, “women had no opportunity for education,” Bishop Ahn said to Bishop Taylor. “Your helping hand at that time was a big light for Korean women.”
The school’s first principal, Ellasue Wagner, is buried at Emory & Henry College cemetery, Bishop Taylor said later.
“The school is so well thought of,” Taylor said. “It’s a Christian school that changed the position of women in Korea.”
About 45,000 women have graduated from the school over the years, Taylor said, including the first female Korean general.
When Holston School was started, Korea was under the rule of Japan. “Missionaries from Holston Conference supported the independence movement,” Ahn said.
When girls seeking independence were imprisoned, Wagner went to the Japanese police and shouted, “Free the students and lock me up,” Ahn said.
Ahn said he wanted to express his gratitude to Wagner for her role in developing the Holston school by visiting her burial site and building a memorial to her “as soon as possible.”
Ahn was accompanied by Korean clergy from other churches, as well as a retired Holston pastor. The Rev. TaeHun Yoon lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Rev. Soung-bum Baek is pastor at Korean United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Rev. Jonguk Ko is pastor at Korean Methodist Church in Salem, New Hampshire.
Bishop Taylor said she hopes to accept Bishop Ahn’s invitation to visit and preach in Korea within the next year. She included mention of the Holston School in Korea during her opening sermon at Holston Annual Conference 2018. Taylor is the first female bishop of Holston Conference.
Bishop Marcus Matthews, who was then leader of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, visited Holston Girls’ Middle and High School in 2016. The Baltimore-Washington Conference is in a partnership with the Nambu Conference.
Members with information about the history of Holston School in Korea are requested to contact Lori Sluder at 865.690.4080 or email@example.com.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.
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