Farewell to Beijing

Tuesday, December 8th

by Betsy Anderson

Our last day in Beijing began with news shared over breakfast of the “Red Alert” for smog. School was cancelled and half the cars stayed at home as we walked a few short blocks , most of us wearing masks, to the Chong Wen Men Christian Church for our final gathering as a delegation.

This historic church in the heart of Beijing is over 100 years old.  The Senior Pastor, Rev. WU Wei had hosted us the night before for Peking Duck in his capacity as President of the Beijing Council of Churches and Three Self Patriotic Movement.

The sanctuary of Chong Men Wen Church - photo by Alan Lai
The sanctuary of Chong Men Wen Church – photo by Alan Lai

Moderator Jordan Cantwell led us in this time of closure and communion, centred in reflection on the scripture passage which has been at the heart of our journey: “That All May Be One” (John 17: 20-23).  Visiting the post-denominational church in China, we have been reminded regularly of our shared commitment to being a united and uniting church.

Shared reflections around the table moved us as we brought our unique journeys from so many diverse contexts in Canada and personal stories to the room in which we gathered at Chong Wen Men. Together we blessed each other and Shi Meiying, our companion and guide from the China Christian Council, and committed ourselves to tell the stories of what we have seen and heard of God’s great work in China.

Movingly for me, as we prepared to leave, Brother LIU Hongliang, Associate General Secretary of the Beijing Council of Churches and TSPM, shared a photo of Rev. James Endicott preaching from the pulpit at Chong Wen Men Church in 1956.  This was Jim Endicott, and my husband’s grandfather, a United Church of Canada missionary in West China.  He is counted by the Chinese Government as one of the 100 Foreign Friends of China, people known for their support of the Chinese people and Chinese Revolution.

Brother Liu Hongliang shares photos of highly-respected UCC missionary Jim Endicott with UCC Delegate Betsy Anderson – photo by Alan Lai

Everywhere we went in China, we have been greeted as friends because of the long history of our partnership as churches, mediated through the friendships of Chinese and Canadian people over many generations.  We felt their spirit accompanying us.  Now we are honoured to tell the evolving story of the Chinese church and the many opportunities for deepened and growing relationship.

As we fly home across this vast ocean and spread out across our immense country, we wonder how these people-based relationships will be sustained in ways that are compatible with a healthy ecosystem. Throughout our time of preparation and in China we have felt the privilege of being the United Church’s representatives in this delegation.  From Shanghai to Suzhou to Nanjing to Beijing we have heard again and again from Chinese Church leaders that the amazing growth of the Church in China is God’s work, God’s Grace, God’s miracle.  We return with the friendship and blessing of the Chinese Church and our deepened commitment to recognizing and sharing God’s great works in our diverse and varied Canadian contexts.

Across the moat at the Forbidden City, Beijing – photo by Alan Lai

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