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April 24, 2014 / windlessly

China Chronicles 4.24- A Day in the Church

Okay, I’ll admit it- I was trying to be all clever and do several posts with the theme of “A Day In…” but then I got interrupted by my trip to Chengdu (I was thinking ahead though…”A Day in Chengdu” was gonna be a thing until I realized I had way too much stuff to try to explain through a single day). There are two ways I do blog posts: ones that start with thoughts and ones that start with pictures. This is gonna be a post with minimal pictures, because 1) I didn’t take any pictures when I went to church last last Sunday 2) I believe God is reflected in every aspect of this universe, so it’d be a little redundant to try to include pictures of well, everything.

But here’s a picture of a church similar to what I experienced anyway, to give you a better idea of what it was like for me last last Sunday (we’re such a visually-oriented generation, anyway. A study by Hubspot in 2012 concluded that photos on Facebook generate 53% more likes and 104% more comments as compared to the average post. Which reminds me that I’m way more behind in uploading pictures to Facebook than I am blogging… the cost of being a rebel I guess):

From my perspective, it was a little more like this:

But there was still a LOT of people. I had contacted a friend who contacted a friend who email introduced me to email a study-abroad student from Oregon who WeChat-introduced me to Tom. Tom was the friend who took me to church Sunday. Tom is also a very nice guy, though it’s safe to say I never would have met him without the multiple degrees of connection it took for me to get his WeChat ID =]. Tom is also a study abroad student from Britain, which automatically makes him cooler than 90% of the rest of the world’s population. Not statistically plausible, but I was very fortunate to get in touch with him anyway. 

Church was great. It had been several Sundays of traveling, resting, and in general getting accustomed to being abroad without making it to service, so finally encountering some spiritual community made me extremely happy. Tom and I met at one of the gated entrances to PKU (something you don’t often see in US schools, for some reason), along with another friend that was studying abroad from South Korea. We walked to church, stopping along the way to grab some delicious breakfast at a small place on the side of the road, as well as pick up another British friend of Tom’s (I soon found out that Tom knows everyone in Beijing. There are also more British guys to come in this post). 

Interestingly enough, the church service was held in the third floor of a hotel, which was converted to an assembly type room. It was specifically an international service conducted in English that was probably regulated by the government, but I haven’t done extensive research to be able to explain the entirety of the religious situation in China. What was coolest to me though, was getting to see people of all different ethnicity and nationality gathered in one place, worshiping the same God. I felt a sense of wonder, and a sense that the world is much, much bigger than I know. 

Afterward I got to chat and eat lunch with a couple of other people that Tom knew in the church- more guys from Britain and even a couple of ex-patriots from the states (specifically Oklahoma and Ohio). They were here in Beijing teaching english and math, and were completely familiar with the culture and language of Beijing. But when the eight of us got together for lunch, it was nice to talk in English about things like the World Cup, where we were from, and our observations about how Chinese society differed from our lives growing up. It was quite the sight- five British guys and three Americans sitting in front of a Korean restaurant in Beijing, joking around in English and talking about our favorite TV shows.

One of the things about religion (and anything else for that matter) that I’ve been thinking about recently is how it’s impossible to separate your thoughts and opinions from your upbringing. As Americans (and I’m only saying this because the majority of my friends reading this are from the US), we will never be able to definitively say that we believe in capitalism and democracy as a result of our own intellectual, personally-generated conclusion. Our upbringing and the culture we were born in automatically makes us biased. Sure, we eventually do form our own thoughts (such as the tension and blurriness of Chinese people today, believing in socialism-with-Chinese-characteristics but operating more and more under capitalism), but we can never really make a fully objective statement. And the same goes for religion. That’s why getting to meet some of these international students was such a valuable experience. And that’s why I hope to travel more and keep trying to understand things from different perspectives. 

My wise teacher in a class we’re taking here that we nicknamed, “The Way” (a communications class), said this: “It is through the process of exchanging perceptions that communication creates what we call reality.” That’s personally why I think community is so important- it is in talking with others, learning from their upbringings and their experiences, that we understand a little more about our reality. As is visiting an international church in the middle of Beijing. But as I’ve said before in previous posts, I’m still barely on the board in terms of understanding the world from a truly Chinese perspective. I’ve gotten most of my observations and knowledge from my Chinese teacher Daniel, who is great, but next chance I get (hopefully this Sunday), I really look forward to attending a Chinese service and talking to some of the people there. 



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