Church in Fujian to Celebrate Centenary

Picture of the new building of Dongbanhou Church in Zhangzhou, Fujian
1/2Picture of the new building of Dongbanhou Church in Zhangzhou, Fujian(photo: Web photo)
Historical picture of the old building of Dongbanhou Church in Zhangzhou, Fujian, which was built in June 1925
2/2Historical picture of the old building of Dongbanhou Church in Zhangzhou, Fujian, which was built in June 1925(photo: Chris White)
By Lin MuliMay 4th, 2023

Recently, I came across a passage in the Moments of WeChat stating, "Thanks to the help of the Lord, the Committee of Dongbanhou Church of Zhangzhou will commemorate its centenary, along with convening a meeting to amend the Annals of the Zhangzhou Church."

Historical records reveal that on September 23, 1847, Pastor John Van Nest Talmage and other missionaries from the Reformed Church in America (RCA) made their initial visit to Zhangzhou to lay the groundwork for spreading the gospel.

In 1850, British Presbyterian pastors, including William Chalmers Burns, frequently sailed to spread the gospel from Xiamen to Shima and Zhangzhou. In April 1853, they spent two weeks in Zhangzhou. Subsequently, the Presbyterian Church secured a rental house in downtown Zhangzhou to serve as a chapel.

In May 1850, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the British Presbyterian Church made the decision to employ missionaries such as Yu Anding and Lu Die to work in Zhangzhou. However, due to the uprising of the Small Swords Society in Zhangzhou at that time, Yu tragically lost his life, resulting in the suspension of church establishment efforts.

On June 24, 1866, the Southern Fujian Christian Church was established in Shima, with Pastor Cartairs Douglas assuming leadership. After learning of Zhangzhou's notable progress in evangelism and the emergence of believers, Cartairs Douglas expressed his desire to serve as a preacher in Zhangzhou. Following the official appointment of Cartairs Douglas to this role with the approval of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), the number of faithful followers grew rapidly.

On December 18, 1871, with the endorsement of the Chief Executive Council of Shima, the Dongbanhou Church was formally established in Zhangzhou, and a chapel was constructed.

In 1874, a church capable of accommodating 500 people was erected on Xinhua West Road in Xiangcheng District. In 1882, Zheng Pengcheng became its pastor, describing the congregation as "a flock of well-nurtured sheep, their spirits refreshed." Two years later, Pastor Zheng applied for the position of pastor at Xiamen Zhushu Church and was succeeded by Cai Gengguang (the pastor of Xinjie Church) two years after that.

In 1890, the Tianbao, Shancheng, and Longshan branches merged to form the Tianshan Church. In 1813, the Guhu Church was established anew.

In 1916, internal disputes arose within the Dongbanhou Church, leading to the resignation of Pastor Wang, who then relocated to Southeast Asia. Consequently, the congregation of the Dongbanhou Church became scattered. However, following the appointment of Huang Canghai in 1920, the church's affairs regained their vitality. The Xintang and Guhu branches integrated into the church, resulting in a rapid increase in followers.

Upon recognizing the dilapidated state of the old church, the congregation initiated public prayer gatherings every morning and evening, beseeching divine intervention for the reconstruction of the church. The congregation advocated fundraising, and a new church was constructed in 1923.

The new church boasted a seating capacity exceeding 1,000 individuals. Completed in June 1925, the Dongbanhou Church stood as one of the largest churches in Fujian Province at that time. The construction cost amounted to 20,000 Mexican dollars (equivalent to approximately $8,000 at the time), all of which were raised by the Chinese community. Presently, the entire architectural complex remains remarkably preserved in its original form, classified as a municipal cultural heritage site.

In 1923, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) provided financial support for the reconstruction and expansion of the parsonage building. Subsequently, in 1942, the construction of the Baiyun Building was completed. Dongbanhou Church encompasses a total area of 2,614 square meters.

Furthermore, during the era of the Republic of China, Dongbanhou Church served as the site where patriotic soldiers initiated a coup and where the Southern Fujian Revolutionary Committee was established following the entry of the East Route Army of Workers and Peasants' Red Army into Zhangzhou.

Prior to May Day, as per the statements of Zhangzhou CC&TSPM's chairman and president, as well as the senior pastor of Dongbanhou Church, Zhuang Jingcheng, the centenary celebration of Zhangzhou Dongbanhou Church is planned to take place in late October 2023.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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