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Chinese Christian Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Christian Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Independent. They describe themselves as "officially linked"
to the Chinese
Overseas Christian Mission.
It's a modern red-brick building that is more like a church
hall or a community centre than a church. Inside is a bit pokey
and could do with some renovation. The room where the service
was held today (not the normal room due to burst pipes) was
small and cluttered! The ceiling tiles were discoloured and
the paintwork was blistered and peeling badly. There was a boiler
in the corner, along with some lockers and a folded-up table
blocking the fire exit. Apparently the room is normally used
as a youth room.
This church began in 1975 as an outreach among the Chinese community
in Belfast and grew steadily enough to justify the purchase
of the present building in 1998. A steady influx of Chinese
students has kept the church busy. They say a large part of
their mission is overcoming the perception among Chinese that
Christianity is primarily a Western religion. Their most popular
services are those conducted in Mandarin and Cantonese, which
are well attended by those newly arrived. But the English service
has grown as well and is attended by a mixture of Chinese and
The church is situated just off the Lisburn Road not
the nice end where all the swanky boutiques and coffee shops
and restaurants are, but the slightly-run-down cosmopolitan
end, full of kebab shops and off-licenses and overrun by revelers
who leave their mess everywhere.
The leader gave his name simply as Walter but I believe he was
the Revd Walter McConnell, pastor for English and youth ministries.
The date & time:
Sunday, 9 January 2011, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The room was not large so the 30 or so people present were enough
to make it feel fairly full.
Did anyone welcome you
A woman named Jocelyn, who may have been Jocelyn Ang, treasurer,
welcomed us at the door and was incredibly friendly. After showing
us to seats, she sat with us for several minutes and expressed
a great deal of interest in us.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a plastic chair that needs replacing, as the back has
become too flexible and is no longer able to support a modest
frame such as mine.
How would you describe the pre-service
Chaotic. There were chairs being moved around, last-minute piano
practice in the corner, and plenty of noise as people constantly
entered and exited the room.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Welcome to Belfast Chinese Church." There followed
apologies for a late start and for the change of normal room.
What books did the congregation use during the
What musical instruments were played?
Piano, electric guitar and bass guitar, all played by young
people, one of whom looked like a character in an anime film.
Did anything distract you?
Yes, the experience was full of irritations, but let me mention
only the dirty mark or strip of paper right in the middle of
the projection frame.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
We had several praise choruses and the singing was dominated
mostly by a lone congregational female voice. The minister's
hands remained in his pockets for the duration of the singing,
apart from a brief spell when he stood with arms crossed.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 Too many words! He had a habit of looking over his
spectacle rims as he spoke, which I found annoying. Also, he
spoke way too quickly for my liking. I would be surprised if
all the Chinese people present could fully keep up.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
It was about John the Baptist and why he was such a good witness
of Jesus. A witness must speak up, not remain silent; a good
witness must show a relation to the witnessee; and a witness
should be convincing. Many Christians today, however, try to
be silent witnesses. They don't speak up or talk about Jesus
because they care more about their own reputation rather than
the reputation of the one for whom they claim to live.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
I was surprised at how incredibly "normal" everything
seemed. The service would not be out of place in any other Northern
Ireland church. I found it interesting how people from completely
different cultures can share so much in common.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
There was a side door that was left open for the duration of
my visit (possibly a storeroom) and, frustratingly, the light
was left on in there. It really bugged me and I can only hope
that it was an energy-saving bulb. The light was still on when
I finally left the building over two hours later.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone was incredibly friendly, almost too friendly, actually.
We were quickly engaged in conversation and found it difficult
How would you describe the after-service
A cup of tea was brought to me before I had even left my seat,
which was a nice gesture. Unfortunately they didn't ask how
I like it and there was far too much milk in it. I had to hide
the cup as there was no way I could drink it. There were also
pancakes smothered in peanut butter. I didn't try those, as
I don't like peanut butter, but I noticed they were popular
with the rest.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 I greatly appreciated the hospitality. It was encouraging
to feel fairly at home in an international congregation. But
the long sermon and the preacher's mannerisms are major barriers
to a possible return.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
It didn't make me sorry to be a Christian, but neither did it
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I just hope that the storeroom light finally got switched off
and the door closed over!
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