Sunday, December 2, 2007

Praise the Lord in Beijing

Today I went to my first church service in the Chinese capital.

The Beijing International Christian Fellowship organizes a number of services on Sunday, in English, Indonesian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Japanese and French.

I checked out the English service at 11:30am which is held at the 21st Century Theatre, a block east of the Yansha Youyi Center or Luftansa Center.

People from all kinds of nationalities converged into the giant auditorium -- Americans, Filipinos, Koreans, Hong Kongers, Singaporeans, and Africans to name a few. Apparently some 300 come every week.

These services are strictly for foreigners only so we all had to show our passports before going in.

I arrived just on time to hear the music start so I grabbed a seat.

On stage was a band led a guy on a guitar singing, with a flautist, extra singer, two keyboardists and a drummer.

And the music was very American evangelist. The screen above showed the lyrics for people to sing along things like "God is king", "God is beautiful", and how the Lord is amazing. Some people in the audience raised one of their arms swept up in the fervor even though the service just started.

It was led by the guitarist along with two other "elders" or pastors. We were invited to participate in Communion, and ushers handed out small plastic cups of juice and tiny squares of bread to everyone in the audience. People who were leaving Beijing were asked to stand up and say goodbye, while newcomers were asked to stand and they were immediately accosted by people handing out pamphlets on the religious organization.

Today was a special Christmas presentation and they dramatized the birth of Jesus using everyday language. The acting was really good, complete with a sleeping Chinese baby. So it was interesting to see them try to make the biblical event relevant to people, by acting out what they thought was going through Mary's and Joseph's minds.

In the end the guitarist told the audience if they felt what they heard and saw today affected them then they should come forward and talk to some people near the stage about further developing their religious beliefs.

While it was really uplifting, it reminded me too much of televangelists preaching the Gospel. It was really slick, but at the same time, better than sitting in an austere church.

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