This Sunday afternoon, I managed to get out of my apartment and find my way to a church that I’d heard about from another foreigner (who’s been living in Changsha for a couple years now). I was a little unsure if I was in the right place at first, so I just kind of hung around for a bit until I started to see a bunch of other foreign people going in the building. Then I just followed them.
The church is called Changsha International Christian Fellowship. Now to
answer the question(s) that I’m sure is sitting on the edge of your tongues: Is it an underground church? Are you going to be arrested?? No. We’re on the 27th floor of a large international building near the center of the city. There are a few Chinese people there, but since the services are bilingually run in French and English (more on this later), and most Chinese here don’t speak either of those languages well enough to follow the service, nor do they have much interest in religion…I’m going to guess that’s why they don’t typically attend.
The church is called Changsha International Christian Fellowship. I loved the service and this welcoming, energetic, enthusiastic group of Christians. The service really is a compilation of denominational styles–which is actually why I love it so much. There’s enough Pentecostalism to keep things moving and fun, but there’s also a fair bit of liturgy in there. Since I’ve spent most of my time in rather liturgical churches, I really appreciate that.
And then here’s my favorite part: the majority of the service is bilingual in French and English. For those of you who might not have a good picture in your mind of what a bilingual church looks like–they say a sentence in English and then someone is standing next to them in translate it into French. I experienced this in Hillsong Paris and I fell in love with it there. It takes some getting used to the repetition and language switching, but once you do adjust, it’s nice to have the extra processing time to really focus on the message being said. And since translation is never exact – you actually get the message in two different ways, so you can kind of choose the translation that makes more sense. Or if you didn’t hear the first line, you can go off the second line. There are so many benefits to this, so I love it.
So while the majority of the service was in French and English, there was also some other languages that popped up. In worship time, there was an…African language (sorry I couldn’t tell which one…) that made a debut. And then Communion was bilingual in Chinese and English (Chinese first, then English). I also heard in the short meeting for newcomers after the service, that there’s some Portuguese and Spanish speaking members as well.
One of my favorite things is when believers from around the world gather together and our faith unites us despite our cultural, linguistic, and physical differences.