Chinese Church Voices

The Oldest Church in Wuhan

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


Many of the church structures in China were originally built by missionaries in the 1800s and early 1900s. Some are tucked away in old neighborhoods; others surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers or towering apartment blocks. All of them have interesting stories.

In August, Gospel Times published a collection of photos of the Chongzhen Church in Wuchang, along with some history of the church. Their sister publication China Christian Daily published an English version. Here is an edited version of that article.

The Oldest Christian Church in Wuhan—Chongzhen Church of Wuchang

Take metro line 2 to the A2 exit in the Pangxiexia station, and walk towards Tanhualin Gejiaying. Building 44 is the WuChang Christian Church, the oldest Christian church in Wuhan. The church was built in 1864. Despite damage (natural and man-made) caused to the church in the past 140 years, it remains a place of worship for Christians who live in the surrounding area.

The church was originally part of the Church of Christ in China. The architectural style is Gothic, with a flat Latin cross and pointed arch. It can hold 400 worshippers.

On Jun 21, 1861, Griffith John, a London Missionary Society pastor, came to Hankou to preach.  In 1864, John established the Christian Chongzhen Church in Gejiaying neighborhood of Tanhualin in Wuchang. This church is important in the city’s religious history.

The lead pastor was always Chinese, even though there were missionaries working at the church; this is significant in the history of the church in Wuhan. At that time Pastor Bao Tingzhan also played an important role in the establishment of the church.

There was also a private school for men established together with Chongzhen Church. In 1868, Griffith John founded the Wuchang Renji Hospital, and in 1895, it underwent a large scale expansion and renovation. In 1897, Ms Fushide, Missionary from London, founded Yixun Academy. The structures built by the London Missionary Society in Tanhualin block are still there.

 

In 1951, the senior pastor Xianyou Zeng started a Wuchang branch of the "three-self" revolution study group, making it the center of learning for the “Three-self” movement in Wuchang.  Following the consolidation of churches in 1958, religious activity ceased in the church. It became a storage facility for a nearby paper mill. In November of 2000 the church was renovated and re-opened for services. Today it is an excellent example of historical architecture.

In addition to Chongzhen Church, there are other buildings nearby that reveal their Christian heritage. Renji Hospital was founded by the London Missionary Society Charity Organization and the Church of Christ in China. Its original name was the British London Church Hospital. It was established after Griffith John started the church in 1861, and served the people in the surrounding communities.

On October 20, 1871, the Boone Memorial School was opened by the American Episcopal Church. It was a boarding school for boys, and later came to be known as the Wenhualin Memorial Academy (the predecessor of Central China Normal University. Building 5 on that campus was originally called Christmas Hall. It was built in 1870 in the ancient Greek style with a portico.

Chongzhen Church is unique and is the oldest church structure in Hubei.

Original article: 武汉现存最古老的基督教堂——武昌崇真堂 (Gospel Times)
English translation: The Oldest Christian church in Wuhan –Chongzhen Church of Wuchang (China Christian Daily)
Adapted and edited with permission.

Image credit: Gospel Times.
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