Sally Zhang, near the church
Birmingham's Chinese church
By Sally Zhang, contributor
Sally Zhang tells us about a Chinese church that's proving such a hit with the local community that it's attracting non-Chinese residents to its congregation.
The Birmingham Chinese Evangelic Church (BCEC) is a plain two-storied house just off Upper Gough Street near The Mailbox.
Founded almost ten years ago, it's one of only three Chinese churches in Birmingham and offers several Sunday services – English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
Inside the BCEC
In addition, the BCEC holds regular seminars, lectures and functions and acts as a source of guidance and advice for the local Chinese community. It's main goal is to unite Birmingham’s Chinese and non-Chinese population.
Cui Di has been attending church services here since she emigrated from China seven years ago.
A Birmingham University Student, Cui says: "Coming to the Chinese church has been part of my university life. Usually after finishing my lecture on Friday afternoon, I come directly here to join the Bible study group.
"It is so home-like that it makes you always feel comfy - a simple Chinese dinner on Friday evening where you can speak your mind with other Chinese people of the same faith. It really makes everyone feels at home and relaxed.
Mr. Zhu and son
The church is so welcoming that it makes you feeling like coming again. The community just makes everyone feel so close-knit—the culture, the language and the people."
Mr. Zhu, who works for a Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine Shop in Bullring, came to Birmingham barely able to speak English.
"(The church) is a really nice place where even those like me who don't speak English are welcomed," he says.
"I came here as a complete stranger. Thanks to their help, I was able to find a public school for my little boy to get proper education shortly after my settling down."
Attendance at Sunday service is at an all time high, with the number of baptisms having doubled over the last two years.
BCEC's growing popularity in the city is such that its services are now attracting Birmingham's non-Chinese residents.
Tuuli Platner attends the English service on a Sunday. She says: "Compared to many local traditional English churches in Birmingham, I prefer to come here because it's smaller and more contemporary.
"Although it's Chinese, it’s as friendly and flexible as you may think."
With its ever growing congregation and important social function for the local Chinese community, BCEC aims to hold as many events as possible each year.
As Head Administrator Zhang Zhenwen explains: "We used to have only two baptisms a year; now we have four. The church has been developed full scale over the last few years but we are still considering expanding our congregation building to welcome more and more people."
The religious, social and cultural role of this small Chinese church in Birmingham cannot be understated and, with its congregation growing, the future looks bright.
last updated: 30/06/2008 at 14:31
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