Attending 感恩堂 (Thanksgiving Church) is one of the easiest ways to challenge yourself in Wuhan. For expats, this place is just as lucrative for newcomers to who want to continue to explore their faith in a stimulating environment, as it is for those veterans who would like to dip into a different element of Wuhan. Even for the non-religious, attending a Chinese church service can do wonders to bolster ones Chinese, whilst making some valuable local companions for your time here. (Just don’t mention you are not religious!)
For those hailing from a Catholic Society, Chinese churches will be at first a little intimidating. There is no solitary elderly man in a white robe giving a quiet sermon. And very little in the way of grandiose European customs of old. You are instead greeted with a sharply dressed Chinaman giving a very strong (pseudonym for loud) biblical interpretation, with his congregation feverishly scribbling notes. The note taking is explained by a bible study after or before each service. In these classes, a team leader guides a dozen followers through the metaphorical ideas conveyed in the passage.
These classes can provide a very positive reaffirmation of an adherent’s beliefs. Tangential benefits include: making friends and/or capitalising on the familiar and phonetically similar words to build a more wholistic Chinese vocabulary. English bible studies are also provided.
Unlike an average European church, Chinese churches don’t appear to have ‘ageing population’. The median and mean age would be around 40; for every old face there is one young face. Also unlike Western Churches, where it is only young children who can perform a skit in front of the believers, there are no age restrictions on who can organise a dance routine as a part of the service. Indeed many retirees took to limelight to re-find their youth. Last Easter Sunday, many retirees took to the limelight, and performed a dance routine to the electronic sounds of 2010. No obvious connection to the resurrection of Jesus sprang to mind.
Wuhan contains a fair few churches. Most are small, campy and generally shady with their income. Very few are large, colourful and government-endorsed. 感恩堂 belongs to the latter. For a Church service to be approved by the PRC, not only should it provide taxes and transparent event hosting, it must also devote a weekly sermon strictly for foreigners. Due to whatever demographical reason, the ‘International Church of Wuhan’ is essentially the ‘African Church of Wuhan’.
Let this not deter any non-POC reading this. As a distinctly pale person, I was made to feel warmly welcome at the event. Preluding the service was a baptism ceremony, where few adults were initiated in front of an admiring and singing crowd. Afterwards, the service itself was quite possibly the longest stretch of continuous radiant positivity I had ever witnessed. The congregation packed the room and leaked into the foyer. The band jammed and the people sang. There was a gift ceremony, a poetry slam and the Nigerian pastor directed his graceful smile to the above and to his fellow believers, while an interpreter respoke his words in French.
After a while, it was time to initiate newcomers to the Church. On average, if you give a random person a microphone and ask them to introduce themselves to several hundred people, nerves might become an issue. But to quote the person sitting next to me, “I think it’s impossible to be nervous here when everyone loves each other.” Even if you’re not religious, it’s important for everyone to visit such a community at least once.
For the very bold and brave, an upcoming young single’s ‘love camp’ will be hosted by the Chinese Church at the end of May. Entitled “No Regrets”, three days of outdoors oriental religious speed dating would certainly be an experience to remember.
In short, for those wishing to expand on their religion, 感恩堂 provides a plethora of cultures and languages preaching the familiar word. It is easy to find your desired service. For the non-religious, making friends and a solid support network is integral to a positive experience in Wuhan. Attending 感恩堂 can provide this.
For all first timers, it is super easy to walk up to an existing member and inquire about further information. Typing 感恩堂 into Baidu Ditu will provide the correct location.
There is service every Sunday:
- International Service from 1:30 – 4:30 on the Ground Floor.
- Chinese and English Service 11:30 – 1:00 on the Second Floor.
QQ Group Name: 感恩堂国除英文礼拜