Thursday, November 22, 2007

Modern church, more religious freedom

CHINA / Regional

Modern church, more religious freedom

(Sun Yuqing/
Updated: 2007-07-20 08:52

Beijing- People in China are enjoying "much better" religious freedom
than before and over 70 percent of those attending services at the
Beijing Haidian Christian Church are young people, says Pastor Wu Weiqing
of the newly-built church.

The all-white building looks like an exhibition studio than a religious
institution, with long white beams encircling the structure. A tall white
cross stands in the covered stairway to the entrance to the church, while
a sign on top says "Christian Church". Off to the side is a tall bell
tower, also in white.

A general view of Beijing Haidian Christian Church July 8, 2007. [Sun

The old Beijing Haidian Christian Church [Courtesy of Liu Yang]

Beijing Haidian Christian Church, was originally built in 1933, but the
number of attendees grew so much that it was knocked down and a new
church was put into use on May 31 this year in Zhongguancun, also known
as China's Silicon Valley.

It's also close to China's top learning institutes, like the Tsinghua
University and Peking University, and situated among grand commercial
buildings for China's leading IT companies, like As a result,
most of the churchgoers are young people, explains Wu.

An open Bible

Church visitors appreciate the design of the church a lot. A middle-aged
migrant worker surnamed Zhao said the church looked beautiful. He turned
to Christianity in 1997 when he worked as a farmer in his hometown in
North China's Hebei Province. Now he works in a furniture factory in
suburban Beijing and needs to ask for a leave on weekends to go to the
church. "It normally takes me two hours to come here by bus, but I go to
other churches too," said Zhao with gray hairs and a thin face.

However, not everyone admires the new church and thinks the original one
should have remained standing.

Liu Yang, an expert in church studies from Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer
Palace) Administration, said, "It's a pity to see the old church
demolished. With a history of 70 years, the old church should have been
preserved and protected as a relic. "

But in an exclusive interview with China Daily Website, Wu explained that
the old church was deteriorating in a dirty and noisy street, and it was
becoming too dangerous to hold services in it. He added that the original
church was too small to hold the increasing number of Christians
attending services there.

"The old church didn't suit the development and the surrounding
commercial buildings," he said. "The style of old church was neither
baroque nor Roman, and it wasn't like a church," explained Wu.

Church administrators welcomed architect firms to submit designs for the
new church, and German company GMP International GmbH came up with the
all-white structure. Wu said the church made clear its interior and
exterior requirements, including ways to cut operating costs.

"I am 150 percent satisfied with the new church's design, and the
placement of cross, bell tower and the appearance are beyond my
expectations," said Wu with a smile. "The church appears like an open
Bible and the ascending stairs make people feel the sense of being a

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