United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black is traveling across China for two weeks with the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The leaders of the two churches that form Global Ministries will meet with mission partners in that country, as they learn about the ways the two denominations can assist the rapidly-growing Christian church movement in China.
Black and Watkins arrived in China on Thursday, May 9, and will travel throughout the country before they return to the United States on May 23. Xiaoling Zhu, the area executive for East Asia and the Pacific for Global Ministries, is guiding Black, Watson and their spouses during the two-week visit to the Far East.
Global Ministries' focus in China includes educational and community development programs, particularly in underprivileged parts of the country, and education for rural children. Global Ministries also supports the growing Christian church in China through education of the next generation of church leaders.
So far, the group arrived in Shanghai and met with mission partners — Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council — which have been working to grow Christianity in China during the last several decades.
The Rev. Black is keeping a journal during this mission and wrote this installment about the first days of his trip.
As our plane landed at the Shanghai Airport, I wondered to myself what awaited us. I had never been to China before and had only briefly met a few of the leaders we were planning to see while here in China when they were in the States last year. They were from the China Christian Council and the Three Self Committee.
Once we had gathered our luggage and moved through Customs and Immigration, we were on our way to our hotel in Downtown Shanghai. This transfer was the true beginning of the excitement of being here, because the trip from the airport was on a Maglev train. The train made only one stop and the trip took 7 minutes at 430 kph, which we guessed to be a top speed of about 260 mph!
Meeting with the China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement was the first major item on our agenda the next morning. The connection for the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church Disciples of Christ is that these were church bodies in China that grew out of 19th Century Missional initiatives of our respective denominations. Of course, much has happened in China and then U.S. since those days.
World War II, the Communist Revolution and the China's Cultural Revolution practically eliminated Christianity in China. However, since the advent of reforms beginning with the leadership of Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s Christianity has re-emerged. The Three-Self Movement and the China Christian Council have played a major role in the return of Christianity here.
Today we continue in relationship as mission partners and during our meetings we updated each other on the state of affairs in our respective communions and exchanged ideas and concerns about aspects of our relationship. In all, the conversations were both substantive and lively.
As always, our gathering concluded with an exchange of gifts and many photographs. Next, we will meet with another mission partner, the Shanghai YM/WYCA. We'll also see a bit of Shanghai and then we're off to Huangshan to visit the Huangshan Christian Church.
- The Rev. Geoffrey Black