Chinese Anglicans explore issues at conference

Participants in the Chinese Anglican Joint Summer Conference gather for a picture outside Georgian College in Barrie.
 on October 1, 2016

More than 230 Chinese Anglicans from across the diocese gathered in July for a time of spiritual reflection and fellowship. The Chinese Anglican Joint Summer Conference, held July 15-17, included members of the diocese’s four traditional Chinese churches: St. Elizabeth, Mississauga; St. Christopher, Richmond Hill; St. John, Willowdale; and All Saints, Markham.

Planned by All Saints, Markham and held at Georgian College in Barrie, the conference explored the theme “Shine for Jesus” with a keynote address from Bishop Patrick Yu, area bishop of York-Scarborough. “He used an illustration of chemistry – how different chemicals leave different colours of light,” says the Rev. Philip Der, incumbent of St. Christopher. “Likewise, we have different gifts, and we all radiate different colours of light.”

The idea for the conference arose in 2006 when members of St. Elizabeth wanted to hold an event but lacked the resources to accommodate all of its members. “We have Chinese-speaking adults, we have English-speaking youth and English-speaking children,” says Mr. Der, then-incumbent of St. Elizabeth. “It is difficult to afford to have three speakers in one conference.”

He also saw it as an opportunity to help members of the four churches get to know each other. “When people move to other places, they know the people and they can join the worship in their neighbourhood,” he says.

After meeting to discuss the idea, the churches agreed to share their resources, and the first joint conference was held in July 2007. Since then, it has been held every three years, with the churches taking turns hosting it.

Mr. Der says the conference is especially important in helping the churches explore issues they all face, such as how to pass on the Christian faith to the next generation. “Most parents are very devout Christians and encourage their faith and talk about faith at home too, but somehow young people reach university age and they drift away,” he says. “I think that’s a probably a thing for many Anglicans.”

The churches are also discussing how to balance the traditions of their original members with the needs of new Christians. “We’re probably still using the same ways to reach out to our community from the past 20 to 30 years. So what are our next steps if we want to reach out to our community?” says Mr. Der. “We are learning to help new Christians, to nurture new Christians to become followers of Christ.”

With the fourth conference now complete and each church having taken its turn to host, Mr. Der says the organizing committee is considering how to shape future conferences. Like the rest of the diocese, he says they will probably explore ways in which Chinese churches can be more missional.

“We no longer simply look at what we do, but we should begin to look out to the community, what we can do for the community,” he says. “I hope that it will give us light, how to shine in this community.”


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