Large Crowds Gather at Church for Christmas Eve Service
By Josiah Li, December 29, 2017 03:12 AM
Just after the first service began in the church, crowds of people waited in line to attend the second one on Christmas Eve. It was estimated that at least 500 to 600 people lined up to enter Beijing Gangwashi Church half an hour before the second service.
A sister, the first in line in Beijing's oldest Protestant church's courtyard, said that she intended to join the first service at 6 pm, but was not allowed to get into the sanctuary when she arrived just shortly after 6 pm.
An elderly believer was in the line, carrying her suitcase. She came from Shandong, an eastern China province, to deal with affairs in Beijing.
Seeing the long line, some people chose to leave. One brother made a silent prayer with his hands clasped then departed from the church with his girlfriend. Another young man who wanted to have fun in the church told his two fellow companions to visit a Catholic church instead.
A portion of people passing by stopped to take photos of the church but continued to walk by.
When it was time to enter the main hall, security guards split up the crowd into groups with one-meter-long ropes. Security and inspection equipment was placed at the entrance to the church to scan people and bags.
At 8 pm, the second worship service kicked off. A choir of more than 40 people presented ten classic hymns. A pastor preached the birth of Jesus, claiming that his birth was a historical event and the fulfillment of God's promises in Micah and Isaiah. She saw people starting to queue up for Christmas Eve services as early as 3 pm.
In the side hall, about half of the congregation left within the first hour of the service, but the sanctuary was crowded with people.
After the second service, many people stayed for a while to take pictures before flowers, candles, or the church decorated with colored lights, reluctant to leave. As the participants gradually walked out of the church, policemen and fire trucks outside the church drove away.
- Translated by Karen Luo
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