During a visit to the Church of Heavenly Peace on Cangqian Mountain, Fuzhou, Fujian, Reverend Chen Andi introduced us to this 165-year-old church.
In 1840, after the Opium War, China was forced to open to the outside world. Fuzhou and Xiamen, included in the five treaty ports, were the first to open. The Methodist Episcopal Church and other churches sent missionaries to China and Protestant churches entered Fuzhou on a large scale.
The Church of Heavenly Peace, which is located at No. 15 Tian’an Li, Cangshan District, was built under the supervision of Robert Samuel Maclay, a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was completed and dedicated to God on October 18, 1856. “People on earth strive for fame and wealth, instead of seeking the blessed peace inside. So I gather the toiling masses to approach the Christ here, and name it ‘peace’ to enlighten the masses.” So Maclay called it the Church of Heavenly Peace.
In 1897, Pastor Huang Zhiji raised 20,000 yuan to expand the church into a cathedral that could accommodate a thousand people, and the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Methodist Episcopal Church into Fuzhou was celebrated there. In 1915, the Office of the Methodist Episcopal Church was built near the church as a center for missionary activities in China. In 1988, the church was designated a historical building by the cultural preservation society of the Cangshan District. In 1996, it was rebuilt with a new reinforced concrete structure. On October 30, 1999, a dedication ceremony was held. The church can accommodate more than 1,000 worshippers.
Constructed of red brick with stone corners, this single-story church has a cruciform horizontal plane. It is a relatively tall building, equivalent to two floors of ordinary houses of the same time period. It has a wooden truss roof covered with Chinese-style tiles. The windows have two forms: gothic arched windows on the eave surface, and ordinary rectangular windows on the gable surface, with a rose window in the gable. In the southeast corner of the intersection of the cruciform plane is the bell tower, which is three floors high. The first floor is the same height as the church, with the main door of the church opening to the south. A small rectangular window is above the door.
In 1881, the church established a private missionary middle school, the Anglo-Chinese College (now Fuzhou Senior High School), on Yantai Mountain. Next year will be the 140th anniversary of its founding.
During the visit, I saw a busy construction site around the church, where buildings that appear old have been preserved. The Office of Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1915, has been restored and the interior is being renovated. All the century-old buildings on Cangqian Mountain will be restored in time for the session of the World Heritage Committee to be held in Fuzhou next May.
Reverend Chen Andi also told us that during the coronavirus pandemic this year, the Church of Heavenly Peace ended all of its services and launched an online Sunday worship service, which was hugely popular. Even though the epidemic has stalled and they are able to meet in person, they maintain the online services as well, with over 500 people attending each time.
Christmas is coming, and the church is actively preparing for the Christmas gathering at the church's Cangshan Xiaoling Chapel.
(The article is originally published by Gospel Times.)
- Translated by Nicolas Cao