The Oldest Christian Church in Changchun: Century-old history of Church in Xiwuma Road

Changchun Christian Church
Changchun Christian Church
By Esther TianMay 31st, 2023

During the May Day tourism season, I visited Changchun Christian Church with a sister, which is said to be the oldest Christian church in Changchun. Changchun Christian Church, commonly known as Nanguan Christian Church, also known as Xiwuma Road Church, is one of the most important and largest Christian churches in Changchun.

The Scottish United Presbyterian Mission sent British missionary Thomas C. Fulton to Changchun as early as 1886 to preach. Two years later, Pastor Thomas C. Fulton baptized the believers for the first time.

In 1890, Pastor Thomas C. Fulton left Changchun and went to Liaoning to carry out evangelical work. In 1894, Pastor Fulton established the Manchuria Christian College in Gaotai Temple, Yuechuangm Hutong, Daxiguan. He taught elementary theology in the class for baptism candidates and trained preachers throughout Northeast China. In 1898, Pastor Fulton and Pastor John Ross of the Scottish United Presbyterian Mission founded a seminar.

In 1893, the British pastor William Gillespie became the second Christian missionary in Changchun.

In 1897, the fourth year after he came to Changchun, Gillespie purchased the land now located in the Xiwuma Road Christian Church and began to establish churches, hospitals, and schools. This church was completed in 1898, and in 1899, Changchun's first large Christian church was built. It was an Irish chapel with a single-peak bell tower. In 1920, it was affiliated with the Chinese Christian Council in Shanghai, China.

In 1896, Gillespie founded the first Western medicine hospital in Changchun, Christian Women's Hospital (now Changchun Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital), with a construction area of 16,000 square meters. Subsequently (founded in 1907), the Church Cuiwen School was founded, which is now Xiwuma Road Primary School.

In 1894, during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, all British missionaries retreated to Yingkou. In 1895, Pastor William Gillespie and others returned to Changchun.

In July 1900, the Boxer Rebellion sprang up in Changchun, and the British pastors in Changchun fled Russia. After the Boxer Indemnity, the British missionaries returned to Changchun and reformed the church.

In 1920, a killer assassinated Pastor Gillespie shortly after his third visit to Changchun to serve. After his death, the church ordained two Chinese priests for the first time, Chen Mingshan and Shi Shiliang.

In 1934, under the stewardship of Zhang Shidun, an English priest, a large chapel (known as the Old Chapel, which is actually the second chapel) with a single-peak bell tower covering an area of 600 square meters was built in the churchyard, and four years later a smaller chapel (the third chapel) was built.

Following the start of the Pacific War in December 1941, the Japanese Kwantung Army interned the British missionaries in Shenyang before promptly expelling them from northeast China.

During the War of Resistance against Japan, Xu Tangqing, the 15th Chinese preacher of the Church of Christ, cooperated with the underground Communist Party of China to fight against the Japanese aggressors.

In 1980, following the implementation of the religious policy after the Cultural Revolution, the Changchun Municipal Government funded the renovation of the original Xiwuma Road Church and built a new chapel in 1990.

In 1997, the original old church was identified as a dangerous building by the Changchun Housing Appraisal Center, and believers contributed to the construction of the existing cathedral. The church was completed in June 1998 and underwent a major renovation in 2010.

Today, this church covers an area of 5,000 square meters (7.5 mu). The main building has a floor area of 2,900 square meters (total area: 5,800 square meters with annex) and can accommodate at least 4,000 worshipers on all three floors.

At present, there are more than 200 fellow workers and volunteers in the church, and there would be more than 1,000 people at the Sunday meeting.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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