[Church Series] Shanghai Allen Memorial Church

Jingling Church holds a retreat during the Spring Festival holiday
Jingling Church holds a retreat during the Spring Festival holiday (photo:Shanghai Christianity )
By CCD contributor: Paul Wu November 22nd, 2019

Allen Memorial Church or Jingling Church is one of the famous churches in Shanghai established by the American Methodist Episcopal Church South (MECS). It was formerly known as Allen Memorial Church, the second church founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Shanghai, initially serving the teachers and students of the Anglo-Chinese School. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Christian academy was incorporated into Soochow University to be transformed into the university's law school and the second affiliated middle school.

From 1922 to 1923, on the south side of Kunshan Road, opposite the former church, the MECS demolished the missionary dormitory and built a larger church, which was then the largest in Shanghai with a floor area of 720 square meters. In honor of the famous missionary Young John Allen, it was so named as Jinglin Church (as Lin is Allen's Chinese surname). On the New Year's Day of 1924, Reverend Jiang Changchuan hosted the opening ceremony. Since that year Rev. Jiang was in charge of the church. He was the father of the famous Chinese missionary Stephen Kaung.

Allen Memorial Church is not only famous in Shanghai, but also is a witness to the legends of modern Chinese Church history. For example, the famous Pastor Song Yaoru was a member of Jinglin Church. Members of the Song family (e.g. Chiang Kai-shek was baptized there and his wife Song May-ling was a member of the choir group) belonged to this community. In December 1927, Chiang Kai-shek and Song May-ling were due to hold their wedding in the church. However, Rev. Jiang Changchuan believed that although Chiang Kai-shek published a statement announcing a divorce to Madam Chen Jieru, the legal procedures had not been completed, so it was not appropriate to hold a wedding in the church and so refused to be the witnessing pastor to their wedding. Therefore, the couple had to ask the YMCA's chief executive Yu-Zhang to be the witnessing official at their marriage. It could also be seen that Rev. Jiang Changchuan was committed to standing by the truth and did not want compromise to those in authority, reflecting his integrity.

In the 1930s, the great preacher Song Shangjie also preached there. On New Year's Day of 1932, Song Shangjie first preached in this church. He warned everyone not to have worldly greed by illustrating the account of Lot's wife. The church was very crowded on that day and the original three-day sermon was extended to ten days with altogether more than 800 in attendance being converted. The Shanghai churches witnessed great revival at that time. In 1934, Song Shangjie's New Year's sermon attracted more than a thousand believers.

In 1937, when the Shanghai War broke out, Hongkou, where Jinglin Church was located, became a war zone and the Church was forced to stop its worship services. The parishioners fled inland to the international settlement and the Church was occupied by the Japanese army. It was not until after the Anti-Japanese War that Jingling Church resumed worship services.

In 1958, the Chinese Church launched a "Joint Worship" campaign. Jinglin Church was designated as one of the four joint places of worship in Hongkou District. All activities were forced to cease during the Cultural Revolution. In 1979, three churches in Shanghai resumed their activities. Besides Mu En and Qingxin Churches, Shanghai North Church also resumed worship during this period. However, due to the large number of local believers in Hongkou District, it was difficult to accommodate so many at the North Church. So in September of 1980, Jinglin Church resumed worship services.

In 1983, the church was expanded to 811 square meters and renamed as Jingling Church. The new church is a brick-and-mortar structure, facing north. The arched windows on the north and west facades are in Gothic style. The building's floor plan is in the shape of a cross, and the main entrance facade is composed of three symmetrically arranged gables. The main central wall has two rows of sharply arched windows and the lower part is decorated with arched belt of three leaves. The two sides have support pillars and the church's ground floor is an artificial floor. There is a auditorium on the first floor and the second floor is open. Its total area is 1,067 square meters which can accommodate more than 1,500 people.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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