Monday, April 13, 2009

Scenes From A Chinese Catholic Church

As is the case in any society, churches here in China are institutions that not only shape people, but are influenced by local culture as well. For us, this lesson was reinforced on Easter morning, when we traveled to the the Ping'an Qiao Cathedral for Mass. (A shorter journey, by the way, than our usual jaunt across Beijing...In general, Chengdu feels kind of like a small city to us, even though the total population in the area is something like eleven million!)

For starters, there was the Chinese architecture of the buildings surrounding the cathedral itself. Desi keeps saying how she wants to take that distinctively Chinese style of doing roofs and remodeling our house on Matey Road that way! (You can take the girl out of China, but you can't take the China out of the girl?)

Then there were the local youths who wanted to have their picture taken with Julie and Z. Shortly followed by the mad rush to secure pews immediately after the early Mass let out. As "old hands," we knew the drill and pushed our way in as well, going so far as to take the moveable pews and putting them in an advantageous position where we could see everything. This paid dividends when, a little while later, a friendly Dutch guy named Dmitri wandered in looking for a place to sit. We coached him a bit through the Mass, given that not only didn't he speak Chinese, but also that he wasn't Catholic (Mennonite, it turns out) and needed help with the order of the Mass.

Finally, we can't not mention the "little angels" who processed in with the gifts. No Chinese Mass would be complete without these girls all dressed in white!

So although we did miss the beautiful singing of Kathleen McGovern and the rest of the community at St. Andrew's, we did cherish all of this pageantry of a different sort. As a woman who we bumped into the next day at the bus depot said to us (after telling us that she had seen us at Mass)...Alleluia!

~Steve

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