Faith Thrives in Chinese Community

Article excerpt

Christians, Buddhists among city believers

Though tiny, Winnipeg's Chinatown thrived as a community in the early 1900s. Crowded grocery stores and laundromats displaying colourful red-and-white signs dotted the area around King Street downtown.

By 1920, there were 900 Chinese people in the city running 150 laundries, three restaurants and eight grocery stores, says Paul Yee, author of Chinatown. One Chinese Mission stood alone on Logan Avenue.

The 2006 census lists 12,660 Chinese people living in Winnipeg, many of them highly educated and most preferring to live in the rapidly growing area near the University of Manitoba. Today there are at least six Chinese Christian churches in the city, as well as a number of Buddhist temples.

The largest of the Chinese churches is the Winnipeg Chinese Alliance Church at 261 Colony St.

Founded in 1967, the WCAC "is the biggest in attendance and in building and in every way. It is one church of three congregations," says Pastor Deyi Wei.

Wei estimates there are about 110 Cantonese-, 100 Mandarin- and 80 English-speaking members at the WCAC. Mandarin is used mostly in mainland China and Cantonese is the language of Hong Kong and parts of Southeast Asia, so both languages are offered. English is offered for the children.

The church grew out of a Chinese Christian fellowship group that met at the U of M in the early 1960s. As the congregation grew, it was forced to seek larger premises several times until it finally settled into the building on Colony in 1982.

The 54-year-old Wei was born in China but came to Winnipeg in 2002 from the United States, where he did his seminary studies. "China is experiencing enormous growth in churches. There are estimates of about 80 million to 100 million Christians in China now," he says.

The WCAC is active, helping out at Agape Table, the Union Gospel Church and Youth for Christ. "One family donated a house to reach out to local women involved in prostitution so that they have a safe place to stay," Wei says.

While the congregation is mostly Chinese, the English ministry led by Joel Black is attempting to reach out to the local community, newcomers and people of different backgrounds. The growing congregation also includes a children's pastor.

One of the city's newer Chinese churches is the Winnipeg Chinese Lutheran Church of South Winnipeg. Founded in 1992, the church operates at the Epiphany Lutheran Church at 200 Dalhousie Dr.

It was founded 20 years ago when Francis Tung, a Chinese pastor from Hong Kong, envisioned starting a church in the south end, says Kai Cheng, chairman of the church council.

About 50 to 70 members and usually 10 to 15 non-members attend, says Cheng, an engineer who came to Winnipeg from Hong Kong more than 40 years ago.

"A lot of students come because of the location of the church, being close to the U of M," says Helen Wang, who Cheng describes as a very involved member. …