At noon on Friday, November 27, CCS principal Maylanne Maybee will leave for China with a delegation of 20 people, representing The United Church of Canada. Tif McNaughton, a CCS student, will also be part of the delegation. For almost two weeks they will be guests of the China Christian Council, visiting church members and leaders of the Three Self Patriotic Movement, the state-recognized Protestant Church in China. They will fly to Shanghai, then travel by bus or train to the beautiful garden city of Suzhou, then on to Nanjing for a two-day conference at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, then a high speed train to Beijing.
This will be a journey for me at several levels. Already, it has been a journey of discovery of The United Church of Canada. I was asked to prepare a presentation for the Nanjing conference on the contextual challenges facing the church today. I decided to talk about Canada as a country, to start with – its land and peoples – then about the evolving vision of The United Church of Canada, starting out 90 years ago as a national, united, and uniting church. The vision changed as our society became increasingly diverse and pluralized. Today it is on the verge of letting go of what it once was and becoming something humbler, something new, as yet unborn.
At another level, this journey will be a discovery of the Protestant church in China. It’s called “the Three Self Patriotic Movement”, reflecting its founding vision of being self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. They are a post-denominational church that has been seeking to separate from the early influence of Western missionaries and develop a “truly Chinese” identity. It will be interesting to compare notes between our two churches.
And at another level still, this will be a personal journey. “Maylanne” (Meilan) is a Chinese name, given to me by my parents who were living in Nanjing, where my father was on staff at the Canadian Embassy, before I was born. Meilan was a name my mother chose as a girl growing up in Beijing, where her father taught at the Peking Union Medical College and led excavations resulting in the discovery of Peking Man in a cave just outside the city.
I’ve never been to China. My mother left Nanjing during the Revolution, before I was born. The pre-Communist China my parents knew is completely different from the one I will be visiting, but it will still be a pilgrimage to the country of my roots.
We are beginning the season of Advent, another journey of peace, hope, joy, and love. May it be a time of discovery for you. Please keep the delegation in your prayers. And follow our travels if you’re interested at https://chinadelegationucc.wordpress.com