God in the margins

rev dr ji zhangThe Chinese Church has undergone dramatic change in the past few decades. Two men with considerable knowledge of the church in China are Rev Dr Ji Zhang and Rev Zhu Enshou. They will be bringing their stories and experience to regional Victoria when they speak at a conference at Hamilton Uniting Church on the weekend of 12-14 August.

Mr Zhu is minister of the Zion Chinese Church, which worships on the site of the Glen Iris Road Uniting Church. It is home to a congregation of more than 70 Chinese Christians. He is also the first minister from the China Christian Council to take a ministry position in Australia.

Dr Zhang is UnitingWorld’s manager of church relationships (Asia). He grew up in Shanghai and studied theology in Melbourne and Boston.

The conference is organised by the Henty region and will focus on the theme ‘God in the margins’.

It will commence on Friday night where Mr Zhu will share his journey to Australia and his ministry to build a Chinese church community in suburban Melbourne.

Mr Zhu and Dr Zhang will then explore the history of the Church in China on Saturday, from its suppression during the Cultural Revolution to its re-emergence and subsequent growth. They will relate their experience of the Chinese Church’s development to emerging issues in the Australian rural context.

The conference will finish on Sunday with a worship service led by Dr Zhang and Mr Zhu.

Hamilton Uniting Church minister Rev Peter Cook said the conference originated from a discussion at a Henty region meeting about providing learning opportunities to Uniting Church members.

“We started off just hearing about the growth of the Church in China and the association Australia has developed with China in terms of trade and various ways,” Mr Cook said.

“Increasingly, Australia is more multicultural and will be much more connected to Asia – it’s already happening now and there’s no reason why it would stop.”

The church in Australia is experiencing a period of change and Mr Cook believes it will be valuable for congregations to learn from the story of the Chinese Church.

“The idea of ‘in the margins’, as I would understand, is that for a long time Chinese Christians were in the margins in China. The way things are developing in Australia, you could say that in some respects the Church is much more on the margins than it was 70 years ago,” he said.

“The conference will build a little bridge in those respective experiences and see what we have to learn.”

Evening and midday meals can be purchased from Friday tea to Sunday lunch for a total cost of $80 or pro-rata. Some billeting is also available.

For more information and to register for the conference, contact Elaine Edwards on P: 03 5572 4627, Mob: 0411 404 189 or email: elaine1747@gmail.com

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