Married at the Mall

China is a strange place, a seriously foreign place. If you are a Brit, then France or Germany are not so weird or peculiar. They are really just the same as the UK, except that the accent is different and food (or probably the weather) is better. But China is not like that. China is a strange country.

I am not going to give the name of the church Irena and I attend here in Shenzhen. That would not be a sensible thing to do. As an elder in our international church here in Shenzhen, I do get asked to “do” weddings and this one was my second. First we had Hitched at the Hilton and now Married at the Mall. I “officiated” at Elmer and Lynn’s wedding on 1st January, 2018. Well, it made an unusual way to start the New Year.
A Church in a Mall

Broadly speaking, there are two types of church here in China: officially-recognized government churches and “unofficial”, unregistered churches (often called “house” churches). There is no uniform policy towards unofficial churches. Sometimes there are crackdowns, with arrests and deportations of any foreigners involved. Sometimes a blind eye (or several blind eyes) are turned to an unofficial church, even though the local police are well aware that there are unregistered and therefore technically illegal church meetings going on. Of course, Shenzhen is a sort of “model city”, a bit of “window dressing” for western eyes, as it is so close to Hong Kong. Therefore what is permitted here in SZ might well land you in jail if you tried to do it in another city.

And yes, there were some tears.
What seemed odd to me is that the church in the mall was an officially registered church, but most of the people attending the wedding, including Elmer the groom, were regular members of an unregistered church, namely the one at which I am an elder. So was this really a strange thing? There is often a lot of “overlap” between the two groups or two types of churches. It was good that two different churches, from different sides of the fence, were coming together for the wedding.

You may kiss the bride, Elmer!
It was not quite the same as the wedding at the Hilton, of course. Not quite so posh, but the fact that so many people from the same church had come to the wedding made it much more than just a wedding. It was a real celebration of the church community. At the start of the New Year, it was a public statement that Christianity in China is alive and well and the spiritual (and social) focus for many young people. Perhaps the biggest difference between the Church in the UK and the Church in China is that here in the Middle Kingdom the congregation is dominated by young people, especially young professionals.
Two dear friends: AJ, an American, and Mira, a Bulgarian!


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