Visited Chinese Congregation at St. Paul's Carlingford

No, we didn't sleep in, nor forget to turn up to church yesterday, just in case people asked (and indeed some have). We went to visit St. Paul's Carlingford Anglican Church yesterday, bringing two friends who recently moved to North-Western Sydney to their Chinese congregation.

Breaky at Eastwood We had late breakfast in Eastwood before heading to Carlingford for their 10:45am meeting. Church is very welcoming, which is great. They look out for new comers, and people will find you, bring food to you and chat with you after the meeting. However the bilingual service (Mandarin + Cantonese) was really a turn off. All songs were led in Mandarin, but everything else, including prayer, announcements, Bible reading and the sermon are all conducted in bilingual, i.e. one sentence of Mandarin, followed by another sentence of translation in Cantonese, followed by the next sentence in Mandarin, followed by ...

What's bad about bilingual services?

  • It is long. It was a 70 minutes talk yesterday on Nehemiah 2, and yesterday with its 40 degree heat wasn't the best day to endure a long sermon on.
  • It is confusing. Right from the mouth of the person we brought along with. Try to translate into a different tongue right after every sentence you have spoken, and see how your audience respond. "Huh?!" (Actually not really translation but speaks the same words in a different dialect)
  • It lacks momentum. Try to explain a complicated idea, and insert random noise between every sentence. It is not only confusing to the audiences, it also has bad effect on the speaker's communication.

So our friends ended up planning to go to another church next week, who has a Mandarin-only service. Bilingual services seem to be plaguing many small Chinese congregations who could not afford to have separate Mandarin and Cantonese services. Although St. Paul's is one of the biggest Anglican church in North West, that Chinese congregation is just a small attachment. In fact there's nothing Anglican about it -- it's more of a traditional Chinese church than a Sydney Anglican church (for example they sing Shan Yi Song to conclude the meeting).

I also found the quality of teaching a bit lacking. Of course it is easy for me to say, who is coming from a student church with deep evangelistic roots. It wasn't the pastor who was preaching as he was on holidays, but a guest speaker who gave a talk from Nehemiah 2. The passage is about Nehemiah getting permission from the Persian king to come back to Jerusalem to re-build the city wall. The conclusion of the talk? Be like Nehemiah. Work hard in the secular work to bring good witness to the Lord. Somehow people who are working instead of coming to church can be excused...

Well, not sure how the talk was concluded this way, but I guess it was certainly practical, for a Chinese church at least. I am sure the whole digging through major prophets, bringing out all that biblical theology stuff and finding fulfilment in Jesus can be equally disturbing to some congregations.

We'll be back in FOCUS this week.