The head of Chinas official Protestant churches are requesting Anglicans worldwide to help restore a landmark cathedral in Shanghai that could tell the story of Protestantism in China.
Presbyter Ji Jianhong, chairperson of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) the official title of the state-approved protestant Church in China called on Anglicans worldwide, saying, "If anyone can provide early photos or even the original blueprints of Holy Trinity Church, these would greatly assist its restoration."
The request was made one day after U.S. Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold took a tour of the cathedral interior during a visit to China last mont, according to the Episcopal News Service (ENS). The Holy Trinity Church was built in 1869, closed in 1949 amid the Cultural Revolution, but was handed back to the Chinese Christian Council (CCC) in early June 2004 by the Chinese Central Government.
Within the period that the cathedral was kept by the government, it was used as an auditorium for government purposes. Since a grand unveiling ceremony held on June 6 last year, it has been serving as the headquarters of the National CCC/TSPM Committee, according to sources from CCCs official news agency Amity News Service.
The Holy Trinity Church is located at 210 Jiujiang Road in Shanghais downtown area. It was designed by the well-known English architect Sir Gilbert Scott. Just as any of the classic English buildings, the church has a red brick and white stone frontage, and is therefore commonly known as "Red Church" by local Chinese, sources say.
The Church has a profound historical importance. Before the Communist Party began ruling over China and took away the cathedral in 1949, it had been a spiritual home for many Britons and other foreigners. In addition, many colonial children were educated at the cathedral school, set up along the lines of a London cathedral choir school, according to a report by the U.K. Telegraph newspaper.
In the same year, TSPM was formed and marked a new era of Protestantism in China. Since then, only churches affiliated with TSPM have been officially recognized by the Chinese government.
Alongside with the China Christian Council (CCC), which continues the ministries of most mainline faith groups present in China prior to 1949, TSPM has been operating the Protestant ministry in a "post denominational era" until now, as ENS quoted CCC president, the Rev. Dr. Cao Sheng-jie.
Cao was herself raised in the Anglican tradition as well, ENS noted. She has once commented that the return of the historical cathedral to the hands of Chinese Christians and the establishment of the headquarters of the National CCC/TSPM Committee there would be the "realization of a dream," according to the UK-based Church Times newspaper.
Much renovation work has remained to be completed even after claiming back the property last year, such as removing the current rows of tattered theater-style seats, a dropped ceiling, and accumulated debris, ENS reported with reference to Bishop Grisworlds visit to the cathedral.
In the meantime, ENS has started collecting any materials such as photos and drawings from early past, which maybe useful for reshaping the 136-year-old cathedral at the heart of China's state-approved Protestant church.
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