Shanghaiist isn’t a Christian by a long shot, but lately we’ve been a bit nostalgic for the whole Christmas spirit thing, so we decided today to venture to the Community Church on Hengshan Lu (located right across from Narcissus and One Thousand and One Nights, which are perhaps landmarks for you decidedly un-Christian types) to see what was going on. In the afternoon we managed to walk into the middle of a play about some guy named Martin (played by a woman) who owned a shoe shop and was expecting Jesus to drop by. He had prepared some food and the other blandishments the Son of God might expect, but kept getting interrupted by various unexpected events involving people who needed his help and compassion. None of the dialogue in this place was uttered by the actors — a recording was played on the PA system and the actors simply mouthed the lines, though you could barely see their lips moving, so it looked a bit like a pantomime, especially since Martin, played by a woman, had a Charlie Chaplin/Great Dictator type moustache pinned beneath her nose. Finally, when Jesus did arrive, He was just a voice from above, and told Martin, who began apologizing profusely for not serving Him well, that by serving all those people who needed his help and compassion, that Martin was in fact serving Jesus.
After this, a skinny Chinese Santa came up and everyone had to guess who it was that played him. Some people knew right away, and the MC acknowledged that it was the same guy that had played Santa the year before. The gathered faithful were an interesting bunch — the vast majority of them were probably septa- or octagenarians, which lead us to wonder if they were remnants of the more monied and propertied classes of pre-Communist Shanghai, which we’ve been told comprised the bulk of believers in that era, or if they were later converts. As the afternoon concluded we saw a guy in one of those flat rolling carts that you see some beggars tool around on. People were reluctant to let him in. By the time we came back to the church, between 8 and 9 this evening, we saw he’d upgraded to a wheelchair, which some old ladies said was donated or lent to him by one of the brothers in the congregation.
The evening was much more religiously oriented, with the masses, hymns, Ode to Joys, people standing and singing. Unlike in the afternoon, there were more young people (many couples) and families. It was standing room only in the main chambers of the church, and as Shanghaiist tried sneaking around to the front, we were told to go upstairs, where they had set up the video link on two large TVs placed side by side, so that the people upstairs could see the performance downstairs and still sing along. After the ceremonies were over, many stayed in their seats and pews, lost in fervent prayer, lips enunciating prayers only He is meant to hear. We believe there is a mass there on Christmas Day, for those that might be interested, but we have no idea how open it is to the public.
You can see some pictures here.
Community Church is located at 53 Hengshan Lu.