A Brief History
Chinese presence in churches in the Diocese of Toronto took on a visible and vital form in the 1970s. It started with the formation of the Toronto Chinese Anglican fellowship in 1969, consisting of Anglican immigrants from Hong Kong. They formed St. John’s Chinese congregation in 1973, using the Church of the Redeemer as a meeting place.
In 1984 they planted All Saints to serve Chinese people in the suburbs. It moved from Scarborough to Markham in 1996. Two other churches were also planted from St. John’s: St. Christopher’s in North York and Richmond Hill, and St. Elizabeth’s in Mississauga. Each of these churches has moved to take advantage of demographics. St. John itself moved away from its downtown site and eventually settled in North York.
While these churches were mainly Cantonese and Hong Kong in culture, they have responded to the challenge of the second and third generations, who are more comfortable speaking English. While immigration from Hong Kong has declined, new immigrants are continually coming from China. Each of the Chinese churches has some form of ministry in all three languages — Cantonese, English and Mandarin — whether in translation during worship, early childhood education, separate services or practical help.
To better understand the mission field for Chinese ministry now and into the future, Bishop Patrick Yu, then-area bishop of York-Scarborough, commissioned a demographic study. Working with Environics, the Congregational Development department now has current data and projection for the next 20 years. This study shows that, by and large, the four churches are placed in areas that can expect continuing growth and intensification for Chinese immigrants. Our churches are in the right places!
Mandarin speakers are one of the largest immigrant groups in the GTA. As of 2006, those who speak Chinese as their mother tongue make up the second largest population group after native English speakers. One third of this group speaks Mandarin. (Source)
This is an incredible opportunity to share the gospel in word and deed. God has been raising up leadership, resources and passion for Mandarin-speaking ministry in the Diocese of Toronto. This takes on many forms. Some ministries have grown from existing Chinese congregations. But there is also a renewed effort in recent years for English-speaking churches to be involved, often with the help of part-time ministers or students whose native tongue is Mandarin. At the moment there are a number of active Chinese ministries:
- St. Paul, L’Amoreaux
- St. George on Yonge
- St. James Cathedral
- St. Philip on-the-Hill
- St. Thomas, Huron Street
- St. Anne, Toronto
These fresh expressions, partially funded by the Diocese and coordinated and resourced by the New Hope Advisory Board, are exploring ways to meet this exciting opportunity for service and mission.
There is much broadly multicultural ministry that also serves the Chinese population, often in some form of English conversation clubs or classes. Through the passion of some keenly interested people, there is also a current attempt to reach out to restaurant workers.
By necessity, early Chinese ministry in the Diocese has been spontaneous and experimental. Now, we believe we’re at a stage where more consolidation and coordination are beneficial; the challenge is too great for any part of the Diocese to tackle on its own, and it should not be left to Chinese Anglicans alone to face the future. A first Chinese ministry consultation took place in 2014. Senior clergy, council members, staff and bishops, as well as leaders of historic Chinese churches, gathered to share their stories, visions and challenges. It was followed by a second consultation in 2015.
Do you feel a stirring to be involved in Chinese ministry in the Diocese of Toronto? Are you already involved in some way but could use some encouragement or resources? You are welcome!