The news from my friends in Luzhou and larger cities in China was encouraging: Primary and secondary schools across China are starting up classes on April 8.
But as in America, large-scale gatherings are still not an option. Universities and colleges, whose students come from all over the country, are still continuing online teaching with students asked to stay home. This mandate likewise includes places of worship such as churches, mosques and temples.
One of my former students, Ding Yanbing, gave me this report on WeChat after I asked if there would be Lenten services in her area of Sichuan province. She is a choir member in her hometown church.
“The government forbids large-scale gathering. We haven’t worshiped for more than two months. We just worship online, using our phone apps, but that is not convenient for the old who can’t use smartphones. They are eager to go to church to listen to God’s word and worship together.”
In her town, illiteracy among the elderly is quite prevalent. Those who grew up in old China didn’t have the opportunity of education which Chinese students have today. (The same can be said as well for the senior citizens who go to my big city church in Luzhou.) She went on to write, “Many old Christians who can’t read the Bible express their appeal to recover worship at the church. And there’s no cases in Meishan for may days now. Pastoral workers are trying to visit the old Christians, several people at once.”
Luzhou Protestant Church: Still continues online
In Luzhou, services for Palm Sunday and Easter will likewise be canceled this year and continue online.
I remember the Constant Love choir practices a year ago as we prepared for our Lenten season anthems. All of us were so excited, and humbled, with our upcoming songs of both solemness for Palm-Passion Sunday and then joyfulness, a week later for Easter.
Weekly rehearsals centered around our processional and the waving of palms as we entered the sanctuary. Our deep purple robes, worn once a year, had been cleaned and pressed. Early that last Sunday in Lent, we arrived at the church an hour early, at 7:30 for warm-up and practice. At 8:15, we donned our Lenten garbs, each of us helping the other straighten and smooth our white satin stoles to look uniform and respectful, in honor of Jesus. Our palm bearers led the way with the cross following behind.
Our Palm-Passion Sunday last year was deeply meaningful with first jubilance at Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, then heartfelt mourning and remembrance of Christ’s death on Good Friday. Rather than have a single pulpit message, our pastors chose instead to share in a different way. The entire service was composed of Bible passages read aloud by all our church leaders: Pastor Liao and her husband, Pastor Zhang; young Pastor Zhao and also Pastor Li. There were many tears shed by all present as Christ’s death was dramatically interpreted through words and video displays on the church power point screens. Liturgical dance by our more talented members pantomimed Jesus’ crucifixion. Such a powerful two-hour worship left us filing from the church in reflective, spiritual quietness.
Today’s Palm-Passion Sunday
Last year, our Palm Sunday anthem was 耶稣给你平安 (ye-su gay nee ping ahn), Jesus Give You Peace. I leave you here with the lyrics, Youtube video and translation below.
这世界虽有苦难， Jesus has suffered
主耶稣是避风港湾； He is a safe harbor
他要给你， He will give you,
他要给你平安， He will give you peace.
源源涌流不断。 The source is constantly flowing
耶稣，耶稣给你平安， Jesus, Jesus give you peace
耶稣给你真正平安， Jesus give you true peace.
深深在你心里， Deep in your heart
源源涌流不断， The source is constantly flowing.
哦！耶稣给你平安。 Oh, Jesus give you peace.
I send you blessings this day of Palm Sunday. Hosanna in the Highest! May Jesus give you 平安 (ping ahn), peace.