International Deans and Rectors Conference

Hong Kong, April 27 – May 1, 2016

St Matthew-in-the-City is part of this international network bringing together churches from financial capitals of the world.

The conference was hosted this year by St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong. Other churches represented were: St James’ King St, Sydney; Trinity, New York; American Cathedral, Paris; St Mary-le-Bow, London; St John’s Edinburgh; Cape Town Cathedral.

The conference is sponsored by Trinity, Wall St but this year generous Hong Kong parishioners sponsored our hotel costs, transport and much of the hospitality.

St John’s Cathedral, founded in 1849, stands on the only freehold land in Hong Kong. Begun as a church for the British it is now a vibrant multi cultural place of worship. 2,200 on average attend the 8 services spread across Saturday and Sunday. They baptise at least 200 people a year, mostly adults.

Dean Matthias leads a team of 8 clergy and many more lay staff. They have significant outreach ministries including a counselling centre, support for domestic workers and migrants, and HIV education. The wider diocese has an extensive network of schools and social services.

Services are mostly in English, with one in Mandarin and one in Filipino. The rest of the diocese is largely Cantonese speaking.

The Archbishop of Hong Kong Paul Kwong has just been elected as chair of ACC (Anglican Consultative Council).

Hong Kong is 8% Christian but the church is well respected and has a voice in society. Now Hong Kong is part of China the church is paying attention to developments and policies on the mainland, especially as China is loosening control over churches.

Visits

  • St James’ Settlement – multiple social service projects including dementia day care; workshop for people with intellectual disabilities; career training for young people; meals on wheels; “upcycling” – making new products from recycling – and many more – one floor each of a high rise building. http://www.sjs.org.hk/en/front/front.php

  • We were taken to two “apartments” to visit elderly people – one quite shocking cupboard size known as a “subdivided” apartment and one in govt provided housing – well kept and safe but normally this one room apartment could house up to 6 people.

  • Buddhist Nunnery and Temple where we were guided through the Temple and gardens by a young nun.

Church in China

We had a very interesting lecture from Dr Philip Wickeri, a scholar on the church in China. Christianity in China is expanding rapidly and by 2030 will have the largest Christian population in the world.

Most Protestant churches are still part of the “3 Self Movement” while some choose to be independent and “unlicensed”. Communist party members are not permitted to be religious.

There is a desperate need for clergy and leadership training as the church grows so fast. There is 1 clergyperson per 10,000 believers, with 7 churches a day opening.

The Anglican Church as such no longer exists in China but the heritage and memories of the Anglican Church from pre 1950 remain. The last Anglican Bishop (Bishop Ting) died in 2012.

Themes

From the discussions about each of our places of ministry common themes were

  • taking our place in an increasingly secular society

  • the changing nature of work

  • transience of people and work

  • terrorism (Paris, Sydney)

  • repercussions still from the Occupy Movements (HK, NY, London)

  • engaging with political issues and world issues such as climate change

Next year the conference will be in New York in May; Auckland will host in 2018 or 2019.

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