Today was spent in attending the Maitrichit Chinese Baptist Church pictured below, and also in a celebration of the lay ministry of Thawesak Mahachavaroja, who Central awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree in May 2009.
Two impressions come immediately to mind of the church service. First, the worship service was very familiar. With the exception of languages, Chinese and Thai, one could have been any many Baptist services in America. The order of service was the same, announcements, prayers, sermon, and taking of the offering. The songs were some of the popular ones I sang in the 1960s: “Faith is a Victory,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Wonderful Words of Life.” The arrangement of space had a familiar feel. The pulpit was elevated and occupied the center of the platform. The cross was the focus behind the pulpit, and the offering plates were on the center communion table.
It is clear that the church is a very vibrant community of believers in the heart of Bangkok and in the heart of Buddhism. As one person told me, only 1% of the population is Christian. Any it can be a challenge to get to church on a Sunday. In the States, the road are nearly empty on a Sunday morning as one makes his or her way to worship; however, here every shop is open, the streets are jammed, and most worshippers live a long way from the church. It is truly a sign of the Christians’ in Thailand commitment as they faithfully maneuver their way to worship on Sunday.
A second impression is related to the languages spoken in worship. As the name of the church implies, it is a Chinese church here in Thailand. The church is composed of mainly Thai, but many of them are naturalized citizens of Thailand or have had children born in this country. However, strong Chinese roots continue. The church is 40% Chinese speakers and 60% Thai. So throughout the service, a translator is always going back and forth between the two languages. Of course on our day, with Molly Marshall, President of Central Seminary, giving the sermon, a third language was added to the mix. However, even more language was added, and of course from a New Testament perspective, this was of interest to me: Aramaic. The only language that united us all in worship was this ancient language of Jesus and the world of the New Testament. Now granted there was only one word of Aramaic spoken, but it was one word we all knew and could say together: Amen. It seems appropriate word. It is a word used 105 in the New Testament and is most frequent in the Gospels.
Ok—one last observation. The church has wooden pews without pads, and I love it.
I grew up with them, and there is something a bit more religious about sitting on a solid wooden pew.