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CrossRoad Students Learn About Orthodoxy in China

by Nelson Mitrophan Chin | July 29, 2005

On June 25th, 30 Orthodox high school students from all over the United States, from various jurisdictions, came to the Greater Boston area for a ten days program called CrossRoad. This program is led by the Office of Vocation and Ministry at Hellenic College in Brookline, Massachusetts. CrossRoad, an innovative program designed to lead high school juniors through a personal exploration of vocation, is part of a five-year program sponsored by the Lilly Endowment Inc. The goal of the CrossRoad program is to help students discern how their faith in Christ can inform their life calling to match their personal gifts with the needs of the world. Members of the St. Mary’s community, Ann Bezzerides and Natasha Smith coordinated this year’s successful CrossRoad program.

On Friday, July 1, they visited our parish of St Mary in Cambridge MA for Vespers, and afterwards our parish priest Fr Antony Hughes gave an informal homily on what should be our life-long vocation as Orthodox Christians, namely union with God. God became man so that we may become God, as St Athanasius best summarized it.

Afterwards, the students went downstairs to the church hall and enjoyed Chinese food. While they were eating, I was given an opportunity to share with them about the Chinese Orthodox Translation Project, the current state of Orthodoxy in China and my own journey to Orthodoxy.

I shared of how Chinese traditions are incorporated or found parallel in the various sacraments of the Orthodox Church, such as the theme of royalty found in both Chinese and Orthodox weddings, or the concept of celebrating the birth of a child a month or so after birth whether in the Chinese community or churching and baptism in the Church community.

We also went over briefly on how the Russian Mission entered China by the way of the Chinese capturing the fortress of Albazin in Siberia and bringing the prisoners back to Beijing. They were incorporated into the imperial banner guards and allowed to convert one of the Buddhist temple into an Orthodox chapel, and thus Orthodoxy was implanted on Chinese soil. I also passed around an icon of the Chinese Martyrs and shared of how they, like the little boy St John, who died for their faith in Christ during the Boxer uprising. Also, many white Russians fled the Bolsheviks and swelled the Orthodox population in China in 20th century. St John who was bishop of Shanghai and whose relic (a lock of hair) is encased at the solea of our church, is available for veneration. The Chinese Church was eventually granted autonomy with the elevation of a Chinese Bishop, as was required when the Communist took power in 1949, demanding that indigenous clergy be the head of the Church in China.

Also addressed was the current state of Orthodoxy in China with active participation from both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate via the Metropolitanate (OMHKSEA) based in Hong Kong. I passed around sample copies of the Censer, the English publication of OMHKSEA covering Orthodox activity in Asia and South East Asia in particular. I also made mentioned of the current efforts of the Chinese Translation Project that I am coordinating in making possible to have lives of saints and liturgical material available in modern Chinese via the website www.orthodox.cn and via postal mail upon request. The students participated in an engaging discussion after the presentation with questions about religious freedom and how to go about officially allowing and planting new Orthodox communities in China. I made mentioned of the newly enacted Chinese regulation which for first time do not name the official religions, thus making it possible for Orthodoxy to have an equal-footing with other religions in gaining recognition in China.

For more information on the CrossRoad program please visit www.crossroad.hchc.edu.