The Cathedral Mandarin Ministry is a witness to God’s marvelous work in the mission field at our doorstep: secular urban Canadian society. But who knew he’d use an Anglican cathedral in the heart of downtown Toronto to reach these people?
I’d like to briefly introduce the history of the Cathedral Mandarin Ministry, which started in 2013. At its inception, there were no Mandarin parishioners at the Anglican cathedral of St. James. We tried many ways to invite Mandarin people to attend the Sunday services and other church events at the Cathedral. Thus, we started the evangelical mission to the Mandarin people.
Problems and solutions
Mandarin speakers felt that the most difficult part of the regular English Sunday services was not the language, but rather the liturgy. They were not sure when to stand, sit or kneel, how to sing the hymns, or how to respond. It was too hard and too confusing for them to follow. We saw this as a great opportunity to gradually teach them the Christian faith through the liturgy, which proved to be a key tool and conduit of our faith.
We wrote a series of lessons on liturgical responses in Anglican worship, from the entrance rite to the recession. More importantly, we taught why we were doing what we were doing, which is the content of our faith. These lessons evolved into a course, Basic Catechism. Each of the 25 lessons focuses on a different part of the liturgy. This course began to draw a lot of interest, connecting people to our Sunday Service, and helping them to better understand the theological significance of the liturgy.
A developing Mandarin ministry
Initially, we went to the nearby Tim Hortons to study after the English service and in 2014 welcomed our first baptism. Our Chinese Fellowship started with around five people in the second floor kitchen in the Cathedral Centre learning the Basic Catechism. In 2015, 10 people received baptism and confirmation, after which we started a Sunday Faith group meeting after we had all attended the 11 a.m. English service together. On the First Sunday of Advent that same year we started our Chinese Service of Morning Prayer in the Lecture room of the Cathedral Centre and in the following 3 years had an average of 15 people receiving baptism and confirmation each year.
September 2017 saw the first Chinese Sunday service in the Cathedral nave, and on February 18, 2018 we began a weekly Chinese Eucharistic Service at 1:30 p.m.. At the 2019 Great Easter Vigil, we joyfully baptized and confirmed 19 people. Gradually we developed other Chinese ministries, such as a children’s Sunday school, a choir, and a new Cathedral Chinese website.
The Anglican liturgy – the expression of our faith
One aspect of our ministry needs to be highlighted: our huge investment of effort in studying the Chinese liturgy. Since China is generally an atheistic country, most people do not have a background in the Christian faith. Even among the minority Christian population, there is little to no denominational teaching or background since the official Chinese Church has no denominational affiliation. This means that there is very little liturgical reference material in Mandarin. To fill this gap, we diligently researched the much earlier Chinese Anglican Missal Book and Prayer Book, and more contemporary Chinese prayer books. We compared and studied Chinese Anglican prayer books from all over the world. Finally, we edited and translated the most faithful Chinese Morning Prayer and Eucharistic service liturgy most like the Canadian Anglican prayer book, which we now use in our ministry. At the same time, it has become the core module of our Chinese ministry. We have clearly seen that the liturgy is the treasure of our Anglican church. It is an expression of our faith which needs to be treasured, as it leads people into faith in Christ.
The cathedral Model
Any process of any mission needs to be meticulously analyzed and strategically planned. So it is with the Cathedral Mandarin Ministry. We started with research and study, and this resulted in a practical report. This report was not only based on some digital figures, but gave an overview of current Gospel-sharing and disciple-making methods, reflecting upon, analyzing and summarizing them. The actual practice derived from this report has then been continuously adjusted. The whole system is designed for our liturgical church context. We call this method of ministry The Cathedral Model.
Despite its name, the Cathedral Model is not a ministry that has to be situated in a cathedral, but is suitable for any local church. In a nutshell, it is a system based on the liturgy that is composed of three interconnected parts that advance from Gospel sharing, to Disciple making, to Life nurturing. The liturgy threads through the whole course to lead a person, even without any Christian faith background, to clearly know his or her faith identity. This Cathedral Model draws non-Christians to the church, and cultivates them to become mature Christians, committing themselves to their local church, engaging in serving the church, and growing their spiritual life with God.
Just as liturgy is the expression of worshiping God, its essence has surpasses the limitation of language and culture, manifesting the sacraments, which happen in eternity. Therefore, the Cathedral Model has a very clear vision and message: that we are one ‘Family’ that transcends language and ethnic backgrounds, and extends across the centuries. “The Mandarin ministry is not a parallel church within a church; we are part of this local church, St. James Cathedral.
Many Anglican scholars agree that Anglican theology and the Anglican faith are expressed in the Anglican liturgy. It is not something that becomes out of date, nor is it a new method. Rather, the liturgy is an inheritance of our ancient faith. Through it, our Church can find new vitality, and become the conscience of our society and the light of the world; drawing more people to the table of the Lord, and growing in the Kingdom of Heaven.
An article about Rev. James Liu’s ministry during the pandemic was published in the Anglican Journal in April, 2020.