Norwich Chinese church grows into new building
The new building constructed for Norwich’s Chinese Church was packed on Monday, November 26 for its Grand Opening as the flourishing congregation celebrated having the space to grow as a West Norwich church serving the whole community. Jenny Seal reports.
The Grand Opening of the new Methodist Church building on Bowthorpe Road in West Norwich was held on Monday, November 26. The building is the home of Norwich's Chinese Church and served as an opportunity to celebrate the congregation’s 20th anniversary and its growth from seven people to 150.
The building was packed with guests from across Norwich and around the world. The Lord Mayor of Norwich attended along with Rev Dr Jonathan R Hustler, the Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference and one of the original church founders flew in from America.
In late 2014, the growing Norwich Chinese Church moved into the Methodist church on Bowthorpe Road in West Norwich. They moved from Wroxham Road Methodist Church to be closer to the UEA and to develop their ministry with overseas students.
Unfortunately, they soon discovered that the roof of the 1950s church hall was structurally unsound and would need major repair. The Methodist Circuit decided to invest in a new, larger building on the site rather than repair the old one.
“So that we could have the potential to develop,” explains Pastor Edmond Chi-Wai Tsui, who leads the church. “Our congregation is already at 150 and the maximum of the existing church building was only 140.”
The new building, which seamlessly links to the original church building, is filled with light and generously proportioned. It includes a high ceilinged, glass-fronted foyer, new meeting rooms, a commercial grade kitchen and a large hall with capacity for 250 people. This will be used as the sanctuary for the Mandarin and Chinese speaking service but is also designed as a multi-functional community space.
Pastor Edmond clearly takes pride in the detail of the architecture and design of the building. As he shows me around he points out the giant cross incorporated into the front window frames which lights up, the self-pumping and draining baptistry, the enlarged car park and the eco-friendly central heating system.
“We are excited,” said Pastor Edmond. “It is all the blessing of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.”
The Chinese Church had to raise £300k towards the cost of the building, supplemented by £600k from the Methodist Connexion, District and Circuit. “In one and a half years we already fulfilled that figure. It’s amazing,” said Pastor Edmond.
Pastor Edmond has overseen the project on behalf of the congregation and is clearly a highly capable and visionary leader. Before moving to the UK in 1994 he was a director and general manager of a company listed on the Singapore Stock Market. He lives in Epsom but has worked in Norwich for 11 years clocking up thousands of miles in his commute.
“I love Norwich,” he said. “It is a privilege for me to serve the community of Norwich because this is where God has called me.”
One of his primary aims with the new building is to transition from being a Chinese church to a church that serves the whole community. “My mission is community church,” said Pastor Edmond. “I don’t want it to be just a Chinese church. And so here we will have an English-speaking service parallel with the Chinese speaking service for all the neighbours, all the international students and the British-born Chinese.”
They plan to work with other local churches to extend their ministry with international students, run health-based classes and table tennis for the local community and give groups like Guides and Brownies a place to meet.
“We are not just opening the door and waiting for people to come in,” said Pastor Edmond. “We need to reach out.” He particularly wants to address the isolation of elderly people both in the Chinese community and the wider community and so plans to open up the foyer for coffee mornings on a regular basis.
“We are open to everyone,” he said. “They can come here to a place for them to spend time. They don’t need to sit in their home. This is one of the social concerns we need to deal with. Just come for a cup of tea or coffee and you can speak to anyone.”
Main Photo: At the Grand Opening courtesy of Rev Catherine Hutton