How a Norwich minister gained a Chinese brother
Pastor Edmond Chi Wai Tsui has retired after serving the Chinese Methodist congregation in Norwich for 14 years. Rev Nigel Fox writes an appreciation.
One of our privileges as Christians is to receive unmerited favour. We call it “grace”. Sometimes it flows really powerfully.
Just the other Monday, I had the privilege to speak at the farewell service for Pastor Edmond. It was, in fact, his third farewell event – the other two being at Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church on August 1 and 2. The grace of Jesus was clearly shining in my brother Edmond.
Its impact for me originates in a time after World War 2, when my mother turned down the marriage proposal of a boyfriend. They both married someone else, but remained in touch via Christmas cards. I knew of Michael, and over the course of time, we had met on Share Jesus Missions, at Easter People and in other places.
When the small Chinese fellowship began using Wroxham Road for Sunday afternoon meetings, I was introduced to Edmond with the words, “This is Edmond, from Epsom”. Summoning my limited knowledge of Epsom, I mentioned the name of a friend of my mother’s and asked if he knew Michael Whelton.
I didn’t realise was that Michael had been Edmond’s staunch supporter and mentor as a Local Preacher over many years and had earned the closeness that Chinese culture awards a long-term helper. Calling the meeting to attention, Edmond announced in Cantonese that I knew Michael Whelton (or words to that effect). That link made me part of their extended family – the foundation of something so precious – as Edmond regarded me as his brother.
That link stood us in such good stead as we navigated the Chinese fellowship through exceptional growth and into full Church status (from three dozen to around 120 believers by the time they moved on in 2015). Edmond did all the hard work, often in three languages, while I administered the boundaries and did my best to keep the strangeness of British Methodism at bay. Not only is Chinese culture so very different from British culture, but the culture of British Methodism is so very different from experiences in Hong Kong. My role was to allow and sustain cultural independence in which Edmond could lead his folk into genuine fruitfulness through the gospel of Jesus.
Edmond was appointed full-time Pastor at Bowthorpe Road and, whilst an unforeseen roof problem caused a major new challenge, Edmond remained graciously steadfast in leadership. His ministry, including leading many students to faith in Jesus, was amazing.
So much more could be said, but I am personally so conscious of the way that unmerited favour was being bestowed on all sorts of fronts.
Attending a Synod shortly after I’d ‘retired’, I noticed that Edmond found himself sat at the back with an empty seat alongside him. Not wishing him to remain alone, I decided to sit next to him for the afternoon session. My sudden arrival surprised the person near him. Edmond’s spontaneous words were meant to reassure: “It’s ok, this is my brother.” The disbelief was obvious, and I had to explain how I came to be regarded as his brother.
As Edmond ‘retires’ with his ever-loyal wife, Amy, and returns to Epsom, I know the Chinese Christians in Norwich will miss them as they move forward under fresh leadership here. I shall miss them, too. I can never forget the unusual privilege Edmond graciously gave to me, and I shall treasure it.
But I remain confident that ‘grace upon grace’ will remain a strong feature in the lives and ministries of Amy and of Edmond – who will remain my brother.
Pictured above is Pastor Edmond with his wife Amy