Taiwan Church News
Jan 8 ~ 14, 2023
Doing Hakka Mission via Cultural Revival along the Path of Journeying Out
Reported by Hong Tai-yang from Hsinchu
The Mission Ministry Committee of the PCT Hakka Mission Presbytery held a lecture at Liou-Chia Church on January 6. Rev. Chen Yin-an, an anthropologist and lecturer at Trinity School for Christian Ministry of Taiwan Episcopal Church, was invited to deliver a speech entitled as “The Church of the Hakka? or the Hakka of the Church? — Rethinking the Characteristics of the Hakka Mission”. About 50 people attended this assembly.
Rev Chen Yin-an first asked: “What is the Hakka church?” “What is the difference between a Hakka church and an aboriginal or Holo church?” “Can a church that considers itself Hakka-culture-inherited helpful in its missionary ministry?” Then he discussed the Hakka people’s views on their beliefs in Jesus, and the connections between the Hakka people and the church around the world. He found that Hakka missions in Taiwan were significantly different from those practiced in other countries.
Rev Chen compared the situations in Hong Kong and Taiwan and indicated that Hong Kong’s free and diverse environments made the identity of Hakka people in this city not firmly anchored in the Hakka culture only, and further political factors after 1997 manifest in returning back to China prompted Hakka people to form a radical new identity different from the traditional one.
On the contrary, he reminded the audience, during the same period, Taiwan shifted steadily from a homogeneously conservative society to a vibrantly free and open democracy. Facing the future, Hakka missions in Taiwan should not only be restricted to traditional problems such as how to get across cultural barriers like ancestor-worship and etc., or how to overcome the insufficient resources in mission.
Past research has shown that the Hakka in Taiwan have a higher degree of acceptance of the Chinese language and culture than other ethnic groups, and they were more willing to invest resources in education for their next generations in order to engage and move upward in social system, Rev Chen remarked.
“Hakka mission is an important element for the revival of Hakka culture”, Rev Chen stressed, “church has the responsibility to protect God’s creation and embrace cultural diversity.” In addition, he said, in the past the mission to Hakka people and its culture were modeled on some stereotypes, such as emphasizing the Hakka spirit of “stiff-necked” and “stubborn resistance to faith in Jesus” and etc. He indicated that in the future, the leaders and people of traditional Hakka communities may have become very vulnerable or even marginalized in Taiwan society, and the church needs to respond to this impending challenge.
“Hakka mission also needs to consider external changes, such as urban development and population changes, and has plans to build up interpersonal networks in new communities,” Rev Chen remarked, “Hakka missions shall not only focus on the revival of Hakka culture, but also on the daily challenges faced by everyone, regardless of whether they are traditional Hakka residents or new immigrants, as the church should be vigilantly aware of immigrant cultures around and local issues at hand.”
Rev Chen specially quoted British theologian Ann Morisy’s proposal, “Journeying Out”, to remind the audience that Missio Dei is exclusively belonged to God, not a secular goal set by man. Christians should follow God’s guidance only, he said, particularly on the mission to the Hakka community: first thing is to call disciples and then to build the church. He also encouraged the Christians to join the fellowship frankly and build up relationships to love new immigrants, because in the mission the Christians are not only called to be disciplined, but shall engage into the fellowship and church ministry to love the land, culture and people simultaneously. .
During the Q&A session, Rev Chen reminded the audience that various Hakka churches’ stories, whether they are traditional Hakka ones, new immigrant experiences, or even biblical messages, may inadvertently cause conflicts or struggles within the community, but this is the challenges that every church needs to face cautiously. He mentioned Paul’s missionary experience toward the Europe as an advise and stressed that “Faith in Jesus” should be the major force to help Christians love their communities, lands and neighbors more.
Translated by Peter Wolfe