As Hong Kong prepares to sever its British colonial ties ten years from now, ethnic Chinese churches in Canada, a British Commonwealth country, are preparing to receive thousands of newcomers. Many Hong Kong residents have already left the colony, choosing not to live under eventual Chinese political control.

Canada is home to more than 250 Chinese churches, many of which are already experiencing rapid growth in membership and participation. The growth is due both to the influx of Cantonese-speaking immigrants and the churches’ energetic evangelistic efforts. Most of the growth is taking place in Vancouver and Toronto, where Chinese communities form close to 10 percent of the local populations.

Immigrants in the Mainstream

Vancouver is the arrival point for immigrants from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. However, many of the newcomers move to Toronto, especially if they want to develop ties with New York and Europe, says Enoch Wan, an anthropologist and clergyman working with the Centre for Chinese Studies at Canadian Theological College.

Chinese immigrants have tended to settle in Canada’s major cities, where Chinese communities have existed for 100 years. The immigrants have entered the mainstream of Canadian business and professional life. And for many, it was the church that helped them make the transition into a Western society without losing many of their former cultural values.

Chinese churches form energetic centers of activity in their communities. As Chinese populations predominate in some older middle-class neighborhoods in Toronto and Vancouver, Chinese congregations often purchase the buildings formerly occupied by white churches whose members have moved to suburbia.

The Toronto Chinese ...

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