Immigrant Churches

For most of the years we spent in Taiwan, in addition to Taiwanese churches we were involved in one or another English language congregation. The one in Kaohsiung offered our children a Sunday School experience as they grew up, and offered us a community of people with whose culture we were more familiar.  The one in Tainan, where I was the leader for our final 18 months before retiring, gave me space to exercise whatever gifts in leadership and preaching as I have been given. In America, churches of sojourners and immigrants from other countries fill a similar role. We were with one of those over the weekend. It is a Taiwanese congregation on Long Island. The group just marked their 40th anniversary. Whether they make it to a 50th or further on as a TAIWANESE congregation is questionable.

My mother grew up in Minnesota, in a Dutch language enclave, but the church to which her parents belonged was “American Reformed Church”. Apparently the congregation was differentiating itself from the other Reformed church in town which was still worshipping in Dutch. It’s not an uncommon thing in some of those Midwestern communities to have a church with a name like “American” that goes back to the time when it was the congregation of the second or third generation after the founders had arrived in the land. The church where Char principally grew up, Rehoboth Reformed Church, in Lucas, MI, had used Dutch for worship until some time during the First World War. 

church-3536658_640At lunch with a couple members of the Long Island Taiwanese Church on Saturday I learned that they face a similar problem. The founding members of the congregation left Taiwan in the 60s to and 80s. Their children were born in America and grew up here, but the families held onto a portion of their ethnic and linguistic identities through the church. Now those founding members are aged. A man my age, 68, told me that he’s the youngest guy there.  Over lunch we met a woman who had immigrated some time later, but even she is in her late 40s or early 50s. She said that she drove an hour to get to church, so only came a couple times a month. 

One way that many of these churches are surviving is to appeal to people from China, who don’t speak Taiwanese. Worship is conducted in Mandarin.  The immigrants from China are younger, their families more active, and the church eventually becomes Mandarin language on the way to becoming “American” (English language). It’s hard for the founding generation to watch this happen, because the identity moves away from being Taiwanese. 

All that said, we had a wonderful time. It felt like going home again. We now know that when we need a dose of Taiwan, we just have to get onto the train at midnight on Friday and head for New York City.  There’s a whole community there to receive us.

Image by nicothespider from Pixabay  

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

3 Replies to “Immigrant Churches”

  1. Hi David,
    I hope you can meet my friend, Pastor Mo, in New York. I spoke at his Taiwanese church twice, after meeting him, his wife, and several of their congregation on our tour to Israel. It is the oldest Taiwanese church established in America. Perhaps you have already visited this Winfield. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winfield_Reformed_Church

    Pastor Mo has since left there and gone to a different church; however he is a wonderful, kind pastor and you and Char would love he and his wife. They have a yearly ping pong tournament in NYC and I was there to attend. It was so much fun seeing all the Taiwanese playing. They play to win! Ha

    By the way, I spoke at TICC last Sunday. The second time since you left. They still miss you.

    God bless you. Juanita

    Rev. Dr. Amos Mo (Cheng-I)
    pastomo@rocketmail.com
    Cell: 7184248959

    Like

  2. Hi David,
    I hope you can meet my friend, Pastor Mo, in New York. I spoke at his Taiwanese church twice, after meeting him, his wife, and several of their congregation on our tour to Israel. It is the oldest Taiwanese church established in America. Perhaps you have already visited Winfield. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winfield_Reformed_Church

    Pastor Mo has since left there and gone to a different church; however he is a wonderful, kind pastor and you and Char would love him and his wife. They have a yearly ping pong tournament in NYC and I was there to attend. It was so much fun seeing all the Taiwanese playing. They play to win! Ha

    By the way, I spoke at TICC last Sunday. The second time since you left. They still miss you.

    God bless you. Juanita

    Rev. Dr. Amos Mo (Cheng-I)
    pastomo@rocketmail.com
    Cell: 7184248959

    Like

  3. We met him last Saturday at a choir festival. His surname is the same as the one Char uses in Chinese, so they were calling each other “brother and sister” using family terms.

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