Church says banner a sign of the times

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 April, 2012, 12:00am


It is a prominent spot to make a point about governance, pollution and the other problems the city faces.

The Chinese Methodist Church in Wan Chai - the oldest in Hong Kong, at the intersection of Queen's Road East and Johnston Road - overlooks one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. And there for all to see on its front wall is a large banner with a picture of an apocalyptic Hong Kong on one side and the risen Christ ascending from the tomb on the other.

'This city is dying, but God is living' is its dramatic message.

The Reverend Yuen Tin-yau said that during the Easter and Christmas periods, the church would put a banner on the wall, one that they felt would relate to the city at that time.

'During this Easter season, many people were disappointed about some of the actions of the candidates during the build-up to the chief-executive election,' the church minister said.

'This and other problems with the economy and environment upset many people, and we wanted to unify people through faith in God, that only God matters in our daily lives.'

The pastoral workers determined that, considering the current climate, this should be the theme.

Yuen said they only wanted to give this message to the public, and that there was no other agenda - the banner was not geared towards attracting people to the church.

'During the Sars crisis in 2003, we put up a similar message of encouragement to the public, telling them to place their faith in God and everything would turn out OK,' he said. 'Easter is a very short period, so we'll keep the banner up for a longer period in this case.'

A politician serving the area had no problems with the church's message. Wan Chai district councillor David Wong Chor-fung said it was entirely up to them what they put on their walls.

The church was built in 1936, just after reclamation work in the area was finished, and the red-brick building with a belfry is a landmark. There are 24 Methodist churches in Hong Kong, with a total of 12,000 followers, but this is the only one that hangs such banners on its walls.

The church picked an outside company to design and print the banner in English.

'We preferred to have it in English over Chinese because it's more straightforward. It can lose some emphasis when it's translated into Chinese, or can be confusing,' Yuen said.