Festivals, Guests and Hosts in Urban Protestant Congregations

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Within the literature on Protestantism in China, few studies seek to trace changes in the way Protestantism has been “done” in congregations at the local level from the missionary era through to the contemporary period. This study attempts to fill some of this gap. Utilising original ethnographic data generated over an extended period of fieldwork in a group of churches associated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in a coastal city in China, this paper explores some of the changes in how churches have interpreted the Protestant message. Of particular significance is that of the idiom of family which has taken on an increased importance in the reform era for a number of reasons. This paper argues that as these churches attempt to emphasise and function as a surrogate family, they also take on the traditional local responsibility of “host”. Drawing on the work of Adam Yuet Chau, this paper analyses case studies of the ways in which churches “host” in a range of ways. Of particular interest is the role of congregations as hosts during festivals such as Christmas, Easter and Harvest Thanksgiving as they seek to attract newcomers and spread their message. While “traditional gender” roles in these church congregations are de-emphasised in the daily functioning of many aspects of the “church family”, traditional gender roles are re-emphasised during these “church festivals”. This paper demonstrates, therefore, that while traditional gender roles are broadly not present in the “religious” activities of these congregations, the borrowed “secular” traditions which have been re-invented for this specific Protestant context maintain a gendered dynamic. By focussing on a local case study, this paper contributes to our understanding of Protestant congregations still seeking to contextualise the Protestant message.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2014
EventGender and Family in the History of Missions and World Christianity: Yale-Edinburgh Group Meeting - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201428 Jun 2014


ConferenceGender and Family in the History of Missions and World Christianity
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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