History of the BCCC
The church’s origin dates back to Easter, 1975, when the Reverend Ronnie McCracken and a Mr. Nai Bob Cham started some evangelistic work amongst the local Chinese in Belfast. This work eventually led to the creation of the Belfast Chinese Christian Fellowship (BCCF) in 1979, consisting mainly of Chinese students from overseas, meeting regularly every Sunday at the Methodist Chaplaincy at Elmwood Avenue, Belfast. The BCCF expanded further in September, 1987 when a sudden influx of new Chinese students started to attend the Sunday meetings. The increase in numbers meant that the BCCF leadership had to look for a new meeting place to accommodate the growing congregation. When the congregation of the Windsor Baptist Church heard about the BCCF’s need for a larger meeting place, they kindly offered the use of their church halls on Sunday afternoons. In June, 1988, by the grace of God, and with a large step in faith, the BCCF moved to the Windsor Baptist Church.
At around 1994, the church work began to expand to such an extent that there were meetings, either in the church or at various homes, taking place on almost every day of the week. Apart from the need for more space, many in the congregation also realized that the Chinese church should have a larger church building of its own which they can also truly call ‘home’. Again, by the grace of God, Ulsterville Presbyterian Church informed the BCCF in 1995 of its intention to sell their side-halls at Lorne Street. At a Special General Meeting on the 20th October, 1996, BCCF members made a decision to proceed with the purchase of the Lorne Street Halls. Another important step taken by the BCCF was the adoption of a new Constitution and Trust Deed on the 3rd November, 1996 which instituted the first Chinese church in Northern Ireland with the name of the Belfast Chinese Christian Church (BCCC). The purchase of the Lorne Street Halls was completed on 12th November 1998 and the church was dedicated to God in a Dedication Service held on 2nd May 1999.
National and International Links
The BCCC is one of many Chinese churches and fellowships spread out throughout the UK and Europe. For the past few decades, the Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM), based in London, has been instrumental in helping to establish Christian fellowships and churches in cities and towns where a sizable Chinese community exists. The BCCC is officially linked to COCM and through it, maintains a close relationship with other Chinese churches and fellowships in the UK. Chinese churches and Fellowships which are linked to COCM, including BCCC, are mostly evangelical and non-denominational. For the past six years, COCM has helped BCCC by sending Pastor Sam Sham and his wife and family to Belfast to engage in missionary and pastoral work for the church.
Church Government and Ministry
Church Government at the BCCC is through its Board of Elders which consists of the pastor of the church and elders elected by members of the BCCC. Once elected, elders are expected to serve a maximum period of three years after which they must be re-nominated and re-elected to serve any further periods. The Board of Elders has responsibilities in matters of doctrine, financial policy, pastoral care, organization of public worship, baptismal services, Holy Communion and the admission and discipline of members. Apart from the Board of Elders, there is also an annually- elected committee of deacons which has the responsibility of carrying out some of the practical tasks of the church. Advisors are also appointed annually to advise on the BCCC.
Baptism and Communion
The two recognized ordinances of the BCCC are baptism by full immersion and Holy Communion. Two baptismal services are normally held each year – one in April and the other in December. Baptism is normally performed by the Pastor of the church. The Holy Communion is held on the first Sunday of each month and is led by someone from the leadership.
Relations with other churches
With the BCCC being a “Chinese” Church, most members of the congregation would be of Chinese origin. The ethnic uniqueness and independence of the BCCC has helped it to foster good relationships with other denominations who hold similar doctrinal views. Indeed, some members of the congregation were members of other denominations, such as the Brethren, Baptist and Elim, before they joined the BCCC. Pastors and Ministers of those churches and other local churches are often invited to speak at the BCCC and members of BCCC have often been invited to take part in other church services. The BCCC also has contacts, through ex-members and COCM, with other Chinese churches in the UK, Canada and Hong Kong.
With the BCCC now having a building of its own, the leadership prays that the BCCC can reach out more effectively to the Chinese in Northern Ireland. But since many local Chinese still see Christianity as a Western religion, the task of preaching the Cross to the Chinese people will continue to be a difficult one. But we do praise God that the work continues to grow and the congregation continues to increase in numbers. We believe that with the Holy Spirit’s help, more Chinese in Northern Ireland will come to believe in Christ in years to come.
Above article is based on an extract from the book “Christian Traditions in Northern Ireland” published by Blackstaff Press in November 1998. The article was updated in June, 1999 to include developments since its original publication.