In Search of Century-old Church in Shaanxi

An exterior picture of the new chapel in the Dongguan Church in Sanyuan County, Xianyang City, Shaanxi Province
An exterior picture of the new chapel in the Dongguan Church in Sanyuan County, Xianyang City, Shaanxi Province
By Zhang XiaohuaNovember 24th, 2023

In late fall, I went to Sanyuan County in Shaanxi with another church worker to visit a church with a history spanning more than one hundred years.

Sanyuan County is part of Xianyang City. As we approached the intersection of Youfang Road, two massive chapels stood before us, bearing silent witness to the amazing grace of God.

According to our research, the Dongguan Church in Sanyuan that we visited is one of the earliest churches in Shaanxi. Founded in 1915, it was originally called the "Save the World Church" and was the former office of the Weibei branch of the British Baptist Church. It was also the former location of the Weibei Council of the Shaanxi Synod of the Church of Christ in China.

An important servant of God, Pastor Zhang Guanru, served in this church. Born in July 1924, Pastor Zhang was a native of Henan Province. At a revival meeting presided over by the well-known Chinese evangelist Dr. John Song (Dr. Song Shangjie) in 1937, the Lord chose him and led him to Christ. Later, he was ordained as a pastor in 1955 and began to work as the senior pastor of the church. In 1958, the church where Pastor Zhang served, together with the coworkers of Weibei Church, established the Sanyuan Milk Product Factory, which was the pioneer of the industry in the province. In addition, Pastor Zhang was accomplished in preaching, writing, and music ministry.

In 1982, the predecessors of Shaanxi CC&TSPM, such as Mr. Tian Jingfu, wanted to establish a theological seminary in Shaanxi, but they did not have a school site. So, Pastor Zhang offered to lend some of the premises of the Sanyuan Church to the CC&TSPM free of charge. In 1983, the CC&TSPM conducted a "Shaanxi Pastoral Staff Training Class". In 1988, the Shaanxi Bible School was established, and in 1998, the school moved to its new location in Xi'an. Shaanxi Bible College has conducted eight training courses in Sanyuan, with a total of 300 students trained, and three Bible courses with more than 100 graduates. Most of these pastors are serving in grassroots churches throughout the province.

The old chapel was built of wood and stone. With a total area of 288 square meters and a maximum span of about 12 meters, it can accommodate more than 500 worshippers. The chapel is characterized by its mix of Western and ancient Chinese architectural styles, and its layout is elegant and simple. The bricks at the front of the chapel are already yellowed, and the lower part of the building has turned gray due to erosion from the rain. When we entered the chapel, a revival meeting was in progress. The outline of the sermon was projected on the screen as a young preacher taught about the way of life.

To the north of the old chapel is a new church building that can accommodate more than 1,000 believers. This new chapel was built in 1996 as the number of believers continued to grow and the original chapel could no longer meet the needs of the congregation.

(This article is written with reference to the article titled "Pastor Zhang Guanru—Endeavoring in One Accord with the Party" authored by Pastor Yang Haiguang  published on the Shaanxi Christian Church website on August 3, 2021).

- Translated by Joyce Leung

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