So let me tell you about yesterday. As you can see our team was at the Centre of Beijing City, a point on a man-made hill just north of the Forbidden City, overlooking the great Imperial Palace. When visiting Casa Loma in Toronto as a kid I remember thinking, "This is impressive; 99 rooms!" The imperial palace of Beijing has about 9000 rooms!
Jeanette Hanson, Mennonite Church Canada Witness Worker and good friend (she and her family lived in Burnaby and attended Peace Church from 2008-2010) was our truly impressive tour guide. Her knowledge of Chinese history, and especially of Chinese religious history, is astonishing. After a Beijing breakfast, we joined the crushing crowds in the subway, toured Tiananmen Square, covered a remarkable amount of the Forbidden City (the Imperial Palace), had lunch at a spot that felt like a scene from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," then spent the afternoon at the Heavenly Temple. There I learned that ancient Chinese religion was thoroughly monotheistic; that historically the Chinese preferred the circumlocution of "heaven" to using the word "God," just as did the Jews in the time of Jesus (think of how Matthew speaks of "the kingdom of heaven" rather than "the kingdom of God"); and that the emperor was considered the great high priest and "Son of Heaven," who stood between heaven and earth as earth's great representative, offering sacrifices to connect his people to heaven. Of course, I wish that I could remember a great deal more of Jeanette's impressive knowledge.
Pastor Hongtao Yin hosted us at a lovely restaurant for dinner. The delicious array of dishes was almost as spectacular as the sights we'd been touring all day. I'm starting to worry about what's going to happen to my waistline these two weeks. Better I simply attach some pictures than try to describe.
I'm so honoured to be a part of this great group of nine pastors. They're a lot of fun. As my room mate Craig Neufeld (pastor of Rosthern Mennonite in Saskatchewan) said last evening, "We've all gelled basically immediately." And he doesn't even snore. I didn't think that I did (that much) either, but he informed me differently. Apologies, Craig.