Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church

This profile was last updated in 2006

Activities and Schedule

Sundays:

Worship: 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Sunday School/Bible Study: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Lunch: 12:30 p.m. B 1:30 p.m.

Weekdays: Evening Bible Studies at various locations in the greater Harrisburg area (changes time, location, and subject every week)
Special Events: Chinese New Year, Easter, and Christmas celebration with other larger groups (including the Chinese Missionary Alliance Church of State College, PA)
A weekly bulletin is provided as a handout for all attendees. The weekly bulletin is printed in Mandarin Chinese and limited English. Mailings to a list of approximately 200 people are used to inform people of holiday events, and church happenings.

History

The Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church was founded in 1986 when two Bible study groups, one Taiwanese the other Chinese, met in a home of one of the group members. This was a time of increasing Asian immigration to the U.S. and to central Pennsylvania specifically. As the attendance to the Bible study increased to approximately 30 people, the sessions moved out of members= homes and into the basement of the First Alliance Church, a Christian and Missionary Alliance affiliated church in Harrisburg. They worshipped in the basement, separate from the First Alliance Church congregation because of the language barriers that many immigrants experienced. Most of the Chinese Alliance Church members could not speak English and felt more comfortable in a worship service conducted in Mandarin Chinese.

In 1997, the Chinese Alliance Church membership became too large for the basement of the First Alliance Church and the community moved their Sunday worship to a rented room at the Harrisburg New Loving Christ Church. At that time, the Chinese community started the financial planning to purchase their own building. After five years at the Baptist New Loving Christ Church, the Chinese Alliance Church purchased a church building in the winter of 2002. Once they obtained their building, the Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church was able to expand their outreach to more Asian immigrants and their adult attendance increased to eighty.
The Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church is one of 2,000 Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) churches; one of 500 C&MA minority-based churches; one of the 251 C&MA churches in Pennsylvania; and one of six C&MA churches in Harrisburg. For more information about the Chinese community of central Pennsylvania, check this online resource: Institute for Cultural Partnerships.

Demographics

The eighty regular attendees to Sunday range in age from newborn to eighty and are first to third generation Americans. The majority of the congregation is comprised of immigrants in their early forties to late fifties. The occupation of these immigrants includes engineers, doctors, professors, investors, restaurant owners, and students earning their masters degree.

The Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church faith community includes different Asian immigrant groups; one-third of the congregation is from China and the other two-thirds are immigrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. There are numerous languages spoken by the members, although everyone speaks at least one of the three languages used in the worship service: English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Description

The Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church is located along a major road and is surrounded by local businesses. The religious group that owned the church prior to the Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church built the brown stone structure. The church is accented with a white steeple containing a small cross and shrubbery that lines the entrance. Behind and to the side of the building are parking lots.

The lobby area contains a coat rack and a bookshelf that holds religious-related pamphlets. Past the lobby are the doors to the sanctuary. The sanctuary is filled by fourteen rows of eight chairs and the stage/altar area. On the left of the stage is a piano and an organ is on the right. In front of the organ sits a screen for the overhead projector. In the middle of the altar is a podium which features a cross on the front. On the back wall, behind the podium, is a larger cross.
On the level below the sanctuary, and in the smaller building adjoined to the main building, are classrooms used for Bible studies and Sunday school. Also on the lower level are the kitchen and dinning area, which are used every Sunday after services.
The offices for the church are located in a small trailer behind the church. The trailer contains a kitchen, office, and meeting room.

Researchers

Allison Baumler, Alex Denega, Ethan Tate (Prof. Shalom Staub, New American Religious Diversity, Dept. of Religion, Dickinson College)