Following the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923 and emergence of Bachelor Societies, gambling, prostitution and opium became common in Chinatown. Many church officials took notice of this situation and pointed out that the Chinese conversion to Christianity would help tackle these social concerns; Rev. J.C Speer, in early 1900s addressed a large audience at Toronto’s Conference of Protestant Churches, regarding the Chinese:
“… Christianity changes all the objectionable traits in Chinamen and makes him a desirable citizen of this world.” —Rev. J.C Speer
Following the Toronto Conference, plans were made to take a proactive approach in making Chinese a part of Canadian society and to preach Christianity to Chinese communities in Canada.
English Classes for Chinese
Following the speech by Rev. J.C. Speers, Chinese churches quickly emerged around Toronto’s Chinatown. Most of these Chinese churches represented Protestant denominations including: Anglican, Baptist, Gospel, and the United Church. Some Catholic and Presbyterian churches also began to take part in accommodating Chinese in their services. These churches also organized weekly English classes for Chinese men so they could read and interpret Bible by themselves:
“As soon as they have the most elementary knowledge of the language, an effort is made to impress them with the truth of Christian religion”
— 52nd Annual report of Cooke’s Presbyterian Church, 1904
Beyond Sunday Schools
Chinese churches were not limited to English classes, but they also provided a space for community events, organized picnics and church bazaars. Many churches organized picnics and community gatherings for their Chinese members and students from Sunday schools. The picnics helped the Chinese Christian community to socialize and explore places outside of Chinatown in Toronto, helping them integrate into society better.
16th Annual Meet of Chinese YMCI and Chinese Sunday Schools. 1926. Tom and Joan Lock Collection, Exhibition Park, Toronto. Multicultural History Society of Ontario. Web. 13 July 2015.
Beverly St. Baptist Church. 1926. City of Toronto Archives, Toronto. City of Toronto Archives – Globe and Mail Collection. Web. 13 July 2015.
Chan, Arlene. The Chinese Community in Toronto: Then and Now. Toronto: Dundurn, 2013. Print.
Chinese Baptist Church (Fond 1244, Item 2161). City of Toronto Archives, Toronto. City of Toronto Archives. Web. 13 July 2015.
Chinese Methodist Mission and Sunday School Picnic. 1923. Tom and Joan Lock Collection, High Park, Toronto. Multicultural History Society of Ontario. Web. 13 July 2015.
First Chinese Church Picnic. 1910. City of Toronto Archives, Toronto. Chinese Canadian Women 1923-1967. Web. 13 July 2015.
Mah, Valarie. An Indepth Look at Toronto‘s Early Chinatown, 1913-1933. Toronto: N.p., 1977. Print.
Mah, Valerie. The Bachelor Society: a Look at Toronto’s Early Chinese Community from 1878-1924. Toronto: N.p., 1978. Print.
St. John’s Ward: Toronto Fire Map 1884. 1884. City of Toronto Archives, Toronto. City of Toronto Archives. Web. 13 July 2015.
Thompson, Richard H. Toronto’s Chinatown: The Changing Social Organization of an Ethnic Community. New York: AMS, 1989. Print.
Aiman Khan, the contributor of “Early Chinese Churches In Chinatown”, is a second year English student at Ryerson University. She has a keen interest in learning about intercultural relationships, and her recent work explores the role of churches in bridging the gap between Canadians and Chinese in Toronto.
Aiman also write short stories based on social and cultural issues in multicultural societies.