An Experiment in Christian Unity

"The Christian Fellowship of the C.A.C.Weihsien" was an experiment; its object was to discover whether it was possible to include in one organisation Christians of diametrically opposite theological and ecclesiastical opinions, as well as the varying degrees of thought in between.

Experience has taught us that it is – at least, that it is under the pressure of life in an internment camp. But the conditions of such success have also been made clear, the chief one being the complete autonomy given to various groups in the Fellowship. For instance, the Anglican Community mans its own servers, with its usual prohibitions against non-Anglicans leading its services (with rare exceptions); the Evangelistic Band conducted its services, with a tacit exclusion from its pulpits of those of liberal theology. Groups who wished to work free from the oversight of those of different opinions did so independently – as did "Christianity in the Modern World". Diversity was far more obvious than Unity.

Of what value then, was the experiment?

Much every way. For by being thrust together we learnt to appreciate one another. Perhaps we did not always attain to the apostolic injunction each to count others better than ourselves; but at least we realised the power and prayer behind the activities of each group, the inner experience of God in Jesus Christ which was being expressed, even if the terms of expression were not those we should have used.

But there was unity at times, notably in the Tuesday Fellowship Meeting, and the last two semi-annual General Fellowship Meetings; and despite our diversities there was a steadily growing feeling of "belonging".

Deeper still were the friendships which began and flourished between members of widely differing schools of thought. Indeed, at times it seemed as if we were really hearing our Masters' voice when the sound "Love ye one another" and were beginning to understand that Love is the fulfilling of the Law.

Harold T. Cook
Methodist Mission Society
August 25th 1945.
letter from Norman Cliff's Scrap Books

Weihsien, May '1945 Block-56, The Priest's Shack

Weihsien, May '1945 Block-56, The Priest's Shack by David Beard. (New Zealand)

Nos abbés au camp de concentration de Weihsien en Chine

Les services religieux étaient célébrés dans une église qui servait d'école, de salle de conférences, de théâtre, etc. Les prêtres y prêchaient à tour de rôle, en anglais, le dimanche à la Grand'messe ou à la messe de communion des enfants. Tous les matins 3 prêtres disaient la messe dans les 2 chambres que les Soeurs occupaient et les autres dans une minuscule chambre qui servait de chapelle et où le Saint Sacrement était conservé.

David Michell's book about Weihsien

... is a true story of a boy in China in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. Yet it is an account more about children and their adventures than the atrocities of a deathcamp. And it includes glimpses of Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Liddell not included in Chariots of Fire.

David writes: (page 45)
"The Camp had one church building that was fully used all day Sunday, with a Roman Catholic mass first, then an Anglican service, followed by an interdenominational service in the after-noon. At night there was a well-attended hymn sing at which the Salvation Army Band always played. Many recall the series of messages Eric Liddell gave on the topic of the Holy Spirit. Using a verse a week, he followed the themes in one of his favorite hymns,
"Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me."