The Meaning of Shouwang
In 2002, 34-year-old Jin Tianming was ordained as a pastor by Pastor Xie Moshan or Moses Xie, a Chinese house-church leader who had been imprisoned for more than 20 years between the 1950s and 1970s for refusing to join the government-owned Three Self church. By the year 2005, Shouwang, which means “watching”or “to keep watch”, had more than ten fellowships. At that time, the church attempted to apply to register with the government, but authorities rejected the application, asking it to join the Three-Self.
By 2007, Shouwang was one of Beijing's largest house churches, yet it was still almost unknown to the broader society, until it began publishing its quarterly magazine Xing Hua (meaning Almond Flowers). The name was chosen because the Hebrew word for “almond tree” and "watching" are pronounced the same (see Jeremiah 1:11-12). One of its earliest issues reported on Shouwang’s registration process, publicizing all the major documents. That quickly attracted the attention of other house churches and those who were following China’s Christians.
The current controversy over Shouwang's meeting place is only its most recent challenge. Like almost all house church, the Shouwang congregation has faced the issue of survival from the moment it was established. The most serious crackdown came on 11 May, 2008, when the armed forces broke into Shouwang’s Sunday worship in a rented office space. They ordered the church to put an end to the worship. But it continued. All the three services that day went on as usual, though worshipers were asked to leave their names and contact information.
Shouwang survived that clampdown, but the church realized it was vulnerable to any pressure the the government might put on the owners of their meeting space. So, later in 2008, facing another eviction, the church moved to solve the problem by seeking to purchase a permanent place for worship. Though Shouwang requested that the government put the premises on record, the religious monitors again demanded that Shouwang join the Three-Self church.
At the end of 2009, Shouwang pushed forward with the purchase, paying about $4 million (U.S.) for the second floor of the Daheng Science and Technology Tower in northwest Beijing’s area. The funds came from the offerings of the Shouwang congregation and other contributors to buy a permanent worship place.
Authorities once again interfered and the property developer has refused to hand the key over to the church, which forced Shouwang to once again rent a conference hall. This time it was at the Old Story Club, which is part of the state-run broadcaster, China Central Television. Yet, due to ongoing interference from authorities, Shouwang moved out of the leased venue in April 2011 and into Zhongguancun's open air.
For now, it is not known when the outdoor worship will end.