To be understood
Immanuel Chinese Alliance Church
Immanuel Chinese Alliance Church8900 Double Diamond Pkwy.
Reno, NV 89521
The Immanuel Chinese Alliance Church is held in the Triad Plastic Technologies building, on the second floor. A brief, winding staircase lined with soft blue carpet leads to a landing where Pastor Ben Lin stands to greet the congregants as they arrive. Past the landing, through a set of double doors, two columns of plastic folding chairs inhabit a plain white room beneath broad picture windows. Outside, industrial buildings butt up against the stubble of sagebrush and jagged red stones that make up the rough face of Huffaker Hills, which are haloed in smoke from wildfires.
The congregation slowly trickles in to take its seats, which face a projection screen at the far end of the room, offset by a simple pulpit engraved with a cross. Laughter, hands shaking in greeting and the chirping of small children fill the space while a piano is delicately played before the start of service. Since the service is multilingual, earpieces are distributed to those in attendance who do not speak Mandarin or Cantonese to provide English translations.
The parishioners gradually settle as two young women stand behind the pulpit, microphones in hand, ready to begin. Pausing for a brief prayer, the women open the service with song accompanied by the piano, boldly leading those in attendance through the first few verses before everyone can catch their stride, find their voice, and allow time for the stragglers to find a seat. Lyrics are provided in both Cantonese and English, though each specific song is sung in one language or the other.
Once the singing has come to a close, Lin stands to take the pulpit with his wife, Kai Lin. Because of the diverse fellowship, Lin states his sermon in sections speaking Mandarin, which Kai Lin translates into Cantonese and, all the while, a translator echoes those words in English through the radio earpieces. Though this might seem overly complicated, the Lins speak fluidly around one another as they run swiftly through the church announcements, welcome all visitors and dismiss the children for Sunday school.
The focus of the sermon is Corinthians chapter 14, and the entire congregation reads the section aloud before Lin begins to focus on the meaning of each line. The primary message of the sermon has to do with church etiquette, specifically speaking in tongues and the role of women. To simplify, Lin mentions the importance of being understood and the frustrations of miscommunication. “Is the listener right, or the speaker?” Lin asks the congregation in reference to conflicting languages. “The important thing is to be understood when speaking about God.”
Lin explains to the congregation that when Paul states in Corinthians that women should be silent in church, this was the case in earlier times. Titters and tisks are finally suppressed after historical references are made to establish context and possible reasons behind the verse. Lin makes a special reference to being humble, both as a person and as a church. “Where you stumble is where you stand,” he says, emphasizing the importance of learning from mistakes.
The service is brought to a close with a final prayer. Everyone stands as Lin speaks, though at the conclusion, the congregation sits for a few seconds in silence. One by one, each individual rises from his or her seat, careful not to disturb anyone in a moment of private devotion. The group does not disperse, but many people go to retrieve items that have been prepared for an after service meal taken together as a community.