Rev. Jin Mingri peered out from the pulpit and delivered an unusual appeal: "Please leave," the 39-year-old pastor commanded his followers, who were packed, standing-room-only on a Sunday afternoon, into a converted office space in China's capital. "We don't have enough seats for the others who want to come, so, please, only stay for one service a day."
A choir in hot-pink robes stood to his left, beside a guitarist and a drum set bristling with cymbals. Children in a playroom beside the sanctuary punctuated the service with squeals and tantrums. It was a busy day at a church that, on paper, does not exist.
Christianity — repressed, marginalized and, in many cases, illegal in China for more than half a century — is sweeping the country, overflowing churches and posing a sensitive challenge to the officially atheist Communist Party.