Mandarin Baptist Church: Not just for Chinese worshippers

"Faith in Alhambra" is a snapshot of the diverse range of churches in the city. 

In 2011, the Source profiled the Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles—the largest Protestant congregation in Alhambra—which started in 1961 as a prayer meeting in a Hollywood home and now attracts 1,700 worshippers each Sunday morning. Despite the name, the church is not just for Chinese faithful. Its congregants are black, white, Latino and from diverse Asian backgrounds.

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What was the reason for specifically having the word “Mandarin” in the church's name?

Alan Chan: Many Chinese churches at the time were Cantonese speaking, so the founders felt a great need to reach out to the Mandarin-speaking population, most of who had roots in mainland China and came to the United States via Taiwan and Hong Kong. We were one of the first churches to focus primarily on the Mandarin-speaking population and we continue to do so. We also added a Cantonese Sunday service in 1983. English Sunday service and fellowship were started the next year after the church was founded to minister to the younger generation.

Pastor Alan Chan

How did the church end up in Alhambra?

The first meeting place was at First Southern Baptist North Hollywood. Later they moved to the Silver Lake area because at the time there were many Chinese immigrants in those neighborhoods just west of Chinatown.

When the congregation outgrew that space in the early 80s, it was the perfect time for the church to move out of the Silver Lake district to follow the shifting immigration pattern of Chinese to the San Gabriel Valley

What changes have you seen in the evolving Chinese immigrant landscape over the years?

While those coming directly from mainland China have been the driving force of growth of the Chinese congregations in the last three to four years, our English-dominant young adults have increased quite a bit and many come back after college. But we also get some from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. The majority of our congregation is ethnically Chinese who live in the San Gabriel Valley. We’ve always been a multigenerational church.

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