What it’s like walking with Chinese churches in the UK?

For over 70 years, the Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM) has equipped and encouraged Chinese churches in the UK. Established in 1950 by Chinese pastor Reverend Stephen Wang, it has had close links with the China Inland Mission, now OMF. Former CIM General Director Frank Houghton was COCM’s first chair of trustees.


When I met COCM director Henry Lu online to discuss how the Chinese Church has responded to the trend of many from Hong Kong emigrating to the UK, he pointed out that we share the same ‘theme tune’ – Houghton’s hymn Facing a Task Unfinished.

‘I describe mission as God-engineered waves of mission possibilities over the years from Acts onwards,’ Henry says. ‘We ride the waves God has engineered.’

Over the years, COCM has seen many waves of migration, including Chinese nurses from Malaysia and refugees from Vietnam. Most recently, COCM has been working alongside the approximately 160 Chinese churches in the UK as they adjust to an estimated 30,000 Hong Kong Christians arriving since 2021.1 Henry shares that many of the churches they work with have doubled or tripled in size. For example, the Cantonese congregation of Manchester Chinese Alliance Church, which was around 200 strong, now numbers over 1,000. This growth excites Henry as it brings new opportunities for gospel work.

Henry shares how thinking about three Bible characters have helped his team as they walk alongside churches:



‘For those who came [to the UK] earlier, we’re like Joseph,’ Henry says. ‘We need to welcome them, we need to help them to settle here … we need to lead the way for them.’

Supported by COCM, many Chinese churches have sacrificially and practically welcomed new arrivals from Hong Kong. From setting up WhatsApp groups, helping them settle in schools and register with a GP, to buying cars, these practical steps have helped brothers and sisters settle into life in the UK.

Henry adds he’s been encouraged to see many British churches going out of their way to welcome people from Hong Kong. He shares how a COCM worker has been serving with Christ Church London in Sutton to help them start a Cantonese fellowship within the English church.



Henry tells newcomers that they need to be like Daniel. ‘I tell them they need to…learn to adjust to the new environment in a different homeland. To be a witness in a different homeland. Not to forget Hong Kong, but to start living here.’

COCM has been able to welcome and encourage around 20 pastors coming to the UK from Hong Kong. These pastors have joined COCM’s associate programme, spending time at the COCM centre in Milton Keynes, where they have time and space to adjust to life in the UK.

Once settled, COCM helps introduce them to the very different Chinese Church scene in the UK and connects them with a church. Both the church and the pastor benefit as they get to know one another, and the pastor begins to support the church with preaching and other ministry, while COCM provides ongoing mentoring and support.



‘We need to become like Paul,’ is Henry’s advice to everyone in the churches COCM works with. He emphasises the need for all to work together to share the gospel, in the midst of change.

‘Integrating the new and old is a challenge,’ Henry admits. He candidly shares that the large numbers of Hong Kong Christians joining Chinese churches around the UK in such a short time hasn’t been easy. COCM has been working with churches to help them adjust and move forward as ‘one people, one church.’ They also hold an annual pastor’s conference, bringing together people from different languages and backgrounds.

We are blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2-3), Henry reminds us. ‘I think God has put us in the situation here… to be missional. As the Church has grown we can become a missional force to help the UK…So to the older groups, as we’re blessed, we need to bless those who come. To newer groups who are receiving the blessing now, we need to then share the blessing to others.’

Things are already moving in this direction. Henry excitedly tells me about the Hong Kongers who were the first to help welcome people from Afghanistan because of the welcome they had received, and about COCM’s plans to fulfil their new vision of ‘reaching the Chinese to reach Europe.’

In the words of Frank Houghton’s hymn, we
are still

‘Facing a task unfinished

That drives us to our knees,’


Reuben Grace

OMF (UK) Content & Books Coordinator


Please pray for Chinese churches: 

  • That they will have the capacity to be like Joseph – to welcome and keep on welcoming
  • For unity and integration in love across diverse congregations
  • For increased capacity in terms of people serving and meeting venues


1 In 2021, around 100,000 Hong Kongers came to the UK. It’s estimated 20-40% of them are Christians.