Of those arrested at the 14th consecutive outdoor meeting were two women who are members of Xinshu Church and had joined the service, which must be held outdoors because Shouwang -- an illegal church -- was evicted from its leased meeting space by the government in April. The church members meet in an open-air plaza in northwest Beijing each Sunday.
All of those arrested were released by 2 a.m. the next day. According to a translated statement from Shouwang on ChinaAid.org, the open arms of fellow Christians met them as they were released from at least 14 police stations.
"We are very thankful that in front of each police station in which believers were detained, there were several believers praying and waiting for them, which greatly comforted believers detained inside," Shouwang said in its statement. "Through this, many believers deeply felt that we are not alone, we are not experiencing this as isolated individuals. We are experiencing this together during this particular period as a church."
The rise in attendance came after more-severe-than-usual restrictions the previous week due to the Chinese Communist Party's 90th anniversary. The July 20 service also included many who were worshiping there for the first time, said a statement from ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom in China.
Shouwang, which is one of the largest house churches in Beijing with nearly 1,000 members, is not a legal church. Only churches that are registered with the government and are members of the Three-Self Patriotic Church are considered legal. However, with registration come regulations that forbid evangelism, Sunday School, and baptizing minors, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid.
Although Shouwang members have lost jobs, faced jail time and been verbally abused for expressing their beliefs they continue to make a stand each week for Christ.
"We are thankful that so many believers, with faith, are willing to face possible challenges boldly every week," the church said. "They are willing to stand together with Shouwang Church at any price."
That price, however, could affect other illegal churches, such as Zion Church also in Beijing, reports CNN.
"Shouwang's case could deteriorate into a massive crackdown," Ezra Jin, pastor of Zion Church, said in a translated interview. "We are at a critical moment, and we are ready to pay the price."
Shouwang members do not know how long they will be forced to meet outdoors and face persecution, but they say they will not back down from worshiping God.
"We do not know how many more Sundays like this we have to face, but we trust that since it is God who began this good work, He will bring it to completion according to His will," Shouwang said. "May God grant us this victorious faith, so that we may wait for Him till the day when His purpose is accomplished."
More than 160 people were arrested at the first outdoor meeting of Shouwang Church. The following shows the approximate arrests from the subsequent weeks: Week 2 (50 arrests), Week 3 (40), Week 4 (30), Week 5 (13), Week 6 (20), Week 7 (25), Week 8 (20), Week 9 (20), Week 10 (14), Week 11 (14), Week 12 (15) and Week 13 (19).
Whitney Jones is a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an intern with Baptist Press.
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