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Historical Documentation Project on the First Asian American Church Completed

The PANA Institute in Berkeley, California has announced the completion of a two-year project to preserve the history at an "Asian American faith community."
( [email protected] ) Dec 22, 2005 06:43 PM EST

The PANA Institute (Institute for Leadership Development and Study of Pacific and Asian North American Religion) at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California has announced the completion of a two-year project to preserve the history at an "Asian American faith community."

Known as the Historical Documentation Project (HDoc Project), the new initiative focuses on the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown (PCC), and highlights the history between 1848-2004.

The PCC was founded in 1853 as the "first Asian American church in the United States," and "the first Chinese Protestant church to be established outside of China." In all of the United States, the church was the pioneer in producing the first English and Chinese bilingual newspaper, a public school for the early Chinese immigrant population, and a Chinese daily newspaper.

Among the mainline churches, they have been one of "the most fertile" in training Asian American leaders. Over the past five decades they have produced fifty seminarians and church workers, and many others have gone on to become community leaders or volunteers in lay positions to serve the church.

Since it is North America's oldest Asian church, it has faced being marginalized by American society, and has had their share of taking part in social, racial, gender issues. They continue to serve the newly arriving immigrants and the social, economic, racial, ethnic, and physical needs of the community.

Up to this moment, the church did not have archives to preserve its long-standing contributions to local history, to national history, and to American history.

Through PANA, the institute for leadership developmental studies of pacific and Asian North American religions, PCC and the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley, the HDoc Project hopes to remedy this problem by producing new records in the forms of historical interviews with transcription and translation, photographs, and videotapes. It will preserve the gathering, organization, and housing of the historical documents and materials at the Bancroft Library that will be made fully accessible for research and educational purposes.

Part of the purpose of the Project is to be the model for similar research, thus encouraging more projects conducted on Asian American and Pacific Islander communities of faith, and to emphasize the importance of documenting this type of community-based history to show "what the church is, what it has been, and what it aspires to be."

The historical documents were fully incorporated into the Bancroft Library's collection and were made possible by documents donated by the PCC, San Francisco, pastors, officers, and members. It can be found in the Online Archive of California.

"More than simply an institution, the church has been a repository of a community's memories and has sought to be true to its theological affirmation that a church is not the building it occupies but the people it embraces and the relationships they form," PANA said on the HDoc Online Photo Exhibit.