Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌 takes over as new President of St. John’s University, Taiwan 臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長

The SJU student team arriving at Advent Church today to help with the Handover Ceremony

St. John’s University (SJU) held a formal Handover Ceremony on July 31, 2020, at which the SJU Chair of the Board of Trustees, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang and outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay handed over the SJU presidential seal to Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌, who becomes the ninth president of SJU – and its predecessor, St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology SJSMIT.

Bishop Chang (centre) with outgoing President Ay (right) and incoming President Huang (left)

The Handover Ceremony took place in the context of a Thanksgiving Service, held at 10:00 am in Advent Church, led by SJU Chaplain, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and assisted by clergy of the diocese, including Rev. Keith C. C. Lee and Rev. Lily L. L. Chang who read the prayers, also members of the SJU Student Fellowship and friends who sang in the choir, and Professor Yu-Wen Chang who played the piano…

In line with Covid-19 precautions, temperatures were checked at the entrance and face-masks were worn during the service. The event was organized by St. John’s University and SJU Chaplaincy and attended by a large number of SJU faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, students and church members….

One very special guest was President Ay’s predecessor, former SJU President Chen Jean-Lien. Here she is with Hannah, Bishop Chang’s wife…

Many of the visitors were friends and colleagues of Professor Huang, including a large group of alumni from the University of Iowa, his alma mater, many wearing university T-shirts, all pictured here with Prof. Huang in the middle….

University of Iowa Alumni

Distinguished guests, who all gave short speeches, included Prof. Huang Jong-Tsun 黃榮村, President Designate of the Examination Yuan (assuming office September 1, 2020) (below left) and Minister Li Hong-Yuan 李鴻源, former Minister of the Interior, attending as a dean of the University of Iowa (below right)….

Also former Taoyuan County Mayor John Zhi-Yang Wu 吳志揚 (below left) and Chen Chwen-Jing 陳純敬, Deputy Mayor of the New Taipei City Government (below right)…

Outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay, as the first SJSMIT / SJU alumnus to be appointed president, has completed his 4-year term as SJU president and returns to his post as Professor at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences. We will miss him! Here he is with his wife and Bishop Chang…

Incoming SJU President, Professor Hung-Pin Huang is a professor in the National Taiwan University (NTU) Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, he has also served as Deputy Governor in the Taoyuan Government (2011-14) and as Director of the Ministry of Education (2003-4). His whole profile is listed here on the NTU website, as follows:

Dr. Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌:
Education: Ph.D., The University of Iowa, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Iowa Institute for Hydraulic Research (IIHR) 01-08-1984 to 31-08-1988, Iowa City, USA (note that the NTU website incorrectly states that it was Iowa State University – his friends, wife and daughter all confirmed today that it was actually The University of Iowa).

Experience:

  1. Taoyuan City Government, Deputy Magistrate Room, Deputy governor 01-01-2011 to 25-12-2014
  2. National Taiwan University Experimental Farm, Associate Director 01-08-2009 to 31-12-2010
  3. National Taiwan University Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Chair/Head 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  4. National Taiwan University, Experimental Farm Division, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  5. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  6. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Director 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  7. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Vice President for Student Affairs 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  8. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 20-05-2004 to 01-01-2011
  9. Ministry of Education, Director 15-01-2003 to 20-05-2004
  10. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 01-08-1992 to 15-01-2003
  11. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Associate Professor 01-08-1988 to 01-08-1992

Research Fields: Forestry, Soil & Water Conservation, Ecological Engineering, Civil Engineering (Hydraulics), Environmental Protection, Disaster Prevention

Today’s distinguished guests ….

And the celebratory flower arrangements sent by friends and institutions…

Today’s service…

After the Thanksgiving Service, we all moved to the Advent Church Centre for entertainment provided by SJU students and graduates…

This was followed by presentations to outgoing President Ay, from Bishop Lennon Y.R. Chang as Chair of the SJU Board of Trustees (below left), and Tseng Hong-Lian 曾鴻鍊 as Chair of the SJU Alumni Association (below right)….

After the formal events, it was time for lunch – which was delicious, with entertainment provided throughout. Followed by lots of photos with our visiting clergy and church members!

Congratulations to St. John’s University, and to our new president, President Huang. Please do keep him and the university in your prayers as he starts in his new position, officially as from tomorrow, August 1. Thank you!

The Chinese-language report of the Handover Ceremony on the SJU website is here:

臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長 帶領團隊打拼光輝未來

Congratulations to Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu on his Ordination as Deacon & to St. James’ Church, Taichung on their 50th Anniversary! 吳家圭傳道按立會吏聖職聖禮&聖雅各堂建堂五十週年感恩禮拜!

Delighted to introduce you to the newest deacon in the Taiwan Episcopal Church….

The Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu 吳家圭 was ordained deacon by the Rt. Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop of Taiwan, at St. James’ Church, Taichung on St. James’ Day, Saturday July 25, 2020.

This was a combined celebration for ordination and also for the 50th anniversary of St. James’ Church. It was also Bishop Chang’s first ordination as the new Bishop of Taiwan. A very special day indeed!

Chia-Kuei graduated from the seminary at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei last year, and has been assigned to St. James’ Church (under rector Rev. Lily Chang) full-time ever since then, having been on placement there at weekends for his final year of theological college. He is actually based at the Church of the Leading Star, St. James’ daughter church in Taiping, about 30 minutes’ drive away on the outskirts of Taichung City at the foot of the mountains, though he serves in both churches. On Trinity Sunday, Sunday services were restarted at the Church of the Leading Star after a gap of a few years, this time with Chia-Kuei leading Morning Prayer, with a monthly Holy Communion led by Rev. Lily Chang. The church has long had a small kindergarten which has a valuable ministry in the area, and some of the kindergarten families have started to worship in the new Sunday service. It’s not an easy area in which to live, badly affected by a major earthquake in 1999, the booming high-rise city development that characterizes much of the rest of Taichung has bypassed Taiping, leaving quite a depressed area, with many disadvantaged families and a lot of small struggling factories. Children’s summer camps are always popular there, and last week, Chia-Kuei and his team welcomed 55 children for 2 days of fun activities. Chia-Kuei also leads the St. James’ Youth Group and many of them were involved in the camp – and in the service on Saturday, in the drama and singing…

Every year on St. James’ Day, July 25, St. James’ Church hold their patronal festival, and this year is the 50th anniversary of the St James’ Church building, so it made sense to make it a double celebration. One thing St. James always excels at is anything to do with celebrations! They plan for weeks, in almost military detail, but it always pays off. With Rev. Lily Chang, senior warden Mr. Samuel Chen and his wife, You-Ju, supervisor of the kindergarten, plus their team of kindergarten teachers and church members, they managed to make the double celebration a really amazing event. This is retired rector, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen with his daughter-in-law, You-Ju and Rev. Lily Chang cutting the birthday cake!

The service was at 3:00 pm, and would you believe it, all of us traveling there by road got caught in major traffic jams all the way down from Taipei. What should have been a 2½ hour journey for us from Tamsui turned into 4¼ hours, and most others had the same experience. ‘Never again’ we vowed as rushed to get to the rehearsal on time, but by the end of the day, going home, we were all so full of praise for the way everything had gone so smoothly, so well-managed and organized, that we’d forgotten about the traffic in the morning! However, it was extremely hot, and the poor clergy and bishop struggled in all those robes – in the heat outside for photos but also inside the church at the front. There were so many people inside that the AC was struggling too! Taking precautions due to Covid-19, everyone had their temperatures checked, and wore face-masks inside the church – which made it extra-hot.

New deacon Chia-Kuei was born in 1981, grew up in Taipei, and is the first Christian in his family. As a brand new 16-year-old freshman student in his first week at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT, now St. John’s University, SJU), after the students’ introductory tour to visit Advent Church and see a presentation from the student fellowship, he marked on the feedback paper that he could play the piano. His mother had encouraged him to find a place to practice the piano, so Mr. Daniel Yu-Hai Chen of the chaplaincy team followed this up and invited Chia-Kuei to come to Advent Church to play the piano for the student choir. The following year he began to get involved in the student fellowship. After 6 years at the college, he moved elsewhere to continue his education to university level, but then returned to SJU to pursue his master’s degree for a further 3 years. and during this time, in 2006, he was baptized by the then chaplain, Rev Lennon Y. R. Chang, now bishop. It was during that time too that I first met Chia-Kuei, and by then, he also had a lovely girlfriend – we call her Wang-Wang, who also graduated from SJU in the Applied English dept., and who he met through the student fellowship. They were married at Advent Church in 2013, and for several years Chia-Kuei served as worship band leader and also as junior warden. He invited Advent Church choir to come to the ordination service on Saturday and sing during the service, they sat on the right of the altar….

Bishop Chang welcomes Chia-Kuei’s wife and daughter to the front

Like many of our clergy of his generation who graduated from SJSMIT or SJU, Chia-Kuei knows how to fix everything mechanical or electrical -a very useful skill given that churches always need something fixing! He spent almost 3 years working for Siemens, and at age 33, felt called to offer for ordination. Chia-Kuei is multi-talented in all things practical, as well as in English (he can preach at the St. James’ English service for instance), in music – he can play the organ, piano and guitar and who knows what else, he excels at driving long distances by car or motorbike, plus he’s a wonderful husband and father to his small daughter – with another baby on the way. His parents are pleased to see he has found his way in life and support his decision to be ordained. His wife’s parents are Christians, and his mother-in-law has prayed long and hard for her son-in-law to hear God’s calling to be ordained.

Chia-Kuei’s parents on the left, parents-in-law on the right and small daughter

In his sermon on Saturday, Bishop Chang first talked about the 50th anniversary celebrations, challenging and encouraging St. James in their sharing of the Gospel. Then he moved on to talking about the ordination, and called Chia-Kuei to stand by him as he talked about the 3 mission trips, to Malaysia, Kaohsiung and Osaka that Chia-Kuei had been on, run by Bishop Chang, and the importance of the traditional role of a deacon in taking care of the poor and needy, and going on sharing the Gospel. It was all very moving!

After the actual ordination part of the service, there were 2 celebratory items to mark St. James’ 50th anniversary. Firstly, a lively drama by some of the youth and kindergarten teachers, acting as past St. James’ clergy showing the history of the church. We even had a line of pictures of the 12 churches built in the Philippines through the ministry of Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, and a few pretend baptisms of kindergarten children and teachers, it was very funny!

All the past clergy of St. James and their spouses stood for a photo and presentation of flowers…

Then we had a dance performance by the children – which was so lovely!

Also a gift presentation from Dean Philip Lin of St. John’s Cathedral on behalf of Canon Chancellor Professor Herbert H. P. Ma – of a framed calligraphy artwork done by Professor Ma’s father, Ma Shou-Hwa…

The choirs of St. James’ Chinese service and English service also sang….

After Holy Communion, and the end of the service, the procession led to the kindergarten playground for group photos, the cutting of the birthday cake and a wonderful buffet at 3 different stations around the church and playground. It was great to see so many people – 270 were booked, those not in the main church were watching on large screens elsewhere in the building. Wonderful to see everyone so happy!

Photo Album: 1) Before the service:

2) The ordination service…

3) The 50th anniversary celebrations …

4) Holy Communion …

5) After the service ….

We give thanks to God for 50 years of St. James’ Church, and we pray for the next 50! Also for Rev. Lily Chang and all who serve there – thank you for doing such a great job on Saturday, it was spectacular. We were all given beautiful wooden holding crosses as celebratory gifts too, carved with ‘St. James 50’, a lovely way to remember to pray for St. James. And please do pray for Chia-Kuei and his family as they settle into their ministry at the Church of the Leading Star – the challenges are many. Thank you!

CMS Link Letter #80

Published yesterday by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below..

I sent the link letter to CMS on June 11, before I had heard of the ‘Black Lives Matter Solidarity Rally’ being held the following Saturday, June 13, in the 228 Peace Park, Taipei outside the National Taiwan Museum – that’s the building in the photos below, built in classic Renaissance style by the Japanese Colonial Government in 1908.

I went the rally with Chia-Lin, one of our church interns, and we both felt it was very moving to join in. Now for the hard work of making change happen. Check out the Taipei Times report of the event here.

Update from Taiwan: Masked Celebration in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

First the good news, today Taiwan has reached the biblical milestone of 40 days, that’s 40 straight days with no domestically transmitted Covid-19 infections. Cautious optimism all round. 😌

Good news part 2 is that it’s perfectly possible for everyone to get used to wearing face-masks. You too! It’s not weird, honest. And think how much money us women can save on lipstick as a result! 👩💄The above photo is of our Mother’s Day celebration on Sunday May 10 at Advent Church, celebrated each year in Taiwan on the second Sunday of May, all wearing face-masks. 😷 And good news part 3 is that it’s also perfectly possible for small children to take to wearing face-masks all day every day in school. That’s the Taiwan experience this term. And the result? Our church kindergartens are finding that all those horrible coughs, colds, flu and nasty bugs that normally spread so easily among groups of children are just not happening at all this term, and the kids are healthier than ever. So are their parents and teachers. And it’s not just our church kindergartens, but everyone else I talk to as well, all agree that having to wear face-masks so much is having a positive effect on our general health. Of course, it’s getting hotter and more humid as summer nears, and face-masks really restrict air-flow to the face – so you also need a fan, but y’know, so far it’s working. Let’s face it, social distancing with hundreds of very small children is hardly practical, whereas face-masks are. Never underestimate small children and their ability to adapt – and if it’s working in Taiwan, then hey, take my advice and follow Taiwan’s lead! 😷😷

(PS Updated on June 10 with this link to an article in the Taipei Times titled ‘Infectious Diseases Incidence Falls‘ which provides the statistics confirming what I’ve written above.)

All masked up at St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung (photo taken from their facebook page)

A month ago, on April 21, Taiwan’s official Covid-19 statistics were 425 confirmed cases, 217 recovered and 6 deaths. Today, May 22 and the figures are 441 confirmed cases, 408 recovered and 7 deaths. As mentioned above, today is also the 40th straight day with no domestically transmitted infections; the last time Taiwan recorded a domestic infection was on April 12. We had had no imported cases for 13 straight days too, but then a new case was confirmed yesterday of a Taiwanese man who had traveled to Mexico for work in January, returning to Taiwan on May 20 with symptoms, and testing positive soon after his arrival. Of course, Taiwan is still closed to all visitors and even transit passengers; those allowed in must have either a Taiwan passport or resident permit, and are then subject to a 14-day closely-monitored mandatory quarantine.

So far, the virus continues to remain contained and we have not been in lockdown. Schools, work and church Sunday services continue with many precautions, like temperature checks, face-masks etc, but now plans are being made to resume some of the social activities that were on hold. We proceed cautiously, as every so often a new crisis erupts, along with fresh worry in case there’s new infections. One such is coming up in the next few weeks when 77 far-sea squid fishing boats and their 4,000 crew members are due to return home after 6 months at sea – new stricter rules mean that despite having been effectively isolated at sea for so long, they will also be subject to a 14-day quarantine, so let’s hope everything goes well there too. Plans are also being made for gradually opening up the country for business visitors, but it’s not happening yet; instead, starting soon is a project to design protocols for travel resumption. It’s a collaboration between Taiwan and Stanford University School of Medicine, whereby they send 500 people from San Francisco to Taipei; once here they will undergo testing every two days in a 14-day quarantine period, to try to work out the shortest possible isolation requirement for travelers.

Two days ago, March 20, was Taiwan’s presidential inauguration, broadcast live but held behind closed doors, with none of the usual public events and no delegations invited from overseas. Heightened tensions and military activity in the skies and seas around Taiwan usually accompany such important occasions, and this one is no exception, though possibly aggravated by the Covid-19 situation as world powers try to distract from their own failings and take to threatening each other instead. At Taiwan’s elections in mid-January, President Tsai Ing-Wen 蔡英文 was elected to serve a second term. The vice-president for her first term, Chen Chien-jen 陳建仁 is an epidemiologist and former Minister of Health during the SARS crisis in 2003, also a devout Roman Catholic – his was an ace appointment given the current Covid-19 crisis. The new vice-president, William Ching-te Lai 賴淸德 also has a medical background, but is most famous as being mayor of Tainan, 2010-2017, and more recently as premier. Most of the cabinet continue in their posts for a second term, including the very popular Minister of Health, Chen Shih-chung 陳時中 who is still giving briefings on the virus situation each day live on TV. His first briefing was on January 21, exactly 4 months ago, the day that Taiwan confirmed its first case of Covid-19, and he’s been doing them ever since. The government continues to be upfront, proactive and vigilant, and Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus crisis provides a beacon of light and hope in this dark world. And all this without any help or support from the World Health Organization and – despite the intervention of numerous countries around the world – no invitation to join the WHO Assembly held earlier this week either.

Meanwhile up in Yangmingshan, the Tajima Cattle escape the heat of summer…

It was Ascension Day yesterday, and today is exactly 3 months since the consecration of our new bishop, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, on February 22. He’s been busy overseeing the renovations and remodeling at the diocesan office building, now virtually complete. The main changes are on the third floor, which was previously a meeting room with a large oval wooden table in the middle, with a double bedroom for guests at the far end, separated from the meeting room by a wall of books. All the books have gone, mostly moved down to the first floor; the wall and bedroom have also gone and the meeting room has been enlarged to make one big conference room, which is already being well-used by groups for meetings and training courses. There’s also been major work done to the bishop’s apartment and rooms on the 4th and 5th floors, plus the roof. Bishop Chang kindly hosts a monthly lunch for diocesan office staff, and on Wednesday he and his wife invited us up to their apartment for lunch (see photo below). They still don’t have any hot water, and they’ve already had one major flood – the water leaked from the 5th floor down to the 4th floor – but hey, everyone is still smiling! 😊

Check out the following photos taken over the last 3 months of the Diocesan Office remodeling project….

Floods inside, and now flooding outside too, it’s particularly bad in southern Taiwan. The first typhoon of the season passed by Taiwan a few days ago, leading straight into the plum rainy season, ⛈️ with heavy rains all this week, and warnings of further severe weather and ‘disastrous’ rainfall in some parts over this weekend. 🙏 Last weekend though, the weather was glorious, and the northern tip of Taiwan looked spectacular with its lighthouse, Shimen Arch and the Fuji Fishing Harbour…

As did St. John’s University (SJU), which is only 12 km south of Taiwan’s northern tip. Check out Sunday’s photo below of Advent Church and SJU, with the Yangmingshan Mountains so clear in the background. The people playing basketball are all from the Filipino community, who often spend their Sundays here having sports competitions….

SJU is now in the second part of the semester, and preparing for graduation and end of term events coming next month. The SJU Dept. of Creative Design has its annual graduation exhibition this week, and 3 of the girls from our SJU Student Fellowship in that dept, Yi-Ting, Yumi and Cai-Pei have based their design project on Advent Church, including the design for the new T-shirts for the student fellowship, modeled here by our chaplaincy staff and Yi-Ting (far left) 😊

The girls also designed all sorts of beautiful cards, books, calendars and souvenirs around the theme of ‘Advent Home’, all really creative, and I’ve persuaded them to put their short video on YouTube so you can enjoy it – just click on the arrow below….

You will see that the final scene of the video is shot at the SJU labyrinth. It’s located just behind Advent Church, on the SJU campus but next to the main road, and during this time of the coronavirus crisis, I’ve found it really helpful to use the labyrinth as a way of walking prayer. It’s hot out there, so late afternoon, just before sunset is a good time. If you don’t happen to have a real labyrinth nearby (ha ha, who does?!), you can print one from the internet and use your finger to ‘walk’ around, or just follow the red dot as it does the walking for you online. Anyway, I asked Nien-Tzu from SJU to take some photos of the labyrinth from his drone. Here they are….

Thank you for all your prayers, cards, letters, emails and messages of support. We have much to give thanks to God for here in Taiwan, and we pray that there’ll be more good news coming from the rest of the world. Hope you are all doing OK in the circumstances wherever you are – and staying safe.

These days, even the artworks at the Tamsui Light Rail Stations wear face-masks…

And finally, this short 3-minute video has resurfaced recently, it’s a wonderful antidote to today’s problems. Actually an advert for a bank, it’s based on a true story of a group of 5 elderly men in Taiwan ‘who turned the death of their life-long friend into the chance of a lifetime to relive a dream from their youth’. Many people in Taiwan do a round-island trip by bicycle or motorbike in their youth, it’s 900+ km, and usually takes about 9-10 days. Plenty more people dream of doing such a trip, but never get round to it. Maybe, just maybe, this pandemic has led you to remember and rekindle some of your own dreams and aspirations from long ago, and I hope these 5 elderly Taiwan men will encourage you to get on your bike (or feet, even) when this is all over and ride, ride, ride!

And if that doesn’t inspire you, then check out our local swallows who always choose the noisiest, dirtiest, most dangerous places to build their nests, right above the main entrances of the local shops over the road from SJU. There’s a whole load of nests over there. Fortunately for them, swallows are believed to bring blessings, so local shopkeepers go to great lengths to protect their nests. I might think it’s not the most scenic location to set up a new home, but hey, there’s plenty of flying insects to provide food for their young, and then there’s the tender loving care from the shopkeepers…

Your prayers for Taiwan continue to be appreciated, for newly-inaugurated President Tsai and her government starting a second term, for safety and stability, God’s protection, provision and grace. Thank you! 😷😷

Update from Taiwan: Masked Communion in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

So here I am, along with 23 million other people, on this small, densely-populated island of Taiwan, only 130 km across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China, and only 1,000 km or 2 hours’ flight from Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus. In late January, Johns Hopkins University said Taiwan was one of the most at-risk areas outside of mainland China, owing to its close proximity, ties and transport links. Taiwan’s first case was announced on January 21, exactly 3 months ago today, and let’s face it, it did not look promising.

Yet, fast forward 2-3 months, and a CNN report on April 5 is titled, “Taiwan’s coronavirus response is among the best globally”. True. As of today, Taiwan has 425 confirmed cases, 217 recovered and 6 deaths. The latest group cluster are 27 military personnel from the Panshi Fast Combat Support Ship, part of a goodwill fleet that visited Palau from March 12 to 15, they are now being followed up and contacts traced. Hopefully, as has happened so far, the virus will remain contained. Although the economy is suffering badly, so far there has been no lockdown or isolation imposed by the government, and although many activities are cancelled, schools, work and Sunday church services continue more or less as normal…

Maundy Thursday at Grace Church, Tainan, Taiwan

Global suspension of postal services due to the virus means I can write to you in the USA, but not if you live in Hawaii. On the other hand, you can write to me from anywhere in the USA, including Hawaii. If you’re in Canada, you can write to me here in Taiwan, but sadly I can’t write back. I can write to you in the UK, but you can’t write to me, so my Easter cards have arrived with you, but yours will not arrive here until after postal services resume again. We can send our diocesan magazines to Northern Ireland, but not to Ireland, and Ireland can’t send anything to Taiwan, whereas Northern Ireland can. We certainly live in interesting times.

So it’s a good job we have other ways to communicate. And communication in Taiwan these days is mostly done from behind a face-mask. Face-masks have been popular in Taiwan for years, but now they are compulsory on public transport, in all government buildings, schools, markets and many shops, along with temperature checks, hand sanitizer and social distancing. Most people wear them most of the time, me too. Face-masks hide virtually all facial expressions, especially as many Taiwan people also wear glasses, so you never again need to smile at anyone, in fact you can happily ignore everyone around you. That is until you get to teach a class of children and need them to speak, like in my weekly early morning class at the local middle school. They sang for my birthday a few weeks ago, all masked up. Thanks everyone! We also went there in Holy Week to distribute Easter eggs (actually salted duck eggs, dyed by our student fellowship) to the staff and children…

In our church services, wearing a face-mask has also become compulsory, but now I realize it’s easy to get away with not singing any hymns because nobody can see your lips moving, and anyway, it’s fiddly to sing as it moves the mask too much and you need to adjust it again – so it’s better to stay quiet. But if you stay too quiet, then the live broadcast doesn’t sound very live, as nobody can hear the congregation saying anything. And be careful not to yawn, or the mask comes loose, and certainly don’t laugh – masks only stay in place if you don’t move your mouth. The only time in the church service that anyone takes their mask off is the preacher for the sermon, and for everyone to receive the bread at Holy Communion. The photo at the top (and below) shows our masked communion service on Easter Sunday at Advent Church….

Actually, we encourage all the elderly to stay home and watch the livestream of services from our cathedral and some of the other churches instead. Advent Church cancelled its Holy Week services this year, and we all stayed home. Isn’t it just great sometimes to lie on your bed and go to church? That’s what I did, flicking through church services throughout the diocese as they broadcast live. And that’s how come I watched the end of the Maundy Thursday service from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi. After the altar was stripped and the cross covered in a black cloth, the priest sat down and prepared to turn out the light, and to read aloud, in the darkness, the moving story of Jesus’ last hours. Except that at that exact moment that he switched out the light, the music started outside in the street, telling us all that the rubbish (garbage) truck was coming. The rubbish trucks have a set timetable, but all play music to let everyone know they’re coming along, like ice-cream vans do in the UK. And y’know, it was really quite surreal, but also kind of appropriate – the people outside throwing their rubbish into the trucks to be taken away, as the story of Jesus taking away our sins on the cross was being recounted inside. Almost a parallel universe.

On Easter Sunday, our preacher at Advent Church encouraged us to follow the example of Mary, on the day of resurrection at the tomb, who turned and saw the risen Christ, having first thought he was the gardener who had removed the body. In times of turmoil, grief, pain and suffering, we are inclined to blame others for everything that’s going wrong. But in reflecting on our own sin and turning in repentance, so we turn, as Mary turned, and see the risen Christ – and we pray that we might see the risen Christ in others too. We so easily see the evil in others, rather than the good. That is my challenge and prayer this Easter season for all of us, as individuals, communities, governments, countries and world leaders.

Cherry Blossom at Advent Church, April 3, 2020

But, when I ask myself what is my response to all the pain and suffering in the world caused by the coronavirus, I am angry. Taiwan has done so well in handling this terrible situation, all without any help from the World Health Organization, which it’s not allowed to join, and all in such contrast to so-called ‘Great’ Britain, where the government has not just been slow to act, but inept and arrogant in its response. People here have asked me so many times to explain ‘herd immunity,’ and how come the UK government is in such a mess that even Prince Charles and the prime minister ended up infected. Don’t get me started, but it’s a good job the queen appeared on TV at the right moment to give a great speech and some hope to us all. Of course, all the credit must go to the exhausted front-line workers in hospitals, care homes, emergency services, supermarkets, delivery vans, schools and all those who’ve stayed home and done their bit to flatten the curve, plus those who’ve used their time creatively to raise money and help those affected. Yes, Taiwan learned from SARS in 2003 (read this account of what went wrong then) and has been proactive and vigilant ever since; plus the people are willing to comply with all restrictions for the greater good. And now the country is donating face-masks by the million to governments around the world who for the last few months have had the arrogance to say that face-masks don’t work or are not necessary. God have mercy!

In an opinion piece by Ian Inkster in the South China Morning Post titled, “In the battle against the coronavirus, East Asian societies and cultures have the edge”, he includes Taiwan when he says, “What has come through in each of the East Asian societies is a moral economy compounded of ancient traditions of Confucianism and Buddhism, and moderation of individualism by deep values of benevolence, shared responsibilities and obligations that might well be at the heart of East Asia’s success. Cultures that are sturdy in a world of change do not have to rely on expensive policies or promises of rapid economic recovery, for cultural suasion can go a very long way. It can save lives.” Food for thought indeed.

These few weeks we were supposed to be hosting the World Anglican Chinese Clergy Conference (WACCF) in Taiwan, and the 53rd anniversary celebrations of the foundation of St. John’s University, held each year near the last week of April. The result of so many events being cancelled is that we have far more time than usual, not just because the events are cancelled, but the planning and organization of them all too. It does mean more time for our new bishop, Lennon Y. R. Chang, who continues to be very busy as chair of the board of trustees of St. John’s University, as well as overseeing the remodeling and modernizing of the diocesan office building in central Taipei, which we hope will be finished next month.

Having less weekend events means more free time, and encouraged by the government to get out into the countryside for fresh air and exercise, so all the bicycle paths, parks, mountains and scenic areas locally are full of people, young couples, families, small groups of students, retired people, all enjoying themselves. That just has to be a good thing. Nature is there waiting for us to come and see it. The cherry blossom season is over, so is the wisteria at the middle school (photos above and below, courtesy of Jasmine Yu), and now it’s the frog-croaking season in full swing – they go on and on all night long!

Thanks for your continuing prayers, support and concern for us all in Taiwan, they are much appreciated. Praying for God’s mercy, grace and comfort in a hurting world. Stay safe everyone 😷

Update from Taiwan: So, where are we now? 😷

(On first sight, doesn’t that sign above look like it’s saying ‘Avoid Catherine’?!) 😮

Taiwan is now in its 3rd month since the fear and worry about the coronavirus situation started.  It was just before Chinese New Year in the 3rd week of January that things started to happen big-time and Taiwan started its wall-to-wall News coverage, with daily press briefings from the health minister, and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in non-stop action.  Check out the Wikipedia Site “COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan‘’ for a good description of what has happened so far. 

And so far, thankfully, it seems that Taiwan is just about keeping its head above water.   Even as the coronavirus situation worsens worldwide, the government here continues to be very vigilant and the people very willing to comply with all restrictions.   I was in Taiwan for the SARS epidemic in 2003, when we were the third most badly-affected country in the world after China and Hong Kong, and my memories are of it being a very fearful time for everyone; the depressing doom and gloom lasted for many months, and it was clear that the government regretted not being quicker and more proactive in preventing community outbreaks.  This time the government did not delay, and did what governments are supposed to do, that is learn from history and act for the benefit of the people.  On the very first day that the outbreak was officially reported by China (December 31, 2019), that same evening, the government here started checking incoming passengers on flights from Wuhan, even before they disembarked from the plane. 

By February 22, the day of the consecration of our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, there were 26 confirmed cases in Taiwan, but no serious community outbreak, and it was felt safe to go ahead with the actual consecration service, though with a lot of precautions, including cancelling the consecration banquet, and temperature checks on everyone at the service.  Travel restrictions imposed by Taiwan at the time meant that visitors from Hong Kong had to cancel, but we welcomed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and 12 other archbishops and bishops from the USA, Japan and Korea for the occasion.  

When we said goodbye to those bishops a few days later, it was South Korea, Italy and Iran that were the developing hotspots.  Fast forward a month, and the virus has spread worldwide, and with cancellations of school and work in Europe and the USA, so we are in a second wave of confirmed cases, as anxious Taiwanese overseas flee for the safety of home, all with stories of how relieved they are to be back in a country that really is taking this virus seriously.  Since last week, only those with Taiwan passports or a resident permit are allowed into the country; all are quarantined for 14 days and all are closely monitored; while the few who have tried to escape quarantine have been caught and fined. 

As of this afternoon, Monday March 23, we have a total of 195 confirmed cases and 2 deaths, with an increase of 26 new infections today, all accounted for, as announced by the health minister.  It feels like we are still holding our breath, still treading water, not daring to let down our guard, just in case, but also relieved that so far the virus remains contained.  Here at St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei, we are now in our 4th week of the semester (after an initial delay of 2 weeks), and this morning, I was on duty for an hour of temperature-checking of all students and staff arriving for classes.  Most of those arriving at the front entrance had just got off a bus or motorcycle and were wearing face-masks, many will wear them all day long. I wear mine in church, on public transport, in the supermarket, sometimes in the office and of course for temperature-checking, in fact anywhere where there’s too many people in too small a space, at the very least it keeps my hands off my face.  We use a digital forehead thermometer to check everyone, after which they get their hands sprayed with sanitizer and a sticker with a ‘1’ on it, denoting the first day of the week (in Mandarin Chinese, Monday is Day 1) showing that they have passed the temperature check. If they get a reading over 37.5°C, the thermometer light glows orange or red, so we wait a few minutes and check again. If it happens a second time, they get checked with an ear thermometer, and if that reading is over 38°C, then they are not allowed to enter the campus and instead sent to seek medical advice, and their details are recorded and followed up.  This temperature-checking activity takes a lot of organization, as everyone entering the campus has to be channeled through a central processing area at the main entrance, so it involves a whole rota of people, and there’s another group checking temperatures of those driving in by car.  The same rules of daily temperature-checking apply at all schools and government buildings in Taiwan; but apart from that, work and school continue vaguely as normal, with plenty of precautions, though many after-school, extra-curricular activities are cancelled, same for the churches.      

Our Sunday services are an ongoing challenge as they involve a wider age range of people, but they have not been cancelled, although numbers are down as some of the most at risk stay home.  We have the usual temperature checks, face-masks to be worn by clergy and congregation alike, and depending on the church, it may or may not be Holy Communion, and if so, mostly with bread only. Here at Advent Church, the clergy adjust the service protocol each week as they try to accommodate for everyone and everything in as safe a way as possible.   Our fellowship groups, Sunday Schools, Bible Studies etc are all cancelled, some are taking place online.  One thing’s for sure though, with so many cancellations, everyone has a lot more free time than they had before.    

It’s a month since Bishop Lai retired and Bishop Chang was consecrated, and our new bishop has not wasted one moment, starting immediately on the renovation, remodeling and updating of facilities at the 5-storey diocesan office building in Taipei City. He was also here at SJU this morning, now as chair of the SJU board of trustees, but I mistook him for one of the students as he arrived at the campus with his face-mask on, and lined up with everyone else for temperature-checking; the same with SJU President Ay.  When it comes to temperature-checking, from bishop to university president, staff, students and even the bus drivers delivering students, all have to line up to be checked; vigilance is demanded of everyone. 

As the coronavirus situation worsens worldwide, and restrictions continue in Taiwan with so many activities cancelled, I too have more time than usual.  Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in the UK and my mother celebrated her 88th birthday only a few days before.  It is a worrying time for those there and for us far away.  A few days ago I went through my address book and compiled a list of friends and family members mostly in far-off countries who are particularly vulnerable at this time.  Many are elderly or have elderly parents, many are in isolation, some have underlying health conditions.  My list has about 60 individuals / couples on it and I have committed myself to praying for them all by name every day for the foreseeable future, specifically for God’s protection, grace, strength and comfort at this time.  I’m happy to extend the list with a few more people and add your name or the name of someone close to you who you feel especially needs prayer at this time. Just one or two individuals / couples will be fine, not a whole list, I have to be realistic.  Just let me know the name and a few details.  Happy to help!

I am very grateful to my sending organization, Church Mission Society (CMS) for their support, care and concern, and especially for treating us as individuals, within the context of the church and country in which we work, and for respectfully standing back when appropriate and reaching out when necessary.  The last thing I would want is mission support done ‘helicopter parent’ style, so a big thank you to all in CMS.  Other people working in the charity sector are not so fortunate, I’ve realized recently, and some US mission societies have ordered everyone to return home, regardless of where they live or the current virus situation or the health facilities in that country; Peace Corps even has a worldwide evacuation order for all 7,300 of their volunteers to return to the USA, and finish their term of service.  Yes, sometimes less is more, which is the quote on the photo above (and below), though at first sight I thought the final phrase said, ‘Avoid Catherine’ but it turns out it’s not my name after all, but ‘Avoid Gathering’ with the ‘s’ missed off (duh!🙄) Certainly, avoiding people doesn’t mean we also need to avoid God, and surely He is nearer to us than we can expect or even know, and especially in these darkest of times.

Let me finish with this prayer, which I really like, from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the National Day of Prayer and Action yesterday, Mothering Sunday, as everyone was encouraged to light a ‘candle of hope’ in their homes: “May the God of all hope show us his face and his way within the darkness that enfolds us. In all things, God can work with us to transform and bring light, however desperate our present may be”.

And finally, it’s spring and these pink wood sorrels are out all over the SJU campus, looking glorious on a sunny day….

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support, you are all much appreciated. Thanks especially to my CMS-supporting link churches. Please do stay safe, healthy, prayerful and hopeful, and let me know if you’d like me to pray. There’s a comment section up near the title if you want to write something. 

News from Taiwan of Consecration and Celebration in a time of Coronavirus

The consecration and installation of Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮 as the new Bishop of Taiwan will take place this coming Saturday, February 22, 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, starting at 2:00 pm Taiwan time (UK time: 6:00 am). You can watch it on this live stream, via YouTube …

CMS (Church Mission Society) asked me to write a short article about the Coronavirus situation in Taiwan, how it affects daily life and an update about the coming consecration. This is the CMS article here, published today. They asked for only 300 words, but it grew to over 500, and I’ve now added a few updates from today’s news, so bear with me….

“Taiwan holds its collective breath. We hope and pray that the coronavirus situation improves and that a community outbreak does not occur. The Taiwan government is being cautious and vigilant, schools have an extended 2 weeks’ holiday, many people are working from home and others are driving rather than using public transport. After panic-buying of face-masks caused a major shortage, the government wisely urged that healthy people wear them only in crowded places, on public transport and in hospitals. So far, Taiwan has 22 (now 24) confirmed cases and one fatality, a 61-year-old taxi driver in central Taiwan, thought to have been infected by transporting infected passengers recently returned from China. The passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship (currently quarantined in Japan) visited Taipei’s famous tourist sites on January 31, and the government had a busy time following up all those in Taiwan who might have been infected. The all-clear was given a few days ago, and tourist sites are open, along with hotels and restaurants, though all are seeing far fewer visitors.

This coming Saturday, February 22, the Taiwan Episcopal Church will hold the consecration and installation of our new bishop, Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, succeeding Bishop David J. H. Lai, who has faithfully led the diocese for almost 20 years. As the coronavirus so far remains contained, we will go ahead with the welcome dinner for international visitors on Friday night and the service on Saturday, but we have cancelled the consecration banquet, originally scheduled for Saturday evening. Travel restrictions mean that the archbishop and bishops of Hong Kong have had to cancel their visit; we hope there will be no further such cancellations. Fortunately the group of 16 from our companion diocese of Osaka, Japan led by Bishop Haruhisa Iso, arrived safely this afternoon. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be the chief consecrator, and we are expecting 13 other archbishops and bishops from Japan, Korea and the USA, plus church leaders from within Taiwan (including the RC Archbishop of Taipei), and over 300 in the congregation, many of whom will have to sit outside in the cathedral courtyard watching by video. All who enter the cathedral compound on Saturday will have their temperatures checked, in accordance with current Taipei City Government regulations, and hands sprayed with alcohol-based sanitizer.

For several weeks now, many of our clergy and church members have been wearing face-masks for worship services, while most other church activities have been cancelled, and all those with colds or fever told to stay home. For Saturday, we are trying to be careful without being fearful. Clergy, servers and those processing into the cathedral for the service will not wear face-masks, while for the congregation it is by personal choice. There will be bowing instead of hand-shaking during the peace, and everyone will take Holy Communion by dipping the wafer into the wine. We pray for safety and God’s protection at this time, especially on Saturday, and pray that this situation will draw us closer together as the body of Christ, committed to caring for each other and striving to be tolerant, understanding and patient with others. We pray also for the Diocese of Taiwan in this time of transition, and for Bishop Lai and Rev. Chang. May God’s peace fill our hearts and minds, and may our witness be strong and courageous. Amen.”

Wall-to-wall coverage of the coronavirus situation: the 3 collages used in this post are random shots of Taiwan’s TV News Channels taken this Thursday lunchtime…

And finally, do check out the live stream on Saturday – and watch out for the celebratory firecrackers and Taiko Drum Performance immediately after ‘The Seating’ of the new bishop!

CMS Link Letter #79

Published yesterday by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below…

I wrote the original letter on January 22, just before Chinese New Year, but the corona virus situation has developed so fast since then that the letter is already vastly out of date. So I have sent a prayer request to CMS for this week’s Prayerspace email, as follows:

“Catherine Lee requests prayer for the consecration of the new Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, on Saturday February 22 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. Taiwan has 18 confirmed cases of the corona virus, and fortunately so far all are contained. The Taiwan government is being cautious and vigilant. So far there has been no community outbreak, and as long as it remains this way, then the consecration service will go ahead as planned, although we have cancelled the consecration banquet on the Saturday evening, and travel restrictions mean that the archbishop and bishops from Hong Kong will not be able to come. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (of Royal Wedding fame) will be chief consecrator, and we are expecting archbishops and bishops from Japan, Korea and USA, VIP church leaders from Taiwan and a congregation of over 300 people.”

Your prayers are much appreciated, thank you – and please continue!

Happy Chinese New Year of the 🐭🐀!

Chinese New Year (CNY) Celebrations for the Lunar New Year / Spring Festival have been going on non-stop all week here in Taiwan! There are mice and rat characters everywhere 🐭 🐀 and Mickey Mouse and his friends have never been more popular. Plus red lanterns galore 🏮🏮🏮….

However, the Taiwan News is dominated by wall-to-wall reporting of the Wuhan Coronavirus situation, which has created a lot of fear, particularly among those who have stayed at home over CNY and watched a lot of TV. We all remember the SARS outbreak in 2003, which the Taiwan government handled really well, but still, many have cancelled their travel plans and are avoiding large gatherings and public transport, and we’re all hoping that the situation does not get worse. There are quite a few suspected – and some confirmed – cases in Taiwan, but so far all remain contained. Kindergartens are back in action as from yesterday, state schools start on February 11. I’m here at St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung, where all children and staff have their temps checked on entering the school, and everyone is wearing a face-mask and being extra-careful. Face-masks will be worn by all in our churches on Sunday too, and church activities limited for the next few weeks, just to be on the safe side.

But Taiwan people know the importance of celebrating the new year, and despite the concerns, we all had great CNY celebrations! On Chinese New Year’s Eve, I was invited by the Wang family from St. James’ Church, Taichung for their traditional family reunion dinner. Very honoured to sit next to Grandma Wang, aged 87, who kept us all entertained with stories of her early life and 20 years of living in Paraguay. And delicious food, as always – thank you!

Saturday January 25 was officially the first day of CNY, and my good friend A-Guan had invited me to join her on a 6-day road trip to southern and eastern Taiwan. None of her children wanted to go with us, so the two of us set off, in sunny weather heading south for Tainan, en route visiting all sorts of interesting sightseeing spots. First to Gukeng to the Pink Castle 古坑珍粉紅城堡, then to Rosahill, followed by some famous Gukeng coffee, and lastly to Wushantou Reservoir 烏山頭水庫 where it was overcast, but hey, it didn’t rain!

The Temple of Heaven at Wushantou Reservoir is being repaired, but it is modeled on the one in Beijing…. impressive eh?!

In Tainan, we were warmly welcomed by Rev. Philip J. L. Ho, his wife, their second son and his family, plus their daughter, all of whom had gathered for the CNY celebrations – actually his second son and family live very near me in Tamsui, ha ha! On Sunday we worshiped with the congregation at Grace Church, Tainan, and I was delighted to meet Rev. Samuel Liao and his family. We were all given red envelopes – as is the tradition, but instead of a token one dollar coin or chocolate money inside, we each received a new NT$ 100 note, plus a Bible verse. Mine was Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer 在盼望中要喜樂,在患難中要忍耐,禱告要恆切”. Thank you Grace Church!

After coffee time and a delicious Korean lunch, kindly hosted by Hsiu-Chin and her husband, we set off for Fengshan, Kaohsiung, where we were to be staying 2 nights with Ichen, our good friend from St. James – and her family. Once there though, it was such a beautiful day, that we couldn’t stay inside for long, and so we went by MRT along 3 stops to Weiwuying, Kaohsiung (still in Fengshan District), famous for it’s street art and wall murals, and the new state-of-the-art performing arts centre. I love Weiwuying – and there’s always new murals to look at – and this time a new multi-coloured seat to take photos on 🙃🙃 and hey, I met one of our church families from Advent Church, Tamsui visiting their family home in Fengshan for CNY!

On Monday, the weather forecast was good, but rain and cold were promised from Monday night onwards, so we needed to make the most of the sunny weather! A-Guan took us first to see the old iron-bridge 舊鐵橋 that used to link Kaohsiung to Pingtung across the Kaoping River 高屏溪, originally built to transport sugar. It was once the longest bridge in East Asia – built in 1914 in the Japanese Era. I loved it! The middle section was washed away in a typhoon some years ago, but much survives and is open to the public. The main train line crosses the river on a bridge close by. We also visited the nearby kiln and tile workshops, and in the afternoon we went to Pingtung to Liudui Hakka Park, plus other places – but there was a lot of traffic, everyone making the most of the fine weather!

On Monday evening, Rev. Lily Chang joined us, ready to leave bright and early on Tuesday morning. By 9:00 am, we were saying goodbye to Ichen and her family – they were so good to us, with delicious breakfasts and dinners, lively conversation and lots of laughs! We drove down the coast and over the mountains to Taitung – by the newly-opened road that goes through the tunnel – it’s great and saves a huge amount of time! We were heading for Bunun Village Farm 布農部落, our favourite place to stay in Taitung. This village project was started by Rev. K. S. Pai over 25 years ago, and is supported by many churches in Taiwan, with the aim of encouraging the local Bunun Indigenous people to remain in the area, rather than leaving for the cities in search of work. The village is a self-sustaining business with guest houses, restaurants, traditional dance performances, weaving, an organic farm and bamboo factory. We love it! We met Rev. Pai, who knows Bishop Lai and our former dean, Rev. Samuel Y. C. Lin from Tainan Theological College days – see the first photo below. I was very surprised to meet 4 Tanzanian students and one from Burundi, most on 4-month internships from Chang-Jung Christian University, Tainan studying Sustainable Development, sponsored by the Jane Goodall Institute 國際珍古德協會. Ah, it was nice to rekindle my Kiswahili!

The photo below left shows the very special traditional Bunun dinner we had on arrival – with millet wine in the bamboo holder ~ and A-Guan won a large glass of the same at the evening show!

On Wednesday, A-Guan took us all over Taitung, a huge circular tour – she really planned everything so well! We went to the local Farmer’s Association – famous for it’s rice products, to the Bunun Village in Haiduan 海端鄉 with its painted walls, to the Hakka Cultural Park and Dapo Lake, and then up to Fuli, Hualien County and over the long and very winding mountain road that led us down to the coast at Dulan 都蘭, famous for its Amis indigenous culture, elementary school bags (one recently spotted at the Paris Fashion Week), surf, old sugar factory turned into art space, and the new RC church. Phew, there was so much to see! And hey, it didn’t rain!