Palm Sunday @ St. James’ Church English Service, Taichung

Just spent Palm Sunday weekend at St. James’ Church, Taichung where I was assigned to do the sermon in the English service. It seems that usually, with only an hour for the service, they don’t have time for a Palm Sunday procession and miss out the readings for Palm Sunday too, just concentrating on the ones for Holy Week. But my Palm Sunday sermon, based on Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (the Palm Sunday liturgy) was all prepared when I discovered that fact. And so it was that Rev. Lily Chang kindly rearranged the whole service, and for the first time, St. James’ English Service had the Palm Sunday Liturgy and Palm Sunday Procession, waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna’ as everyone walked around.

The Chinese congregation had a Palm Sunday Procession that went around the streets of St. James; the English congregation had a smaller one, just around the church building ~ but in its own way, just as meaningful.

We also had a choir, formed from the English congregation, who sang all the traditional Palm Sunday hymns and songs.

This was not the only major event of the weekend going on at St. James. On the Saturday morning, we had the first of 3 Bishop Candidates Public Forums for all the church members in central Taiwan to meet and hear from the 3 candidates nominated for election to succeed Bishop Lai when he retires early next year. About 60 people came along, and it was very worthwhile. Report coming in a few weeks, when we’ve had the next one, in Kaohsiung.

And in-between times, I went off to visit my old friends, these are the Lai family, and the 2 girls are my former pupils, now all grown up! So great to see them!

Came back home yesterday into major traffic jams caused by processions of worshipers, deities, musicians and vast numbers of people celebrating a traditional Taoist festival, marching along the sides of the roads along the streets of Tamsui and further north. Just as the date of Easter is set by the Lunar calendar, so the week before Easter, when we are observing Holy Week, that same week is always also a busy time for temples in this area, who are observing the same Lunar calendar. The 860 bus route from Tamsui, that normally takes about 25 minutes, instead took an hour. Ah, I was so happy to arrive home!

So wishing you all a meaningful Holy Week as we remember Jesus’s last supper with his disciples, his arrest, trial, crucifixion and death on the cross. Do take time to pray, reflect, meditate, contemplate, worship, remember, fast, observe and take part in the events going on in churches around about. It’s the most important week of the Christian year, so do get into it!

Taiwan Episcopal Church Diocesan Convention, March 22-23, 2019:台灣聖公會 第59屆教區年議會!

This year’s annual convention was hosted by St. James’ Church, Taichung, and, as always, it was wonderful! These are the 2 official group photos below…

Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Church and her team of church members and volunteers organized and arranged a big welcome for us, including supplying delicious snacks and fruits for each break time. THANK YOU! Here’s all the St. James’ team, being thanked on the last day…

After a very early start for most of us, we started the convention with a Holy Communion service at 10:30 am on Friday morning at St. James, followed by the group photos, then lunch nearby…

After lunch, off we went to a hotel for the meetings. This was the seating plan…

The hotel we stayed in is located near the former Taichung City Council and other colonial buildings from the Japanese era. Not far away in one direction is the river, now marked by blue lights, and in the other direction is the Taichung Rail Station – the old building has been retained, and the new station built behind it. Great for late night and early morning walks!

It was good to meet up with all our old friends from every one of our churches in Taiwan. Great reunions! The official meetings focused on presentation of reports, discussions, proposals and elections. Reports were given by all the different diocesan committees. And at the beginning of the convention, Bishop Lai formally welcomed our good friend from the Episcopal Church, Rev. Bruce Woodcock, Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific….

On Saturday it was a special day for Jerry Liang ~ his birthday, but he had completely forgotten all about it! So it was fun for us all to sing to him – and for him to be hugged by his son, Antony. Antony is to be ordained priest at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Wednesday May 1. Do pray for him and all the family.

And so Day 2 began with breakfast, and followed by meetings, including a report from Dr. Herchang Ay, president of St. John’s University. All of our churches gave their reports. And the day finished with lots of photos!

The collection from the opening service the previous day was presented to St. James’ Church, but they kindly donated it to St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung to help with urgent repairs to their church building and vicarage…

The most important matter to ask you to include in your prayers is the forthcoming election of the new diocesan bishop of Taiwan. The mandatory retirement age for bishops in the Episcopal Church is 72, so Bishop Lai must retire before March 2020. We now have 3 official candidates, seen in the photo below with Bishop Lai. From left: Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector of Advent Church, Bishop Lai, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung, and Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu, vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung.

In April, May and June, there will be 3 sessions to meet the candidates, one each in the north, central and south of Taiwan, then the actual election of the new bishop will take place on Saturday August 3 at St. James’ Church. The consecration, ordination and installation of the new bishop will take place on Saturday February 22, 2020 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. Please pray!

Thanks to Bishop Lai and all who helped to organize the convention, and especially to Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary, who has been working hard for months, along with all in the diocesan office. Special thanks to Ms. Amy B. H. Lin, our honorary diocesan treasurer who devotes much of her spare time to this role, and together with Bruce and Bishop Lai, they form a great team!…

And next year our convention will be hosted by St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung as they celebrate their 50th anniversary. Get ready!

Thanks be to God, and please continue to pray for the Diocese of Taiwan!

The Very First Banksy Exhibition opens in Taipei!

Banksy: The Authentic Rebel” Exhibition has opened in a Taipei Shopping Mall, and it’s great! Free entry. On until March 24.

There’s 25 art pieces on display, and it’s all arranged by Phillips the auction people – apparently the first Banksy exhibition in Taipei!

The Girl with Balloon screen print is perhaps the most famous, it’s now worth £80,000 after the shredding of the canvas at an auction last year. “Created as a stencil street art piece in 2002, the image of a young girl with her hand stretched toward a heart-shaped red balloon has become a symbol of political protests — such as during the Syrian civil war in 2014″….

Quoting Picasso, Banksy wrote on his post: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge — Picasso” …

These are my favourites at the exhibition…

And the one that made me smile is the one with the shopping trolleys, titled ‘Trolley Hunters’...

So if you’re in Taipei this week, then do go and visit!

人山人海 ‘People Mountain, People Sea’ and fun at the Taiwan Lantern Festival 台灣燈會 @ Pingtung 屏東 Dapeng Bay大鵬灣 !

So many many people, all there to enjoy the Lantern Festival, and, ah yes, it was great!

The end of Chinese New Year celebrations is marked by the Lantern Festival, and in Taiwan, each local government organizes an event that lasts for about 2 weeks or so; but the main Taiwan Lantern Festival is hosted in turn by one of the county or city governments, and each year it gets bigger and more spectacular. Last year, Chiayi hosted the event around the Southern branch of the National Palace Museum, which itself is an amazing building set by a lake, so the natural setting added to the spectacle. This year it’s been the turn of Pingtung, and fears that its remoteness at the southern end of Taiwan would put people off turned out to be completely unfounded. People came in their millions, over 11 million in total!

We’ve just had a 4-day weekend in Taiwan in connection with 228 Memorial Day, and it also coincided with the last 4 days of the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung. So, not being one to miss any opportunity, and with my good friends, Ah-Guan and Xiu-Chin inviting me to go with them, off we went to Pingtung to see it all for ourselves: YES!

The event was held at Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area 大鵬灣, a beautiful lagoon right on Taiwan’s SW coast, near to Donggang Town東港鎮. Donggang is famous for its tuna, so this year, the county government decided that rather than taking this year’s Year of the Pig as the main lantern, instead they would choose a tuna. Quite a canny move really, seeing as they’ll then be able to use that same lantern again every year! Actually fish have a big symbolic role in Chinese culture and New Year celebrations, so it’s not completely bizarre. And the main tuna lantern was positioned right in the water, so it looked amazing, and every half an hour the music played and the lantern revolved one whole circle, changing colour as it did so.

The main Taiwan Lantern Festival has a huge budget and is always really well-organized with large numbers of lanterns of all shapes, sizes and designs on display, and this year was no exception. The beauty of Dapeng Bay, with the setting sun over the water, added to the attraction. Highlights were the nightly shows by Ilotopie, a French theater company who perform on water, plus the main tuna lantern, and the drone performance by Intel, which was amazing.

On Thursday, I left home in the cold and wet soon after 5:00 am to catch the first bus out of here, then onto Taipei to try to get a seat on the high-speed rail to Kaohsiung. It being the start of a 4-day holiday, tickets had sold out weeks ago, but there’s always a chance of a seat in the non-reserved carriages if you go all the way to Nangang Station, where the trains start from. It’s worth it, honest! And so we arrived at Dapeng Bay at 1:00 pm, to find it was 29°C and hot, hot, hot! The displays look good in the daytime, but of course it is at night that the place really comes alive. In fact, the site was so huge that we never got round it all, and never saw any of the indigenous or Hakka lanterns which were at the far end. But we did go up the viewing platform and saw a bit from the air. Loved it all!

And we did manage to meet up with Rev. Richard Lee and his family and friends who had come for the day from St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung. So good to see them!

By evening, the people were pouring in, and it was so packed out that you could hardly move! Numbers were calculated by the local telecom operators through operating mobile phones and news reports say that 1.67 million attended on Thursday night – and it felt like we met most of them! The good thing is that Taiwan people are generally cool, calm and collected, and so the massive numbers of people moving around in the dark in restricted areas, like crossing a bridge, and with minimum security or police control, all proceeded slowly but surely. This kind of event anywhere else in the world would be a nightmare for everyone, but it all just went along smoothly. Ah, I just love Taiwan!

But we did have to wait ages and ages for a bus back to Kaohsiung, 3 very long hours in fact, all standing in line. l heard that there were 900 shuttle buses working non-stop, mostly ferrying people to local train stations, but for those going of us further afield, the distance to the motorway meant there were long traffic jams. And so it was that we arrived back at Kaohsiung, where we were staying, at 1:30 am, after quite a long, hot day. But hey, it was worth it – it was quite spectacular, and if everyone is going along, well, I always like to be there too!

And for the rest of the weekend in Kaohsiung? Well, we checked out my favourite place of Weiwuying, where all the wall murals are – to see any new ones…

And we walked to Siwei Elementary School to see their beautiful mural too, this one titled ‘3rd eye dog’ by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel

Also down to Kaohsiung Port area, Pier 2, where everyone was enjoying themselves. All the old warehouses have been converted to art spaces, shops and restaurants, and it’s an up-an-coming place to be, especially at sunset!

And so is the nearby Love River…

We also visited ShouShan Zoo in Kaohsiung, which is up a hill so it’s a bit cooler. Very cheap at only 40NT$ entrance fee and a nice place to wander around escaping the heat of the city below. Most famous at the zoo are not the actual zoo animals themselves but the wild monkeys who now hang out around there and steal everyone’s sandwiches. Easier to photograph were the animals lying fast asleep. The most charming was the pygmy hippo swimming up to the glass where all the children to see him close up.

And finally we went to Tainan, where our good friend, Rev. Philip Ho, vicar of Grace Church, Tainan is recovering really well after surgery on his head, after he fell over during a basketball game a few weeks ago. He was so happy to see us! We stayed on to go to Grace Church on Sunday morning, then I came home last night. Even got a seat on the HSR train from Taichung onwards, so I was happy.

Really big thanks to my good friends for their invitation, organization, photo-ops and all the fun…

And that’s the end of the Lantern Festival for another year – next year it’ll be the turn of Taichung, and I just can’t wait!

CMS Link letter # 76!

Just published in the last few days by the Church Mission Society ~ my latest link letter, giving an overview of my 6-months home leave in the UK. Click on the link below, and it opens in pdf format.

Since writing that letter, I’ve discovered that the front cover of the Taiwan Episcopal Church diocesan magazine (Chinese edition) for the 4th quarter of 2018 featured my photo, presenting the Archbishop of Canterbury with an artillery shell cross on behalf of Bishop Lai. Feeling very honoured!

I returned to Taiwan on February 15, and since then I’ve been very busy moving house, now I’m back on the St. John’s University campus. Grateful thanks to all in the diocese, church and university who have helped to make this possible, especially facing the challenges of the damp weather ~ everything everywhere was covered in condensation for days, just gotta smile! 🙃😊🙃 Now I’m looking forward to some warmer dry weather. Soon I’ll be set up for visitors too ~ so do plan to come and visit!

PS Update on March 5, 2019: If you’ve read my link letter, in it you’ll see how I lament the no-photos policy in Durham Cathedral. Well today’s news report says that as from this coming Friday, the photo ban is to be lifted. The link is here. At last! Thank you Durham Cathedral. I’m not expecting to be there again for a long time to come, but yes, it’s great news for everyone!

YES YES YES!

Church Mission Society CMS Conference @ Northampton ~ YES!

Lots of smiling faces at our Church Mission Society conference last week – and my new variation on a group photo… Hey, why all stand in a long boring line when you can do oh so much more?

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The conference was held at the King’s Park Conference Centre in Northampton…

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And it was great!  Great to meet so many old friends and make so many new ones, catch up with what’s what and who’s who, and listen and share and learn and enjoy.  And be inspired too.  The Bible studies were led by Rev. Anita Smith, former CMS mission partner in Nairobi, and they were brilliant.  All on Jonah, and all really I.N.S.P.I.R.I.N.G. Lots of other worship and prayer times and sessions relevant to everyone and everything as well.  And tons of good food.  And some rest time in the afternoons for exercise in the parks at the back – where the snow and ice were oh so beautiful!

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Thanks to all at CMS Oxford for their hard work, time and energy in organizing the conference.  Being very modest, and very English, they all run away if I take out a camera, so you’ll just have to imagine what they all look like.  But I did get one photo of the most wonderful couple, Tanas and Anne.  Anne is our CMS personnel person for Asia and she does such a great job encouraging us all; emails from her always brighten my day, and make me smile.  Thanks Anne – she’s one in a million!

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While at the conference, CMS announced the appointment of the new CMS CEO, replacing Philip Mounstephen who left to become the new Bishop of Truro a few months ago.   Please pray for Alistair Bateman, his family and CMS – the link is here.

Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, and Taiwan is celebrating for the whole of this week.  Your prayers are appreciated as I finish my time in the UK, say goodbye to family and friends, and prepare to leave the UK on Wednesday February 6, first for Dubai, then Sabah, Malaysia and finally arriving in Taiwan on Friday February 15.  Hoping to write a CMS Link Letter somewhere en route.  Watch this space, and thank you all!

Holy Trinity, Huddersfield Celebrates 200 Years: 1819-2019 ~ and 200 years of supporting the Church Mission Society!

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Just spent the weekend at one of my favourite CMS Link Churches: Holy Trinity, Huddersfield, and this year, they celebrate their 200th anniversary, YES! Congratulations and thanks be to Almighty God!

I’ve been supported by Holy Trinity ever since I first joined CMS in 1989, and have been visiting every 3-4 years since then. My previous visit was in March 2015 (see that blog post here), and I’ve also kept in touch with several clergy and church leaders who have moved away, they’re all so wonderful! One such couple is Kevin and Sandra Partington, who were originally part of Holy Trinity Church, then he was ordained and I came across them again when Kevin became rector of Dewsbury Team Parish, one of my supporting link churches. Now they’re retired back to Huddersfield, and they came over on Saturday evening to visit, bringing 20 angels, all hand made by the team at Dewsbury Minster – I had ordered them on my visit there in October, and now they’re ready for me to take to Taiwan to give as gifts – aren’t they so lovely? (The angels that is – but so of course are Kevin and Sandra – and Tina too!)

Holy Trinity is a lively group of people, and I was delighted to go there this weekend, my last CMS Link Church visit of this home leave. The current vicar is Rev. Mike Wilkins, and he has a great leadership team, Steve – the curate, Wayne – the youth leader, Natasha – in charge of ministry among children and families, and many others including churchwardens, lay readers, pastoral workers – there’s names and photos of them all on the notice board…

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I preached at the combined morning service at 10:00 am, followed by coffee in the church – and lots of photos!

After a delicious lunch at the vicarage, at 4:00 pm we had a confirmation service at Holy Trinity, where 7 new members of the church were confirmed…

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The confirmation service was led by Rt. Rev. Dr. Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop of Huddersfield, one of 5 area bishops in the new Diocese of Leeds. I presented Mike and Jonathan with artillery shell crosses from Taiwan…

Holy Trinity Church is really growing, it’s great to see lots of people sitting in the upstairs balcony – and full downstairs! Many students from the nearby University of Huddersfield have made this their spiritual home, got involved in the music and other ministries, and it’s so encouraging to see a good many young people and families.

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There’s at least 9 ‘Life Groups’ meeting during the week with a total of about 100 people. During yesterday’s service there was a report of their community review which has taken a year of knocking on the doors of the parish to find out what people need, want and would like to see their parish church doing. It’s quite a multicultural area with mixed housing, with many retired people, and also houses converted into student accommodation. Providing more activities for older people – and especially to combat loneliness – is one of the challenges for the church in the future.

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One of the newest outreach activities is the Walking for Health group, meeting every Thursday morning in the nearby Greenhead Park, followed by coffee in the church. This is also being supported by the local authority, and is part of a nationwide attempt to improve people’s physical and mental health.  Wish I could join!

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Holy Trinity has long been an outward-looking, mission-minded church, and has been associated with, and supporting the Church Mission Society ever since the very beginning. This is from the churchwarden’s blog on the church website, under ‘No. 3: Holy Trinity – a giving church’…

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“Holy Trinity is a ‘tithing’ church. This means that the church gives away 10% of its income to God’s work elsewhere. The Mission Support Team co-ordinates this giving which is shared between 6 agencies in the UK and abroad. This giving is in addition to the Parish Share, (which is our contribution to the diocese for funding the wider work of the church and paying the clergy costs) which is around £50,000 per year.

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The Church Missionary Society (CMS) has been supported by Holy Trinity since the church’s beginning. Benjamin Haigh Allen the founder of Holy Trinity, was also a founder member of the Huddersfield CMS branch in 1813, aged just 20. CMS sent Rev Henry Maddock on a preaching tour that visited Huddersfield in 1814. CMS was collecting subscriptions to educate and provide for African children recently released from slavery. The donors were entitled to name the slave child. Allen gave a £5 subscription and named a child ‘Sarah Whitacre’ after his fiancé whom he was soon to marry. Allen also appointed Maddock to be Holy Trinity’s first minister.

The campaign to abolish slavery was led by the Yorkshire MP, William Wilberforce, who visited Allen and stayed at Greenhead several times. Slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. In 1899, through CMS, Holy Trinity joined the ‘Our-Own-Missionary’ scheme and £184 was given to support the work of Annie Graham in Hangchow, China where she worked until 1918.

A well-loved Holy Trinity couple, Clem and Mary Davies, upon their retirement served at the Ngora Hospital, in Uganda through CMS in 1972, returning to Huddersfield in the mid-1980s. Jillian Cossar, was Holy Trinity’s next C.M.S. link missionary she served in Kenya until September 1988. Our current CMS link is Catherine Lee who taught in schools in Mwanza and Dodoma in Tanzania. Since 1999 Catherine has been in Taiwan, at first teaching in Taichung and now supporting the church, chaplaincy and kindergarten ministry of the Diocese of Taiwan in Taipei.

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Our mission partners remind us all that we are all called to serve God in our lives – indeed our church strapline is ‘Loving God, Loving Huddersfield’ which reflects this. Our God is a generous God and as a church we have learnt time and time again that we cannot out-give Him and that we should be generous with His gifts to us for the benefit of others.”

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I’m posting this blog in Birmingham, where I’m now staying with Mike’s predecessor at Holy Trinity – the former vicar, Calvert Prentis and his wife, Sharon ~ such gracious people, and Sharon really makes me laugh.  She once came to visit me in Taiwan and it was such fun ~ just don’t mention those Taiwan cockroaches!  Ah, Holy Trinity is full of such smiling people!

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I finished my visit to Holy Trinity by attending the Little Lights Toddler Group this morning in the church – they are all so gorgeous and I had great fun playing with them all! Thanks to Mike, Steve and all the mission support team, pictured here, for their hard work over the years, and especially to Tina for her welcome to stay at her home this weekend.

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Really loved it, really appreciate it all, thank you. And wishing Holy Trinity well as they prepare for their next 200 years of ministry in the exciting Yorkshire town of Huddersfield!

Yes to God, Yes to Mission, Yes to Taiwan!