This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of Gladys Aylward (1902-1970): “English missionary in China and Taiwan who worked to end the traditional Chinese practice of binding women’s feet, led a large group of orphans out of occupied China, and set up orphanages in Hong Kong and Taiwan”…
Gladys Aylward is buried in Taiwan, only 12 km from where I live here at St. John’s University. Her grave is in the grounds of Christ’s College, 臺北基督學院, located on the top of a very steep wooded hill above Guandu. Every time I go into Taipei by road or MRT, I pass by just below that college, but this is only my third visit to see the grave. Bit put off by that steep hill, the heat and all the mosquitoes up there under the trees!
My good friend and CMS mission partner colleague, Shelagh was called to the mission field as a child through hearing Gladys Aylward speak at her church in Canada. Shelagh served as a missionary nurse overseas until she retired only a few years ago – and when she visited Taiwan in 2009, Bishop Lai took us up that steep hill to visit the grave. He noticed the seal (right photo below) of the then President of the Republic of China (Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正) on the grave – Gladys Aylward became a citizen of the ROC in 1936 (though I see that the gravestone says 1941). With all the political turmoil of the time, she eventually settled in Taiwan, ROC in 1958, and died on January 2, 1970.
Gladys Aylward’s Chinese name is 艾偉德 Ai Wei-De, the characters are written vertically on the wall behind the tomb (left photo above). Her life story was published in ‘The Small Woman’ by Alan Burgess (1957), and from that book, made into what Gladys Aylward always thought to be a wildly exaggerated romantic Hollywood classic, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), starring Ingrid Bergman. Ah, but it’s a great movie! Apparently it was filmed in N. Wales and the children in the movie were from the Chinese community in Liverpool.
The words on her grave are as follows:
MISS GLADYS AYLWARD MISSIONARY (1902-1970) Born on the Twenty-Forth of February, Nineteen Hundred and Two in London, England She came to China in Nineteen Hundred and Thirty to preach the Gospel, in response to the Lord’s call: And became a citizen of the Republic of China in Nineteen Hundred and Forty one She was laid to rest in the Lord, at Taipei, Taiwan, on the Second Day of January, Nineteen Hundred and Seventy “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. John 12:24”
The grave is hidden away on the main campus, on the edge of the steep hill, next to graves of the founder and others associated with the college. The vegetation has grown up and the steep slopes are covered in trees and plants. Down below are several new high-rise apartment buildings that are almost taller than the hill itself. The graveyard is really a little oasis in the midst of a busy bustling area of Taipei. Oasis for mosquitoes that is – don’t stay there long or you’ll get eaten alive!
And most moving for me is the quote on her grave in English and Chinese:
‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’. John 12:24
Yes, it’s New-Buff Day, which means it’s also Buff-Selfie Day!
So, the story goes like this. Over the last few months, Taiwan has done really well in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and in supplying face-masks to the rest of the world. I offered to help out family and friends – and so far have sent out 8 packages of over 500 real genuine Made-In-Taiwan face-masks to family and friends in the UK.
Very delighted to receive a Hot-Weather ‘Buff’ as a thank you gift in return, with a request for photos wearing it. A ‘buff‘ is a tubular piece of material for wearing as a head or neck covering; some people are also wearing them as required face-coverings in the pandemic. I am wearing one just to keep the sun off my face, they also keep the cold out in winter. This one is special for hot temps, with UV protection. Wore it yesterday on my You-Bike ride to work at the diocesan office.
Took zillions of selfies, but selected just 10. Thought you might like to see them too – posted more or less in order. Gives an idea of life on a You-Bike in Taipei!
My route is from Tamsui along the bike path by the Keelung River to Shezidao Bridge 社子大橋, around Shezidao, along to Dadaocheng 大稻埕, and into Taipei to the diocesan office, which is near the CKS Memorial…. 27 km.
Coming home my route goes up along Zhongshan North Road 中山北路 to the bridge near the Grand Hotel to rejoin the bike path to Tamsui… 23 km.
6:00 am start, arrived in Taipei about 8:00 am, after many stops for photos. And traffic lights. And to let buses pass. And to drink water. And many more! Left after the temperatures started going down a bit about 4:00 pm and got back to Tamsui about 6:00 pm. 50 km round trip. Very hot!
New Buff is great, keeps the sun off, and let’s air in, which is the main point – and it’s much cooler than what I was wearing before.
And the colours are my favourites! Happy Buff-Selfie Day!
PS Sept 4: Since publishing the above post, I’ve received a request for a photo of the You-Bike! This is a friend and me a few weeks ago on the same route, with the bike in the photo – it’s the best bike-sharing scheme ever, and very cheap!
Tainan on Taiwan’s SW coast is packed full of places to see, treasures to find and special foods to taste; it’s Taiwan’s oldest city and former capital city so it has a long and vibrant history. It’s also the cultural capital of Taiwan – so forget Taipei – Tainan is where it’s all happening! Our 26 hours there this past weekend was never going to be enough to see everything – but then that was never the intention. Just a few sights would be enough! And especially on the last weekend of August in what is being hailed as Taiwan’s hottest summer ever recorded. It was hot, mostly 27-34°C, but less humid than northern Taiwan, and definitely less sultry and muggy than Taipei City. This was the beach at Yuguang Island 漁光島 about 10:00 am on Saturday morning – the place to watch firework displays, sunsets and surfing…
Let’s focus a bit on T-A-I-N-A-N and what I noticed ~ T: Tradition / A: Architecture / I: Innovation / N: Nature / A: Art / N: News
T for Tradition: and there’s plenty of that in Tainan, from traditional buildings to traditional foods, Tainan has it all! We visited the Tainan Confucius Temple, built in 1665 as a temple and school, the first educational institution of its kind in Taiwan. The central buildings are currently under repair, but it’s all free to enter and well worth a wander around…
A for Architecture: Tainan’s historical affiliations have resulted in a whole range of old buildings built in different styles, according to who was in charge at the time, starting with Dutch Formosa 1624-1662 > Kingdom of Tungning 1662-1684 > Qing Empire 1684-1895 > Republic of Formosa 1895 > Empire of Japan 1895–1945 > Republic of China 1945–present..
The place to go is Anping on the west side of Tainan near the sea – it’s full of old houses, temples and much more…
There’s the Anping Old Fort 安平古堡, built by the Dutch after they captured Anping in 1624, originally called Fort Zeelandia, and completed in 1634. In 1662, Koxinga successfully captured it from the Dutch, and changed the name to Anping. His statue is there in the grounds. The inner fort became the seat of government for Taiwan, and so it was known as the King’s Fort. During the Qing Dynasty, excessive silting up of the shore gradually reduced the fort’s importance and the Qing soldiers took many of the building materials for the Eternal Golden Castle.
The Eternal Golden Castle 億載金城 is the other fort to visit of historical importance – built to resist the Japanese troops who invaded Taiwan due to the Mudan Incident in 1874. It was the first western-style fort built in Taiwan, completed in 1876, and equipped with British Armstrong cannons….
I for Innovation: The 6-storey Hayashi Department Store 林百貨opened in Taiwan in 1932, founded by Japanese businessman, Hayashi – and it was clearly the place to be seen at the time – a new, modern Taiwan had arrived. Hayashi’s most popular attraction was the elevator, which is still running – Taiwan’s first ever. Not even Taipei had an elevator at the time. All sorts of fashionable goods imported from Japan were sold there, and still are. During World War II, the rooftop was converted to an anti-aircraft artillery site and it was bombed on March 1, 1945 by the US Air Force. The roof was destroyed, later repaired, but several bullet holes can still be seen. There’s also a Shinto Shrine on the rooftop. The building was later used for offices, but in 2014 it was reopened as a department store, reinventing itself selling beautiful designer clothes, gifts and locally famous delicious foods but all decorated in 1930’s Japanese style. It was full of young people when we visited!
N for Nature: The east side of Tainan was originally sugar plantations, run by the Taiwan Sugar Corporation, and some of the original buildings survive, including the Sugar Research Institute and training centre. The Taiwan HQ is there too. Much of the land is now used for housing, hotels and shops – but the Barclay Park and the surrounding area is a great area for nature walks and early morning and evening exercise. You can walk right out to the old sugar factory area and see the old buildings.
The nearby hotel, Evergreen Plaza Hotel is also run by the Sugar Company (see their logo on the top of the hotel). Great views from the top over the city!
A for Art: Tainan is reinventing itself and converting some of its old buildings into interesting places that mix old and new. The Tainan Art Museum Building 1 is an old police station, built in 1931 by the Japanese in art deco style – the front part is kept as before, the Detention Room is now the coffee shop, and the back part has had a whole modern section built on…
And the Art Museum Building 2 is a whole new modern art gallery, large and bright and with lots of glass…
N for News: The first big news is that while in Tainan in a bookshop, I found a copy of ‘Stories of the Sahara’ 撒哈拉的故事 by Taiwan’s most famous travel writer of modern times, Sanmao 三毛 (1943-1991), originally published as a series of short stories of her life with her Spanish husband living among the Sahrawis, the local indigenous people of Western Sahara, in the mid-1970’s. The stories were written in Chinese, mostly as a series for a Taiwan newspaper, then published as book, later translated into Spanish, and now at long last, finally an English translation has recently come out. I’ve just finished reading the electronic version, this book is the real thing. Highly recommended reading for the long journey to Tainan, or to recover after a day’s sightseeing. Order a copy today!
And the other big news, and the whole reason we were in Tainan this past weekend was that our former bishop of Taiwan, Bishop David J. H. Lai and his wife Lily retired to Tainan on February 22, 2020 immediately after the consecration of his successor, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang. They have been inviting us to come and visit Tainan ever since, so I went with Huei-Ling from our diocesan office – by High-Speed Rail from Taipei (1¾ hours). We are very grateful to Bishop Lai and Lily for their wonderful welcome, generous hospitality and kindness to us both, taking us to visit so many places and enjoying such delicious foods. Lily is from Tainan, Bishop Lai was a student at Tainan Theological College, and before becoming bishop, he was in charge of Grace Church, Tainan, so it’s like they have returned home. They are clearly loving their new life, with friends and family nearby – and we had the honour of visiting their new home for tea-drinking. They are the True Treasures of Tainan!
Tainan is a great city, full of interesting places to see, all not far from each other, and famous for its delicious snacks, of which we only had time to try a few. All good – this was at the Hayashi Dept Store!
A visit to Tainan, yes, even for just a short time, is very highly recommended. You’ll certainly find plenty of great treasures to see, so do make the most of it and enjoy every moment!
Temperature checks ✓ hand sanitizer ✓ face-masks ✓ And so the 60th annual convention of the Taiwan Episcopal Church could begin!
This event was originally scheduled to take place from March 27-28, 2020 in St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung – in conjunction with St. Timothy’s 50th anniversary celebrations. But the pandemic caused a delay, and a new date was set for Saturday August 15 – also it was decided to limit it to a single day, and to relocate it to Advent Church at St. John’s University (SJU), Tamsui.
Advent Church Center is large enough to host a gathering of 80 or more people, and if we needed to reschedule again, it could be done more easily than if we had booked a hotel meeting room, which is usually the case. Also it is well-ventilated, spacious and often quite breezy, being near the sea.
Currently Taiwan has still managed to contain Covid-19, and although there have been a few unexplained individual outbreaks, so far there has been no widespread community transmission, so our annual convention could go ahead this past Saturday. Government regulations say that face-masks are mandatory at places of worship, so everyone wore theirs for the actual service. This is the masked group from St. John’s Cathedral….
Limiting the event to a single day meant the meeting had to be condensed and finished in half the usual time, so a lot more work had to be done in advance to make sure everything could run quickly and smoothly. And it did, thanks be to God! And, of course, thanks to Mr. Yang, the diocesan secretary and all the staff at the diocesan office. The opening service was at 10:00 am in Advent Church…..
The service was followed by group photos and lunch, then after a short break, we started at 12:30 pm for 3 sessions, each of about 1-2 hours. During the breaks, locally famous snacks from the Tamsui area were provided by Advent Church for everyone to enjoy. The meeting finished about 5:30 pm and everyone was given a box of sandwiches and cakes to eat on the journey home. All delicious!
Advent Church was sparkling for the occasion – church members and clergy had worked really hard to make sure everything was ready, including cleaning everywhere inside and out. Each visitor was presented with a small handmade bag, individually decorated with buttons and designs – this was a wonderful team effort led by Marge Tan, chair of our ladies group, using materials from their Tan T-shirt company and helped by talented members of our student fellowship – a 2-day project. I loved mine! Inside was a set of postcards of Advent Church, designed by our student fellowship graduates as part of their final-year project in the SJU Dept. of Creative Design. Beautiful!
On the day itself, all the Advent Church vestry members came along to help, plus a team from the student fellowship – they were there all day – thanks to them all!
For our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this was his first diocesan convention as bishop, and in his sermon, he was clearly delighted to be back in his old home of Advent Church for his first convention…
He started by showing his appreciation to the current leadership team at Advent Church, our lovely retired priest, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, SJU Chaplain Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and churchwarden Mr. Chen Ming-Chuan. All 3 are really great at encouraging church members to get involved and be part of the church ministry. Bishop Chang commented on how, as the regular cleaning person is sick, the church members have taken over the cleaning of the church, giving up their free time and spending hours and hours polishing, dusting, sweeping, washing and cleaning. He said how moved he was to hear that Ms. Shiao-Chien is bringing to the church the high standards she has at home for cleaning the church toilets, scrubbing the floors tile by tile, while 85-year-old Rev. Peter D. P. Chen is dusting and polishing the pulpit and choir chairs, while other church members and the student fellowship spent a whole Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago using high-pressure hoses to wash the white walls around the building, and clean all the windows.
Bishop Chang said that this year, 2020, 3 of our churches in the diocese celebrate their 50th anniversaries: St. James’ Church, Taichung, which celebrated on July 25, St. Timothy’s, Kaohsiung, which has postponed their celebration to September 19, and Advent Church. St. James celebrated the 50th anniversary of the actual church building, while St. Timothy’s and Advent Church are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment or official naming of their churches.
He said that for Advent Church, this is a very special 50th anniversary. Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) was bishop for only 5 years, and yet in those 5 years, he accomplished so much, including the foundation of St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) in 1967 (now SJU). On March 6, 1970, at the 10th annual diocesan convention, held in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, Bishop Wong formally announced that the new church / chapel to be built at SJSMIT would be named ‘Advent Church’. Only 3 weeks later, on March 28, at the Easter Eve Vigil at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, Bishop Wong was taken ill and admitted to hospital. He died on April 27, 1970, so he never lived to see Advent Church be built. Bishop Wong was buried on the highest plot of land at SJSMIT, and over the next few years, the new Advent Church was constructed over and around his grave, which became the site of the altar. The new church building was consecrated on February 17, 1973. Bishop Chang said that it was almost as if, as Bishop Wong died, so Advent Church was born.
Fast forward 50 years, and while Advent Church is thriving, unfortunately SJU is possibly at its lowest point in all those 50 years. Our new SJU president, Dr. Huang Hung-Pin, who took over on August 1, 2020, is determined to turn things around and has already implemented huge cuts to faculty and staff, and is introducing many new ways of working. The priority is to stabilize the financial situation, increase student enrollment and improve academic standards. The finances are desperately low, and Bishop Chang announced that he has started a big fundraising campaign for SJU. He said that, after discussion with the Advent Church leadership team, that Advent Church would be celebrating their 50th anniversary, not by spending money on a big celebration, but by raising money to present as a gift to SJU. His goal is NT$ 500,000 (about US$ 17,000); to be presented to SJU on St. John’s Day, December 28, 2020, and he has invited all clergy, churches and church members to contribute. He also said that for SJU alumni and friends in the USA who would like to contribute, we are grateful to The Episcopal Church for their help in channeling donations to the Diocese of Taiwan. This is SJU President Huang giving his speech at the convention….
Bishop Wong was a true disciple of Christ, who saw the great importance of reaching out through his life and witness to share the Gospel, so fulfilling his motto of ‘Transforming lives through Christ’. Bishop Chang encouraged everyone to follow Bishop Wong’s example ~ not to just sit there in church waiting for people to come, but to go out into the world ~ and share the good news of Christ!
The Taiwan Episcopal Church has 8 kindergartens, and in his sermon, Bishop Chang also said very strongly that the purpose of the kindergartens is to help and support the local community, and for outreach among the kindergarten children and their families. He emphasized that our kindergarten ministry is not just for making money, and the church must stop relying on them for income – and must rely on the church members instead. Later in the meeting, Mrs. Liu, chair of the kindergarten committee talked about how a group of our kindergarten principals, supervisors and teachers had visited church kindergartens in the Province of Hong Kong last year and how moved they had been to see so many Bible verses decorating their buildings, and how they have resolved to do the same here in Taiwan. Children will now learn 5 Bible verses a semester, and small cards with the verses have been printed out and distributed to all our kindergarten children. Mrs. Liu produced statistics that show, in total, our 8 kindergartens have 1,103 children, of whom 94 (8.5%) come from Christian homes. We have a total of 140 full-time teachers and staff, of whom only 30 (21%) are Christians; and 101 part-time teachers and staff, of whom 19 (18.8%) are Christians. So we have a huge amount of work to do sharing the Gospel with the teachers, children and parents. Bishop Chang also emphasized the importance of the kindergarten supervisors being church members of that particular church, and being active in outreach to the parents, getting to know them, inviting them to events and sharing the Gospel with them. This is Mrs. Liu (second left) with the delegation from St. John’s Cathedral, including her son, standing next to her…
Much of the actual meeting-time was taken up with procedural matters, discussions of financial reports, elections to the different committees etc. However, a few other items of note:
1) Rev. David Chee, assisted by Rev. Antony Liang, is now officially starting work on re-establishing the Trinity Hall Theological Center, based at the diocesan office, but running primarily online to all our different churches. This ministry will include developing theological courses for church members, interns, seminarians and clergy. They will focus on strategic planning for each of these groups, which will then help the diocese to have a clearer long-term plan and set realistic goals. This is Rev. David Chee – with Ms. Shiao-Chien, they’re great friends, both involved in the music ministry at Advent Church and though not related, both have the same surname…
2) St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung has a church building that, when it was constructed in 1964, was considered an amazingly innovative design for modern church architecture – it is shaped like a tent with a roof that goes down almost to ground level. However, that same roof leaks very badly and the other church buildings on the site – which house the kindergarten and meeting rooms – are also in a bad state of repair, and becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. The vision of the church is that the whole site could be re-developed, with a new church built. However, the local government is now assessing whether the church should be classified as a historic building, in which case, there will be huge restrictions on what can be done on the site in the future. The vicar, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang asked for prayer and for any legal experts who might be able to offer their assistance.
3) The newly elected chair of the Diocese of Taiwan Standing Committee is the Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, Rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung. Please pray for her, and all the different committees as they continue the work of the diocese. This is Rev. Lily Chang below, with newly-ordained deacon Rev. Stoney Wu and the delegation from St. James – with and without their face-masks!
4) The next diocesan convention will be – as originally planned for this year – hosted by St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, possibly over the first weekend of March 2021 – to be confirmed.
Thank you for your prayers for the convention. And to all those involved in the running of the event, thank you! Special thanks to the churchwarden of Advent Church, Ming-Chuan and his wife, Meng-Chen who have spent months preparing for this great occasion – and posed especially below. We love them to bits, and are truly grateful that everything went so smoothly under their care and direction.
And thanks be to Almighty God ~ and please do continue to pray for Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and all in the Diocese of Taiwan!
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.
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….
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)….
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).
Taoyuan City Government, Deputy Magistrate Room, Deputy governor 01-01-2011 to 25-12-2014
National Taiwan University Experimental Farm, Associate Director 01-08-2009 to 31-12-2010
National Taiwan University Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Chair/Head 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
National Taiwan University, Experimental Farm Division, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Director 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Vice President for Student Affairs 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 20-05-2004 to 01-01-2011
Ministry of Education, Director 15-01-2003 to 20-05-2004
National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 01-08-1992 to 15-01-2003
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…
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:
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….
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.
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!
“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!”
And so, inspired by Dr. Seuss, off we went! To Dabajianshan no less!
Dabajianshan 大霸尖山 (Dàbàjiān Shān, tr: ‘Big Chief Pointed Mountain’) at 3,492 meters, 11,456 feet, up in Hsinchu County, part of Shei-Pa National Park 雪霸國家公園, is variously described as ‘one of the most iconic high mountains of Taiwan’, a ‘fearsome triangular tower summit with vertical walls on all 3 sides about 150 meters high and 100 meters wide’, looking like a ‘large barrel of wine, cold and daunting’, and a ‘huge, towering block of rock that thrusts out into the sky’. The Japanese called it “The Wonder Summit of the Century” and they were the first to officially record an ascent to the summit in August 1927. Dabajianshan is so famous, so iconic in Taiwan that the mountain is even pictured on the NT$ 500 note ….
The indigenous people of the area, the Atayal and Saisiyat, believe Dabajianshan to be sacred, the birth place of their ancestors. For safety reasons it is now illegal to climb the rock face to the summit, but climbing as far as the base below that rock for a photo with the mountain sign is counted as having reached the top…
From Wikipedia: “The first half of Dabajian Mountain is a medium grade hill with about a 35° incline. The top half is an almost straight up rock face. The mountain’s steep grade and unique features were mainly formed by wind. The mountain is composed mainly of greywacke – a variety of sandstone generally characterized by its hardness, dark color, and poorly sorted angular grains of quartz, feldspar, and small rock fragments or lithic fragments set in a compact, clay-fine matrix. Greywackes are mostly grey, brown, yellow or black, dull-colored sandy rocks which may occur in thick or thin beds along with shales and limestones. They are abundant in Wales, the south of Scotland, the Longford Massif in Ireland and the Lake District National Park of England; they compose the majority of the main alps that make up the backbone of New Zealand.”
Taiwan has 286 peaks over 3,000 m in altitude, and of these, ‘The 100 Peaks of Taiwan’, known as the ‘Baiyue’ 百岳 are the famous ones that everyone hopes to climb. These 100 peaks were selected not necessarily just for altitude, but also for their uniqueness, danger, height, beauty and prominence.
There are 4 Baiyue on the Dabajianshan ridge: 1) Baiyue No. 28: Dabajianshan 大霸尖山 3,492 m / 11,456 ft 2) Baiyue No. 36: Xiaobajianshan 小霸尖山 3,418 m / 11,214 ft 3) Baiyue No. 53: Yizeshan 伊澤山 3,297 m / 10,817 ft 4) Baiyue No. 86: Jialishan 加利山 3,112 m / 10,210 ft
Most hardened climbers do this trip to the Dabajianshan ridge in 3 days and 2 nights, but everyone says it’s hard work. We chose to do it by splitting day 1 into 2 days, and so we went for 4 days and 3 nights. The total length of the whole trail is about 60 km, and I read that the total elevation gain (ie how much we climbed) is 2,437 meters.
But first, let me rewind to a month or so ago when my good friend, Jasmine Yu very kindly invited me to join her 2020 family mountain trip; and I was delighted to say ‘YES!’ We went with our regular friendly mountain guide, Laisun, who led us on our first mountain trip way back in 2011, and except for last year when we couldn’t go at all, we’ve been going with him every year since. Back in 2011, Jasmine’s children were then aged 10 and 13, and over the years, we’ve also included grandma and many aunties and uncles, a few cousins and friends too. Possibly the most memorable trip was in July 2017 when we went to Yushan, Taiwan’s highest mountain (see that report here). This year, the older generation decided not to join us, but we had a great group of 8, Jasmine, her husband, their son and daughter, son’s girlfriend, a cousin, Laisun and me; that’s 4 older ones and 4 younger ones. Yes, it was fun! Jasmine and Laisun organized everything from applying for permits, the itinerary, accommodation, transport and advice on what to take. And what to wear too – we all had new T-shirts (of different colours but the same style) to wear on the summit!
And thus it was that we met at 7:00 pm on Monday July 20 at Tamsui MRT Station and set off in a minibus heading to Hsinchu County and the remote Atayal Town of Chingchuan 清泉 where we spent the night (and enjoyed a really good breakfast too!) at the Chingchuan RC Church Hostel. The Jesuit priest there, Fr. Barry Martinsen 丁松青神父 from California is very well-known in Taiwan, having served here for over 50 years, along with his brother, who died just a few years ago. The church was open, and is decorated with Atayal pictures on wood around the church at ground level. Hidden behind the altar was an Atayal Jesus breaking bread ~ I especially liked that.
The next morning, Tuesday July 21, we left early and drove further up the mountain to the Guanwu Forest Park Trailhead to start our big expedition. Here begins the very long, and let’s be honest, painfully tedious Dalu Forest Road 大鹿林道 which winds its merry way, mostly downhill, for a seemingly never-ending 19 km to Madara Creek Trailhead 馬達拉溪登山口. It feels never-ending not because it’s unpleasant – in fact the scenery is stunning – but because such a road is not really suited to wearing climbing boots, and rucksacks are heavy, even though we’d all pared down to the bare minimum ~ still mine was probably 10 kg with sleeping bag, mat and water added. Laisun meanwhile was carrying over 30 kg, including all the food, pots and pans and gas canisters that we would need for 8 of us for 4 days!
Until Typhoon Morakot hit in August 2008, it was possible for private vehicles to drive up the Dalu Forest Road to the Madara Creek Trailhead, but after the typhoon washed away the road, the whole trail and therefore access to the mountain was closed off until 2015. When it opened up, it was forbidden for vehicles to use the road, and now everyone has to trek along the road on foot. We did see motorcycles on the track, they were ferrying supplies to the Madara Creek Trailhead, from where the extremely strong and capable young men of the Atayal tribe carry huge loads up the mountain to the 99 Mountain Hut.
We walked for 4-5 hours along the Dalu Forest Road, starting about 9:00 am, but we didn’t get all the way to the Madara Creek Trailhead on the first day, instead we decided to stop overnight at one of the huts on the road, the one at the 15 km mark. The huts are there to provide basic shelter, but other than that, there is no electricity, no toilets, water is from a nearby stream and they also cannot be booked overnight. Officially we were supposed to be camping, but, well, by early afternoon, we were tired, aching and the heavens were about to open with a massive thunderstorm, as happens every afternoon in the high mountains in summer. So we were very grateful that one of the huts was empty and we could rest our weary feet for the night.
On Wednesday morning, July 22, well rested and refreshed (and with our sleeping bags stored in the hut ready to pick up on our return trip), we were up bright and early, starting out about 6:30 am for the remaining 4 km to the end of the Dalu Forest Road. There is a very steep short-cut downhill at the 17 km mark which cuts the final 2 km off the road walk, with ropes provided to help you down, though it’s much harder to balance with a rucksack, I can tell you!
Down at the Madara Creek Trailhead is another hut and also toilets with running water. It’s there that the path crosses the river on a red footbridge and the great ascent officially begins. Down below the bridge are the remains of the old suspension bridge that was washed away in a typhoon in 2012, which also took out part of the National Park office there which is still clinging on, though badly damaged and now unused.
The path up is mostly steep, 4 km and 1,000 meters of ascent, all forested – including the famous hinoki cypress at higher altitudes.
We had a few rest stops of course….
The Atayal porters do the trip in an hour, we took 4 ½ hours, but even with rucksacks, hey, we got there by lunchtime! The ‘there’ we were heading for was the 99 Mountain Hut 九九山莊, named after it’s altitude of 2,699 meters above sea level.