(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 ‘2020 coronavirus 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.
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.”
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!
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!
Wishing you all a good start to the new year! If you’re going to read this blog post all the way through, then I suggest you first stop and brew up, it’s a long read, but hey it covers everything! My own drink of choice for such activity is Vanilla Tea – kindly supplied by our good friend, Alice who arrived recently from Mauritius bearing 2 large packets of it – it’s really good!
Let’s just rewind a little, to the point where I realized that as the termites had eaten all my Christmas decorations a year or so ago, then a new strategy was called for in 2019. Yes, the time had come to move the decorations out of the house ~ and to just wear them all instead. And so it was that I spent much of Advent covered in tinsel, Santa glasses, reindeer antlers, Christmas trees – carrying with me an abundant supply to give out to those who appreciate such things ~ like Bishop Lai and all those in the diocesan office in Taipei…
Professor Mei-Mei Lin had been waiting for me to come on down to the diocesan office to celebrate her birthday on December 7 ~ I got there a week late, but hey, we had a very lively time! Newly-retired from Dong-Hua University, Hualien, Mei-Mei is now dedicating all her time to publishing a book and papers on the history of the Taiwan Episcopal Church; she’s a real character and there is never a dull moment! We will miss Bishop and Mrs. Lai when they retire in a few months time, but they kindly presented us with an artillery shell cross each, and Bishop Lai welcomed all the diocesan office staff to choose one of his own calligraphy carvings – with words from the Bible. Thank you Bishop and Mrs. Lai!
Meanwhile, here at Advent Church, our Advent 2019 celebrations kind of started at the end of November with our ‘Happy Ending Christmas Party’ to mark the end of 10 weeks of English Classes this semester. This is a community outreach of Advent Church – beginner’s English on Tuesday evenings and intermediate English on Monday afternoons – and a combined party on November 26. Yippee! I am very blessed to have some wonderful assistants, Xiao-Chien and Marge, without whom the party and the classes wouldn’t have gone anywhere near so smoothly. Some of the group brought their families, everyone was welcome!
The following day was our annual St. John’s University (SJU) Coming-Of-Age Ceremony for all students turning 18 years old this year, of which there were 290+, all wearing their new school ties. Not really an Advent activity as such, but this year it was held much later than usual, so close to Advent in fact that it felt like it was! This ceremony – with a theme of looking back in thanksgiving and moving forward into all the responsibilities of adulthood – has been highly praised by the Ministry of Education and involves each student drinking a small cup of wine, presentation of gifts to parents and teachers, lighting of candles, prayers and speeches. It’s run by the SJU chaplaincy office, assisted by the student fellowship…
For Advent Sunday, December 1, I was in St. James’ Church, Taichung for the sermon in the English service, but went there early in order to celebrate in advance the 60th birthday of my good friend, A-Guan (4th left, back row, in the photo below), whose birthday is December 20, plus our other good friend, Jhr-Mou (second left), older son of Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, who turned 60 on December 22 ~ so we kind of celebrated both birthdays together… 🎉🍰🎈 St. James’ people just love parties!
The official launch of Advent at SJU was on December 3 at 4:45 pm, just as it was getting dark – with a short service and the switching on of the Christmas tree lights by SJU President Ay…
Every Advent, Advent wreaths are distributed to each department and admin office in SJU, and we go on a 3-hour walkabout each week, gathering everyone in each office together, lighting the relevant candle, sharing a reading, praying and singing. This is a selection of photos from Week One, when we prayed by name for each person attached to each office, going through the names of all those working at SJU …
On Thursday December 5, our student fellowship held their Christmas outreach event, and what a great occasion it was! There were games, singing, dancing, drama, testimonies and prizes. The highlight was the drama, long-practiced and really well-performed. I’ve persuaded them to put the drama on YouTube for your benefit, so please check it out…
We had over 70 people there in total, really good numbers and lots of happy students….
On December 6, we invited visitors from this year’s charity, Tszai Education and Nursing Institute, 財團法人天主教會台中教區附設台灣省私立慈愛殘障教養院, to come and share about their work. Every year, SJU and Advent Church work together to raise money for a charity through our Christmas bazaar (held on December 18) and donation-drive. This year we chose a Roman Catholic charity who run a residential centre in Changhua for disabled people ~ they want to upgrade their facilities to provide ceiling fans in each room. Despite the heat, in summer they do not put on the A/C until it reaches 28°C, so these fans will help a lot. Such is the pollution and declining air quality in central and southern Taiwan, that opening the windows becomes a risk to those with sensitive health conditions. Previously upright fans have been used, but they are an obstacle to safe movement in the rooms. Ceiling fans are out of reach, and they also move the air around all over the room rather than just at ground level. The charity’s director, Mr. Chang (in the blue and white checked shirt in the centre) came to share about their work – and we all gathered to listen, and to advertise our fund-raising!
Advent Week Two at SJU started with our weekly walkabout….
Then on December 10, our group of 20 international trainees from Haiti had their closing ceremony – in French and Chinese, in the church centre. This is the second group to participate in this project, of 11 weeks of training in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, under a Taiwan ICDF program. This group used French, our previous group used English. The only problem was that the group were then delayed by a whole week due to the strike in France affecting flights!
As part of that ICDF project, Camille and Jun-Hong came to work at SJU, Camille with the French / English / Chinese translation and administration, and Jun-Hong with the engineering classes and as general assistant. Their contracts finished on December 20, and both are much missed, thank you guys! We all wish them well as they move on elsewhere ~ here we are at our farewell lunch!
Saturday December 14 ~ and a trip to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi for the very joyful wedding of Isaac Chen Wei-Chieh 陳瑋杰 and his beautiful bride, Ya-Hsin 羅雅馨, see that blog post here….
The next day, December 15, I was at St. John’s Cathedral for the sermon in their English service, followed by a lively pre-Christmas potluck celebration, complete with roast ham and all sorts of delicious goodies! Thank you everyone for a really good party!
And so to Advent Week Three at SJU, which started with our weekly walkabout, lighting candles in each office…
At lunchtime on Wednesday December 18, we held our charity bazaar in aid of the ceiling fans at Tszai ~ the bazaar always takes weeks and months of preparation, but it’s all in a good cause. After several weeks of sunshine, the rain started, but it didn’t dampen spirits! Our student fellowship were busy for days beforehand collecting and sorting lots of second-hand goods to sell, while our church members were busy in the kitchen cooking up delicious food for people to buy for lunch. Some of our former colleagues in the university also came back to visit and help, a great reunion for us all. The idea is that everyone can buy their lunch at the bazaar plus a few extra snacks – all yummy!
An added bonus at this year’s bazaar was to welcome Tunshan Elementary School, whose kindergarten class came along with their parents and teachers – they had their own stall selling food, toys and postcards that they had made. They were full of energy and fun, and really brightened us all up on a gloomy day!
On Thursday December 19, the day started with me visiting a very small and remote (but local) elementary school, Xing-Hua, at the foot of the mountains, where the children made their own Christmas cards by recycling my old ones. If you’ve sent me a Christmas card by post in the last few years, chances are it is now recycled into a new Christmas card, all covered in glitter and stickers by the children. Thank you everyone!
In the evening, our student fellowship went carol-singing around the SJU campus in the rain, including to the student dormitories, to our neighbours and to President Ay’s house, where we were warmly welcomed by him and his wife for refreshments…
At 7:30 am the next morning, we gathered at the SJU Chaplaincy to walk to our neighbouring junior high school, Xian-Xiao, to bring them our Christmas greetings at their school assembly, followed by lighting all the candles of the Advent wreath with the principal, staff and some of the parents. Always great to see them all!
In the evening, Advent Church and SJU student fellowship members went to share the good news of Christmas in the local community. We sang ‘Silent Night’ on the doorstep on each home and then wished everyone a Merry Christmas. We started in the Japanese Ramen restaurant above the Carrefour Supermarket, run by Mr. and Mrs. Wu from Advent Church, which was warm and dry…
And then we went in 4 cars, a motorcycle and a minibus northwards up the coast to Baishawan, where we received a wonderfully warm welcome from the Chang sisters, who took us on a tour around their neighbours singing to them all. Whereas the Ramen Restaurant had been very light, very warm and very dry, now it was completely dark, cold, bleak and absolutely pouring with rain. They live right by the sea, in an remote area where many of the houses are either ruins or look like they’re struggling to stay upright, and where the wind and rain make winter a challenge for everyone. But hey, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Our carol-singing tour – with some of our older church members in their mid-80’s – was full of joy, and we enjoyed soup and red bean tang-yuan dessert along the way. It was too wet for me to take photos, so I have taken these from facebook. Advent Church is certainly an ‘Advent-urous’ Church!
On Saturday December 21, off I went to Shuang-Lien Elderly Home to wish my very lovely friend, Mrs. Hsu a Merry Christmas. We gathered in the coffee shop with some of the other residents, their Filipino helpers and other staff ~ it was very lively! And then we all clapped 91 times in celebration of Mrs. Hsu’s upcoming 91st birthday 👏👏😊 YES!
Fast forward to Christmas Eve ~ and our final walkabout during the afternoon to light all the candles on each Advent wreath and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! We also passed by 2 beautiful displays in the Creative Design dept done by members of our student fellowship….
In the evening at 7:30 pm was the Advent Church Christmas Eve service, and we welcomed old friends and new, including a group of students who came to church instead of their regular Wednesday evening class, along with their teacher, Dr. Wang, our SJU Vice-President. And our church choir wore their brand new robes for the very first time ~ their first new robes for 20 years!
Christmas Day is a normal work and school day in Taiwan, so at 7:45 am off I went for my early morning English class at Xian-Xiao Junior-High School….
We had a small Christmas Day service at 10:00 am in Advent Church. It was a beautiful sunny day, what a change from a few days ago when it was so wet and cold! The view from Advent Church of the SJU campus on Christmas Day morning…
The service was attended by SJU faculty, staff, students and church members. The rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, presented a cheque for NT$ 100,000 on behalf of Advent Church to SJU President Ay as a donation to cover the costs of repairs, maintenance, utilities and cleaning that are carried out by SJU for Advent Church throughout the year. Another cheque, for NT$ 50,000, was presented by the SJU Alumni Association to the fund run by the SJU chaplaincy that provides meal coupons for students from disadvantaged families, one of whom received the cheque. Thanks be to God!
The service was followed by a light lunch for our students who receive meal coupons, for my group of students who normally meet on Wednesday lunchtimes for an English Bible Study, plus some church members. We had 5 dishes ~ fried noodles, fried rice, 2 vegetable dishes and fizzy juice with fruit, all very good, and a really good way to spend Christmas Day ~ before we went back to work for the afternoon!
On Christmas Day afternoon came the other really good news of the day ~ we had reached our target in the SJU and Advent Church charity fundraising drive 2019 for the Tszai Education and Nursing Institute in Changhua! Thanks be to God! At lunchtime we were still over NT$ 60,000 short, and we had asked people to pray and to give – and then to pray and to give some more! We are deeply grateful to our good friend, Dr. Christopher Chih-Yung Chen, son of Rev, Charles C. T. Chen and professor here at SJU, who came to our rescue by asking all his colleagues to donate, and he came to our chaplaincy office just before 5:00 pm with the money he had collected that day: NT$ 87,000 in cash, which brought our grand total to well over the target. Our deadline was Christmas Day – and so the target was reached just in time! God is good, and we are very grateful! This is us celebrating in the SJU Chaplaincy office with Christopher: 感謝上帝 Thanks be to God!
On Friday December 27, our SJU Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang took a group of us to visit the Tszai Education and Nursing Institute, 財團法人天主教會台中教區附設台灣省私立慈愛殘障教養院 (link here to their website / facebook – their facebook page has lots of good photos of their activities) in order to present our donation and to have a short tour. The drive to Changhua in central Taiwan took 3 hours, and we were warmly welcomed by Mr. Chang, the director and his staff – for coffee, lunch and a tour of the premises. The main building on the compound was built 20+ years ago and houses 124 residents with varying degrees of disability (another 20+ come on a daily basis and return home at night). All residents are recommended for admittance by social services, and families pay a certain amount each month, but for low income families, the government helps out and nobody is turned away. Some come from loving homes, others have little contact with their families. They all find a warm welcome at Tszai!
On the same compound, next to the main building is the original building, which was built many years ago by the Maryknoll Sisters to take care of leprosy patients. As the number of leprosy patients deceased, people were other disabilities were admitted. But space was limited, so the new building was added 20 years ago, and now both are in use. This is the original building in the foreground, the one at the back with the cross is the very famous Changhua Christian Hospital.
The vision of Mr. Chang, the director and his team to install ceiling fans in each of the 60 twin-bedded dormitory rooms, has first been tested by installing fans in 2 of the bedrooms, including this one below. They proved such a success that they decided to fund-raise to fit out the remaining rooms. Each fan costs NT$ 4,800 x 60 = NT$ 288,000….
We thank God that we were able to hand over our donation of NT$ 344,250! It was a great day indeed, and we are grateful for God’s grace and the generosity of all those at SJU and Advent Church😊😊
Sunday December 29 was the nearest Sunday to St. John’s Day (Dec. 27) and tradition has it that the SJU Student Fellowship take leading roles in the Sunday service on that day – leading the singing, readings, offerings, as much as possible. Lots of former student fellowship members also came back to join the celebrations, and in the afternoon they had a great Christmas party ~ here they all are after the service. It was really great to see them – but hey I had no time to stop, we were off the airport to pick up our VIP visitors!
And so to the final big event of 2019, and the long-awaited visit of a group of 22 very lovely family members of the late Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970), the first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70). It was an action-packed 30-hour visit, the highlight being a very moving Thanksgiving Service on Monday December 30 in Advent Church, during which Rev. Charles C. T. Chen gave the sermon, sharing many inspirational stories about Bishop Wong. Another highlight was for the group to meet up with Bishop Lai, senior clergy and church members who had personally known Bishop Wong. And in-between were gift presentations, photos and delicious meals galore. Here’s the extended Wong family ~ and you’d never know from their smiles and enthusiasm that it hardly stopped raining the whole time they were here!
Bishop James Wong achieved more in his 5 short years in Taiwan than most of us do in a whole lifetime, including founding this institution, St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT – now St. John’s University), setting up the diocesan office in Taipei and establishing a companion diocese with the Diocese of Upper South Carolina in the USA, thereby raising a huge amount of money which was used to build many of our churches. As Rev. Charles C. T. Chen said in his sermon at the Thanksgiving Service, Bishop Wong inspired a whole generation of clergy through his motto of ‘Transforming Lives through the Life of Christ’, encouraging them to raise funds to build their own churches and to reach out and help the less fortunate ~ the result of which can be seen today, for example in Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and St. James’ Church, Taichung raising money to build 12 churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Philippines from 1998-2012 (for more details of that project see my blog post here) ~ and in Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector of Advent Church here at SJU, raising the funds to build our Advent Church Centre, for ministry on the campus and in the local community.
Bishop Wong is buried here, under the altar at Advent Church ~ in fact the church was built around his grave. He had 4 children, and the group of 22 who came to visit included all the direct descendants of Bishop Wong’s oldest son, Francis, who died last year in his 80’s. In fact, Francis was born on December 30, 1929, so it would have been his 90th birthday on the day of our Thanksgiving Service. It’s meaningful to think that on that very day 90 years ago Bishop Wong and his wife became parents for the first time! Francis Wong’s 5 children (standing in the photo below with Bishop Lai, Rev. Charles Chen, Rev. Lennon Chang, Rev. Wu and President Ay) and their families had gathered from Australia, New Zealand, UK and Brazil in Hong Kong for Christmas, and extended their time to come to Taiwan, most visiting Taiwan for the very first time.
The group arrived at Taoyuan Airport on Sunday December 29 early afternoon. We brought them to SJU, where they spent the night, and Advent Church hosted a welcome dinner that evening. Then the Tan family and church members arrived at 6:00 am on Monday to cook them a really fantastic breakfast, all laid out with table-cloths, flowers and even background music….
On Monday December 30, we held the Thanksgiving Service at 10:00 am, all in English, in Advent Church, to remember Bishop Wong ~ and we invited alumni from the first SJSMIT intake from 53 years ago, clergy and church members, as well as SJU President Ay, faculty and staff…
Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector, led the service, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen preached and Bishop Lai gave the blessing; the family also gave a speech and presented beautiful books of old photos of Bishop Wong and their family. There were also gift presentations from President Ay on behalf of SJU and from Professor Mei-Mei Lin, who spent most of the past month putting together a special booklet in honour of their visit, all about Bishop Wong’s legacy and significance for the Taiwan Episcopal Church.
In the afternoon, we took the Wong family group to Taipei where we held a sharing time at St. John’s Cathedral, giving the family a chance to listen to our beloved Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma and Rev. Michael T. H. Liu share their memories of Bishop Wong, and the family also presented them with photo books. Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary and a group of church members who had been confirmed by Bishop Wong had brought their confirmation certificates to show! Bishop Lai presented each family with an artillery shell cross, and later that evening, Bishop Lai hosted a dinner on behalf of the diocese.
It was really wonderful to welcome Bishop Wong’s family to Taiwan for this short but very significant visit (for the Christian Tribune report of their visit in Chinese, please see the link here). And if their fun way of posing for photos takes off in Taiwan (as in the photo below) it’ll become another part of Bishop Wong’s great legacy – established by the 3rd and 4th generations of his family! 😂🙃😂
Thanks be to God for a very lively and meaningful Advent and Christmas 2019, and thank you all for your Christmas cards, letters, messages and gifts! There was certainly a lot going on, and above is but a small selection of events. We give thanks for God’s mercy, for His light shining in the darkness, for the gift of eternal life. As 2019 draws to a close, may we continue to be thankful for God’s grace throughout this past year, and, under God’s leading, prepare to face the exciting challenges of 2020! Happy New Year to you all!
PS Updated on January 1, 2020: Today Bishop Lai invited all clergy and their families plus diocesan workers who are based in northern Taiwan to St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for a Christmas and New Year Thanksgiving Service, followed by lunch. Here we all are in the cathedral after the service shouting out altogether ‘新年快樂’ ‘Happy New Year’ to you all!
You are loved. Three simple words. And yet words that can transform…everything! The New Testament asserts that “love is from God, because God is love.” This love is nothing less than the saving lifeblood for a global family that often feels and acts in very unloving ways. All too often, we are hemorrhaging fear and hurt because we allow selfishness—the opposite of love—to fill our veins and kill our souls. And the world can be transformed. Yet in this quest, a key thing to remember is that God is the initiator of reconciliation, not we human beings.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry is the primate and presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church.
The opened door of one of the octagon angels high up in Ely Cathedral, marking the final post of Advent Word 2019… and so wishing you all a very
When Joseph obeyed the angel’s message, “go, take Mary who is with child as your wife,” the Holy Family came into being–Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Too often we overlook Joseph who was given a vocation and accepted it. Who else do we overlook, seeing them as “minor players?” The message of Advent is clear, there are no people who should be overlooked or marginalized. Our vocation as Christians calls us to see the Babe of Bethlehem in each and every person. That is the message of Advent.
The Rev. James Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D., Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign and Arthur Carl Lichtenberger Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology.
“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;” the Psalmist cries out three times, “show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.” There are many sources of pain and suffering, but only one source of life and peace. Advent’s clarion call is to turn back and find oneself anew in the light of the face of God, restored to wholeness by the one whose return we await.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue (VTS ’00) is the bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.