60 years old ~ and in Chinese culture, the 60th birthday is always THE major landmark… Thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings over the last 60 years, and here’s to the next 60!
Actually, the day started at 2:20am (yep, it’s true) with a massive huge thunderstorm that brought torrential rain, thunder and lightning for the next 3 hours ~ the end of all sleep for the rest of the night! No oversleeping then for those of us gathered at Advent Church for the journey to Taichung for the big day ~ but in fact by daybreak the rain had stopped and the sun came out, and the views from the bus were oh, so beautiful! Over 700 people were on their way to Taichung from all corners of Taiwan, the very farthest away – Hualien church members had left the night before, for the rest of us on the west coast, Keelung and Pingtung started out at 6:00pm, and we were a bit later at 6:30am ~ and everyone made the most of the 2-3 hour journey to practice the songs we were singing in the afternoon performance….
By 9:30am we were all gathered at Chung-Hsin Elementary School in Taichung, not far from St. James’ Church, in a big hall rented for the occasion. The Thanksgiving Service started at 10:00am with a spectacular drum performance by children from St. James, and continued until midday and a buffet lunch, and then all afternoon all our churches, congregations and kindergartens put on performances of music, song and dance….
In case you’re wondering (bear with me for a little background to all this) how come the Taiwan Episcopal Church is only 60 years old given that Henry VIII’s marital problems and break with Rome are not exactly recent history, let’s just rewind a little….
And you’ll find that actually there’s been an Episcopal Church in Taiwan far longer than 60 years, but in the early years it was Japanese rather than Taiwanese. During the Japanese colonial period from 1895 to 1945, the Japanese Anglican Church NSKK owned church buildings in Taiwan and held services for its Japanese citizens in these churches. In those days, Taiwan came under the NSKK Diocese of Osaka. After the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, most of their Anglican Church buildings were taken by the Nationalist government in Taiwan and given to other denominations. The Taiwan Episcopal Church was established in 1954 originally to serve the American military who were based in Taiwan, and came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Hawaii. It also took pastoral care of the former C.H.S.K.H (中華聖公會) Chinese Anglican Church members, who had come to Taiwan from Mainland China…..
Fast forward to 2005 and the Japanese connection was kind of rekindled when the Dioceses of Osaka and Taiwan signed a companion diocesan agreement, initially for 3 years ~ and it’s been renewed every 3 years ever since! So we were very honored to welcome a group of 29 from the Diocese of Osaka, Japan, led by Bishop Osamu Onishi and Rev. Akira Iwaki, who came for 5 days, including a 2-day visit to Hualien. During the Thanksgiving Service Bishop Onishi and Bishop Lai signed the companion agreement for a further 3 years. A member of the Osaka group, Ms. Ayano Tsuji, also composed a special song ‘Tomoni’ (一起 meaning ‘Together’) in honor of the 60th anniversary and our friendship; this was sung at the opening of the afternoon celebration, led by Ms. Tsuji on the piano….
We were also honored to welcome 3 distinguished visitors from Hong Kong, Archbishop Paul Kwong, Provincial Secretary Rev. Peter Koon and Rev. Kenneth Lau. During the Thanksgiving Service, Bishop Lai expressed his sincere thanks to Archbishop Kwong for his generosity in providing scholarships for 2 seminarians from the Diocese of Taiwan to study at Ming-Hua Theological College, Hong Kong for 3 years, starting this September, and also for help in printing the Taiwan Episcopal Church 60th Anniversary Bibles (with Apocrypha) which were dedicated during the Thanksgiving Service.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, had sent an official letter of congratulations on the occasion of the 60th anniversary and a gift of a carved wooden picture of the 4 gospels – she was represented by the Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, Sam McDonald, who was accompanied by Canon Peter Ng, Asia-Pacific Officer of the Episcopal Church. Also from the Episcopal Church, Mrs. Mimi Wu represented Province VIII and Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry. Our only regret was that Archdeacon Douglas Fenton, (from our other companion diocese of New Westminster, Canada) was unable to come at the last minute due to visa problems that were only discovered when he got to the airport to board his flight (take note, all those thinking of a trip to Taiwan!) …..
In the middle of the afternoon performances, the Mayor of Taichung, Jason Hu 胡志強 came to visit us, with a group of councilors and representatives. He spoke of his time when he studied in England (University of Southampton, and PhD from Oxford) and his acquaintance with the Anglican Church in the UK, and how honored he was to be invited here for this celebration…. check out the photos!
What a day! Never a dull moment in the whole 7-hour programme of events, helped considerably by the music, dance and performance talents of our diocesan kindergarten teachers who provided amazing entertainment keeping us all on our toes all day long, plus of course church members who sang and played instruments and led praise and worship exercises and acted out Bible stories, all wonderful! And the day finished with the singing of 3 hymns, including Amazing Grace and Onward Christian Soldiers….
And so we all left for home at 5:30pm, armed with a box of breads and cakes for the journey…. a great day YES!
But the weekend did not end there, of course! St. James’ Church, who had so marvelously hosted all the day’s events, continued their welcome to the Osaka group, who worshiped at St. James on Sunday morning, yesterday. The group (and most of our other visitors) leave for home this afternoon, and so last night we all gathered in Taipei at the Shanghai Restaurant for a grand Farewell Dinner ~ and, so it turned out ~ a Japanese Tea Ceremony, hosted by Mrs. Michiko Nishimura in her beautiful kimono ~ an appropriate and special way to end our celebration weekend, thanks be to Almighty God!
In case you haven’t guessed what I did all weekend, well – I have reduced my 1,500+ photos down to 200 or so….. here are just a few of them!
Thanks be to God for his amazing blessings YES!