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!