Amazed to see 2 visitors at Troutbeck Church yesterday for the morning service: Bishop Maurice Sinclair and his wife Gill, here in the Lake District with all their family to celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary last week! 60 years married and both still going strong with so much energy, humility and love!
After years of mission service in S. America, they were at Crowther Hall CMS College in Selly Oak, Birmingham 1984-90 (YES!) where Maurice was principal, then he was Bishop of N. Argentina 1990 – 2001 & Primate of Southern Cone, 1996 – 2001; now retired and serving as honorary assistant bishop of Birmingham.
Maurice is now 85, and to celebrate their diamond wedding, he and his granddaughter Ellen ran a half marathon in aid of Christian Aid on May 22. So far, they’ve raised £1,985 of a target of £3,000. They need some help to reach their target, but being one of the world’s most humble bishops, I only found this out after we’d said goodbye yesterday. I don’t think he’d have even let on that he was a bishop if I hadn’t recognized them!
It’s just so incredible to do a half marathon at the age of 85! If you are inspired, challenged, humbled and/or amazed, do please donate, and let’s do what we can to help them reach their target before donations close on August 31. LET’S DO IT! This is the link:
Today, yes today, is my first rainy day in the Lake District after being here 10 whole days! Most unusual for this part of the world, which is famous for rain and more rain, all year round. We’re really enjoying it after all that heat of the last few days! This was on Monday July 18, when it was cooler inside than out….
If you read my recent CMS Link Letter a few weeks ago, you’ll know why I’m here in the Lake District ~ I wrote, “I’m hoping to stay in my mother’s home in the Troutbeck area of the Lake District over the summer; she’s recently moved into a care home in Grange-over-Sands on Morecambe Bay, so I’ll be visiting her there.” And yes, that’s how it’s turned out. I’m very happy to be staying in her home in Troutbeck, it’s really lovely. And especially for my Taiwan friends, at their request, I’ve posted a series of photos of tea-drinking ~ yes, this is what it really looks like in this area. It’s oh so very beautiful!
Both my brother and his wife unfortunately went down with Covid within days of my arrival in the Lake District last week, so since then I’ve been visiting my mother on my own, on alternate days. Grateful that I happen to be here at this time. Grange-over-Sands is 29 km from here, almost an hour of scenic driving, right down the length of Lake Windermere, and it’s an interesting place, with a promenade too. I might write more in future posts, when I’ve got to know the area a bit. This photo was taken on Tuesday July 19, the hottest day of the year so far, when temperatures reached 40.2°C at Heathrow by lunchtime, and many other places passed 40, for the very very first time ever…
Arriving in the Lakes in the middle of a long sunny spell meant I hoped to make the most of my non-visiting days to go up a few mountains ~ and the weather in the last week has been truly spectacular. I got up very early (I’m still living like I’m in Taiwan!) and was out there long before anyone else was even up. Grateful to my brother and his wife for their maps, Wainwright guidebooks and advice about where to go – and where to park. Parking is a nightmare in the Lake District, it’s oh so expensive! Rydal Church asks for donations to be put in a box in the wall, but get there very early to get a place. This is my little blue car outside Rydal Church – note the distinctive scratch on the door, which was already there (and with so many little blue cars around, it helps to distinguish which is mine!)
Thursday July 14: Up to High Street 828m (2,718 ft) from the Kirkstone Pass Inn (free parking there) via Stony Cove Pike and Thornthwaite Crag. High Street is named after the Roman Road that ran from Penrith to Ambleside via High Street, and its flat top was later used for summer fairs in the 18th & 19th centuries, including horse racing along the summit! The day started cloudy and rainy but the sun soon came out, and the views were fantastic!
Saturday July 16: A perfect day for the Fairfield Horseshoe from Rydal clockwise up to the highest point of Fairfield 873m (2,864 ft). There were lots of people doing this walk, and several had spent the night on the fells too. The views of Helvellyn were superb. Total: 20km, 1,100m of ascent, ending down at Wordsworth’s family home at Rydal Mount and Rydal Church. Wainwright’s description is, “A great horseshoe of grassy slopes below a consistently high skyline, simple in design and impressive in altitude.” True, it was a great day!
Monday July 18: Escaping the first of the 2 hottest days of the year to enjoy the cool early morning breeze on Red Screes 776m (2,541 ft) by following Wainwright’s recommended route, from Ambleside via Stock Ghyll Force (no rain, so there wasn’t much water in the waterfall) then up via ‘The Struggle’ to the Kirkstone Pass. I spent an hour on the Red Screes summit, it was so gorgeous, and came down along the south ridge. From the summit there are stunning views towards the Fairfield Horseshoe, High Street, Brothers Water & Patterdale. There’s even a tarn up there with frogs in it! The last time I was up there was probably 1976 ~ so glad to renew my acquaintance again. Got back down before the real heat of the afternoon, and finished at the famous Bridge House in Ambleside.
Wednesday July 20: From Troutbeck past the National Trust house at Townend, up to Baystones 488 m (1,601 ft), the highest point on the Wansfell Ridge, and along to Wansfell Pike 482 m (1,581 ft), regarded as the true summit. The weather had turned much cooler after the heatwave of the previous 2 days. A runner was there who had just come up from Ambleside in 26 minutes! I went on down to the Ambleside Pier and across by the ferry along the top end of Lake Windermere to Wray Castle, and walked south down the lake. Last November, Storm Arwen devastated the area and there are huge numbers of fallen trees all lying around. The route goes to the Windermere Car Ferry (£1 for foot passengers) then across to Bowness and back to Troutbeck.
Friday July 22: A rainy day today, so a short walk this morning to Orrest Head, above Windermere, via the back roads of ‘St. Catherine’s Estate’ now a National Trust reserve. So many flowers, all looking lovely after the rain. Wainwright’s life was changed by visiting Orrest Head on his first trip to the Lake District in 1930, when he got off the train at Windermere Station and walked up to the viewpoint. There’s a plaque at the summit with these words,
Windermere and the High Fells: “Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell that changed my life.” (A. Wainwright) Orrest Head1930 ‘… quite suddenly, we emerged from the shadows of the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view. … This was truth. God was in heaven that day and I a humble worshipper.’ Alfred Wainwright’s description of his first view of the Lakeland mountains, from Ex Fellwanderer. It was a view that transformed his life and the lives of tens of thousands of his readers.
So that’s the story so far! Thanks for all your prayers and concern. Yes, my mother is doing fine, and it’s great to see her. Yes, my brother and his wife are getting better, and hope to be back in action next week. And yes, my Taiwan friends and others are enjoying the photos of tea-drinking! And we’re all enjoying the cooler temperatures, though Taiwan is also reporting a heatwave, with temperatures of 40.7°C in Hualien with a red alert issued for Taipei. Hope it cools down soon. In the meantime, enjoy tea, ice-cream ~ and even some refreshing cooling rain!
Happy summer everyone ~ and hello from a very friendly baby robin who lives near here!
A fairly momentous few weeks as I packed up in Taiwan and said goodbye to all my friends ~ and then came to the UK! Thanks be to God, all went well, and finally, I’m here ~ happily still with many wonderful memories of these last few weeks in Taiwan…
Lots of memories of daybreak and sunrise at Advent Church and St. John’s University ….
And sunrise down at the sea, with a plane overhead heading to the airport…
The nearby lotus fields are looking stunning, within walking distance of St. John’s University….
Sunset as I headed to the airport on Thursday, July 7….
Taoyuan International Airport is about an hour’s drive from St. John’s University ~ gotta love their large lego version of the airport that’s on display!
I was flying Turkish Airlines, first from Taipei to Istanbul, then transferred onto Turkish Airlines to London Gatwick. Despite news reports about chaos at UK airports, Gatwick was fine. During the course of my journey, Boris Johnson resigned too. Ah yes, welcome to Britain!
I’m very grateful to have arrived safely – and I’m now staying with my brother and his family. They live in a very beautiful old house in Sussex, originally built in 1580 as a farmer’s cottage, and the wooden beams in the living room were originally from a ship, some of them are numbered. I knew my Taiwan friends would love to see photos, and yes, the photos have been a big hit, and attracted dozens of comments on Facebook. Thanks to my family for their wonderful welcome and hospitality!
And thanks to all in Taiwan for your send-off! The last main event in Taiwan before my departure was the Advent Church Children’s Summer Camp, held on July 4-5. This coincided with the second round of Covid vaccinations for elementary school children, and with general worries about the pandemic, so we had expected much lower numbers than usual – although last year, it was cancelled completely, so we wanted to hold the event this year even with fewer children. In the event, there were 32 children, and we had 21 student leaders, who all spent weeks in preparation, and a whole weekend of training. They were a great team and it was a really worthwhile event. I was on hand for taking photos!
We have a video of the summer camp on YouTube, made by Tzi-Wei from our chaplaincy team. Check it out here… it’s fun!
And finally, a big thank you to you all for your prayers and blessings! If you’re here in the UK, hope you are enjoying the summer weather and the long light evenings. Ah yes, England at its best!
Mrs. Aline Y. L. Ma 馬蕭亞麟 (Ma Siao Ya-Lin) died peacefully on June 18, 2022, the beloved wife of Professor Herbert H. P. Ma (馬漢寶 Ma Han-Pao), Canon Chancellor of the Taiwan Episcopal Church. Mrs. Ma, always known affectionately as Ma Mama, was a gracious, kind and warm-hearted friend of all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church.
Her memorial room has been set up in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and the family are on hand every afternoon from June 23-29 to welcome visitors wishing to pay their respects. The private cremation service will be held on June 29, followed by the memorial service on Saturday August 20 at 10:30 am, which will also be live-streamed from St. John’s Cathedral. The long gap between these events will, along with fulfilling Taiwan’s quarantine requirements, enable the grandchildren to come from overseas and the Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang to return home from the Lambeth Conference. At this sad time, please do remember Professor Ma and all the family in your prayers.
Professor Herbert Ma is a well-known figure in Taiwan, having taught law at National Taiwan University (NTU) for 52 years and served for 12 years as a Grand Justice of the Constitutional Court. In his retirement, he has kept in touch with many of his former students, including politicians, professors, judges and lawyers who count it an honor to have been in his classes. In pride of place in the Ma family home are 2 photos of Professor Herbert Ma with one of his former students, former president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou 馬英九, who was among the first visitors to pay his respects at Mrs. Ma’s memorial room yesterday.
Mrs. Aline Ma was born in Shanghai, China in 1930, but her mother died when she was very young. Her father, a banker, feared for the safety of his only child due to the war with Japan, so at the age of 7, he sent her with relatives to Germany. The relatives were based in Berlin, studying at Berlin University; and the young Mrs. Ma went to live with a Prussian general’s family in Brandenburg City, where she always liked to say she learned ‘order, discipline and punctuality’, characteristics which stayed with her throughout her long and incredible life. The Prussian family had Chinese connections in Beijing dating from before the Boxer Rebellion, but they could not speak Chinese, and on arrival, Mrs. Ma had no German language. By the time her father visited her a year later, her German was fluent, but unfortunately she had forgotten all her Chinese, and only remembers sadly being completely unable to communicate with her father. That was to be the last time she saw her father, as war and civil war intervened and they remained apart for the rest of his life. He later remarried and had 3 more children, all of whom Mrs. Ma got to know in later life.
The young Mrs. Ma spent the whole of World War II in Brandenburg City, suffering along with the German people, but in 1945 she and her relatives escaped the Russian occupation and fled to Switzerland where she was sent to boarding school. After graduation, she had no resident permit to continue living in Europe, and so in 1955, unable to return to China, she travelled alone to Taiwan. Although she could speak German, French and English, she could not speak Chinese, which initially made it difficult for her to find a job. She later taught herself to speak and read Chinese, but German always remained her first language.
It was, in fact, her inability to communicate in Chinese that brought Professor and Mrs. Ma together, as they found they could communicate perfectly with each other in English. Their fathers had known each other in Shanghai, and the young couple met for the first time at a wedding reception in Taipei hosted by mutual friends. The Ma family had moved to Taiwan in 1947, and the young Professor Ma, then a student, was invited by Episcopalian neighbors to attend worship services in their home. Apart from his brother-in-law who had been baptized in China, this was Professor Ma’s first direct contact with the Christian faith. The services (which expanded to become the cathedral congregation) were led by a pastor from the China Inland Mission, Yang Yong-Jing 楊詠經, who later baptized the young Professor Ma. Mrs. Ma was baptized after her marriage, and eventually Professor Ma’s parents became Christians too, and all played an important role in the development of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.
Professor and Mrs. Ma were married in 1957 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and their 4 children were born between 1959-64, Gabrielle 佑敏, Mason 佑聖, Vera 佑真 and Beatrice 佑遠. The family lived with Professor Ma’s parents, 3 generations under one roof. Mrs. Ma first taught German at the German Cultural Center and then for 30 years at NTU. As well as supporting her extremely busy husband, she also took care of their 4 children and her parents-in-law, and for some years led the cathedral ECW (Episcopal Church Women) and later the diocesan ECW. In her retirement, she continued to inspire and support her family and church, welcoming visitors and sharing her warm hospitality. Many of us count it an honor to have visited her home to listen to the story of her extraordinary early life, which has since been published in German and Chinese. At every major church event, Mrs. Ma would be at her husband’s side, smiling and caring for everyone who came to greet them. Throughout their 65 years of marriage, Mrs. Ma has been a tower of strength and support for her husband, and Professor Ma has always acknowledged how blessed he has been to be married to such a great woman.
Since the pandemic started, Professor and Mrs. Ma have largely remained in the safety of their home, participating in church services and events online. A few months ago, Mrs. Ma suffered a stroke and had been in hospital since then. The most recent major church event they attended in person was the consecration of Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as Bishop of Taiwan on February 22, 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral. At the end of the service, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry paid tribute to Professor Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Taiwan Episcopal Church. By his side, as always, was his beloved wife, Mrs. Ma, smiling and content. A great woman indeed, and she will be much missed by us all.
We fondly remember Ma Mama at this time, giving thanks for her long life of dedication and humble service to her family, her church and to Almighty God. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
As you’ll have read in my link letter above, I’m preparing for my ‘home leave’ in the UK, so I’m busy saying goodbye to friends, schools and churches here in Taiwan. Last week, I said farewell to the 8th grade in our local junior high school…
Also said goodbye to St. John’s Cathedral English Congregation, where I’ve been going once a month for the last few years, helping out by doing the sermon. It was a joint celebration to say goodbye to Rev. Antony Fan-Wei Liang and his family – he’s in charge of the English congregation and moves in the summer to become vicar of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien. Everyone loves him so much! Thanks to the congregation for such a huge and delicious cake – the yellow is actually flakes of white chocolate!
We’ve also been celebrating graduation for members of our St. John’s University Student Fellowship, with a farewell party recently for them on the theme of Old School Graduation …
And on the day of the actual graduation (which was held online due to the pandemic), lots of students still came by, and we had photos in Advent Church…
In between all the celebrations, the pandemic continues. Although this current Omicron surge – which really got going only just after Easter – seems to have peaked and numbers are not as high as they were a few weeks ago, we are still seeing 50,000+ new cases and about 100-180 deaths per day. The total number of deaths from Covid now stands at 5,651, all but 850 or so occurring in this present Omicron surge – most have underlying conditions, about half unvaccinated.
Vaccination rates are now about 90%, and they’re about to start vaccinating children above 6 months. Borders are gradually opening up, and quarantine for all arrivals is now 3 days in isolation, followed by 4 days of self-health management, which can be done at home if requirements are met. That’s a vast improvement from not so long ago when it was 2 weeks of hotel quarantine for all arrivals. But many activities have been canceled or postponed or rearranged online and all with reduced numbers. Our summer camps are going ahead but numbers are about 1/2 to 2/3 of what we would normally expect. Economic hardship continues for many. Advent Church has responded to the diocesan ‘Love Your Neighbour’ Project (as mentioned in the diocesan Friendship Magazine, published in the previous post) to reach out to help those affected by Covid. For our students who are isolating due to Covid, we’ve been giving out small care packages…
And to those students who are receiving meal coupons, and our local junior high school students affected by Covid (as mentioned in my link letter), we gave out zong-zi for the Dragon Boat Festival at the beginning of June…
Then we had a fundraising project in Advent Church to raise money to provide care packages of basic essentials to local families affected by Covid…
We delivered 17 of these care packages to our local elementary school for them to deliver to children’s families. The principal and the chair of the parents’ committee were moved to join in and made financial donations themselves. This is us delivering the packages last week – it was pouring with rain!
When the rain stops, then we’re out and about! Cycled on the You-Bike into the sunrise, past the northern tip of Taiwan lighthouse, and around the northern coast to Yehliu Geopark. It’s full of stunning rock formations, most famously The Queen’s Head, which is having its neck gradually eroded by the wind and salty air…
Yesterday, my friend Chien kindly invited us to visit Juming Museum, featuring the sculptures and artwork of Juming 朱銘, a nice trip to say goodbye to each other as I leave for the UK soon. You need good weather for that place, but not too hot – and the day was perfect!
So a big thank you to everyone here in Taiwan for your blessings ~ and to you all for all your prayers and support!
And finally, as related to my CMS Link Letter above, check out this video from the CMS website, it’s really good!
The latest edition of our diocesan Friendship Magazine, June 2022, is just published online, and the printed version will be coming out soon. I’m the editor of this publication, so please read ~ and pray for us! It contains news of all our 15 churches, photos, updates, and articles. We really appreciate all your support. Thank you!
Today, Friday, June 3, is the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, so it’s Dragon Boat Festival! And we have a day off to celebrate, yippee! The dragon boats were racing today in Taipei – what I like better is the large dragon made from rice plants growing along the river in Guandu, Taipei ~ it’s quite amazing….
It’s also the Queen’s Jubilee in the UK ~ but here in Taiwan we’re celebrating Dragon Boat Festival, mostly by eating and giving zongzi in large quantities. Zongzi are sticky rice dumplings made in a triangular shape, with a variety of fillings, meat, eggs, peanuts, etc and steamed or boiled, depending on where the zongzi are from. They’re wrapped in bamboo leaves, and tied up in string, served warm…
Our church and chaplaincy here at St. John’s University and Advent Church have been giving out 3 zongzi to each of our students who receive meal coupons. Here’s our team busy packing them up a few days ago…
Because the rice is sticky and glutinous, people say not to eat too many at once! One is enough, and they’re really delish!
The other activities today are temple parades and bai-bai offerings at family shrines, and balancing eggs at 12 noon. Check out the traditions in this article here. Lots of activities are of course canceled due to the pandemic. We’re in the middle of a big surge of Omicron that took off just after Easter. This time, the government has decided not to lock down but instead to open up, and to use this as a way of moving from a policy of Zero-Covid, which we’ve been following until now, to Living with Covid. For about the last 2 weeks, we’ve had about 80,000 – 90,000 new cases every day (though with lower numbers recorded every weekend), with 90-145 deaths each day. The numbers are expected to peak soon – actually they’re already going down in Taipei, but still going up in the south. Life is still going along, work continues for most people as normal, but schools have been closed for a week or more, set to reopen in the next week. Restaurants have been badly hit, with far fewer people eating out, and the Metro is on a reduced service. Good job summer is coming, and we can get out and about more. The plum rainy season is still with us, once it’s over, then temperatures are set to rise, and summer will officially be here. It’s gonna be hot in those facemasks! Get ready everyone, things are heating up!
Yes, we’re looking forward to it already, next year’s diocesan convention on Taiwan’s scenic east coast ~ St. Luke’s Church, Hualien here we come! We’ve just had this year’s convention online, for the first time ever, preceded by a day’s workshop held in person at the cathedral. We loved seeing everyone there but it was only a day, so here’s to next year!
Many years ago, we had a visiting bishop who came to speak at our diocesan convention / synod here in Taiwan. He described his experiences of visiting diocesan conventions elsewhere. In England, he said, where such events are called synods, they’re held mostly in a single day, usually in some cold and draughty church hall, with the wind and rain howling around outside. Coffee may be served, but there’ll be no lunch on offer – you have to bring your own – all of which is considered quite normal. In complete contrast, he described his experience visiting the USA, where such events are called conventions, and which often meet over 2 days in a 5-star luxury hotel with all meals provided, and all hotel amenities available for use; all at great expense to the church – but also considered quite normal.
And then he came to Taiwan, where we fit somewhere in-between – and he loved it! The friendly welcomes, the atmosphere, the dedication of our church members in attending such events. Our churches take it in turns to host the event. Many of our church members like to combine attending the convention with a visit to, say, relatives nearby or to some tourist attractions ~ but staying in a nice hotel, seeing all our friends again is the main reason why everyone is willing to come. The Taiwan Episcopal Church is after all much like a large family, everyone knows each other, and many are even related to each other or grew up together. The actual meetings – the reports, elections etc may be necessary but, well, let’s face it, they can be a bit of an endurance test. It was during the online meetings at our convention last week that I remembered that visiting bishop and his experiences in England, USA and Taiwan, and wondered to myself if online is the way to go for future conventions (I hope not!) – or just how do we get the balance right?!
Anyway, aware that people need to be encouraged to attend such events, often held far away – but also aware of the costs and the negative image of church funds being spent on extravagant hotels, so Taiwan’s convention is usually held at a hotel that is mostly 3 or 4 (or occasionally even 5) stars, but one where we’ve managed to get a large discount through our church members. The costs are further reduced by holding the opening service and initial meetings in the local church hosting the event. This year it should have been the turn of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien. Seeing as we were going so far, so our bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang also decided to organize a ‘workshop’ for the day before the actual convention started, intended for our clergy and church members involved in youth and community outreach.
Then along came Taiwan’s latest and by far the biggest Covid surge so far. A month ago, cases started going up on a huge scale. With most people vaccinated, so the government has changed track from a zero-covid policy with lots of restrictions, to allowing normal daily life to continue on as much as possible. They’re trying to keep hospital beds available for only the most serious of cases by allowing home quarantine for everyone else. Apart from facemasks and quarantine rules for confirmed cases and their close contacts, Taiwan’s central government is no longer imposing strict rules and regulations on society as a whole, so it is up to individuals and institutions to make their own decisions. Numbers are now up to over 40,000 new cases per day and rising, and the virus is everywhere. During last week’s convention, two of our clergy had tested positive, and two others were in home quarantine due to their children’s contact with confirmed Covid cases. We face an uncertain time ahead as the country tries to gradually open up its borders while at the same time dealing with a major surge in cases. Fortunately, a few weeks ago, as the cases started to rise, Bishop Chang announced that the diocesan convention would be moved online, starting Thursday evening May 5 and lasting all day Friday, May 6, though the workshop would be held in person on Wednesday, May 4 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for those able to attend.
And so it was that most of us gathered last Wednesday at St. John’s Cathedral. The workshop was actually a day of worship, sharing, teaching and prayer, led by the Rev. Ian Liao 廖文華牧師, pastor in charge of Truth Church, Taipei, 基督教台北真道教會, a large, growing and very lively church in Wanhua, one of Taipei’s poorest areas and oldest red-light districts. Bishop Chang had invited him to come to share the experiences of their church in community outreach and youth ministry. He was specifically asked to share not just their successes, but also their failures, and what they had learned from their ministry that could help us. It turned out that Rev. Liao had studied for several years in the UK at Cambridge University, and while there had worshiped in a lively Anglican Church, so he was very familiar with our style of worship and liturgy. Living in Cambridge had clearly made a big impression on him, especially being surrounded by so many magnificent church buildings which had only a few elderly church members, or were even closed down completely and converted to bars and restaurants. He had also done a lot of research into our Episcopal churches in Taiwan, going on prayer walks circling around some of them and checking out nearby schools, colleges and other suitable places for outreach. In fact, their church used to be located very near our cathedral, but they had opted to buy a new building in Wanhua to better serve the people there. He was very well-placed to challenge us all about our outreach ministry.
This was the first time I had seen this kind of ministry event organized by the diocese as part of our diocesan convention and held in our cathedral. Rev. Liao had brought the leadership team from his church, who led the worship, and during the prayer times, they moved around praying with different people. It was very moving to see so many of our clergy and lay members respond to Rev. Liao’s call – and the moving of the Holy Spirit – to go to the front to receive prayer for their own children, those whose children no longer go to church or who have made choices in their careers or relationships which put them at odds with their parents. It was also very moving to see so many respond to Rev. Liao’s call to come forward to commit themselves to ministry among different groups of people, and later he specifically called several clergy and their spouses to the front to pray for them, sharing as led by the Holy Spirit.
On Friday morning, Rev. Liao appeared by video to give the opening sermon of the diocesan convention. It was a really excellent and very challenging sermon, and plans are already in hand here in Advent Church to show it to our vestry committee and church leaders too. He preached from Ezekiel 47, ‘the river from the temple’ and he talked about how the living water comes from the temple then spreads out from there. As we long for the living water of the Holy Spirit to fill our churches, so the living water will then pour out onto our local communities, bringing blessings to all. With this longing in our hearts and filled with the Holy Spirit, so we need to start out walking, and we will see God’s anointing on our ministry as we go. The deeper we go into our local communities, the deeper into the living water we will go, until, just as in Ezekiel’s vision, it covers our ankles, then knees, and shoulders, until we are swimming in this living water of the Holy Spirit.
In Ez. 47:8, the water flows to the Dead Sea and the salty water becomes fresh – so as we move out from our churches, lives around us will be changed and relationships restored. Their church has a ministry in Ximending helping children with their studies in after-school classes and giving them evening meals, thus helping families, as well as improving results for local schools, so local people no longer need to send their children to schools outside the area to get better results. In Ez. 47:10, ‘fish of every kind’ will fill the rivers and sea – so our churches will be filled with people of every kind, every age & background, rich & poor, indigenous and every ethnic group. Wanhua was ground-zero for last year’s Covid surge, and their “Church Can Help” project helped deliver relief packages to 4,000 families during Level 3 Covid Restrictions, and some have started to come to church. In Ez. 47: 12, the trees will bear fruit every month and the leaves will not wither, and their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing – so God’s blessings are ongoing every month, but he blesses us not to make us proud of our achievements, but for us to continue to bless others. That’s a brief summary!
In his sermon at the opening service on Thursday evening, Bishop Chang reviewed and commented on some of the lessons learned at the previous day’s workshop, and encouraged and exhorted all the clergy to spend less time in their church offices – and get out into the community, doing outreach and sharing the Gospel!
The opening service was held at St. John’s Cathedral, we watched it online. After the service finished, Rev. David Chee presented a graduation certificate to Vivian Meng-Rung Kuo, our first graduate of the Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM), our newly-established diocesan theological college. Congratulations to her and to all at TSCM!
And so to the start of the diocesan convention online. The idea was that each church would host the online event for their own clergy and delegates, so everybody gathered at their respective churches – all that is except for those who were in Covid quarantine, who stayed home.
So what did I learn? Firstly, an online diocesan convention using zoom takes much longer than a meeting in person, especially elections for the different committees. This was done by scanning the QR codes, and although it mostly went smoothly, it seemed to go on and on! Normally our meetings run not just to time, but often finish early, but by lunchtime on Friday, we were running about an hour late. The fun thing was to check out all the different people and churches and how they were doing things there. Some had their group sitting very close in full view – they provided quite a lot of entertainment as they forgot the camera was so close, while others, like us here at Advent Church had ours set well back, so we could even walk around and nobody would notice.
On Friday afternoon, after all the formalities of the convention were over, each of our 15 churches had 10 minutes to do a presentation. This was really interesting, and each church presented a detailed vision and action plan for the next 1, 3 and 5 years. Our clergy tell me that this has been a really good exercise, sitting down with their vestry committee and praying and planning for the future. Most used PowerPoint to do their presentations. In my humble opinion, our Advent Church PowerPoint was the most beautiful, and our rector’s talk the most concise. We’re grateful to our chaplaincy team – to Yi-Ting for putting the PowerPoint together, and to Tzi-Wei , who was actually in the diocesan office all that day taking care of the zoom arrangements. We did have a bit of a PowerPoint (PK) competition with Christ Church, who have Yu-Lin, one of our former chaplaincy team based there, well-known for her design skills – and theirs was looking very stunning too, but Advent Church was, well, definitely the best! But Christ Church did win hands down on the yummy-looking snacks provided to their delegates, which were in full view of their camera. Ha ha, it’s the small things that matter! It so happened that all their group of 6 were wearing blue, so they looked really well-coordinated. St. Paul’s Church also had snacks available, we could see 2 bowls of fruit, including a plate of bright red tomatoes. Looked good! But the prize for overall colour coordination goes to St. Mark’s Church, who had large bright green divider boards set up to separate their meeting room from the actual church, and with these as a backdrop, so their PowerPoint also used that same bright green colour, and 2 of their delegates were dressed in bright green too – ah, l loved it! You can see them in these photos, check out the bright green!
And so ended our diocesan convention 2022, giving thanks to God that everything went smoothly, and to the diocese for all the arrangements made. St. Luke’s Church, Hualien had also prepared well for this convention, but then put all their arrangements on hold, so the plans are that this same time next year to actually hold the convention in person there on Taiwan’s scenic east coast. YES!
Please pray for the 18 clergy and 15 churches in the Diocese of Taiwan, that all will be filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, and that we can all get out of our church offices and into our local communities to share the Gospel, bringing living water and changing lives!
Every year, we take a group photo at our diocesan convention, but it wasn’t possible this year. But we do have a group photo of our 18 clergy, taken during Holy Week at St. James’ Church….
Please also pray for Taiwan as we face this major Covid surge in the next few months. Although most people over the age of 12 are vaccinated, there are a large number of elderly people who decided against it, and many are now confined to their homes – they are a major concern. Our churches are facing many challenges not knowing what’s ahead, and whether services, activities, summer camps etc can go ahead or will need to be canceled or rearranged online. Your prayers are much appreciated. Thank you!
Yes, the Taipei Grand Trail ~ and the second time I’ve done it this year, whoop whoop! The first time was over Chinese New Year in February 2022, all in the rain and mud. Check out my previous post below for intro, photos and description of the trail – it was fun, but oh so wet!
This time, I used the official app, Hiking BIJI. Last time I couldn’t install it as it was set for only those with a Taiwan Google account, but since then the app developers have opened it up for some international users – if your country is not listed, then get in touch with them directly, they have great customer service! Anyway, this time, with the downloaded maps, I followed and recorded the route of each section, collecting ‘treasures’ as I went ~ meaning the phone pinged every so often as I passed another treasure on the map, 49 in total, 7 on each section. At the very end of the trail, this ‘Mission Completed’ notification appears on the phone ~ due to the pandemic, the 2021 project has been extended to the end of 2022….
The Taipei Grand Trail circles Taipei City, and each of the 7 sections can easily be done in a day, though some are much easier than others. It’s a fun way of seeing new places, getting some fresh air and doing a whole lot of exercise all at the same time. The weather this time round was much better than last time, sometimes hazy but mostly sunny and dry. As it’s spring, so there’s lots of flowers, birds, insects and creepy crawlies to look out for ~ including the endemic, gregarious and very beautiful Taiwan Blue Magpie 臺灣藍鵲, 3 of which kept us entertained at Lengshuikeng Visitor Center on Section 3 of the trail…
Over the 3 weeks I’ve taken to do the Taipei Grand Trail, Taiwan’s Covid situation has seen a big change. On the day I started, Monday April 4, when we had a few days off for Tomb-Sweeping Festival, there were 275 new cases announced, of which 133 were domestic, 142 imported, and with overall deaths standing at 853. When I finished the trail on April 23, there were 5,172 new cases announced for that day, of which 5,092 were domestic, 80 imported, and deaths at 856. Some 99.5% of new cases in this surge are apparently mild or asymptomatic – and most people can quarantine at home. Those considered more at risk, like the over 75’s and those on kidney dialysis, are admitted to hospital. The government has announced their new policy of gradually loosening restrictions, allowing the case numbers to grow slowly, and relying on facemasks and vaccines rather than following Hong Kong & Mainland China’s policies of hard lockdowns and isolating every confirmed case in quarantine centres. I read that Taiwan is one of the last countries to open up its borders to the outside world, so we expect a tough few months ahead. It will also take a while for people to get used to the government not stepping in with new rules and restrictions every few days – now that everyone is vaccinated and as long as we wear facemasks, the rest they’re leaving up to us – to manage our own lives and take our own precautions. A new kind of lifestyle for many. Facemasks are compulsory mostly everywhere – though fortunately not for outdoor exercise, but it means that people are still a bit unsure what to do for the best. Activities are slowly being cancelled or moving online, and people staying home a lot more. There are noticeably less people on the Taipei MRT and the paths of the Taipei Grand Trail as the month has gone on. On Saturday lunchtime at Makong, the restaurants and tea-shops were largely empty ~ normally a sunny spring day would see them packed out.
There are 12 places on the Taipei Grand Trail where you take a selfie with the Chinese character on the post, which when put together in a collage produce a phrase: 臺北東西南北大縱走壯遊趣 which means something like: ‘Taipei East West South North Grand Trail’. My 12 photos go round the collage clockwise below, starting in the top left, with the middle 4 photos extra ones taken at strategic points…
Coming up below are the 7 sections, which I didn’t do exactly in order, depending on the weather and time available – with a collage of photos for each section, mostly trying not to repeat those taken back in February….
Section 1 第一段：關渡站至二子坪 Guandu MRT up to Erziping 二子坪 in Yangmingshan 陽明山 National Park: Tuesday April 5
Section 2 第二段：二子坪至小油坑 Erziping to Xiaoyoukeng via Yangmingshan 陽明山 Datun West, South & Main Peaks 大屯山 & Zhuzihu 竹子湖: Wednesday April 6
Section 3 第三段：小油坑至風櫃口 Xiaoyoukeng to Fengguikou via Yangmingshan 陽明山 Mt. Qixing 七星山: Monday April 4
Section 4 第四段：風櫃口至大湖公園站 Fengguikou down to Dahu Park MRT: Saturday afternoon April 9
Section 5 第五段：劍潭支線 Jiantan Trail: Dahu Park MRT to Jiantan MRT: Easter Sunday afternoon April 17
Section 6 第六段：中華科大至麟光站 China Univ. of Sci. & Tech, Nangang to Linguang MRT via 95 Peak: Saturday April 16
Section 7 第七段：麟光站至政大後山 Linguang MRT to Nat. Chengchi Univ. via Maokong 貓空 Tea Plantations: Saturday April 23
The Tea Plantations at Maokong are of special interest – the workers were there picking the tea leaves while I was there – and so have their own collage….
All in all, 7 days hiking the Taipei Grand Trail is a great way to spend a few weeks, fitting in the sections around weekend and holiday activities. Following routes on an app and listening out for the pings is really quite interesting. It’s my first time to stick to a hiking app and complete a project that is quite so detailed. Today I went to the Geotechnical Engineering Office in Taipei to collect my certificate, scarf and keyring, all marked with the Taipei Grand Trail. YES! On every section of the trail, I met lots of people, some several times on the same route, and we all helped each other out when we couldn’t find the way, or with taking each other’s photos – sorry you have to endure so many of my selfies, ha ha, what a laugh it was to get them! Anyway, overall, selfies aside, the Taipei Grand Trail is highly recommended, and spring is maybe the best time of year to try. So go for it. YES, GO!
Easter Greetings to you all, if a little late! Christ is risen, alleluia!
Lent has felt extra-long this year, particularly because of the tragic war in Ukraine – now on its 54th day, but also the pandemic – with lockdowns in China and Hong Kong. Purple is always the colour associated with Lent, symbolizing repentance, royalty, shedding of blood. This is our local purple wisteria, always in flower at the beginning of April…
Here at Advent Church, we celebrated Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey as people lined the streets waving palm branches, shouting Hosanna, welcoming him as king. It was last Sunday, April 10 ….
We had a procession waving palm branches going from Advent Church around St. John’s University (SJU) main entrance…
During Holy Week, SJU students had their mid-term exams, so we rearranged some of our usual Holy Week activities. On Maundy Thursday we remembered Jesus celebrating Passover and sharing the Last Supper with his disciples, also washing their feet ~ so we had foot-washing, Holy Communion and then the stripping of the altar, ready for Good Friday ….
On Good Friday, we remembered Jesus’ crucifixion with midday prayers around the cross …
On Easter Eve, I was at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for the Easter Vigil, when we lit the Easter fire and celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a traditional and very meaningful time for baptisms, with the symbolism of new life, new creation. I was invited by my good friend, Sheerah to witness the baptism of baby Eva and her husband, Yu-Wei’s confirmation. Big brother Ethan kept us all entertained! There was one other child baptized and nine confirmed. Congratulations to them all ~ and thanks be to God!
On Easter Day at the cathedral, after the English service, we had a rare treat of hot cross buns, kindly baked by one of the congregation, so delicious!
Meanwhile, here at Advent Church, our 3 Easter baptisms were held during the service on Easter Day. One was Mei-Chin, who came to study here from Malaysia some 8 years ago, among the first group of Malaysian students at SJU. She also took part in one of our short-term mission trips to Myanmar some years ago. Finally, she has made the great decision to be baptized, ah we are all so pleased! New life in Christ ~ thanks be to God!
Our Easter celebrations take place in the midst of a big rise in Covid cases in Taiwan. Today, Monday April 18, we have 1,390 new domestic COVID-19 cases, a new record high. Every day for the last 4 days we have seen a new ‘record high’ ~ but so far, the growth has not been exponential, it’s going up by about 100-200 a day. Today’s figures: New Taipei City (that’s us!): 500, Taipei City: 270, Taoyuan: 187, Keelung: 115, Yilan County: 68. That’s all the north of Taiwan. Taiwan also reported 90 new imported cases today, 63 of them travelers who tested positive on arrival in Taiwan. The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths remains at 854.
From New Bloom: “Taiwan is experiencing its second major COVID-19 outbreak. The first outbreak began last year in May, after more than a year in which Taiwan was largely COVID-free. However, Taiwan is currently transitioning away from the COVID-zero approach it maintained for most of the pandemic to date. This is partly to reconnect with the international world, for the sake of the economy, but also is carried out noting how efforts to maintain COVID-zero approaches indefinitely in China and Hong Kong have led to explosive spikes in COVID-19 cases recently.”
“It was never an issue of maintaining COVID-zero forever, but what proves concerning for Taiwan is that first dose vaccination peaked just past 80%, with elderly individuals remaining hesitant to get vaccinated. In March, only 75.5% of individuals above 75 had one dose of vaccination, 69.9% had two doses, and 50.1% had received booster shots….. The Tsai administration has spoken of a “new Taiwan model” to transition back to normalcy. The CECC has also sought to emphasize that its goals are no longer “COVID-zero” but “zero COVID” for serious cases, with priority on avoiding overburdening Taiwan’s hospital system. As such, home quarantine rules have loosened to allow for home quarantine for light and mild cases under 65.”
Most of our church events for Holy Week and Easter went on as planned, though with fewer people due to this sudden surge, but future events are less certain. The good news is that despite 25% of over-75’s being unvaccinated (and many confined to their homes for that very reason), very few people in the active population aged between 12-75 are unvaccinated. With cases increasing relatively slowly, the government is encouraging everyone to continue on as normal, with facemasks and distancing. Many people are quite relaxed about the situation – but schools are not. They are very worried about rising infections leading to more cancelled classes and postponed activities, and are making plans for all eventualities. Here at SJU, this should have been our 55th anniversary celebration week of events, but most have been cancelled or postponed ~ better safe than sorry. Fortunately, many events are just moving online rather than being cancelled altogether. The good news is that tomorrow we can go to visit our local junior high school to distribute Easter eggs (actually hard-boiled salted duck eggs) to the children and teachers, sharing the joy of Easter with our neighbours. We’re making the most of every opportunity to share our Easter joy!
Thank you for all your Easter greetings, cards and messages. Please continue to keep us in your prayers, as we pray for you too.