All posts by Catherine Lee

‘Happy Ending’ Party-Time 🥳 for Advent Church English Classes!

Yes, our 10 weeks of community English classes for adults – running on Tuesday evenings for beginners and Thursday afternoons for the more advanced (each class 90 minutes) – are now over for this semester, and last night we brought both groups together for a ‘Happy Ending’ Party! Ah, it was so much fun! Friends, families and a large group of our student fellowship turned up too and added some extra energy to the occasion.

Each of the English class members brought along some yummy food, I prepared some games and our good friends Marge and David provided the sharing and entertainment. We all danced along to the ‘Playing for Change’ YouTube video of ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong, and as everyone in that video is wearing different brightly-coloured T-shirts, so Marge and David gave each one of us a T-shirt from their T-shirt company. Thank you!

We played Musical Chairs….

And Musical Statues with animals – check out the photos below and you can see penguins, elephants, giraffes, frogs, snakes, spiders, crocodiles, pigs and more. We even had the same 2 winners as for the Musical Chairs, the 2 ladies – one in red and one in yellow with me above – they really got into the drama below, so real!

Special thanks to the most important person in these English classes ~ Shiao-Chien, one of our church members – formerly our senior warden – and retired military officer here at St. John’s University. She and Marge are founding members from years ago, they both come to the Thursday afternoon class, and Shiao-Chien also comes every Tuesday evening to help with the beginner’s class, many of whom are her friends and neighbours. Marge often helps out if Shiao-Chien needs a week off. Shiao-Chien organizes everything – it’s all so wonderful! Every week she also prepares 5 minutes of faith-sharing / Bible teaching (in Chinese) at the end of each class, while the Thursday afternoon class currently has the first half of the class devoted to a Bible Story. This is part of the outreach ministry of Advent Church, everyone is welcome – of whatever faith and none, and classes are free – with lots of fun!

We finished with a prayer…

And of course a group photo!

Thanks to everyone who came along, and to our SJU Chaplain Rev. Wu for taking most of the photos. These classes had to be cancelled in the spring semester earlier in the year as a precaution against Covid-19, but with no domestic transmission since Easter, we are so pleased they could take place in this autumn semester. Thanks be to God for his many blessings ~ and here’s to the next semester of English classes, starting, we hope, after Chinese New Year!

Advent Word 2020, Day 3 ‘Strengthen’

#AdventWord #Strengthen 

Háshįnee in Diné (Navajo) means “Beloved.” One of my spiritual disciplines is to make time to meditate on my ancestral words, which invite me to reflect and grow closer into a relationship with my people and the Divine. Háshįnee must be said from the heart, for it acknowledges profound kinship. Imagine for a moment the way God expresses love and compassion for Jesus: “You are my beloved Son.”  I feel a glowing admiration of love and hope transpire within my soul in response to these sacred words uttered by the Divine. Living in the way of Háshįnee strengthens our holistic being by simplest acts of humility. Listen for Háshįnee on the Advent journey in God’s heart, so that transformation might evolve in our hearts. 

#StrongerTogether @ St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony, Taipei 成年禮 Nov. 18, 2020

Advent Word 2020, Day 2 ‘Deliver’

#AdventWord #Deliver

The psalmist says: “But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.” Isaiah says: “for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.” Deliver us, oh Lord, from the trials and tribulations we have placed upon ourselves. Free us from this burden which we eagerly and freely picked up, for it is too great for us to bear. Deliver us from ourselves in words, actions, and deeds.

‘Stand And Deliver’ @ St. John’s University Student Fellowship Cosplay ‘Movie Characters’ Party: June 4, 2020

Advent Word 2020, Day 1 ‘Tender’

Happy Advent Sunday to you all! Advent Word Global Advent Calendar 2020 starts today!

#AdventWord #Tender

When we feel weak and overwhelmed, let us hang our hope on the blessed truth that this same Jesus who one day will come with great power and glory is also the one who walks alongside us right now, with tenderness in his heart and balm for our weary souls. Let us echo the words of the old spiritual that says, “When my heart within is aching, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Just ordained! New deacon Rev. Stoney C. K. Wu with his daughter: St. James’ Church, Taichung, Taiwan, July 25, 2020

Advent Word 2020 Coming Very Soon!

The AdventWord project of The Episcopal Church, run by Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) is now about to enter its 7th year, and I’ll be participating in the project this year too, as in previous years. You can join too! They invite different people to write a short meditation on a theme word. I will post the meditations and share my own photo linking to the theme word. These are the AdventWords for this year, starting on Sunday November 29, Advent Sunday….

My photos will all be from this past year in Taiwan, either taken by me or a few taken by others, but with me in the photo. Some of my photos will be serious, some will be just for fun, a few will be very special. See you on Sunday – and every day after that through to Christmas!

Sea of Flowers @ Taipei Guandu Plain! 🌺

Every year, the Taipei City Government arranges for local farmers in the area of Taipei City known as the Guandu Plain to plant flowers in some of their fields. Every year it’s so beautiful!

Most of the fields there are normally used for rice, but at this time of the year, the flowers make a nice alternative, and apparently help the soil too after the rice harvest.

And so now we have the wonderful display, a sea of flowers!

The flowers are mostly cosmos and zinnia, and this year they cover over 4 hectares. The fields are close to where the Keelung River joins the Tamsui River, and lie not far from the riverside bicycle path.

So last Sunday morning, very early, about 7 am – on my way by YouBike to Good Shepherd Church in Shilin, Taipei, so I spent 30 minutes checking out the scene. The Yangmingshan Mountains at the back were in cloud, but otherwise the light was stunning and it was early, so there weren’t yet too many people there taking photos.

It’s beautiful! Kudos to Taipei City Government – and the farmers.

The Taiwan News article about this is here.

If you have time and the opportunity, get on a YouBike and get there quick, it’s well worth it!

‘English Tea-Time’ in Taiwan ~ at Xingren Elementary School 新北市淡水區興仁國小!

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” (Henry James)

Yes, think glamourous Victorian ladies enjoying their delicate cucumber sandwiches and creamy fruit scones at Fortnum & Mason or the Ritz or wherever, drinking tea served in floral china tea-cups, talking about the weather – and just a bit of gossip – and there you have it, that’s Afternoon Tea, English-style. Well, that’s kind of the impression we all have, me too!

And that’s what I was doing at Xingren Elementary School (新北市淡水區興仁國小) last Friday, November 20. Starting at 8:30 am, all 6 classes, Grades 1-6, each came for 40 minutes each, all dressed up in their best outfits (me too!), and we drank tea together from dainty little tea cups and had chocolate biscuits. Fortunately Carrefour in Tamsui sells PG Tips and McVities chocolate digestives (labelled “Imported from the UK”), so it’s perfect. No cucumber sandwiches or cream scones, but hey, it was great! Such a simple thing to do, but such fun, and everyone was so happy – and the kids were so well-behaved! The principal came for one of the classes too. We learned how to sit and not slouch, to stir and not slop, to sip and not slurp ~ ladies and gentlemen in the making! And we learned a whole lot of English too, like, ‘Would you like some milk?’ ‘Is the tea good?’ ‘It’s delicious!’ ‘Would you like some more tea?’ ‘Yes, please’ and ‘No, thank you’.

Xingren Elementary School is our local school to St. John’s University, just 2 bus-stops down the road towards Tamsui. Many of the children who come to our summer camps here at Advent Church are pupils there, and Advent Church members go there each week to teach character education classes. The school has 91 pupils, ranging from 12 pupils in Grade 6 (although 7 of them had gone to a sports event at another school that day) to 19 in Grade 5, and all others in-between.

In May 2015, we went along to Xingren to help the children celebrate their Sports Day, and in October 2016, we went to help them celebrate their centenary, and we also went a few years ago for Christmas carol-singing. This is the first time I’ve been invited by the principal, academic supervisor and English teachers, and with the support of Bishop Chang, to give a little input as a real live foreigner. Rosa from Advent Church kindly came with me to help. Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and their appreciation!

It’s just so easy for children (and adults!) to be weighed down by spelling, grammar and vocabulary when learning English, sigh ~ it is such a nightmare! I mean who invented this crazy grammar whereby a word like ‘go’ changes to ‘went’ in the past tense? Why can’t verbs just stay the same, like they do in Chinese? And all those complicated tenses that we have in English, sigh and groan! English Tea-Time provides a little light relief, something to encourage the children to keep up with their English, and to use it in a fun way, and learn a little about international culture at the same time ~ plus the Taiwan government is pushing for more and more English in schools and this is one good way of achieving that aim.

Thanks to the English teachers, Ariel and Sophia for all the photos ~ they were posted on the school facebook page, linking to their photo album here. And special thanks to all the children for a great day!

Regarding Tea-Time at Xingren in a time of Covid-19, Taiwan continues its long run of no domestic cases since April, and is running normally as far as work and school is concerned. Temperatures are checked on arrival at school, and facemasks are required for entry at the school gate. Once inside, masks are not compulsory, but as from December 1, new winter regulations will come into force, so changes are coming.

Next month, I hope to return there for a class about Christmas. Watch this space, and in the meantime, sit yourself down and have a nice cup of tea and chocolate digestive biscuit!

St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony 成年禮 2020!

After long weeks of hard work for the clergy, staff and students of our St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy – today was THE day, our SJU Coming of Age Ceremony!

This annual event is highly praised by the Ministry of Education, and is a wonderful way to welcome our first-year university and fourth-year junior college students into the grown up world. All have turned 18 in the past year (some are several years older), but this ceremony is a way of acknowledging their new freedoms – and of course responsibilities – now that they’re adults. Some of the emphasis is on thanking parents and teachers for their role in reaching this milestone. All the students were dressed very smartly in their new blue SJU ties – though some did need a bit of help to fix them!

Temperature checks were made at the entrance and face-masks were worn by all, except those on stage using a microphone. Taiwan continues its long run of over 200 days with no domestic transmissions of Covid-19, but the winter flu season is coming, and precautions are being stepped up – especially with increasing numbers of imported cases coming from overseas. Actually this week we have an Indian summer with sunshine and temperatures in their top 20’s, it’s really warm!

During the course of the ceremony, the students toasted each other with a small cup of wine….

Each of the class tutors was also welcomed to the ceremony, served a small cup of tea and presented with a poinsettia plant…

Parents were invited too, and also presented with a plant. This year for the first time ever, some of the extra speeches and presentations were replaced with a foot-washing ceremony. Parents were invited to take part, and 8 of them accepted – and had their feet washed by their son or daughter. For Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this is the first time he has attended as bishop and chair of the SJU Board of Trustees. His original idea was for foot washing with faculty too, but in the end, it was just the 8 parents and their children. It was really good and the atmosphere was great ~ the parents and students who took part were so happy!

As well as VIP speeches from distinguished alumni, SJU President Huang and Bishop Chang, one of the students always gives a speech, and we usually choose a Christian who then shares the story of their Christian faith. This year, it was a young man, Ricky from Malaysia, and he gave quite an amazing testimony. The prayers were given by Melissa, also from Malaysia – in fact both of these students are from Anglican Churches, and we’re so happy that they’ve joined our student fellowship.

The ceremony ended with musical performances from some of our student groups, including our student fellowship – and then finished with the singing of the SJU School Song, and the blessing from Bishop Chang.

Our student numbers continue to fall – at today’s event, we had somewhere over 200 students – but that includes both first-year university and the fourth-year junior college students. The last time I wrote a blog post about this ceremony was in November 2017, when I see we had 350 students attending the ceremony, the year before, in 2016, there were 800 students, and way back in 2012, there were 1,500 students in their first-year. We thank God for all those students who are here, please do pray for them. There are increasing numbers of students coming from Malaysia, and this coming winter vacation, they are facing the reality that they are not going to be able to go home for Chinese New Year, due to quarantine restrictions. Many of them will hope to stay here locally and find a job for those few weeks. Chinese New Year will be very different for those not able to go home. We are busy making plans, hoping to organize activities and meals for those who’ll be here.

Our student fellowship, led by Min-Wen, our chaplain Rev. H. H. Wu, and the chaplaincy staff, Shu-Jing and Tzi-Wei worked really hard to organize today’s big event, and it went so well. I just turned up 30 minutes beforehand to start taking a few photos (just in case you can’t spot me – I’m on the temperature check screen!) These are a selection….

And this is the group photo of all those who helped organize the event, along with Bishop Chang….. they’re all happy it went so well!

They all deserve a huge amount of praise. Thank you everyone, and thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings!

CMS Link Letter #81 (and Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村!)

Published yesterday by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below…

The letter was actually sent off to CMS on October 14 for processing, and much seems to have happened since then. As we await the results of the US presidential election and as the UK goes into lockdown again, there’s a lot going on.

A little oasis in all that’s going on is to be found at Rainbow Village, Taichung 彩虹眷村, as high-rise buildings start to go up all around…

Let me just cheer you all up a little with some photos I took there early on Monday morning. This is one of my most favourite places to visit in Taichung, and so I was there for opening time at 8:00 am, the first visitor of the day.

Just to remind you, this place is the last remaining few houses of an old Veterans Village, built for soldiers and their families who came to Taiwan after 1949. Most of the land has already been taken for redevelopment, but old Mr. Huang (Huang Yong-Fu 黃永阜), known as ‘Rainbow Grandpa’ (彩虹爺爺), decided to start painting the remaining houses a few years ago, as a way to save his village….

His artwork was discovered by students from the nearby Ling-Tung University, and as a result, the village has not only been saved from demolition, but is now actively preserved by the local government. It is open to the public, and visitors can wander around, meet Rainbow Grandpa and do a bit of shopping to help fund the place (entrance is free). Go first thing on a Monday morning and you’ll have the place to yourselves!

The last time I was there was in October 2019, and what is different this time is that the land right behind Rainbow Village is now blocked off with a long white fence, and construction work behind it has already started…..

Gradually the area all around there is being developed with high-rise apartment buildings, which of course was what motivated Mr. Huang to start painting in the first place…. and he is still at it. Here he is signing my umbrella!

He was telling me that he’s nearly 100 – and he is certainly making the most of his remaining years! His artwork is stunning…

So thanks for reading my link letter – and enjoy the photos! And Rainbow Village are now selling face-masks covered in Rainbow Grandpa’s artwork, so watch this space, and you might see me in one before too long!

50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service for Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970) 王長齡主教逝世 50 周年紀念感恩禮拜

This year, 2020, is the 50th anniversary of the death of Bishop James Chang-Ling Wong 王長齡主教 (1900–1970), first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and founder of St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) in 1967, predecessor of St. John’s University (SJU), Taiwan. Bishop Wong died on April 27, 1970 and he was buried on the highest point of the SJSMIT campus. Advent Church was eventually built around his grave, which is located under the altar….

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, as Bishop of Taiwan and Chair of SJU Board of Trustees, chose today for the 50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service, held at 10:30 am in Advent Church (rescheduled from April due to the pandemic). After weeks of heavy rain and strong winds, finally the weather improved and, although very overcast and cool, it stayed mostly dry. Autumn is here!

On this day 55 years ago, October 23, 1965, the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the new SJSMIT construction was held, and building work began. Money was very scarce and it was extremely hard work for Bishop Wong to raise the funds needed to construct all the buildings and pay the salaries, the stress of which is believed to have contributed to his early death. Bishop Wong’s famous motto and the driving force behind setting up SJSMIT was always, ‘以基督得勝的生命影響生命’, translated as “Transforming Lives through the Life of Christ’. This has also been a major influence on the life and witness of Bishop Chang himself, and of many students and alumni of SJU over the years. Today is also the day when the church commemorates St. James of Jerusalem (brother of Jesus, who died a martyr in AD 62 or 69) so the liturgical colour of the day was red.

Advent Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary too this year, and at Bishop Chang’s suggestion, the church is marking the occasion by raising NT$ 500,000 to give as a gift to St. John’s University on St. John’s Day, December 28, 2020. SJU is currently facing serious financial problems primarily due to low student enrollment, and although it will be a relatively small gift, it will be a sign of our concern and shared hope for the future. In Bishop Chang’s sermon today, he reminded the congregation of how, for the 40th anniversary of Advent Church, the church, university and community together raised NT$ 30 million to build the new Advent Church Centre (opened in June 2016), its Chinese name given in memory of Bishop Wong (長齡生命關懷中心), and fulfilling his legacy motto of transforming lives through the life of Christ. Just as Bishop Wong himself rose to the challenge to raise money for SJSMIT, and just as we raised the money to build Advent Church Centre, so Bishop Chang encouraged the congregation not to give up, but believing SJU has a future, so we must press on and do our best to help SJU rise again.

In the congregation at today’s service were many invited guests, including clergy, SJSMIT alumni, SJU trustees, faculty, staff, students, church members, local councilors and friends. We had also notified friends overseas, including Bishop Wong’s own family, who we were so pleased to welcome to visit SJU last December. Some of those at the service today were former SJSMIT chaplains and their families, and some were alumni from the first student class enrolled at SJSMIT in 1967 – a few knew Bishop Wong personally, others had seen him on the campus and had attended his funeral.

We are grateful to Shiao-Ping from Good Shepherd Church, who came especially to do the beautiful flower arrangements….

And Mrs. Amy Chee for playing the organ…

And to all for their participation, thank you. You will notice that face-masks were compulsory for the actual service (apart from Bishop Chang when preaching). They were taken off for the group photos at the end. It was a very special service…

After the service, there was a group photo for clergy and VIP guests in front of Bishop Wong’s picture, which stands in the main entrance to Advent Church….

And a group photo around the altar – notice the grave marker and flowers.

This was all followed by a delicious buffet meal in the Advent Church Centre…

We give thanks to Almighty God for Bishop Wong’s life, and for his vision and dedication in establishing SJSMIT / SJU. Please do continue to pray for SJU, for Bishop Chang and the trustees, SJU President Huang and all the faculty and staff, for the alumni, current students and enrollment, and for the future direction and strategy of the university.

We go forward in God’s strength and grace. To God be the glory!