All posts by Catherine Lee

Happy Chinese New Year’s Eve 2018!

What a beautiful dawn and sunrise this morning, viewed from the 8th floor of St. James’ Church, Taichung!  The start of a day of gorgeous weather!

One of the great traditions of Chinese New Year is catching up with old friends, often those not seen for a whole year or even longer.  I’ve been riding around Taichung on a u-bike all week doing this – and today was special, because I visited Fr. Toon Maes, CICM, at St. Paul’s RC Church, Taichung, where he is enjoying the sun after all those cold, wet and windy years up near us on the northern coast in Jinshan!  He’s 86, and in charge of a church which has about 120 people in the mass on Sunday.  His church is beautifully decorated for Chinese New Year…

IMG_4151

On Tuesday I visited another RC priest friend, Fr. Joy, MM, based at Tanzi Migrant Church, just north of Taichung and working with the Filipino migrant workers, who are mostly employed in the nearby export processing zone.   He has a huge church of thousands, and lots of outreach and social programmes….

IMG_20180213_193542_679.jpg

In case you’re wondering, both Fr. Joy and Fr. Maes did actually hold small Ash Wednesday services yesterday.   But in fact, Joy told me that Lent has been postponed in the local RC Churches, due to Chinese New Year coming this week.  After all, it’s really quite extraordinary to have Ash Wednesday – all that fasting and ashes – one day, followed the next day (tonight, Chinese New Year’s Eve) by the biggest family feast of the whole year!  So I think it really makes good sense to delay Lent for a week.  Not just delay Ash Wednesday, but actually Lent itself.   I know it’s supposed to be 40 days, but hey, a few less really won’t make much difference.  Otherwise people won’t know whether they’re supposed to be piously fasting, thus annoying all their family or friends by not participating in the New Year celebrations, or the alternative – eat, drink and be merry and then feel guilty afterwards! And we really don’t need any more guilt in this world and in the church, in my humble view at least.  In the Taiwan Episcopal Church, it’s been left to individual churches to decide, and in St. James, the church council decided not to hold a service – as everyone was so busy getting ready and travelling.

And of course, having no Ash Wednesday left us all free to focus on Valentine’s Day instead ~ and in connection with Valentine’s Day, you must read this BBC News report about how some of Taiwan’s little green traffic light men down in Pingtung have got girlfriends in time for February 14….

Taiwan’s pedestrian crossing men get girlfriends – BBC News

Isn’t that wonderful?!

Red is the colour of Chinese New Year ~ and isn’t this doorway beautiful?  Saw it in Taichung yesterday.  And so, wishing you all a very Happy Chinese New Year!

IMG_20180215_161748_676.jpg

Have good celebrations, wherever you are – we’re off on a little trip ourselves tomorrow.  See you in a few days ~ but for now I’m off for Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner ~ yippee!

Wedding Blessings and Celebrations for our beloved Setu and Jacob!

Ah, THE DAY finally arrived! YES!

After years and years of waiting ~ they’ve FINALLY made it down the aisle, tied the knot, had the obligatory kiss AND the wedding blessing!  CONGRATULATIONS!

Advent Church on Saturday February 10 at 2:00 pm was THE place to be. It may have been pouring with rain and cold, cold, cold outside, but inside, it was a buzz of activity and filled with warmth! Excitement was in the air, but, also, well, let’s face it, a little concern about whether it was all actually going to happen as planned, or yes, even if at all! So when we all got to the church, and actually saw bride AND groom BOTH there, both looking Ready with a capital ‘R’, well, what a great relief! Smiles all around. And y’know what? Everything went off without a hitch. Thanks be to God! The bridegroom smiled all afternoon. He even smiled in my direction. At my camera. So did the bride, but, well, we knew she would smile! The bride’s months of careful planning and organization, plus the hard work and support of a huge team of helpers all paid off. And what a great day it was!

To understand our smiles of relief and amazement, you just have to understand a little about the very lovely bride and her very handsome groom. Setu works with our Chaplaincy Team at St. John’s University (SJU). We’ve been based in the same office now for about the last 7 years. We even went together to India this time last year. She has the most wonderful, fruitful and inspiring ministry with our students, particularly those in our SJU Student Fellowship. That’s how come so many SJU Student Fellowship alumni came back to participate on Saturday, joining with current Student Fellowship members in singing or playing instruments or acting as ushers, or whatever – all there to ensure everything ran smoothly.

In our life in the SJU Chaplaincy, Setu also provides us with plenty of laughs on a daily basis. She doesn’t mean to, of course, but she does! She’s creative, idealistic, gifted in multiple languages, compassionate, kind, and is always searching for ways to make the world a better place – whether it’s some words of encouragement for our students on facebook, or through Bible Studies, meetings, organizing activities, outreach ~ she’s on the go from morning to night. She runs, yes RUNS around the office. It’s a small office, there’s hardly no room to swing a cat, yet Setu, on the move, manages to run! (She even ran on Saturday…. round to the front of the church!)

And guess what, in the process of all this, she totally forgets to eat. Breakfast lies unopened, or half eaten on her desk until lunchtime. Her lunch is still being eaten, one noodle at a time, throughout the afternoon. Actually she has much improved over the years, but hey, if a student asks Setu about the deeper meaning of life and the world and the universe, her face lights up, she stops running, and wow, before you know it, a whole hour is gone in deep and meaningful discussion.

And guess what too, in this respect, Jacob is very similar. While other couples might spend hours discussing how to decorate the house, what to buy at the supermarket, where to go on holiday etc etc; no, not these two. They thrive, positively thrive on discussing all things spiritual, philosophical, theological, ethical, moral, eschatological and, of course, meaningful.

So, not surprisingly, when it comes to arranging something as practical and down to earth as a wedding, well, it has taken rather a long time. They’ve kind of been ‘together-but-not-really-together’ for what seems like a century, and ‘married-but-not-really-married’ for the last five years. So, as our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang explained during his sermon on Saturday, their wedding celebrations were more of a marriage blessing, which of course in this situation is just as meaningful and moving.

Setu’s parents both died while she was at university in Taipei, and partly through that experience, she became a Christian and found much support and friendship in their Student Fellowship. She discovered the Anglican / Episcopal Church when she moved out to the countryside, not far from Advent Church, looking for a quiet place to write up her thesis for her MA in Japanese (on Shūsaku Endō, author of ‘Silence’), and has been here ever since. She LOVES the Episcopal liturgy and traditions, the spirituality and quiet reflection of monastic orders, and every year disappears off for a few days of silent retreat in a RC Retreat House. So, in planning her wedding, she invited her good friend, Fr. Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁), originally from France, now at the Jesuit Community at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei, to walk her down the aisle. In his speech, he said that he accepted the role as an elder brother in the Christian faith. And he looked so natural!

And the bridegroom, Jacob? He’s the man to talk to if you want a deep and profound discussion. In the days when we used to have monthly English Bible Studies at Advent Church, he would be the one to ask the most very deepest and most very profoundest questions, all the result of much contemplation and reflection prior to the Bible Study. In more recent years, since he got busy running his own design company, he keeps very unconventional hours, working very late into the night and sleeping very late into the day, and rarely gets to come to Advent Church, and if he does, well, it’s quite a bit later than everyone else. And because he usually wears a face mask, Taiwan-style, he appears even more elusive and mysterious! Kind of like James Bond 007, we all want to know what he’s thinking, what makes him the man he is! In the event, we needn’t have worried about what would happen on Saturday. Jacob rose wonderfully to the occasion, and did Setu (and all of us!) proud. He smiled all day long, graciously cooperated for all photos and charmed us all with his elegance and grace. Thank you to Jacob!

The wedding blessing service was led by Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, assisted by our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, with songs from our Student Fellowship choir, Advent Church choir, and supported by our seminarian Stoney on the organ and piano, plus former and current students all on hand to help as necessary. We even had live streaming for those unable to attend…

After the blessing of the couple, they bowed to the congregation in thanks – then we had THE KISS!

This was all followed by Holy Communion….

After the final blessing, we had the procession out of the church of bride and groom…

And the 2 best men and 2 best bridesmaids…

And so to the church centre next door, where we had a buffet-style reception (I found some interesting delicacies ~ rolls of bacon with a strawberry in the middle!)…

Jacob’s great friend is Rev. Joseph Ho, in charge of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung ~ Joseph couldn’t be with us on Saturday, but his lovely wife and gorgeous daughter and mother-in-law were all there, so we had special photos for Joseph!

The entertainment at the reception was provided by different groups of students and friends. Some danced, others sang, some had even written their own songs for the occasion. One group who were not able to attend were our Student Fellowship members from Malaysia who have all gone home for Chinese New Year. They had each recorded a short video of their greetings which was shown at the reception, so lovely.

And the other group who must be mentioned are Machiko, Junko and Megumi, who came especially from Osaka, Japan to attend the celebrations. Last summer they were here for our joint youth outreach (with our companion diocese of Osaka), organized by Rev. Lennon Chang, with much support given by Setu. I had the chance to take the 3 of them around Taipei on Friday, including a great visit to drink tea with Bishop Lai, and later accompanied them to Taiwan’s most famous dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Feng, kindly hosted by Rev. Keith Lee, from Good Shepherd Church. So, yes, a very warm welcome to them!

After the food, speeches and entertainment, we had group photos, first the family…

IMG_4078

And those belonging to Advent Church!

IMG_4087

By then it was already 5:30 pm and I had to leave to get to St. James’ Church, Taichung, in time for preaching at the English service the next day, so I had to leave before the photos were finished. Actually I had the chance of a lift to the MRT Station, and as it was pouring with rain and I had tons of luggage, I made the most of the opportunity, and got to Taichung by 9:00 pm. Since then, I’ve been sorting out the 604 photos that I took on Saturday afternoon. Ha ha, you’ll be glad to know that I am not posting all 604 here, just a few!

Thanks be to God! It was a wonderful occasion! We are also grateful that Setu and Jacob had this opportunity to stand together in Advent Church to receive God’s blessing, and that of the church and university community. Thank you to all those who organized, helped, supported, and made sure everything went so well. Yulin and Ro-Han deserve our special thanks, plus the church clergy and staff, church members and all who came to show their support.

We all love Setu and Jacob so much, and wish them all the best for their future together. Please pray for them, and give thanks to Almighty God!

CMS LINK LETTER # 74!

Hot off the press comes my CMS Link Letter, No. 74.  Just in time for Chinese New Year – YES!  And just in time for this coming weekend, mentioned in the letter.  Just click on this link below, it’s in pdf format:

Catherine Lee 74

The letter was actually written on January 24, 2018, and published by CMS (Church Mission Society) today.   Thanks to CMS for getting it out in time.

And thank you all for your ongoing support!

Hualien Earthquake, Taiwan’s East Coast

Please pray for Hualien on the Taiwan’s east coast, battered by a legion of earthquakes, starting with a magnitude 5.8 earthquake on Sunday February 4 that peaked with the main quake, magnitude 6.4 (registered as 7 in downtown Hualien) at 11:50 pm, last night, Tuesday February 6. Between those 2 major earthquakes, 94 shocks were recorded, with five of them reaching magnitude 5.0 or higher. Since last night, there have been seemingly non-stop aftershocks. Many of these have been felt throughout Taiwan. So although last night’s earthquake was not totally unexpected, the fact that 4 major high-rise buildings in Hualien collapsed as a result is a huge shock and major disaster, with the death toll rising by the hour and many still missing. The weather has been very cold, with snow on the mountains, but now there is heavy rain, which together with the instability of the tilting buildings is hampering rescue efforts.

The Taiwan Episcopal Church has one church in Hualien, St. Luke’s Church, and the vicar, Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu posted photos of the damage to the building (see below – click on each photo to enlarge). The church altar table, made of glass, was completely destroyed in the earthquake. Like many church buildings in Taiwan, the church is actually the ground floor of a high building, with apartments above. Fortunately, the building did not sustain any structural damage.

Bishop David J. H. Lai has today transferred an initial NT$ 200,000 (US$ 6,850 / GB£ 4,915) to St. Luke’s Church for repair work, and is encouraging all our church members throughout Taiwan to donate to St. Luke’s Church for relief and repairs. All church members are reported as safe, but many with damage to their homes and businesses, and of course shock and concern about ongoing aftershocks. Mr. Yang, chair of the St. Luke’s Church council, runs a guest house in Hualien directly opposite the multi-story Marshal Hotel, which collapsed in the earthquake, yet his building only sustained minor damage in comparison. Power and water cuts are an ongoing problem, and drinking water is in very short supply. Hualien has a high number of people belong to the indigenous people groups, and many are Christians, belonging particularly to the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches. Their faith and church community support will be a great source of strength to them at this time.

This earthquake comes exactly two years to the very day since Taiwan’s last major earthquake, in which another high-rise apartment building collapsed in the southern city of Tainan resulting in 117 deaths. That earthquake occurred during the Chinese New Year festival. This earthquake occurs one week before Chinese New Year, and people are obviously busy in preparations. Hualien is a major tourist city, due to the nearby scenic beauty of Taroko Gorge and the east coast, plus the indigenous cultures. Roads, infrastructure, hotels and scenic spots are badly damaged. Many people will now be putting their travel plans on hold, and sadly this will have a major effect on the economy of the region.

Your prayers are much appreciated. Thank you.

Updated on Thursday February 8: For latest news, check out these 2 reports both from the Taipei Times website:

Seven dead, hundreds injured in temblor

Building rescue efforts continue – about the way the leaning angles of one of the tilted buildings increased from 30° to 45° through the day, then at 3 pm, the building “visibly moved 4 cm within 10 minutes”….

Update from Bishop Lai’s office: The Rev. Joseph Wu reports today that the church is already cleaned up, and repairs are starting.  Joseph has sent these 2 photos of the church today.  Doesn’t it look different from yesterday?!

He also says that money donated by our churches in Taiwan or overseas will be used in possible relief work in the local community, but all relief will be done in and through cooperation with the Chinese Christian Relief Association (中華基督教救助協會) in Hualien, who are on the ground with experts and resources in place, and are coordinating relief ministry in that area. Joseph is still in the process of getting in touch with them and offering his help.

Updated on Monday February 12: Rescue work ends as quake toll hits 17

Updated on Wednesday February 14: Article from the Anglican Communion News Service: Church aids relief effort after 6.4 Magnitude earthquake strikes Taiwan’s Hualien county

Thank you all for your concern and prayers.

YIPPEE, SNOW!

Yes, finally, at long last, after 10 days of non-stop rain and more rain, and getting colder by the hour, today the rain has finally stopped, people’s moods have lifted, the skies have sort of cleared and in the far distance on Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山, just above Taipei City, there is SNOW!  YIPPEE!  The grey snow-laden sky is kinda merged with the white snow, but hey, check it out.  Ha ha, it’s there, honest. And just in case you’re still not sure what you’re supposed to be looking at – check out the arrows below!

IMG_3317_LI (2)

There’s no snow down here at sea-level of course, but still it’s freezing cold and we’re all bundled up with gloves and scarves and hats and coats etc etc.  Been dressed like this for several days now, it’s cold cold cold.  But today’s different, cos we are all so excited to see Real Live Snow! YES!  Albeit in the distance, 15-20 km away, but visible to the naked eye, even if not very clear on any camera.  So we’ve all been up on the 8th floor library building rooftop at St. John’s University gazing endlessly out at that distant view.  FYI, the altitude up there is about 1,000 m.

The last time this happened was exactly 2 years ago, and the time before that, well, was about a decade ago.  Before my time.  Hey guys, this is supposed to be a subtropical country.  We don’t have no central heating.  Or any heating come to that.  Only hand warmers, hot water bottles and extra layers of clothes.  And a few have those small electric fires in home or office, although there’s none here – our SJU chaplaincy opens onto the outside, where the wind howls and blows in all directions.  Ah, we just grin and bear it!  But forget the cold, today we’re all super-excited.  Just look at us all standing up on that 8th floor rooftop….  even though actually the photo doesn’t even show any snow!

27787077_1556915951088662_812858682_o

And in case you really want to see what it’s like up there in those mountains, these 2 photos below were taken yesterday up at Erziping 陽明山二子坪步道, by our good friend, Mr. J. C. Chen, who has kindly let me share them with you….a bit slushy by the looks of it, but oh so beautiful.

Yippee,  SNOW!  Happy Snow Day everyone!

And this is the view from Sanzhi late this afternoon!

IMG_20180206_182346_373.jpg

What a great view eh?!  And yes, plenty of snowmen being built up there, but so far, none down here!

Welcoming the Dean and Clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong!

After an hour of blue sky and sunshine last Saturday, the sun sadly gave up and has never been seen since.  It is a completely wet, cold and horrible week.  But kinda normal for this time of year.  Do not come to visit in winter!  Unless you are hardy and strong and very cheerful, like most Taiwan people or our eleven lovely visitors from Hong Kong (HK), namely the dean and clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, who are visiting northern Taiwan all this week.  They’re spending the week smiling, enthusing, encouraging and really enjoying themselves, hey, they seem to be having a great time, despite the weather!

27164371_1699781200078885_2921847074932811951_o

The dean, the Very Rev. Matthias Der 謝子和, grew up here in Taiwan, when his father, Rev. Edmund Der 謝博文 was the vice-principal at what is now our St. John’s University (SJU). The senior Der parents visited us at the end of April last year for the SJU 50th anniversary celebrations (see here).  So a triple blessing for us, 3 Ders in 9 months!

Every year, about this time, the dean and clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, HK go on a short study tour to interesting places, and this time, Dean Matthias has brought them all to Taiwan ~ yippee!  They have a packed programme, visiting our churches and sightseeing.  And the weather forecast all week is…. guess what? Rain.  Yes, rain. All week. And cold.  And horrible.  But y’know, they’re a very happy group, and yesterday on their visit to St. John’s University and Advent Church, well we had such a good time together.  Sharing about what we’re doing here in university and church, and hearing all about St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong ~ oh, and presenting gifts too. This is SJU President Peter Herchang Ay (left photo) and  Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang (right photo) with Dean Matthias receiving gifts from St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong.

Y’know what? St. John’s Cathedral, HK has 7 (yes seven!) services at their cathedral over Saturday night and Sunday, and their Sunday main service at 9:00 am gets 700 people.  And all the others together add up to over 2,000 people.  That is quite some number, believe me.  In fact, it’s about double what the whole of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan gets on a Sunday in all our churches put together.  How’s that for a challenge, eh?!

Anyway, they have lots of clergy, some also with responsibilities for daughter churches and they all come from all over, Philippines, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and UK.  Before we left for dinner with our church council members in the restaurant in Tamsui, we took them to visit Advent Church….

IMG_3305

And in case you don’t believe me about the weather, just check out what Dr. George MacKay wrote in 1896 after 24 years of living in Tamsui……

“The climate of North Formosa is excessively trying to foreigners. Those who have traveled in the Orient will understand that statement, but to the average Westerner it will be meaningless. In fact, it cannot be fully comprehended save by those who have spent a number of years in such a climate. . . . We have no frost or snow, and those accustomed to invigorating atmosphere cannot understand how at times in Formosa we long for just one breath of the clear, crisp air of a frosty winter morning. . . . About the end of December our rainy season sets in, and continues through January and February. It is rain, rain, rain, to-day, to-morrow, and the next day; this week, next week, and the week after; wet and wind without, damp and mould within. Often for weeks together we rarely get a glimpse of the sun. All year around we have to fight against depression of spirits, and say over to ourselves as cheerfully as possible: ‘Be still, sad heart, and cease repining; / Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.'”

(George MacKay, From Far Formosa, 1896.)

So to our wonderful visitors from Hong Kong ~ a very big and very warm welcome to Taiwan!