Category Archives: Advent Church, Taiwan

Holy Week and Easter 2018 @ Advent Church, St. John’s University, Taiwan!

Christ is risen, Alleluia!  It’s been a meaningful, joyful and blessed Holy Week here at Advent Church, St. John’s University ~ and now Easter is upon us, so a very happy Easter to you all!  This is the Easter fire, lit last night at 8:00 pm as we started our Easter Vigil Service…

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And the sun’s been shining all week, and the cherry blossom was still out at the beginning of Holy Week….. 

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Holy Week started last Sunday, Palm Sunday ~ YES!

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We began our Palm Sunday service with a procession around the main entrance of St. John’s University.  We were very pleased that Bishop Lai was able to join us for the service and procession too.

The procession wound its way around the church, where we have the Stations of the Cross, pausing at each in turn.  Then as we processed into the church, each person took one of the small green palm crosses…

During the service, we had a dramatic presentation of the events of Holy Week, acted out by our students, past and present…..

Then on Monday night, the St. John’s University ‘Movie Club’ showed the movie ‘Silence‘ 沈默 on a big screen on the main playing field.  This was not done intentionally for Holy Week, rather they had to choose an evening when there was no baseball practice, and they chose the movie because it was filmed in Taiwan.  But it so happens that it was so appropriate for Holy Week – and quite a number of us turned up to watch.  This was my second time to see it, and it’s much improved on the second viewing ~ like I knew when the gruesome bits were coming up, but also I noticed things I had missed the first time round.  Still utterly compelling and challenging.  Brutal and horrific, and yet also so moving. And so fitting for Holy Week.  For me, this was one of the highlights of the week.

On Maundy Thursday, we held our Passover Meal in the Advent Church Center, and a wonderful mix of students and adults came along.  This took a huge amount of work and preparation, but all worth it.  We were so pleased to welcome SJU President Ay and his wife too.

During the service that followed in the church, we had foot-washing.  President Ay had his feet washed by our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang – the teacher washing the feet of his former student.  We also had our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, washing the feet of Jin-Ching, our SJU Student Fellowship Leader, and Shu-Jing from our chaplaincy washed the feet of Pei-Ching, one of our 4th year students who was preparing for her baptism on Easter Eve.  We celebrated the ‘Last Supper’ together, remembering the evening when Jesus instituted the Holy Communion, and shared bread and wine with his disciples just before his death.

The altar had been stripped after the service on Maundy Thursday, and the crosses were covered in black cloth.  On Good Friday, it being a working and school day, we had a lunchtime service with our students, faculty and staff acting out the events of Good Friday – the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus, and we finished in silence around the cross and the altar…..

Then to last night, which was Easter Eve, Saturday, and we held our Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm, with the lighting of the Easter fire, and also 2 baptisms. It was great to see so many of our student fellowship coming along to support Pei-Ching in her baptism…

I was outside taking photos during the baptisms, along with a little 2-year-old and his father.   He was totally absorbed in watching events inside at the font….

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This morning, Easter Day, we could truly say, ‘Christ is risen, Alleluia!’  I even wore a skirt for the occasion, and got mentioned in the Notices as a result!  Advent Church was filled with wonderful choir music as our choir sang and sang so much beautiful Easter music.

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Yu-Jie accompanied the choir on the piano, and glorious sounds filled the church!

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Ah yes, and to finish, we had an Easter egg hunt!

And then we had lunch and birthday cake – celebrating all April birthdays.  Here we all are at the end of the service singing happy birthday together!

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And so, wishing you all a Happy Easter.  Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

R.I.P. Tan Mama 譚鄧承義姊妹追思聖餐禮拜 And what an amazing lady she was!

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Today was Tan Mama’s funeral and funeral party.  It was held in Advent Church, the sun was shining, the cherry blossom was out and Tan Mama would have been smiling!  Just like in these photos of her taken a few years ago!

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Tan Mama’s funeral was moving, dignified and fitting, a service that included Holy Communion, in which we thanked God for Tan Mama’s life and commended her into God’s care and keeping.  Her ashes were in a box (actually a chocolate biscuit box!) at the front of the church for the service.  The church was full, family and friends had come from all over. 

Following the service, we moved into the church center for the funeral party.  And what a funeral party it was.  It was totally in the unique style that is Tan Mama and all the Tan family.  She would have loved it! 

The church center was decorated with paper flowers and real flowers and with all Tan Mama’s beloved possessions, her large wooden cross decorated with horseshoes (from their own horses), her multi-coloured socks (Tan Mama ALWAYS wore 2 different coloured socks!), her hats with their beautiful feathers, her Bibles and books, her home-made candles, and all the T-shirts.  Yes, T-shirts!  The Tan family business is T-shirts, and they come in all shapes and sizes, colours and patterns, and with logos or words, many designed by Tan Mama herself.  And her homemade wine was offered to everyone for a toast! 

Tan Mama and Tan Baba have 4 children and 5 grandchildren, and all were there – the grandchildren sang 2 songs, and the whole family sang a song…. 

Some friends gave short tributes, some sang songs, others recalled happy memories of Tan Mama.  I was the last to speak, and fondly remembered Tan Mama’s love for parties.  She was the party girl of Advent Church!  Whenever and wherever there was a party, Tan Mama would be there. And wherever Tan Mama was, there was always the potential for a party.  If Tan Mama decided to have a party, well, it happened big-time.  She was the life and soul of any and every social event!

I’ve found many photos in my collection, taken over the last 6 or more years, many of them at parties or social events.  Spot Tan Mama in the middle of each, smiling away! 

Anyway, back to the funeral party today.  After the sharing time, we had yummy food to eat, and we were all given potted plants and chocolate-filled Easter eggs to take home.  Y’know, it was quite an occasion, never has Advent Church seen any funeral party like this! 

Tan Mama died on March 3, peacefully in her sleep. These last 2 years have been difficult ones for her and the family after she suffered a bad stroke in January 2016, but she valiantly rose to the challenge and determined to walk again, which she did, with some help.  What was amazing was the way the family cared for her and devoted their time and energy to the task. It is just so moving to see their love in action.

Tan Mama’s No. 8 younger sister came to the funeral.  Here she is today, standing in the centre, next to the Tan family cross with the horseshoes, with Hannah (wife of Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang) on the left, and Janet Tan on the right….

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Tan Mama was the oldest child in her family, with 10 younger siblings, and her family were Christians, all living in Sichuan, China.  She studied at West China Union University 華西協合大學 in Chengdu, and in about 1948-9 came with her then-fiancé to Taiwan – they married in Gangshan, southern Taiwan, where Tan Baba was stationed in the air force.  That was a period of major political upheaval in China, and like many others who came to Taiwan at the time, they had no idea that they would not be allowed any contact with their families back home for decades to come.  And so, sadly, Tan Mama was never able to see her parents again.  In recent decades, visits have been possible, and these days, we’re glad that No. 8 sister is able to come from Sichuan and visit, she is so delightful!

We truly thank God for Tan Mama’s long and amazing life (95 years or thereabouts, we never quite knew what year we were celebrating with Tan Mama!), her joyful spirit, her cheerfulness and friendliness, her warm hospitality and generosity, her witness for Christ and her dedication to her family.  And when I say ‘family’, I also mean all the animals that are so much part of the Tan family – their horses, dogs, cats and geese.  Nobody else in Taiwan has quite the family that Tan Mama has.  Yes, the Tan family are quite amazing!

This is Tan Mama in years gone by….

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Tan Mama and Tan Baba recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, and Tan Baba celebrated his 100th birthday only last week.  They were such a support for each other, and it will not be easy adapting to life without Tan Mama.  We were so pleased to see Tan Baba today, and he posed for many photos….

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We pray for Tan Baba and all the Tan family to know God’s strength and comfort in their time of loss.   Tan Mama was one very special lady, and we will miss her, but we thank God for her life and the blessing that she was to so many of us.  May she rest in peace and rise and glory.

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…

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And those belonging to Advent Church!

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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!

Baptism Day @ Advent Church!

Baby Jacob, Chinese name: 牧霖 Mu-Lin, was baptized today at Advent Church, on his first outing to the church since his birth 2 months ago ~ and he slept the whole time he was with us!

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His father and mother are so delightful ~ praying for this lovely family and the grandparents who were there too ~ they speak Chinese, Taiwanese, English and Tagalog between them, so hopefully baby Jacob will grow up to be multi-lingual!

Welcoming old friends from afar…. from St. Paul’s RC Church, Daya Rd, Taichung!

Welcoming Rev. Toon Maes 馬世光神父 CICM and church members from St. Paul’s RC Church, Daya Rd, Taichung 台中市大雅路聖保祿天主堂 to visit Advent Church today!

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CICM, the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scheut Mission) was started in Belgium just over 150 years ago, and has quite a group of priests in Taiwan from Belgium, Congo, Cameroon, Philippines and other countries.  Fr. Toon Maes is with CICM from Belgium…. and he is AMAZING – he just has so much energy!

Fr. Maes was born in 1932, came to Taiwan with CICM in 1959 and has been here ever since!   He used to be based at Jinshan Church and responsible for our local Sanzhi RC Church, plus Laomei Village, but a few years ago he took on a new challenge and returned to Taichung, where he’d been some years before.  It is through his vision and encouragement that until now, we are still doing outreach in Laomei.  And today he brought all his church members to visit us in Advent Church.  We had such a great time together.  Wonderful!

Long may our ecumenical links bring forth blessings to all!

Advent Church Summer Camp 2017 降臨堂兒童喜樂營 ‘YES! You’re Extra-Special!’

And what a camp it was!  Two whole days of fun, laughter, games, water fights, action songs, drama, handicrafts, prayers and much more!

The theme was ‘You’re Extra-Special’ – the initials of which happen to spell ‘YES!’… and that logo was on our dark blue T-shirts too, the YES is written into the shape of Advent Church… here’s some of us in the T-shirts!

The summer camp happens every year at this time, with a large group of lovely students from our SJU Student Fellowship group who spend 2-3 days in training and preparation, followed by the actual camp, open to children aged from about 4-12. Once the children are too old to attend, then they can come along as helpers and attend the training too.  So this year we had over 30 student leaders, and 55-60 children.  The kids come from all over the local area, and some are children or relatives of our SJU faculty and staff and live further away.  Two very small children had come from Yilan with their aunt, who is our school nurse ~ she said it was their first time away from their parents, and several had even come back from overseas to visit grandparents, so it was all quite international.  Here we all are!

Until last year, the summer camp was held in Advent Church (left), but since we now have a wonderful new church centre (right), we used that ~ and just look at the weather!

The overall camp leader and organizer was our just-graduated and former chair of the student fellowship, who we call Pi-pi ~ and he did a really great job.  He is multi-talented in music (here he is on the right) and all things related to talking (ha ha!) ~ and has tons of personality, always making everyone laugh, as well as good at organizing everyone.  We’ll miss him now he’s graduated!

He was ably assisted by Hong-Wen, one of our former students, and both were under the general watchful eye of Yu-Ru, our person in charge of all the outreach and social services of Advent Church, who also happens to be married to our chaplain, Rev. Wu Shing-Shiang.  And all of the summer camp comes under Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, our rector.  The ladies of the church (plus a few men!) had an amazing ministry in providing breakfasts and dinners for the whole 5 days – they smiled and laughed continually throughout. All helpers and students were invited to a celebration thanksgiving banquet on Tuesday evening after the children had gone home.  Here’s some of the lovely ladies!

Here’s our student leaders ~ taken after singing in the Advent Church service on Sunday – in the summer camp T-shirts…. they’re all set for the off!

We had some special visitors too!  Number one VIP visitor gave us a huge and very wonderful surprise ~ Sheerah from West Malaysia!  In 2010, she and a group from the Diocese of West Malaysia (DWM) came to Advent Church to lead some training on ‘Kid’s Games’, an international program using sports and games to teach children spiritual truths and character education based around the Bible.  Sheerah oversees this program in DWM, and she happened to be in Taiwan this past week, so she came along for one afternoon.  Amazing!  She is full of life and energy and ideas of what we could do together in the future too!  Here she is….. with Rev. Lennon Chang (left) and Rev. Wu and Shu-Jing (right)….

When the DWM group came in 2010, we did not yet have any students from Malaysia, now we have lots.  In fact we had 6 students helping on the summer camp who come from Malaysia, and one had even attended Kid’s Games in her own home town, Ipoh, which happens to be Sheerah’s hometown too ~ ah, it’s a small world!  And they were all so happy to pose in a photo together!

Next set of VIP visitors were from Lao-Mei Village, Taiwan’s northern tip, and one of my favourite places, since I go to the school for English classes sometimes.  Ms. Cheng (back row, left of Rev. Lennon Chang) brought a group of very happy children, and we were delighted to see them ~ with Yu-Ru too (right)!

And so ~ a selection of randomly arranged photos of the summer camp!  We had 2 or 3 us taking photos, so the photo numbers are all mixed up.  Thousands of photos in total.  290 on our church facebook page, and you’ll be glad to know, less than 60 here!  But all mixed up just adds to the fun!

Thanks to everyone for all their hard work, and especially to Almighty God for his many blessings!

PS We had 2 sets of identical twins on the summer camp, each set dressed alike, and all girls ~ taking photos is even more of a challenge than usual, hope we got them all in ha ha!

Happy Wedding Day Mr. You Bo-Min 游博閔弟兄 and Ms. Hsu Ying-Ping 徐穎蘋姊妹!

A beautifully sunny day at Advent Church for the wedding of our former student, Mr. You Bo-Min 游博閔 and his lovely wife, Ms. Hsu Ying-Ping 徐穎蘋 ~ congratulations to them both ~ and their families!  Here they for the group photo, titled ‘The Kiss’!

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Actually, Bo-Min has always been known to us as A-Bu-La 阿不辣, a good nickname for a fun guy, who loves to act and dress up and do imitations of people and pull faces and make everyone laugh – all the time, that how I remember him!  He’s now 28, and for the 4 years that he was a student here at St. John’s University, he kept us all well entertained, ah how we loved him! He was baptized here in Advent Church and became the leader of our student fellowship, and has continued on as a Christian. His wife Ying-Ping is a Christian too ~ they’re at the Torch Church at Taipei Main Station.

In the summer of 2009, Bo-Min was part of a student fellowship mission trip to Malaysia, led by our rector and chaplain, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang. Today a large group of about 30 former student fellowship members and those who went to Malaysia joined together to sing and play for the wedding.  Very meaningful!  They are such a great group, and today they helped with all the organizing and arranging too….

While Bo-Min was here at the university, we also did a lot of outreach in LaoMei, my favorite village on the northern tip of Taiwan, and 2 of the girls we got to know there came today. At the time, they were 12 years old, and they’re now 20!  Here they are with Hannah, our rector’s wife….

And so to the wedding ~ 9:00 am start!

Congratulations to Bo-Min and Ying-Ping, and best wishes and God’s blessings for their future together!

PS: I’ve been to lots of weddings at Advent Church and I think this is the first ever where we’ve had a whole group photo on the church steps with ‘The Kiss’!