Category Archives: CMS

The Soul Trembles 顫動的靈魂…. Update from Taiwan

‘The Soul Trembles’…

This is us, facing a new situation in Taiwan, our collective soul trembling as a Covid-19 surge in Greater Taipei has suddenly wrenched us from our complacency that all was well. These last few days have seen the biggest community transmission numbers so far, and suddenly we find ourselves facing the reality that all of you elsewhere in the world have been dealing with for over a year.

Our little Covid-secure bubble of 23 million people has finally burst, the virus finding a way in through the Achilles Heel, namely airline pilots and crew, who were required to do just 5 days’ quarantine, rather than 14 days like all other arrivals. Living in our little bubble for so long has led to a false sense of security, so even those eligible for vaccines didn’t take up the offer, and the expiry date loomed. Now the rush is on; let’s hope many more of the 20 million doses ordered from overseas will be delivered soon. Meanwhile, Phase II trials of locally developed vaccines are nearly complete, and should be available in July. Until then, vulnerable is the word. It’s no wonder Taiwan’s soul is trembling.

The Soul Trembles’ is also the name of a new exhibition at the Taipei Art Museum, officially running from May 1 until August 29. Well it would be running if it was open, but only 2 weeks after opening, so it had to be closed, along with all other public buildings, under Taipei’s new restrictions.

The exhibition is by Japanese installation artist Shiota Chiharu (塩田 千春), based in Berlin. The title, ‘The Soul Trembles’ means for her, the ‘emotional stirrings of the heart that cannot be put into words’. She says, “In today’s contemporary age, everything changes at a rapid pace, and value systems are in constant flux: it can seem as if the firm and unyielding beliefs that society as a whole has relied upon are themselves being lost”. Seems fitting for Taiwan’s current situation. She specializes in using thread, representing links and connections, which she weaves all around the room in a huge web-like canopy. Her most amazing installation is called ‘Uncertain Journey’, a vast net of bright red woven threads coming from black metal frames of boats. Truly stunning.

Life is indeed one long uncertain journey. On Good Friday, we had a major rail disaster on Taiwan’s east coast with 49 people killed, over 200 injured. Taiwan’s centre and south are facing their worst drought in over 50 years, with big water and power cuts, threatening crops and Taiwan’s vitally-important semiconductor industry, the world’s largest. Internationally, we are all concerned about rising anti-Asian hate in the USA, UK and Europe. Seemingly contradictory headlines such as the 2020 global crime report that placed Taiwan as the world’s second safest country contrast greatly with The Economist’s front cover for May 1, 2021, declaring Taiwan to be ‘The most dangerous place on Earth’ (listed under ‘Superpower politics’, subtitled ‘America and China must work harder to avoid war over the future of Taiwan’). More soul-trembling food for thought.

Given all this, it’s really quite remarkable that Taiwan people are so calm and upbeat. And ready. Within a week, since 7 cases of community transmission were announced last Monday, rising to 29 on Friday then suddenly to 180 on Saturday, so everyone has retreated inside their homes, while all schools and religious groups have moved their activities online. For our churches, we remain grateful that we have got this far through the pandemic and only now have to cancel our Sunday services. I happen to be writing this in the 10-day period between Ascension Day and Pentecost, which in itself is a time of transition in the church calendar, reflecting the timing of events after the resurrection. It makes me realise how the disciples themselves had plenty of soul-trembling experiences on their own uncertain journeys of faith.

As I write this too, I realise that my own uncertain journey of faith started 60 years ago today, May 20, 1961, when I was baptized, all of 6 weeks old. In gratitude to God, family and friends!

Taiwan schools were still open last Friday, and I spent the day at our local elementary school. We played the game, ‘Twister’, where you put your hands and feet on different colours on the mat without getting all twisted up and falling over. I played too, it was such fun! One thing the children quickly learned was that if everyone on the mat is facing the same direction, it is so much easier, the game lasts longer and it’s more enjoyable. Cooperating together, making way for others, and keeping yourself balanced are the key. It works in life too.

Even if we don’t know how this current Covid surge is going to develop, and even if Christians in Taiwan cannot gather in person to worship this coming Pentecost Sunday or for the foreseeable future, still we can look forward to a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit as we step out once again in faith to continue our spiritual journey. We are sent out into the world to share the good news with our family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and those we meet on the way, and even if we cannot go physically, we are still called to action, which includes praying for each other. As we have prayed for you throughout this pandemic, so we also ask for your prayers for us all in Taiwan at this time.

Thank you, and may God go with us and be with us every step of the way.

The above is my draft ‘link letter’ that I sent to CMS yesterday, but as it takes about 2 weeks to process, so they have kindly agreed to me posting the draft here. Check back here for the pdf when it’s ready.

Updated June 2, 2021: Just published…

I first came across Shiota Chiharu’s art installations in the chapel at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2018, and immediately declared her to be my ‘new favourite artist’! These are the other installations in her current exhibition at the Taipei Art Museum….

Wishing you all a blessed Pentecost this coming Sunday!

CMS Link Letter #82

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

And the cherry blossom, which was just starting when I was writing the letter 2 weeks ago, is now in full bloom in northern Taiwan and up in the mountains (see my previous post here) ~ spring is coming!

I’m in Pingtung, south Taiwan, for Chinese New Year, staying with friends from St. Mark’s Church. This is after their New Year Thanksgiving Service yesterday, getting ready for lunch. They’re so friendly and sociable ~ we spent the whole day together!

Happy 牛 Year everyone!

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!

CMS Link Letter #80

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

I sent the link letter to CMS on June 11, before I had heard of the ‘Black Lives Matter Solidarity Rally’ being held the following Saturday, June 13, in the 228 Peace Park, Taipei outside the National Taiwan Museum – that’s the building in the photos below, built in classic Renaissance style by the Japanese Colonial Government in 1908.

I went the rally with Chia-Lin, one of our church interns, and we both felt it was very moving to join in. Now for the hard work of making change happen. Check out the Taipei Times report of the event here.

CMS Link Letter #79

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

I wrote the original letter on January 22, just before Chinese New Year, but the corona virus situation has developed so fast since then that the letter is already vastly out of date. So I have sent a prayer request to CMS for this week’s Prayerspace email, as follows:

“Catherine Lee requests prayer for the consecration of the new Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, on Saturday February 22 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. Taiwan has 18 confirmed cases of the corona virus, and fortunately so far all are contained. The Taiwan government is being cautious and vigilant. So far there has been no community outbreak, and as long as it remains this way, then the consecration service will go ahead as planned, although we have cancelled the consecration banquet on the Saturday evening, and travel restrictions mean that the archbishop and bishops from Hong Kong will not be able to come. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (of Royal Wedding fame) will be chief consecrator, and we are expecting archbishops and bishops from Japan, Korea and USA, VIP church leaders from Taiwan and a congregation of over 300 people.”

Your prayers are much appreciated, thank you – and please continue!

CMS Link letter # 76!

Just published in the last few days by the Church Mission Society ~ my latest link letter, giving an overview of my 6-months home leave in the UK. Click on the link below, and it opens in pdf format.

Since writing that letter, I’ve discovered that the front cover of the Taiwan Episcopal Church diocesan magazine (Chinese edition) for the 4th quarter of 2018 featured my photo, presenting the Archbishop of Canterbury with an artillery shell cross on behalf of Bishop Lai. Feeling very honoured!

I returned to Taiwan on February 15, and since then I’ve been very busy moving house, now I’m back on the St. John’s University campus. Grateful thanks to all in the diocese, church and university who have helped to make this possible, especially facing the challenges of the damp weather ~ everything everywhere was covered in condensation for days, just gotta smile! 🙃😊🙃 Now I’m looking forward to some warmer dry weather. Soon I’ll be set up for visitors too ~ so do plan to come and visit!

PS Update on March 5, 2019: If you’ve read my link letter, in it you’ll see how I lament the no-photos policy in Durham Cathedral. Well today’s news report says that as from this coming Friday, the photo ban is to be lifted. The link is here. At last! Thank you Durham Cathedral. I’m not expecting to be there again for a long time to come, but yes, it’s great news for everyone!

YES YES YES!

Church Mission Society CMS Conference @ Northampton ~ YES!

Lots of smiling faces at our Church Mission Society conference last week – and my new variation on a group photo… Hey, why all stand in a long boring line when you can do oh so much more?

IMG_20190202_175852_712.jpg

The conference was held at the King’s Park Conference Centre in Northampton…

IMG_8558

And it was great!  Great to meet so many old friends and make so many new ones, catch up with what’s what and who’s who, and listen and share and learn and enjoy.  And be inspired too.  The Bible studies were led by Rev. Anita Smith, former CMS mission partner in Nairobi, and they were brilliant.  All on Jonah, and all really I.N.S.P.I.R.I.N.G. Lots of other worship and prayer times and sessions relevant to everyone and everything as well.  And tons of good food.  And some rest time in the afternoons for exercise in the parks at the back – where the snow and ice were oh so beautiful!

P_20190131_074005_vHDR_Auto.jpg

Thanks to all at CMS Oxford for their hard work, time and energy in organizing the conference.  Being very modest, and very English, they all run away if I take out a camera, so you’ll just have to imagine what they all look like.  But I did get one photo of the most wonderful couple, Tanas and Anne.  Anne is our CMS personnel person for Asia and she does such a great job encouraging us all; emails from her always brighten my day, and make me smile.  Thanks Anne – she’s one in a million!

IMG_8564

While at the conference, CMS announced the appointment of the new CMS CEO, replacing Philip Mounstephen who left to become the new Bishop of Truro a few months ago.   Please pray for Alistair Bateman, his family and CMS – the link is here.

Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, and Taiwan is celebrating for the whole of this week.  Your prayers are appreciated as I finish my time in the UK, say goodbye to family and friends, and prepare to leave the UK on Wednesday February 6, first for Dubai, then Sabah, Malaysia and finally arriving in Taiwan on Friday February 15.  Hoping to write a CMS Link Letter somewhere en route.  Watch this space, and thank you all!

Oxford Vibes and more @ CMS-UK HQ!

Off to Oxford for 2 days ~ yippee!  Main purpose – to visit CMS Church Mission Society HQ today – to meet all the wonderful people who work there and share with them a little about life in Taiwan.  Oh, and to give them all a few smarties, glitter, bubbles – and fun.  After all there they are, working hard all day long.  Helping us.  Supporting us.  Always cheerful.  Always ready to stop their work and welcome visitors like me.  Ah yes, I’m so happy to visit them all 😊😊😊  – and this is the place, on the outskirts of Oxford….

But first a day of soaking up the Oxford Vibes….

IMG_0641

Yes, a whole day yesterday in that great city of learning, the ‘city of dreaming spires’ ~ Oxford!  What a city, what a university, and what glorious weather!

IMG_0741

I admit, I’m not an Oxford person.  I can’t recognise any college or building or landmark, haven’t got a clue what the colleges are, nor why they’re famous, other than just being part of Oxford University.  So all I can tell you is that the buildings and colleges are beautiful, and spires are many.  Spires and steeples and towers and gargoyles and churches and chapels everywhere.

IMG_0675

And amazing autumn trees…

And some street art, especially on the Cowley Road – this poem, ‘Slowly Slowly Cowley Road,’ by Steve Larkin…

IMG_0495

IMG_0563

And I found a tower, belonging to the university church of St. Mary’s. It’s £4 to go up, and well worth it on a beautiful day.  Great views of the Radcliffe Camera and lots of colleges. Do as I did and tag along with people who know what they’re looking at!

IMG_0658

IMG_0705

I spent hours walking the streets and looking at everything.  What a great city!

This is the area around Christ Church Cathedral, which is also the college chapel of Christ Church. £8 entrance fee, so I didn’t go in – too much else to see. And yes, there was a field of cows there too…

Came back along the Iffley Rd ~ Roger Bannister’s famous 4-minute mile was done here!

IMG_0832

Other scenes along the Iffley Rd, including the Mad Hatter Pub…

And The Oxford Blue….

IMG_0835

And so to CMS HQ today.  And it was quite some day. Non-stop action all day long. So many old friends and new, and lots to catch up on.  And photos to take.  Did a short talk about Taiwan at lunchtime.  And I was very well looked after for the whole day by Anne, who smiled all day long.  Ever cheerful.  The salt of the earth.  We all love her to bits.  Spot her in the photos below, we’re the ones in red!

These are all the great people who spent 30 minutes listening to me talking non-stop about Taiwan…. and they were still smiling at the end ~ YES!

IMG_0957

I presented CMS with an artillery shell cross from Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan, one for CMS, and one also for our CEO Philip Mounstephen as he leaves to become the new Bishop of Truro.  He wasn’t there today, so everyone else posed for a photo on his behalf instead!  Actually, Bishop Lai called me earlier this morning from Taiwan, and so I brought greetings from him to everyone at CMS.

IMG_0959

A big thank you to all those who made my visit to Oxford today really wonderful – including those in the CMS house where I was given a warm welcome.  And special thanks to all those in CMS HQ, these guys have been taking such good care of me all these years.  Y’know, CMS is a great group of people, and I love ’em to bits.  God is so good!