Category Archives: St. John’s University, Taiwan

St. John’s University Chinese New Year Banquet 尾牙 2018!

Yes, Chinese New Year’s coming soon!  The semester is already over at St. John’s University, it finished at the end of last week.  Local schools still have another week or so to go.  Offices stay open for a few more weeks after that.  Then yes, it’s holiday time!

The St. John’s University 2018 Wei-Ya  尾牙 Chinese New Year Banquet was held last night at Regalees Hotel, Tamsui – with lots of VIPs and speeches and entertainment and prizes in the lucky draw.  But of course the main attraction was the food.  All ten courses. Plus fruit. Here they are!

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Yes, all was mouth-watering deliciousness!

Advent & Christmas 2017 @ St. John’s University (SJU) & Advent Church, Taiwan

SJU is definitely a happening kind of place during Advent and Christmas!  Taiwan doesn’t have any holidays for Christmas, so apart from weekends, the students are here in classes all over Christmas, the office staff are working all over Christmas, the professors are teaching all over Christmas (and this year our engineering faculty / college had an OFSTED-style inspection starting on December 25!) so we just get on and make the most of it!

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During Advent, every department and main office in St. John’s University has an Advent wreath on display, and every week the St. John’s University Chaplaincy Team and student fellowship walk around the university campus visiting all those offices in turn, starting with President Ay’s office.

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We invite one of the staff of each office to light the Advent candle(s) and read a Bible verse, we sing a carol or say a prayer, share greetings, and move on to the next office.  It takes 3-4 hours to complete the circuit.  One day we also included our new class of Vietnamese students, who gathered in a large group and joined in…

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As there’s about 30 offices on the campus and we visit each office 4 times over the course of Advent, hey that’s quite a few candles being lit and prayers being offered!

Our students and church members have been busy for weeks preparing a Christmas drama, this year it actually included the Bible story of Christmas.  We had 2 teams rehearsing, one of students and one of church members – with some overlap; during Advent, we took the performance around the community to different places.  The students performed the drama during their evangelistic outreach event early in December, and on Saturday December 16, the church members performed the drama for our children’s Christmas party ~ it was fast-moving and thrilling to watch!

At Advent Church, we have said thank you and goodbye to Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, who after about 5 years of monthly preaching at Advent Church is finally retiring, at nearly 80 years old.  This was his last Sunday with us on December 10 – so we all gathered for a group photo.  Thank you Michael!

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My monthly visits to Laomei Elementary School (an extension of Advent Church ministry) also continued through December, with our theme of Christmas trees.  Ah, the kids are so much fun – these are the younger ones!

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Our combined SJU and Advent Church Christmas Charity Bazaar is held every year on the Wednesday before Christmas.  This year it was December 20, and everyone was busy for weeks beforehand getting ready.  This year’s charity is Taiwan Xi En 希恩之家  in Kaohsiung, which was founded originally to provide a way of helping mothers who might otherwise decide to have an abortion, and the charity’s home helps take care of babies and small children up to the age of 2 years old.  Our aim was to raise NT$ 250,000 and it looks like we might exceed that, thanks be to God!  Most of the money is actually raised from direct donations, but the bazaar gives the students a chance to do their bit to help, giving of their time and buying their lunch that day at the bazaar.  The day of the actual bazaar was dry weather – for the first time for many years!  Not only that, but the weather continued dry and even sunny throughout the whole Christmas weekend.  Possibly a first – YES!

The following day, Thursday December 21 was the Christmas carol-singing and final Advent walkabout, lighting all the 5 candles, and also visiting the student dormitories and our local neighbours.  We had also visited Xian-Xiao (our neighbouring junior-high school branch) a few days earlier for carol singing and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

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Then on Friday evening, our church members joined with the student fellowship and we extended our carol singing to cover the whole area from Tamsui up to Sanzhi. I joined the group that was singing outside the new ramen noodle shop run by our church members in northern Tamsui….

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And then all the different carol-singing groups met up to visit SJU President Ay’s home here in his university accommodation.  We had such a warm welcome!

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On Christmas Eve, we held our evening service at 7:30 pm, starting in candlelight, and wonderfully supported by our choir, who as always, sang beautifully.

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We had 2 baptisms that evening, Mr. Huang, brother of one of our former students who was baptized himself here a few years ago, and the other was our good friend, Jasmine Yu, in charge of Xian-Xiao School….

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Jasmine invited 12 members of her family to come and witness this momentous event.  These were virtually all people I know from the mountain-climbing trips we have done together over the years.  Apart from one of her cousins who is a Christian, Jasmine is the first Christian in her family, and yet they all came along to support her.  What a great testimony, and praise God!  Please pray for them all!

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Christmas Day, being a Monday, was a normal work and school day here in Taiwan.  We had a short service on Christmas Day, and then we had another one today, December 27, for St. John’s Day – patron saint of SJU…

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And last night, December 26, we had a wonderful Christmas Party for my combined community English class groups.  Normally I have 2 adult English groups, one meeting on Monday afternoons, and the other (a new class this term) on Tuesday evenings.  Actually the Monday afternoon group are mainly church members, and they took on the responsibility of running the party for the Tuesday evening group, who are mostly not.  Everyone brought food, wore red and we all had a great time. Ah, I love red!

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And just check out the fruit animals, made by Ms. Cho, one of the students!

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We danced, ate, played Bingo, musical chairs and musical animal statues and it was all so funny, I could hardly take photos for laughing so much. Spot the penguins. And the lions.  And plenty of other animals.  Just my kinda party!

SJU has a brand new set of LED lights along our main campus boulevard, strings of blue and white lights hanging from all the banyan trees, and looking very splendid.  The students are so impressed they are all taking and posting photos of themselves in the lights.  This was last night, the grand opening was tonight!

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Non-stop all month, and more to come lol.  For now though, this is it.  Christmas is well and truly upon us!

Belated Christmas greetings to you all!

Updated on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017:

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This morning in Advent Church we celebrated the First Sunday of Christmas.  As it comes only days after St. John’s Day on December 27, so our SJU student fellowship were responsible for leading the worship, doing the readings, the notices, collection etc.  They all did a great job!

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We also welcomed Bishop David J. H. Lai for a confirmation service…..

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Seven people were confirmed ~ ranging in age from 17 to 90!

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Congratulations to everyone ~ and what a great way to end 2017!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2018 ~ and I’m off to write my new year resolutions!

St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony (成年禮) 2017!

Every year in mid-November, St. John’s University holds a Coming of Age Ceremony (成年禮) for all of our first-year university students ~ plus SJU President Ay, faculty, alumni, tutors and staff.  The event is organized by the St. John’s University Chaplaincy, and takes weeks of preparation for our chaplaincy staff and the student fellowship team ~ but it’s all worth it, and every year we thank God for another successful event!  It’s also got high praise from the Ministry of Education too.

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And it all happened yesterday afternoon!

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The students (and tutors) this year all had special red SJU ties, emblazoned with SJU logos and words, and with matching white shirts (or black for some), everyone looked very smart.  Took quite some effort to get those ties on the right way, but everyone helped out their friends and in the end, they all looked great!  Many parents came too, and were warmly thanked and presented with gifts of potted plants, as were the class tutors.  We had speeches and music, a wine toast, formal bows, prayers and a blessing from Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang.  All this to mark the students’ arrival in the big wide world of adulthood, a world of maturity and responsibility.  Ah yes, a great occasion!

But, this year there were only 350 or so students at the Coming of Age Ceremony.  Looking back on these blog posts marking the same event over the years – they go back to 2012, when there were 1,500 students at the ceremony, and the hall was packed out.  In those 5 years, student enrollment has gone down by 200-300 each year – last year there were about 800 at the ceremony.  It is seriously worrying.  And it’s also a major problem affecting all of Taiwan.  A drastic fall in the birth rate (and hardly any immigration) is impacting all schools and colleges, from primary schools upwards. At university level, there are way too many universities and nowhere near enough students to go round, so the only way to keep the numbers up is to reduce standards – and for small private universities like ours, the problem is particularly bad.  Yes, these days we have lots of foreign students and lots of new and innovative programme to attract students (and keep them), but still, they are not enough to keep up with the falling numbers of Taiwan students.  Next year is a ‘dragon year’ of students coming through (there’s a high birth rate every dragon year!) plus we have the junior college students who, next year, for the first time, will be eligible to join in the Coming of Age Ceremony.  So we look forward to an upward rise in 2018!

So please keep us in your prayers and thoughts as St. John’s University works hard to resolve this problem ~ and face the challenges ahead!

PS The university’s own article (in Chinese) about yesterday’s event is here

Queen Crape Myrtle in Flower at St. John’s University!

‘Just living is not enough, one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower’, so said the butterfly in the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales…..

So today is a wonderful day to see the flowering Queen Crape Myrtle (紫薇花) otherwise known as Pride Of India, Banaba or Lagerstroemia Speciosa outside the multi-coloured Mechanical Engineering Building here at St. John’s University…

Beautiful flower, beautiful day!

St. John’s University Graduation 2017!

Yes, this past week has been the final week for our final year students ~ congratulations to them all!

Last Thursday night, our student fellowship had a big farewell event for the 7 student fellowship members who are graduating.  We all wore masks!  Of the 7 students, 3 of the boys are student fellowship leaders, Pi-pi is last year’s chairperson, and En-Zhe and Bin-Huan also assist in the leadership ~ and all 3 are very much part of the praise and worship team.  Their gift to the student fellowship was to publish a praise and worship book of favorite songs – some of which they had written themselves.  Here’s the 7, with the chaplaincy team…. see they are all very smartly dressed, the boys in suits!

And here is everyone, with and without masks!

Then yesterday was the actual graduation ceremony.  The St. John’s University 50th anniversary too.  Flowers and graduation gifts were on sale from early morning….

Here’s our team getting ready……

Our current student fellowship leader, Vincy carried the SJU banner at the head of the procession into the auditorium, and the 3 boys carried the cross and the candles.  Bishop Lai came too.

SJU President Peter Herchang Ay led the faculty procession. It is his first graduation ceremony as president.

It was hot.  Very hot.  The AC broke down.   But hey, everyone was happy!

Afterwards, the student fellowship all gathered in Advent Church for photos….

This is not an easy photo to take!  This is me (and En-Zhe’s father) taking the photo ha ha!

And this one was even more of a difficult angle!

Ah, it was a great day!  So so so many many congratulations to all our students on their graduation – and best wishes for the future!

50th Anniversary Celebrations @ St. John’s University, Taiwan 聖約翰科技大學50週年校慶!

An amazing week of 50th anniversary celebrations ~ and many many congratulations to St. John’s University.  This is the grand blowing out of the candles and cutting of the cake!

But first a bit of history….

‘St. John’s University, Taiwan (SJU) is the successor institution of the former St. John’s University and St. Mary’s Hall in Shanghai, two well-known education institutions founded in 1879 and 1881 respectively, by Bishop S. I. Joseph Schereschewsky of the American Episcopal Church.  St. John’s University, Taiwan was founded in 1967, initially as a five-year Junior College of Industry named in Chinese after its location, Hsin-pu (新埔), and in English known as St. John’s & St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT).  In 2005, it was upgraded to university status and became known as St. John’s University.  Its foundation was in large part due to the untiring effort and vision of Rt. Rev. James C. L. Wong, Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70.  The university chapel, ‘The Bishop James Wong Memorial Chapel’, also known as Advent Church, is located on the campus, and Bishop James Wong is buried under the altar. St. John’s University is an active member of CUAC (Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion) and the only such Anglican / Episcopal university in Taiwan; in fact it is unique in being the only Anglican / Episcopal Chinese-medium university in the world’.

On April 26, 1967, the Ministry of Education officially notified SJSMIT that they could start to recruit students for their 5-year junior college courses. The school dates its foundation from that day. Bishop Wong’s death on April 27, 1970 means that the last week of April is always a special week of celebration, remembrance and thanksgiving.

So we warmly welcomed a group of very sprightly and energetic alumni, all aged over 85, from the original St. John’s University, Shanghai, and the first group of alumni from SJSMIT, now mostly aged about 65, and also a reunion for those SJSMIT alumni who graduated 30 years ago this year.   We welcomed representatives from our sister schools around the world too, many from Mainland China and Hong Kong.  It was a special honour for us to welcome the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Paul Kwong (鄺保羅) who is also currently the chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, and Rev. Canon Edmund Der 謝博文法政牧師 and his wife Margaret, Mrs. Chee Ming Lee. Rev. Der was  SJSMIT Vice-President from 1972-76.  They are originally from Hong Kong, and their son, Rev. Matthias Der is dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong.  They have so many friends in Taiwan!  Here they are, Archbishop Paul Kwong, Rev. and Mrs. Der seated, with 3 of their (and our) good friends, including Mrs. Chao and Ms. Liang…

The 50th anniversary celebration week was launched on Tuesday April 24 with a lecture by former President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou, who started his visit by planting a cherry tree at the SJU main entrance….

On Wednesday, a special Thanksgiving Service was held in Advent Church, in thanksgiving for the SJU 50th anniversary, and for the life and dedication of our founder, Bishop James Wong.  The service is an annual event, but this year was extra-special as it was our 50th anniversary.  Bishop Lai unfortunately was unable to come, so he was represented by Mr. Richard Hu, chair of the diocesan standing committee.  We invited clergy from northern Taiwan to attend ~ Rev. Peter Chen and Rev. Elizabeth Wei, Rev. Philip Lin and his wife, and Rev. Lily Chang all came; as well as students who receive scholarships given in Bishop Wong’s memory, plus some members of Advent Church, faculty and staff. Our student fellowship choir sang and helped in the service….

After the service, in the Advent Church Center, our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang hosted the grand opening of a special 50th anniversary art exhibition ~ paintings and calligraphy of his Fu-Jen University classmate in the maths department, Ms. Tseng Hsiang-Yun (曾祥雲).  She came with her husband and many friends and classmates for the service and opening. Her paintings are beautiful, in traditional Chinese style, so colorful and exquisite, and people were particularly enthusing about her calligraphy skills.  Lennon had also invited our friends from neighboring Xian-Xiao Junior-High School to come too ~ a big welcome! Here they are with Ms. Tseng and SJU President Ai.

It was followed by lunch for all ~ I couldn’t resist taking photos of all the delicious food!

And a farewell photo of our northern clergy and friends as they left for home…

On Wednesday afternoon, SJU held the annual fun run, 3.5 km – around by the sea.  A group of about 20 of us from the chaplaincy and student fellowship entered.  The heavens opened just as we were about to start, so we delayed about 20 minutes and then started the run. But half way round, the rain came down again and we were all well and truly soaked through.  Ah, but it was great fun!  This is the ‘before’ ~ with SJU President Ai…

And ‘after’ ~ all soaking wet, but still smiling!

And the ‘in-between’….

The rain continued all day Thursday, but suddenly Friday dawned bright and sunny.  It was beautiful!  All classes were cancelled for this special day ~ an all-day Sports Day to celebrate the SJU 50th anniversary.  The grand opening started with a lion dance performance from 2 local elementary schools, and then followed by processions of representatives from every university department ~ and the SJU flag presentation.

The faculty and staff sports events were held in the morning, the students in the afternoon. We entered in the dragon boat race and the 11-legged race (yep, that’s 10 people in a long line, legs all tied together!)  We came mostly last in every race ha ha!  Next time, we’ll know better – for an 11-legged race, make sure everyone is more or less the same height!

It was hot and sunny, and oh such a great day!

And so to Saturday, and the main official SJU celebrations.  What amazing weather!  Early morning there was a fun run for the local community, the same route as on Wednesday, but this time under blue skies and sun.  We didn’t enter that one, we were still recovering from the run in the rain a few days earlier!  The VIP visitors, all the alumni from St. John’s University, Shanghai and SJSMIT, plus the Deputy Mayor of New Taipei City, Mr. Hou You-Yi (侯友宜) and local community leaders, Archbishop Kwong, Rev. Edmund Der and his wife, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and his wife, former SJU president Chen Jean-Lien, past and present members of the SJU board of Trustees, including former dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Rev Samuel Y. C. Lin and so many more, all gathered on the campus ready to start the main celebration event at 11:00 am.

Former President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou also came, and he was greeted by our SJU President Ai on arrival, who introduced him to his research expertise ~ solar-powered cars, which had been brought along for the occasion from the Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences.   They are quite amazing!  Then followed the formal proceedings and the grand cutting of the birthday cake, and lunch. Outside the students were enjoying lots of stalls and food and fun and music.

The VIP visitors enjoyed a formal banquet on Saturday evening at the Grand Hotel, Taipei, but for us, the final event was our student fellowship serving in the Sunday morning service at Advent Church.  For some it was their first time to take part in a church service. They were so nervous, but so willing to help, and yes, did a great job!

Thanks be to God for such wonderful weather over this past weekend as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of St. John’s University ~ YES, it made all the difference!

Thanks for everyone who planned, orchestrated and joined in the celebrations from far and wide, including our visitors in this photo – sent to me by Bishop Lai, of him with Archbishop Kwong and President Ma.

And finally, in deep gratitude and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the past 50 years ~ and we pray for God’s guidance and blessing on the next 50 years too!

St. John’s University Ground-Breaking Ceremony for New Changing Rooms 倬雲游泳池附屬建築物新建工程動土典禮!

Yes, it’s all happening at St. John’s University!

New changing rooms and fencing for the swimming pool are on the horizon ~ and yesterday the rain stopped just in time for the Ground-Breaking Ceremony ~ yippee!

Our SJU Chair of Trustees, Mrs. Cecilia Koo 辜嚴倬雲, who funded the original construction of the SJU Zhuo-Yun Swimming Pool 倬雲游泳池 (倬雲 Zhuo-Yun being the 2 characters of Mrs. Koo’s given name) unfortunately could not be with us for the ceremony, but SJU President Ay and many of the faculty, administrative staff and students joined us for the occasion.   The old changing rooms have been completely demolished and will be replaced.  The fence was blown down last year in a typhoon and will also be replaced.

Hoping to be finished in time for the new academic year in September!