After long weeks of hard work for the clergy, staff and students of our St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy – today was THE day, our SJU Coming of Age Ceremony!
This annual event is highly praised by the Ministry of Education, and is a wonderful way to welcome our first-year university and fourth-year junior college students into the grown up world. All have turned 18 in the past year (some are several years older), but this ceremony is a way of acknowledging their new freedoms – and of course responsibilities – now that they’re adults. Some of the emphasis is on thanking parents and teachers for their role in reaching this milestone. All the students were dressed very smartly in their new blue SJU ties – though some did need a bit of help to fix them!
Temperature checks were made at the entrance and face-masks were worn by all, except those on stage using a microphone. Taiwan continues its long run of over 200 days with no domestic transmissions of Covid-19, but the winter flu season is coming, and precautions are being stepped up – especially with increasing numbers of imported cases coming from overseas. Actually this week we have an Indian summer with sunshine and temperatures in their top 20’s, it’s really warm!
During the course of the ceremony, the students toasted each other with a small cup of wine….
Each of the class tutors was also welcomed to the ceremony, served a small cup of tea and presented with a poinsettia plant…
Parents were invited too, and also presented with a plant. This year for the first time ever, some of the extra speeches and presentations were replaced with a foot-washing ceremony. Parents were invited to take part, and 8 of them accepted – and had their feet washed by their son or daughter. For Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this is the first time he has attended as bishop and chair of the SJU Board of Trustees. His original idea was for foot washing with faculty too, but in the end, it was just the 8 parents and their children. It was really good and the atmosphere was great ~ the parents and students who took part were so happy!
As well as VIP speeches from distinguished alumni, SJU President Huang and Bishop Chang, one of the students always gives a speech, and we usually choose a Christian who then shares the story of their Christian faith. This year, it was a young man, Ricky from Malaysia, and he gave quite an amazing testimony. The prayers were given by Melissa, also from Malaysia – in fact both of these students are from Anglican Churches, and we’re so happy that they’ve joined our student fellowship.
The ceremony ended with musical performances from some of our student groups, including our student fellowship – and then finished with the singing of the SJU School Song, and the blessing from Bishop Chang.
Our student numbers continue to fall – at today’s event, we had somewhere over 200 students – but that includes both first-year university and the fourth-year junior college students. The last time I wrote a blog post about this ceremony was in November 2017, when I see we had 350 students attending the ceremony, the year before, in 2016, there were 800 students, and way back in 2012, there were 1,500 students in their first-year. We thank God for all those students who are here, please do pray for them. There are increasing numbers of students coming from Malaysia, and this coming winter vacation, they are facing the reality that they are not going to be able to go home for Chinese New Year, due to quarantine restrictions. Many of them will hope to stay here locally and find a job for those few weeks. Chinese New Year will be very different for those not able to go home. We are busy making plans, hoping to organize activities and meals for those who’ll be here.
Our student fellowship, led by Min-Wen, our chaplain Rev. H. H. Wu, and the chaplaincy staff, Shu-Jing and Tzi-Wei worked really hard to organize today’s big event, and it went so well. I just turned up 30 minutes beforehand to start taking a few photos (just in case you can’t spot me – I’m on the temperature check screen!) These are a selection….
And this is the group photo of all those who helped organize the event, along with Bishop Chang….. they’re all happy it went so well!
They all deserve a huge amount of praise. Thank you everyone, and thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings!