Category Archives: Taiwan Episcopal Church, Diocese of Taiwan

Consecration of the new Christ Church, Chungli (Zhongli), Taoyuan 聖公會基督堂祝聖新堂感恩禮拜!

Today was THE day!  Christ Church, Chungli finally has a real home to call its own!  Yes, after 7 years of using rented buildings for worship and outreach, Christ Church now has its own building. Today we all gathered for the consecration. Thanks be to God!

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To finally own your own building – your own church – is really a great blessing from God.  Today the emphasis and atmosphere in the whole service was one of deep thanksgiving and appreciation to God for his many blessings to Christ Church.

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Christ Church has some very talented church members, and Jeff and Janey have designed the most beautiful logo, which was printed on the service books, on the magnet that came attached as a gift, and on their T-shirts. It incorporates the Chinese characters for ‘Christ Church’ 基督堂. I totally LOVE it!

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The new Christ Church is actually the ground-floor of an apartment building, and the floor above.  Upstairs, where the overflow seating was today, there’s also rooms for the Sunday School and accommodation for the vicar, Rev. Tsai Ching-Yi 蔡靜儀.  Downstairs, most of the space is taken up with the church, the worship area ~ beautifully designed and decorated.  I like it!  These are the views from higher up on chairs and stairs…

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Christ Church is really the daughter church of Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, part of the outreach and church planting program initiated by their rector at the time, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang.  Until Christ Church started, there was no Episcopal Church anywhere between Taipei and Taichung, a distance of about 170 km.  Then, maybe about 20 years ago, as land and housing prices in Taipei City started to increase dramatically, so Taoyuan started to develop ~ cheaper in price, near Taoyuan International Airport, the high-speed rail station, and easy to commute into Taipei itself.  So lots of new housing was built all over Taoyuan County, including Chungli, attracting lots of young families.

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One of these families was the Pan family, or I should say, one branch of the Pan family.  They live in the Pingzhen 平鎮 area of Chungli 中壢, and at the time, they were driving an hour to Good Shepherd Church every Sunday to attend the worship there.  William Pan (see the photo above – taken as he shared his story today) has the kind of job which involves lots of international travel, and it was actually his wife who was the one with all the local contacts.  She was very involved in helping at her daughters’ elementary school and had many friends among the other mothers.  They all had children the same age, and some of the mothers were interested in the Christian faith.  With that impetus, so Good Shepherd Church started renting a building very near that elementary school, and outreach work officially began in May 2011.  That summer, our then companion diocese of New Westminster sent a mission team who helped to lead a children’s holiday club in that first church building, a wonderful way to launch the outreach program.

Sunday worship started in October 2011 and the church started to grow.  In April 2013, the church moved to a different building nearby, just off the main street.  Until then it was just known as the 中壢關懷中心, Chungli Outreach Center.  On July 7, 2013, the building was consecrated, and Christ Church was officially established as a mission station.

In their hearts though, what the congregation really wanted was a church building of their own.  The one eventually chosen, which Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan have recently bought, has cost NT$ 20 million.  Although the worship area of the church is ready, the rest is still a work in progress.

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Today’s consecration service took place at 10:30 am, and was attended by nearly all our clergy, coming from all over Taiwan, plus church members from all over, too.  Rev. Joseph Ho (one of the clergy formerly assigned to Christ Church) and his group from St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung had left at 5:00 am this morning to get to Chungli on time!

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Good Shepherd Church choir sang, as did Christ Church choir.  We had a beautiful solo from one of the church members.  One young man was confirmed during the service, another played the piano, others were servers.  The different items in the church, the font, lectern, altar etc were all consecrated in turn.  And we had Holy Communion.  At the end, a presentation of a Bible was made to the interior designer of the new building, he did an amazing job.  And finally, well, we had a delicious lunch!

Today was a day of great blessing and great rejoicing.  God is gracious and faithful.

Thanks to Rev. Tsai Ching-Yi and all at Christ Church for their warm welcome and all their hard work to make today so special.

Please do pray for Christ Church as they settle into their new building and as they plan their summer outreach program.  It was wonderful to see so many teenagers there today – and their mothers, many of these are members of the original families who got involved way back in 2011 when they were just elementary school children.  Now they are serving in the church and will be helping to run the summer camps ~ ah yes, thanks be to God!

Advent Church and St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei 成果發表會 Show Time!

Two weekends of non-stop music, drumming and dancing!

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Yes, two different presentations, a double Show Time.   And it was all wonderful!

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Many of our churches put on an end-of-school-year performance for each of their community groups to do a presentation of what they’ve learned, just before they finish for the summer. These community groups are organized by the church, using church facilities, but with outside teachers or coaches, who may or may not be related to the church.  The idea is to encourage people in the local community and church members to attend the classes together. The students usually pay a small fee, but not always.  Classes cover very diverse topics, for all ages, for the active and inactive, for men and women, happening at all times of the day / evening / weekend.  And of course, all fun!

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The performance time is a great chance for the churches to bring everyone together and get to know each other, and through that, we hope that some more of the local community can join and maybe become part of the church ~ but there’s no pressure.

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Last Saturday was Advent Church’s first ever show time, held in the church centre, and today was the turn of St. John’s Cathedral.

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Some of the highlights are the Taiko Drumming Classes at both churches…

Then there’s Taichi at Advent Church….

Pilates, a new class at St. John’s Cathedral…

Praise Dance…

At Advent Church, there’s the student fellowship music group who welcome all students to come and learn …

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And Advent Church also organizes dancing classes for the neighbouring junior high school children…

We had lots of people in attendance at both church presentations, and we finished either with refreshments (Advent Church) or by taking zhong-zi home for lunch, this being the Dragon Boat Festival weekend (St. John’s Cathedral).  The cathedral also had some games and craft activities arranged for after the presentations, plus a lucky draw.  Both churches also had their clergy present to pray and / or give a short talk and welcome everyone.  Ah, there’s lots going on!

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My English classes run at both churches, here we are at Advent Church, performing a song from Sound of Music…

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At St. John’s Cathedral, we put a lot of effort into creating, rehearsing and performing a drama ~ of a class of ‘children’ who all have some ‘problem’, and each thinks of a great excuse to explain why they are daydreaming in class, haven’t done their homework, worn their uniform, late everyday, took a day off yesterday, their dog is barking outside or they’re falling asleep in the class. Ah, they were great, so creative and very expressive!

This kind of Show-Time presentation is one of the best things about the church in Taiwan ~ they really try hard to integrate their different community service programmes into their main church outreach ministry, and really try hard to find ways of bringing the groups together and sharing a little of the Gospel with them.  My English classes are a mix of church members and those from the local community, and it is often through friendships made in the groups that those from the local community start to come along to the church and maybe from there come to faith.

So, if you’re a church wondering how to connect the dots with your seemingly-unconnected-and-very-different groups of people who use your buildings, then this is one way.  Many of them may well be looking for a chance to showcase what they do, so as to attract more members themselves. A termly Show-Time is one way.  Highly recommended!

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Thanks to all those who worked so hard to make these presentations happen, and of course…  Thanks be to Almighty God!

‘Love and Peace’ Thanksgiving Concerts 愛與和平感恩音樂會: Welcoming the Lawings to Taiwan!

Wonderful visitors, wonderful friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ these last 10 days we’ve really enjoyed a feast of music welcoming Bill Lawing and his wife, Cynthia from Davidson College, N. Carolina, USA, and Cynthia’s sister, Gloria from Rollins College, Florida  – and some of the younger ones in their family too!

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The Lawings are passionate about their music and just love performing.  And smiling for the cameras.  And talking and meeting everyone.  So natural – yet so experienced, so professional – yet so down to earth, so talented – yet so humble and modest.  Everybody in Taiwan loves them, and from what they said, seems like they love everybody here too!

Here’s Bill, Cynthia and Gloria after their concert last night at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei with Bishop and Mrs. Lily Lai, Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, Rev. Philip Lin and Ms. Linda Lin, and Ms. Amy Lin…

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Anyway, on to the music – we had Bill on his trumpet, Cynthia and Gloria on the piano ~ and away we went!  This was their concert finale and my overall favouritest piece, This Little Light of Mine ~ recorded at St. Timothy’s Church…

While they’ve been here, they’ve performed a whole range of music at 2 concerts, 2 church services and 2 kindergartens.  What an honour it was to welcome them and listen to their music and watch them play.

This is a very short excerpt from ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’….

After a 16-hour non-stop flight from New York last Thursday, May 24, they arrived very early in the morning in Taipei, and after a traditional Taiwan-style breakfast, they went straight into practicing at St. John’s Cathedral.  Their stamina and enthusiasm were amazing.  And not just for music ~ Cynthia’s other great passion in Taiwan is the food.  The more local the better.  Street food expert extraordinaire!  So after practice at the cathedral, off we went straight to their welcome lunch with cathedral clergy and friends.  Ah, it was a busy morning!

Cynthia and Gloria were brought up in Hong Kong, where their family were members of St. Paul’s Church, whose rector was Rev. James T. M. Pong – he was also their close family friend.  He left St. Paul’s in 1971 to become Bishop of Taiwan, and in 1974, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop Pong invited Cynthia to come and give a concert tour all round Taiwan.  Those were the days of no a/c, just windows open and fans blowing – and just think, it was high summer!  This is Cynthia and Gloria at the diocesan office outside the room named in memory of Bishop Pong, and his photo.

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One of those concerts that Cynthia gave in 1974 was in Tainan Theological College, where Bishop Lai was then a student, and he remembers attending – and shaking her hand!  Fast forward 37 years to 2011 – and then 2014, and Cynthia was so pleased to be able to come back to Taiwan, along with Bill, offering their musical talents and skills to perform in a series of concerts.  So this is their third trip together and this time, they’ve brought some of their family too.  Ah, how we loved them all!

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Their first concert was at 2:00 pm on Saturday May 26 at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, the second a week later, at 7:00 pm on Saturday June 2 at St. John’s Cathedral.  Both concerts were co-sponsored by the Taiwan Episcopal Church and the Christian Tribune 基督教論壇報 – and  were on the theme of ‘Love and Peace’ 愛與和平感恩音樂會, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Bombardment, part of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, which saw about 480,000 artillery shells dropped on Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen.  It is some of these artillery shells, that, through Bishop Lai’s vision, have been made into artillery shell crosses, symbolizing the transformation of objects of war and hatred into objects of love and peace, hence the ‘P’ in the middle of the crosses.  This is Bishop Lai and Bill holding one of the original artillery shell crosses, and Cynthia holding the piece of marble that she picked up in Taroko Gorge when they visited in 2014, and which Bishop Lai has faithfully watered every day, and is now blooming with small green ferns.  In 2014, Cynthia promised that when it bloomed they would come back to Taiwan to perform again ~ and so here they are!

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The artillery shell crosses were on sale at each concert – here is Gloria and Daniel selling them at the cathedral…

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Bishop Lai and Mr. Luo from Advent Church have composed a hymn, ‘Raise High, the Transformed Artillery Shells Cross’ which we sang at the beginning of each of the concerts.

At St. Timothy’s Church, the first 2 verses were sung as a solo by Ms. Lynn Liu, and accompanied by Cynthia on the organ, then in the final verse by Bill and Gloria too.  This is the hymn, sung in Chinese.

This is Lynn with the Lawings afterwards…. so great!

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St. Timothy’s rector, Rev. Richard J. C. Lee shared Cynthia’s story with us, he also welcomed us all and Mr. Timothy Cheng, Christian Tribune CEO to speak.  Then the concert started, and we all relaxed, and enjoyed the variety of music on offer.  It was beautiful!

I videoed some excerpts of their concert in Kaohsiung.  Ah, I loved it!  A few I’ve put on You Tube.  Two short excerpts are here for you to enjoy ~ though I have to admit, I don’t know what pieces they are excerpts of, but hey, I like ’em.  Listening to music is a bit like enjoying nature, you can appreciate all the flowers and trees around you without needing to know the names of ’em all ~ well, that’s my idea anyway!

The concert at St. Timothy’s Church welcomed all our clergy from southern Taiwan, and many church members, some from every church.  In fact after the concert, each church group came up for photos together with the Lawings.  Everyone was so appreciative, and especially the youth group who’d come all the way from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, 2 hours drive north!

And a group photo of everyone at St. Timothy’s Church concert…

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Then off to dinner later that evening, hosted by Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang and the leaders of St. Paul’s Church, it was so so so delicious!  On the right is Mr. Di, who provided so many photos and live broadcasts throughout the concert and service.  Really appreciative of his help!

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On Sunday May 27, Bill and Cynthia also played 4 pieces during the service at St. Paul’s, starting with a prelude on the steps of the church. This is St. Paul’s Church before the service ~ that guy on the bike just happened to appear at the right moment!

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This was the Lawing’s main piece, played after the creed, I think it is also my most favourite of all!

They were also presented with small gifts in appreciation…

And of course, we all had a group photo after the service!

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Then off they went to Taiwan’s southernmost tip, Kenting, with Rev. Richard Lee and his family, and I went back to Taipei.  Seems like they had a great time there – then to Tainan where they played at the kindergartens and had a fun time with Rev. Philip Ho and his wife, Nancy at Grace Church. By Saturday, they were back in Taipei and we went to visit Bishop Lai for tea-drinking, always one of the highlights of their visits to Taiwan!

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And so to St. John’s Cathedral concert, held last night, and a similar programme to the one at St. Timothy’s Church.  So I got to hear them twice, ah, a double blessing!

We finished with presentations – Bishop Lai gave Bill, Cynthia and Gloria a small artillery shell cross each.  Then a group photo, as always!

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Today the Lawings were playing at Good Shepherd Church, and then leaving Taiwan to go on to the next stage of their travels.  For us, we have many wonderful memories of their visit, and especially their music.  It was great to welcome the younger members of their family too, they enjoyed exploring Taiwan.  Hoping they’ll all come back again soon, but in the meantime, we say goodbye with hearts filled with gratitude and love.

Thanks be to Almighty God!

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Keelung ~ Tenth Anniversary Celebrations 聖司堤反堂建堂10週年感恩禮拜 Congratulations!

Today we gathered in Keelung for a Thanksgiving Service at St. Stephen’s Church to celebrate and give thanks to God for these past 10 years ~ 10 years of amazing grace, wonderful blessings and faithful witness!

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This was St. Stephen’s Church Welcome Team all ready!

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And so many clergy, friends and supporters….

And all the clergy together!

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Keelung is unfortunately known in Taiwan as the ‘City of Unhappiness’, and in the outlying Chungshan District, there have long been particularly high levels of unemployment, poverty, alcohol addiction and mental health problems.  In 2007, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee and members of Trinity Church, Keelung had a vision to reach out to the people of Chungshan District, where there were no other churches at the time.  After much prayer, and with the support of Bishop David J. H. Lai and the clergy of the northern deanery of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, outreach was started, first in the local community center, then they started to rent a building nearby as a church.  It was that church (at St. Stephen’s first ever worship service) that was consecrated by Bishop Lai on May 18, 2008, exactly 10 years ago today.  In 2010, a timely grant from the United Thank Offering of US$ 50,000 helped towards the purchase of the present building, which is really a ground-floor apartment, converted into a church.  The basement is huge and extends out under the road, and is also owned by the church; it’s used as a classroom for the outreach program to the local community.  Today it was used as overflow seating.  This is the Holy Communion….

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These are 4 of the key people in the development of St. Stephen’s Church: from left, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee, Mr. Yei 葉錦地, the local community leader (li-zhang 里長), Rev. Julia S. H. Lin and Bishop David J. H. Lai….

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St. Stephen’s is a non-stop, very busy, very active, very joyful and happy place.  There are so many activities going on all day long, all part of the community outreach program for children, teenagers, families, women, men and seniors.  It was the community program for children that was so welcomed by the local community leaders when the church was first started.  The community leaders have provided huge support ever since, and many of them came along today!  Without them, it would have been much more difficult to gain the trust of the local people, but with their support, the church has been welcomed, and gained access into people’s lives – and hearts.  Lives are being transformed, step by small step.

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Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin 林淑華牧師 has been assigned to St. Stephen’s since it was established, and is helped by many local people who have made St. Stephen’s their spiritual home.  Ms. Huang Min ‎黃敏 (on the far left in the above photo) moved from Trinity Church to help support St. Stephen’s from the beginning, and is one of the pillars of the church.  These days, St. Stephen’s has a core of committed Christians on the leadership team, and many more helping run the different outreach programs.  One of our diocesan evangelists, Mr. Felix Ming-You Chen (right in the photo below, next to Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu) is also assigned there at weekends.  There is so much really worthwhile ministry going on, thanks be to God!

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Today, being a Friday, meant that most of the participants in the Thanksgiving Service were adults, as the children were all in school.  But we were blessed to welcome a group of children who formed the music group for the service, they came from St. Luke’s Church, Hualien with Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu, they did so well – even if they were squeezed into a corner and difficult to photograph!

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The other group who sang were the St. Stephen’s Church senior group.  Oh, they were so lovely ~ and so expressive!

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The service started at 10:00 am.  All of our clergy from northern Taiwan came along, plus quite a few from the south, and lots of church members too.  It was wonderful to see Rev. Richard Lee returning to visit from St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, here he is with Rev. Lily Chang.   Why are they laughing?  Because there is such a height difference between them that this is a rare occasion when Lily is taller than Richard!

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Many clergy from other denominations in Keelung came too, plus representatives of the different social welfare organizations who support the outreach ministry at St. Stephen’s.  All the St. Stephen’s people were wearing special new T-shirts commissioned for the occasion, they gave us as gifts when we left.  Plus wooden key rings etc, made by social enterprise foundations locally.

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The readings were Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication of the Temple from 1 Kings 8: 22-30, Psalm 84: 1-12 and 1 Peter 2: 1-5, 9-10 ~ and the Gospel was from Matthew 21: 18-22 about the fig-tree, finishing with, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  Bishop Lai referred to these in his sermon in the context of the history and testimony of St. Stephen’s Church.  All glory be to God!

Photos from the service today….

After the service, we had 2 birthday cakes, one on each floor, the one cut by Bishop Lai was provided by one of the church families, whose child also has a birthday today.   We also had lunch boxes, and lots of fruit and dessert.

And we finished with a presentation from Bishop Lai to Rev. Julia Lin (and St. Stephen’s Church) of one of Bishop Lai’s homemade wooden artworks, saying in Chinese, “God’s mercy endures forever.”

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Today’s Thanksgiving Service was such a great occasion, really special. For me, this is one of THE churches that I always try to take my very special VIP visitors from overseas who may be interested in frontline mission.  St. Stephen’s Church has such a testimony, transformation is happening in that area of Keelung, and real hope is being given to the whole community.  May God continue to bless St. Stephen’s Church and all who serve ~ and are served there.  Thanks be to God!

Off to Green Island 綠島 Lyudao, Taitung, Taiwan with the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會2018年蒙恩得福家庭生活營!

Ah, Green Island.  What a place it is.  For some in Taiwan it evokes memories of their youth and a taste of freedom as they rode motorcycles around the island enjoying the scenery.  For others, it evokes terrible stories of grim horror and nightmares, of stories told in secret, whispered between family members.  An island of such immense beauty, and yet, also such immense tragedy.

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Ironically, the most immense beauty is so well hidden that you only really get to see it by immersing yourself in the sea and either snorkeling or scuba-diving your way through the coral reefs, or by traveling in a semi-submersible glass-bottomed boat.  The fish and the coral are truly amazing.  We went snorkeling and it was really the highlight of the trip, and indeed of any trip to Green Island.  But my camera doesn’t work underwater, sorry about that, so all I can do is recommend you check out this You Tube video of someone who did go snorkeling in Green Island here, our experience was just like his. Which means we had a really fantastic time watching all sorts of fish of every different colour and size, all swimming so close.  And the really wonderful snorkeling coach turned out to be one of our students here at St. John’s University on a work placement as an intern for his last semester before he graduates next month.  He was great.  And he made the snorkeling so relaxing and enjoyable, even for our group who ranged in age from 13-83!  Here we are getting all dressed up….

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Green Island (綠島: pronounced as ‘Lyudao’ in Chinese) is “a small volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean about 33 km (21 miles) off the eastern coast of Taiwan”, originally inhabited by the Amis people.  The first Chinese arrived about 200 or so years ago and the only traces of Amis habitations these days are some ruined homesteads.  Most of the people live along the northern and north-west coast of the island, and are served by 2 elementary schools and one junior-high school, a small airport, a harbour, a Baptist Church, Jehovah Witnesses Meeting Place, lots of temples, one 7-Eleven, one Family Mart, one big 2-story Duty-Free Shop, restaurants and BBQ places galore, several soft drinks shops, many government buildings and a huge number of hotels and diving / snorkeling centres.  Tourism is the main business of the island. The harbour is lined with motorcycles for rent, ready for the passengers disembarking from the passenger ferries that make the one-hour journey to Taitung maybe 5 times a day in each direction.  Tourism big time!

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Every year, Bishop David J. H. Lai and Mr. Di Yun-Heng from St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung organize a 3-4 day trip for members and friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church to visit some wonderful scenic places.  In November 2017, we went to Wuling Farm in Taiwan’s central mountain range to see the beautiful autumn colours (see that report here).   This year, we went to Green Island from Tuesday to Thursday, May 8-10.  Sadly Bishop Lai was unable to come with us due to an important meeting, but 33 of us joined Mr. Di to go along.  It was great!  This is the first group photo…

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Church members and friends from our churches in Taipei, Chungli, Taichung and Kaohsiung joined the trip.  The northern group met early on Tuesday morning at Taipei Rail Station, where we had tickets for the 6:50 am train to Taitung. I had stayed overnight at the diocesan office hostel so as to be there on time, and Bishop Lai not only took me to the station, but also came in to meet everyone and pray for us all.  And he gave us some tea, which we were to enjoy drinking together on the trip.

The southern group traveled over from Kaohsiung, and the Taichung group joined them, and we all met at Taitung Train Station soon after 11:00 am ~ off we went for lunch and then to the ferry.  Actually I didn’t eat any lunch, in preparation for the ferry – which is renowned for being a rough ride.  Glad I didn’t, as it was rough, and many people were seasick.  Enough said.  It was only an hour.  I survived, many didn’t!

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The weather forecast was for the plum rains to come on Tuesday night.  In fact they had already come to Taipei on Monday night, but Tuesday was a mostly sunny day on Green Island.  We made the most of it.  The rain was coming.  Actually it didn’t really hit us until Wednesday afternoon when it poured down for several hours.  That cooled the temperatures nicely.  Green Island is famous for its high summer temps.  And for its deer meat.  And for its sea food. We had flying fish!

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We were staying on the northern coast in a hotel just near the sea, and we enjoyed all the views.  It really was so convenient.  Early morning walks around, and a half-day tour meant that we saw most of the island.  Even if it was in the rain!

One of the highlights was the Lyudao Lighthouse, which we managed to visit just before the rains started: “On 11 December 1937 the Dollar Steamship Company luxury ocean liner SS President Hoover ran aground in a typhoon on a reef at Zhongliao Bay. All 503 passengers and 330 crew survived and were safely brought ashore. Over the next few days the cargo liners SS President McKinley and SS President Pierce took the survivors off the island, helped by boats provided by the Japanese cruiser Ashigara and an Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer. Dollar Lines sold President Hoover’s wreck to a Japanese salvage company, which spent the next three years breaking her up in situ. In response to the wreck, members of the US public gave money through the American Red Cross for a lighthouse to be built near Zhongliao village. Lyudao Lighthouse was designed by Japanese engineers, built by local islanders in 1938 and is 33.3 metres (109 ft) high.”  And of course, it’s a great place for photos!

We spent Wednesday evening having a short service, led by Rev. Lily Chang, using the Ascension Day liturgy, in preparation for the next day which was actually Ascension Day. Lily shared about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘Thy Kingdom Come‘ Project, an international and ecumenical global wave of prayer between Ascension Day and Pentecost.  We spent time each thinking of 5 people we were going to commit to praying for over these 10 days, and spent a few minutes praying for them in small groups.

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And then we drank Bishop Lai’s tea.  Here we are making the tea and talking to him on face-time!

Green Island is beautiful.  Green.  Very green.  And very beautiful.  But unfortunately it has also seen a huge amount of tragedy.  And that tragedy cannot be ignored.   Green Island is a prison island.  There are three prisons in total, although only one is in use today.  That prison was within walking distance of our hotel.  The outside walls are decorated in 3D wall paintings, and there is a small field with goats there, plus all sorts of touristy things for people to do on a prison theme.

The other 2 prisons are no longer in use and are open to the public, located near the village of Gongguan on the NE side of the island.  I visited the place on the first afternoon, and also walked past early one morning.  Then we went as a group for a short visit on our afternoon tour – in the pouring rain.

The whole of the bay there is filled with prison buildings and prison property.  It is now known as the ‘Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park’ and is managed by the government department called the ‘Preparatory Office of the National Human Rights Museum‘, who also manage the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park 景美人權文化園區 in Taipei.  I went to Jingmei a few weeks ago, partly in preparation for coming to Green Island (my report about that visit is here).  The Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park is the site of the former Jingmei Military Law Detention Center of the Taiwan Garrison Command (1968-87) where political prisoners were incarcerated, indicted and sentenced during Taiwan’s White Terror Era ~ the suppression of political dissidents following the February 28 Incident in 1947. Martial law in Taiwan lasted from 1949-1987. Many went on to serve their lengthy prison sentences at the prison on Green Island.

The leaflets handed out at the Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park give a brief introduction, as follows, “The park was originally home to 2 prisons built to accommodate political prisoners during the time of the White Terror.  First was the New Life Correction Center (1951-65), operated by the Taiwan Security Command, reflecting Taiwan’s isolated position in the global Cold War.  Later came the Ministry of National Defense Green Island Reform and Reeducation Prison (1972-87).  It was also the time of the rising tide of the human rights movement, when overseas human rights activists came to the rescue of Taiwan’s political prisoners.  The postwar history of the repression of human rights in Taiwan finds its concrete expression in the relics and exhibition activities of this park.”

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The New Life Correction Center (1951-65) at its peak had 2,000 prisoners, divided into 12 squadrons, and from 1951-54, there were also about 100 women.  With staff included, there were about 3,000 people in total.  Conditions were harsh.  Hard labour involved clearing land, breaking up rocks and coral, constructing walls and buildings.  The authorities made certain that the inmates were kept fully occupied with hard labour and thought-reform instruction so as to tire them out physically and mentally. But every evening, prisoners were allowed an hour of ‘free’ time, and many used that time very constructively.  Today, some of the buildings remain derelict, but in others, the museum has tried to recreate the situation of the inmates.

One exhibit shows the translation of the ‘Life of Jesus’ that one of the prisoners, Mr. Tu Nan-Shan secretly completed, from Japanese into Chinese, with 9 revisions, during his time here.

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Another shows the violin that enterprising prisoners made from wood collected from a shipwreck, with the strings taken from wire from discarded electrical cable.

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Next door to the New Life Correction Center is the ‘Green Island Reform and Reeducation Prison’ (1972-87), better known as ‘Oasis Villa’ 綠洲山莊.  The main area of prison cells is in the shape of an ‘X’, for better control from the central area.  Lots of famous prisoners were incarcerated here, and “after their release, many of the prisoners jailed between the late 1940s and the late 1980s went on to establish the Democratic Progressive Party, most notably Shih Ming-teh. Cartoonist Bo Yang also served his prison terms here.”

In a separate heavily-gated section there is the solitary confinement area.  Some have padded cells.  Some are completely dark, others have only one small window at the top.

Finally there is the Human Rights Monument, where the words of Bo Yang are written in Chinese, translated as: “In those times / How many were the mothers / Who, for their sons / Imprisoned on this island / Wept through the long night?”  The names of all those who were incarcerated here are given, along with the dates of their imprisonment or death.

But the tragedy of Green Island is not just restricted to the prison area.  Even street art has appeared all over, some related to the prison.

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On my final morning, I went as far as Swallow Cave, which is at the far end of the bay where the prisons are.  Past the graveyard for the 13th Squadron, ie those who died from sickness or suicide.  Inmates, officers and troops were all buried together.  On the same site.  What irony.

Swallow Cave is dark.  Dark physically and very dark spiritually.  I prayed the whole time I was there.  Local people don’t go there.  It was the place where the prisoners were forced to rehearse and perform their thought-reform plays, paint their backdrops and cremate those who died.  Swallows were flying in and out.  Water was dripping from the roof.   It is a natural cave, but the black volcanic rock makes it even darker.  I hated it.  But I went.  Fortunately there were also many beautiful plants growing nearby.

The 2 Green Island prisons are not easy places to visit.  Nor the cave.  Nor any of the places where terrible things happened to the prisoners.  Even on the beach, where they had to break up the rocks and use them to build things.  It is all horrible.  Man’s inhumanity to man is indescribably awful.  And seen on Green Island in all its grisly reality.  The government is doing a good job of restoring the prisons and opening them to the public with so many helpful notices around the place, plus a lot of research and work on oral and written history of the prisoners.  It needs to be done, the truth needs to be told.  Even if it is uncomfortable and terrible.  If you are sensitive to this kind of thing, make sure you pray before, during and after your visit.  And pray for the people who were imprisoned on Green Island, or those whose family members were imprisoned there.  The evil and suffering experienced on Green Island did not just disappear when a prisoner was released or the prison closed down.  Healing, release, freedom and peace are not just needed physically, but mentally and spiritually too.  For individuals, for families, for the whole of society.  For now, and for generations to come.

May God have mercy on us all.

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And so to Thursday morning, and we went back to the harbour for our return trip to Taitung.  The ferry trip back was much smoother than the one coming, that was good news.

And I met 2 RC sisters at the Green Island harbour.  They turned out to be Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross 聖十字架慈愛修女會 who had been in Green Island doing some ministry there, and who are the same order as the sisters in Shangwu Village 尚武村, Taitung ~ who St. John’s University annual charity bazaar supported at Christmas 2016.  We had visited the sisters in Shangwu to present the money we raised, and I stayed overnight (my report of that visit is here).  Now these 2 lovely sisters were pleased to report that the work we had donated to, that of transforming their kindergarten into a day care center for the elderly, is now complete and the grand opening is in mid-June.  Wow, thanks be to God!

And so to Taitung, where Fu-Gang Harbour is full of blue fishing boats!

Green Island is an island of such great contrasts.  Well worth visiting.  Well worth snorkeling or seeing the underwater sea life from a glass-bottomed boat.  Well worth visiting the prisons and learning more of Taiwan history.  And well worth walking or biking around the island to take in the beautiful scenery.  Must go, must see!

This was my second trip to Green Island. The first was in July 2003 with friends from St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung, including many small children, when we went round on motorcycles.  That was fun.  But a little hot!  This time it was much cooler. Also great fun!  Thanks to Bishop Lai and Mr. Di for all their planning, support and leadership.  To all the group of friends and church members who came along and shared in such a good time, and so many laughs, and to all who took photos and shared them with us.

And thanks be to God for an amazing trip!

Updated May 18, 2018: The Taipei Times is reporting here on yesterday’s official opening of the Human Rights Museum on Green Island by President Tsai Ing-Wen, “The opening of the museum yesterday marked the 67th anniversary since political prisoners were first incarcerated on Green Island on May 17, 1951.”

Started Today! English Service @ St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

A new English service started today at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei!  Holy Eucharist will be held every Sunday from now onwards, from 9:00 -10:00 am, before the Chinese service at 10:30 am.  Today was a new beginning.  After a gap of many years, the English service has restarted.  The dean, Philip L. F. Lin and newly-ordained deacon, Antony F. W. Liang will be leading each service, Philip taking the Holy Communion, and Antony doing the sermon.  Bishop Lai was also there today and Mrs. Lily Lai, also our beloved Canon Chancellor, Professor Herbert Ma and his wife, Mrs. Aline Ma and their daughter.  Plus lots of church members. And some visitors.  I went specially for the occasion, and gathered everyone together for a group photo afterwards – one of many photos as it turned out, but this is the main one.

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The Taiwan Episcopal Church has such a friendly atmosphere towards taking photos that gathering everyone together at the end of the service for a group photo seemed such a natural thing to do.  Everyone was so happy to come to the front and take part.  Imagine doing that in any UK cathedral – Never In A Million Years.  Y’know, I like Taiwan, yes I do!

Please pray for this new service and for the cathedral outreach ministry.  Today was a great start, and it’s hoped to be able to reach out to welcome students from the nearby universities to come along in the future.  Praying for God’s leading, grace and blessing on all.

Congratulations to Antony F. W. Liang 梁凡偉 on his Ordination as Deacon! 梁凡偉傳道按立會吏聖職聖禮

What a great and joyful day for all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ for Bishop David J. H. Lai ordaining a new deacon ~ and for Antony Fan-Wei Liang and his family, in particular!  Many congratulations to everyone, and thanks be to God!

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This all happened last night, May 1, 2018, at a special ordination service at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei ~ YES!

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Antony and his parents are long-time members of St. James’ Church, Taichung ~ in fact, I’ve known him since he was a teenager.   Antony’s much-loved father is Jerry Liang, lay leader for many years of St. James’ English service.  I go there once a month to do the sermon and I know that whenever Jerry is there, the service proceeds oh so smoothly – but if Jerry is not there for any reason, everyone is noticeably less relaxed and anything can – and often does – happen!  Antony’s very lovely mother, Jean helps too, she is the world’s most amazing singer and oozes elegance, refinement and style.  Both parents are very committed Christians, the first in their respective families, and both are also retired teachers, devoted parents to Antony, and very energetic and supportive grandparents to Antony’s 2 young sons.   Ah, we all love ’em so much!  This is Antony and his family last night with Bishop Lai….

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So, some years ago, when Antony married his beautiful wife, Anita, the wedding too was at St. James’ Church.  And then the 2 boys came along ~ but in-between times, Antony responded to a call to enter full-time ministry.  For his theological college training, he had the unique opportunity, kindly offered to the diocese by Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong – and supported by Bishop Lai – to train at Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong.  He was there 3 years, while his wife and family stayed in Taiwan, living with Jerry and Jean, who rose to the occasion wonderfully, and provided the family with lots of love and support, as well as a warm and caring home.  Antony finished at Ming Hua last summer, and his graduation in February this year was attended by former and current rectors of St. James, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, as well as Jerry Liang.

Since then the family have been serving at St. Andrew’s Mission, Jieding, Kaohsiung, and most recently involved at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung at weekends.

Now, though, starting May 1, Antony has been assigned to St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, to be in charge of a new English service, starting this Sunday – and every Sunday – at 9:00 am.  Many years ago the cathedral had an English service, but in recent years it had stopped.  Now it is being restarted, and Antony is taking up the challenge – along, of course, with the dean, Philip L. F. Lin.

But first to Antony’s ordination last night…

And we welcomed church members and friends from all over Taiwan ~ and an extra blessing was to welcome so many of Antony’s fellow students, faculty, clergy and friends from Hong Kong, and specially Dr. Gareth Jones, principal of Ming Hua, who also represented Archbishop Paul Kwong.   Here he is with Antony… (notice the candle light that looks like it’s on the top of Antony’s head!)

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I counted about 20 visitors in the Hong Kong (and friends) group photo ~ wonderful!

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A coachload also came from St. James’ Church, Taichung – and they sang “I the Lord of Sea and Sky” during the service.  Loved it!  This is their group photo…

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And then we also had all our clergy in attendance, plus many church members, particularly from our churches in northern Taiwan.   These are groups photos from St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, Christ Church, Chungli, and St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung…

And this was the main group photo ~ kindly taken by one of our diocesan staff…

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All our happy clergy…

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Y’know, yesterday, May 1 was not just a special holy day, the Feast of St. Philip and St. James, it was also Labour Day – so quite a few people had a day off work.  In Taiwan the day off is limited to those who qualify for Labour Insurance, which does not include teachers in universities and schools, so the schools were open and students were in classes.  But our church kindergarten teachers and staff do qualify for Labour Insurance, so the kindergartens were closed.  The good thing was that many could therefore come to the ordination, including some of the teachers from St. James’ Kindergarten and Leading Star Kindergarten.  The bad thing was that everyone with a day off was out at restaurants, enjoying the beach, relaxing, and the roads were all full of cars.  Students were trying to get home, and as it was also a full moon festival, so there were temple celebrations and processions all over.  And in Taipei City there were Labour Day marches.  Ah, crowds everywhere!   Praise God we all got to St. John’s Cathedral more or less on time!

The service started at 7:00 pm, led by Bishop Lai, who also preached.  Lessons were read by Samuel Chen, senior warden at St. James – in Chinese, and by Jerry Liang in English. The service was full of meaning, and very moving….

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By tradition, Antony’s wife also gave a short speech after the actual ordination part of the service, she was wonderful – she thanked everyone on behalf of the family, and the whole family were introduced.  Dr. Gareth Jones also gave a short speech.  We had photos galore – and lots of meeting up with old friends!  So, this is the album…

A big thank you to Bishop Lai and all the clergy, staff and church members of St. John’s Cathedral for all their organization – and attention to detail, and the refreshments too.  This is the cathedral group photo, with our beloved Canon Chancellor, Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma in the front..

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We give thanks to Almighty God for his many blessings to the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and for Antony’s ordination.  Please do pray for Antony and his family as they settle into life at St. John’s Cathedral and of course, as they start the new English service this coming Sunday!