Category Archives: Taiwan Episcopal Church, Diocese of Taiwan

Fondly Remembering Mrs. Aline Y. L. Ma 馬蕭亞麟 (Ma Siao Ya-Lin) 1930-2022

Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, 2014

Mrs. Aline Y. L. Ma 馬蕭亞麟 (Ma Siao Ya-Lin) died peacefully on June 18, 2022, the beloved wife of Professor Herbert H. P. Ma (馬漢寶 Ma Han-Pao), Canon Chancellor of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  Mrs. Ma, always known affectionately as Ma Mama, was a gracious, kind and warm-hearted friend of all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church. 

Professor and Mrs. Ma with Bishop David J. H. Lai, 2015

Her memorial room has been set up in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and the family are on hand every afternoon from June 23-29 to welcome visitors wishing to pay their respects.  The private cremation service will be held on June 29, followed by the memorial service on Saturday August 20 at 10:30 am, which will also be live-streamed from St. John’s Cathedral.  The long gap between these events will, along with fulfilling Taiwan’s quarantine requirements, enable the grandchildren to come from overseas and the Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang to return home from the Lambeth Conference.  At this sad time, please do remember Professor Ma and all the family in your prayers. 

Yesterday I visited Mrs. Ma’s Memorial Room, remembering Mrs. Ma with her eldest daughter, Gabrielle

Professor Herbert Ma is a well-known figure in Taiwan, having taught law at National Taiwan University (NTU) for 52 years and served for 12 years as a Grand Justice of the Constitutional Court. In his retirement, he has kept in touch with many of his former students, including politicians, professors, judges and lawyers who count it an honor to have been in his classes.  In pride of place in the Ma family home are 2 photos of Professor Herbert Ma with one of his former students, former president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou 馬英九, who was among the first visitors to pay his respects at Mrs. Ma’s memorial room yesterday. 

Mrs. Ma’s Memorial Room, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Mrs. Aline Ma was born in Shanghai, China in 1930, but her mother died when she was very young.  Her father, a banker, feared for the safety of his only child due to the war with Japan, so at the age of 7, he sent her with relatives to Germany.  The relatives were based in Berlin, studying at Berlin University; and the young Mrs. Ma went to live with a Prussian general’s family in Brandenburg City, where she always liked to say she learned ‘order, discipline and punctuality’, characteristics which stayed with her throughout her long and incredible life.  The Prussian family had Chinese connections in Beijing dating from before the Boxer Rebellion, but they could not speak Chinese, and on arrival, Mrs. Ma had no German language.  By the time her father visited her a year later, her German was fluent, but unfortunately she had forgotten all her Chinese, and only remembers sadly being completely unable to communicate with her father.  That was to be the last time she saw her father, as war and civil war intervened and they remained apart for the rest of his life.  He later remarried and had 3 more children, all of whom Mrs. Ma got to know in later life. 

Mrs. Ma’s early life story (photo from the Ma family)

The young Mrs. Ma spent the whole of World War II in Brandenburg City, suffering along with the German people, but in 1945 she and her relatives escaped the Russian occupation and fled to Switzerland where she was sent to boarding school.  After graduation, she had no resident permit to continue living in Europe, and so in 1955, unable to return to China, she travelled alone to Taiwan.  Although she could speak German, French and English, she could not speak Chinese, which initially made it difficult for her to find a job.  She later taught herself to speak and read Chinese, but German always remained her first language. 

Mrs. Ma with her early life story (photo from the Ma family)

It was, in fact, her inability to communicate in Chinese that brought Professor and Mrs. Ma together, as they found they could communicate perfectly with each other in English.  Their fathers had known each other in Shanghai, and the young couple met for the first time at a wedding reception in Taipei hosted by mutual friends.  The Ma family had moved to Taiwan in 1947, and the young Professor Ma, then a student, was invited by Episcopalian neighbors to attend worship services in their home. Apart from his brother-in-law who had been baptized in China, this was Professor Ma’s first direct contact with the Christian faith.  The services (which expanded to become the cathedral congregation) were led by a pastor from the China Inland Mission, Yang Yong-Jing 楊詠經, who later baptized the young Professor Ma.  Mrs. Ma was baptized after her marriage, and eventually Professor Ma’s parents became Christians too, and all played an important role in the development of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.

Professor and Mrs. Ma on their wedding day, 1957

Professor and Mrs. Ma were married in 1957 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and their 4 children were born between 1959-64, Gabrielle 佑敏, Mason 佑聖, Vera 佑真 and Beatrice 佑遠. The family lived with Professor Ma’s parents, 3 generations under one roof. Mrs. Ma first taught German at the German Cultural Center and then for 30 years at NTU. As well as supporting her extremely busy husband, she also took care of their 4 children and her parents-in-law, and for some years led the cathedral ECW (Episcopal Church Women) and later the diocesan ECW.  In her retirement, she continued to inspire and support her family and church, welcoming visitors and sharing her warm hospitality.  Many of us count it an honor to have visited her home to listen to the story of her extraordinary early life, which has since been published in German and Chinese.  At every major church event, Mrs. Ma would be at her husband’s side, smiling and caring for everyone who came to greet them. Throughout their 65 years of marriage, Mrs. Ma has been a tower of strength and support for her husband, and Professor Ma has always acknowledged how blessed he has been to be married to such a great woman.   

Professor and Mrs. Ma with newly-consecrated Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and his wife, Hannah, standing behind are Mr. Gary Tseng, senior warden of St. John’s Cathedral and his wife, Mrs. Amy Chin, diocesan vice-chancellor: February 22, 2020

Since the pandemic started, Professor and Mrs. Ma have largely remained in the safety of their home, participating in church services and events online.  A few months ago, Mrs. Ma suffered a stroke and had been in hospital since then. The most recent major church event they attended in person was the consecration of Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as Bishop of Taiwan on February 22, 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral.  At the end of the service, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry paid tribute to Professor Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  By his side, as always, was his beloved wife, Mrs. Ma, smiling and content.  A great woman indeed, and she will be much missed by us all. 

Professor and Mrs. Ma with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: Consecration Service at St. John’s Cathedral, February 22, 2020

We fondly remember Ma Mama at this time, giving thanks for her long life of dedication and humble service to her family, her church and to Almighty God. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Happy memories of a wonderful lady!

Updated Saturday, August 20, 2022: Ma Mama’s Memorial Service:

Diocese of Taiwan New Friendship Magazine Just Published!

The latest edition of our diocesan Friendship Magazine, June 2022, is just published online, and the printed version will be coming out soon. I’m the editor of this publication, so please read ~ and pray for us! It contains news of all our 15 churches, photos, updates, and articles. We really appreciate all your support. Thank you!

It’s published under Friendship Magazines in the English section of the diocesan website: https://episcopalchurch.org.tw/ and also here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/18uNKbrMb29LkohavgYF0NbvHBkmVzsEz/view

Blog posts always look better with a photo – so this is from Advent Church last Sunday, red for Pentecost!

Happy Pentecost to you all ~ and coming up, Trinity Sunday too!

2022 Taiwan Diocesan Convention & Workshop: Next Year Hualien 明年花蓮!

Yes, we’re looking forward to it already, next year’s diocesan convention on Taiwan’s scenic east coast ~ St. Luke’s Church, Hualien here we come! We’ve just had this year’s convention online, for the first time ever, preceded by a day’s workshop held in person at the cathedral. We loved seeing everyone there but it was only a day, so here’s to next year!

Many years ago, we had a visiting bishop who came to speak at our diocesan convention / synod here in Taiwan.  He described his experiences of visiting diocesan conventions elsewhere.  In England, he said, where such events are called synods, they’re held mostly in a single day, usually in some cold and draughty church hall, with the wind and rain howling around outside.  Coffee may be served, but there’ll be no lunch on offer – you have to bring your own – all of which is considered quite normal.  In complete contrast, he described his experience visiting the USA, where such events are called conventions, and which often meet over 2 days in a 5-star luxury hotel with all meals provided, and all hotel amenities available for use; all at great expense to the church – but also considered quite normal. 

Workshop

And then he came to Taiwan, where we fit somewhere in-between – and he loved it! The friendly welcomes, the atmosphere, the dedication of our church members in attending such events.  Our churches take it in turns to host the event.  Many of our church members like to combine attending the convention with a visit to, say, relatives nearby or to some tourist attractions ~ but staying in a nice hotel, seeing all our friends again is the main reason why everyone is willing to come.  The Taiwan Episcopal Church is after all much like a large family, everyone knows each other, and many are even related to each other or grew up together.  The actual meetings – the reports, elections etc may be necessary but, well, let’s face it, they can be a bit of an endurance test.  It was during the online meetings at our convention last week that I remembered that visiting bishop and his experiences in England, USA and Taiwan, and wondered to myself if online is the way to go for future conventions (I hope not!) – or just how do we get the balance right?!  

Workshop

Anyway, aware that people need to be encouraged to attend such events, often held far away – but also aware of the costs and the negative image of church funds being spent on extravagant hotels, so Taiwan’s convention is usually held at a hotel that is mostly 3 or 4 (or occasionally even 5) stars, but one where we’ve managed to get a large discount through our church members. The costs are further reduced by holding the opening service and initial meetings in the local church hosting the event. This year it should have been the turn of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien.  Seeing as we were going so far, so our bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang also decided to organize a ‘workshop’ for the day before the actual convention started, intended for our clergy and church members involved in youth and community outreach. 

Workshop

Then along came Taiwan’s latest and by far the biggest Covid surge so far.  A month ago, cases started going up on a huge scale. With most people vaccinated, so the government has changed track from a zero-covid policy with lots of restrictions, to allowing normal daily life to continue on as much as possible.  They’re trying to keep hospital beds available for only the most serious of cases by allowing home quarantine for everyone else.  Apart from facemasks and quarantine rules for confirmed cases and their close contacts, Taiwan’s central government is no longer imposing strict rules and regulations on society as a whole, so it is up to individuals and institutions to make their own decisions.  Numbers are now up to over 40,000 new cases per day and rising, and the virus is everywhere.  During last week’s convention, two of our clergy had tested positive, and two others were in home quarantine due to their children’s contact with confirmed Covid cases.  We face an uncertain time ahead as the country tries to gradually open up its borders while at the same time dealing with a major surge in cases.  Fortunately, a few weeks ago, as the cases started to rise, Bishop Chang announced that the diocesan convention would be moved online, starting Thursday evening May 5 and lasting all day Friday, May 6, though the workshop would be held in person on Wednesday, May 4 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for those able to attend.    

Workshop Group Photo

And so it was that most of us gathered last Wednesday at St. John’s Cathedral. The workshop was actually a day of worship, sharing, teaching and prayer, led by the Rev. Ian Liao 廖文華牧師, pastor in charge of Truth Church, Taipei, 基督教台北真道教會, a large, growing and very lively church in Wanhua, one of Taipei’s poorest areas and oldest red-light districts. Bishop Chang had invited him to come to share the experiences of their church in community outreach and youth ministry. He was specifically asked to share not just their successes, but also their failures, and what they had learned from their ministry that could help us.  It turned out that Rev. Liao had studied for several years in the UK at Cambridge University, and while there had worshiped in a lively Anglican Church, so he was very familiar with our style of worship and liturgy. Living in Cambridge had clearly made a big impression on him, especially being surrounded by so many magnificent church buildings which had only a few elderly church members, or were even closed down completely and converted to bars and restaurants. He had also done a lot of research into our Episcopal churches in Taiwan, going on prayer walks circling around some of them and checking out nearby schools, colleges and other suitable places for outreach.  In fact, their church used to be located very near our cathedral, but they had opted to buy a new building in Wanhua to better serve the people there. He was very well-placed to challenge us all about our outreach ministry. 

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang presents Rev. Ian Liao with a thank you gift

This was the first time I had seen this kind of ministry event organized by the diocese as part of our diocesan convention and held in our cathedral.  Rev. Liao had brought the leadership team from his church, who led the worship, and during the prayer times, they moved around praying with different people.   It was very moving to see so many of our clergy and lay members respond to Rev. Liao’s call – and the moving of the Holy Spirit – to go to the front to receive prayer for their own children, those whose children no longer go to church or who have made choices in their careers or relationships which put them at odds with their parents.  It was also very moving to see so many respond to Rev. Liao’s call to come forward to commit themselves to ministry among different groups of people, and later he specifically called several clergy and their spouses to the front to pray for them, sharing as led by the Holy Spirit.   

Workshop

On Friday morning, Rev. Liao appeared by video to give the opening sermon of the diocesan convention.   It was a really excellent and very challenging sermon, and plans are already in hand here in Advent Church to show it to our vestry committee and church leaders too. He preached from Ezekiel 47, ‘the river from the temple’ and he talked about how the living water comes from the temple then spreads out from there. As we long for the living water of the Holy Spirit to fill our churches, so the living water will then pour out onto our local communities, bringing blessings to all.  With this longing in our hearts and filled with the Holy Spirit, so we need to start out walking, and we will see God’s anointing on our ministry as we go.  The deeper we go into our local communities, the deeper into the living water we will go, until, just as in Ezekiel’s vision, it covers our ankles, then knees, and shoulders, until we are swimming in this living water of the Holy Spirit. 

In Ez. 47:8, the water flows to the Dead Sea and the salty water becomes fresh – so as we move out from our churches, lives around us will be changed and relationships restored. Their church has a ministry in Ximending helping children with their studies in after-school classes and giving them evening meals, thus helping families, as well as improving results for local schools, so local people no longer need to send their children to schools outside the area to get better results.  In Ez. 47:10, ‘fish of every kind’ will fill the rivers and sea – so our churches will be filled with people of every kind, every age & background, rich & poor, indigenous and every ethnic group.  Wanhua was ground-zero for last year’s Covid surge, and their “Church Can Help” project helped deliver relief packages to 4,000 families during Level 3 Covid Restrictions, and some have started to come to church. In Ez. 47: 12, the trees will bear fruit every month and the leaves will not wither, and their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing – so God’s blessings are ongoing every month, but he blesses us not to make us proud of our achievements, but for us to continue to bless others.  That’s a brief summary!

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

In his sermon at the opening service on Thursday evening, Bishop Chang reviewed and commented on some of the lessons learned at the previous day’s workshop, and encouraged and exhorted all the clergy to spend less time in their church offices – and get out into the community, doing outreach and sharing the Gospel!

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

The opening service was held at St. John’s Cathedral, we watched it online.  After the service finished, Rev. David Chee presented a graduation certificate to Vivian Meng-Rung Kuo, our first graduate of the Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM), our newly-established diocesan theological college. Congratulations to her and to all at TSCM! 

Bishop Chang, Vivian Kuo & Rev. David Chee (TSCM dean)

And so to the start of the diocesan convention online.  The idea was that each church would host the online event for their own clergy and delegates, so everybody gathered at their respective churches – all that is except for those who were in Covid quarantine, who stayed home.  

Convention: Advent Church

So what did I learn?  Firstly, an online diocesan convention using zoom takes much longer than a meeting in person, especially elections for the different committees.  This was done by scanning the QR codes, and although it mostly went smoothly, it seemed to go on and on!  Normally our meetings run not just to time, but often finish early, but by lunchtime on Friday, we were running about an hour late. The fun thing was to check out all the different people and churches and how they were doing things there.  Some had their group sitting very close in full view – they provided quite a lot of entertainment as they forgot the camera was so close, while others, like us here at Advent Church had ours set well back, so we could even walk around and nobody would notice.

Convention

On Friday afternoon, after all the formalities of the convention were over, each of our 15 churches had 10 minutes to do a presentation.  This was really interesting, and each church presented a detailed vision and action plan for the next 1, 3 and 5 years. Our clergy tell me that this has been a really good exercise, sitting down with their vestry committee and praying and planning for the future. Most used PowerPoint to do their presentations. In my humble opinion, our Advent Church PowerPoint was the most beautiful, and our rector’s talk the most concise. We’re grateful to our chaplaincy team – to Yi-Ting for putting the PowerPoint together, and to Tzi-Wei , who was actually in the diocesan office all that day taking care of the zoom arrangements.  We did have a bit of a PowerPoint (PK) competition with Christ Church, who have Yu-Lin, one of our former chaplaincy team based there, well-known for her design skills – and theirs was looking very stunning too, but Advent Church was, well, definitely the best!  But Christ Church did win hands down on the yummy-looking snacks provided to their delegates, which were in full view of their camera. Ha ha, it’s the small things that matter!  It so happened that all their group of 6 were wearing blue, so they looked really well-coordinated.  St. Paul’s Church also had snacks available, we could see 2 bowls of fruit, including a plate of bright red tomatoes.  Looked good!  But the prize for overall colour coordination goes to St. Mark’s Church, who had large bright green divider boards set up to separate their meeting room from the actual church, and with these as a backdrop, so their PowerPoint also used that same bright green colour, and 2 of their delegates were dressed in bright green too – ah, l loved it! You can see them in these photos, check out the bright green! 

Convention

And so ended our diocesan convention 2022, giving thanks to God that everything went smoothly, and to the diocese for all the arrangements made.  St. Luke’s Church, Hualien had also prepared well for this convention, but then put all their arrangements on hold, so the plans are that this same time next year to actually hold the convention in person there on Taiwan’s scenic east coast.  YES!

Convention: Diocesan Office

Please pray for the 18 clergy and 15 churches in the Diocese of Taiwan, that all will be filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, and that we can all get out of our church offices and into our local communities to share the Gospel, bringing living water and changing lives!

Every year, we take a group photo at our diocesan convention, but it wasn’t possible this year. But we do have a group photo of our 18 clergy, taken during Holy Week at St. James’ Church….

Clergy Group Photo, Holy Week 2022

Please also pray for Taiwan as we face this major Covid surge in the next few months. Although most people over the age of 12 are vaccinated, there are a large number of elderly people who decided against it, and many are now confined to their homes – they are a major concern. Our churches are facing many challenges not knowing what’s ahead, and whether services, activities, summer camps etc can go ahead or will need to be canceled or rearranged online. Your prayers are much appreciated. Thank you!

Easter Joy! ❤️🐣🌼

Easter Greetings to you all, if a little late! Christ is risen, alleluia!

Out today, lily down at the beach below St. John’s University!

Lent has felt extra-long this year, particularly because of the tragic war in Ukraine – now on its 54th day, but also the pandemic – with lockdowns in China and Hong Kong. Purple is always the colour associated with Lent, symbolizing repentance, royalty, shedding of blood. This is our local purple wisteria, always in flower at the beginning of April…

Here at Advent Church, we celebrated Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey as people lined the streets waving palm branches, shouting Hosanna, welcoming him as king. It was last Sunday, April 10 ….

We had a procession waving palm branches going from Advent Church around St. John’s University (SJU) main entrance…

During Holy Week, SJU students had their mid-term exams, so we rearranged some of our usual Holy Week activities. On Maundy Thursday we remembered Jesus celebrating Passover and sharing the Last Supper with his disciples, also washing their feet ~ so we had foot-washing, Holy Communion and then the stripping of the altar, ready for Good Friday ….

On Good Friday, we remembered Jesus’ crucifixion with midday prayers around the cross …

On Easter Eve, I was at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for the Easter Vigil, when we lit the Easter fire and celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a traditional and very meaningful time for baptisms, with the symbolism of new life, new creation. I was invited by my good friend, Sheerah to witness the baptism of baby Eva and her husband, Yu-Wei’s confirmation. Big brother Ethan kept us all entertained! There was one other child baptized and nine confirmed. Congratulations to them all ~ and thanks be to God!

Baptisms and Confirmations at St. John’s Cathedral, Easter Vigil

On Easter Day at the cathedral, after the English service, we had a rare treat of hot cross buns, kindly baked by one of the congregation, so delicious!

Meanwhile, here at Advent Church, our 3 Easter baptisms were held during the service on Easter Day. One was Mei-Chin, who came to study here from Malaysia some 8 years ago, among the first group of Malaysian students at SJU. She also took part in one of our short-term mission trips to Myanmar some years ago. Finally, she has made the great decision to be baptized, ah we are all so pleased! New life in Christ ~ thanks be to God!

Our Easter celebrations take place in the midst of a big rise in Covid cases in Taiwan. Today, Monday April 18, we have 1,390 new domestic COVID-19 cases, a new record high. Every day for the last 4 days we have seen a new ‘record high’ ~ but so far, the growth has not been exponential, it’s going up by about 100-200 a day. Today’s figures: New Taipei City (that’s us!): 500, Taipei City: 270, Taoyuan: 187, Keelung: 115, Yilan County: 68. That’s all the north of Taiwan. Taiwan also reported 90 new imported cases today, 63 of them travelers who tested positive on arrival in Taiwan. The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths remains at 854.

From New Bloom: “Taiwan is experiencing its second major COVID-19 outbreak. The first outbreak began last year in May, after more than a year in which Taiwan was largely COVID-free. However, Taiwan is currently transitioning away from the COVID-zero approach it maintained for most of the pandemic to date. This is partly to reconnect with the international world, for the sake of the economy, but also is carried out noting how efforts to maintain COVID-zero approaches indefinitely in China and Hong Kong have led to explosive spikes in COVID-19 cases recently.”

“It was never an issue of maintaining COVID-zero forever, but what proves concerning for Taiwan is that first dose vaccination peaked just past 80%, with elderly individuals remaining hesitant to get vaccinated. In March, only 75.5% of individuals above 75 had one dose of vaccination, 69.9% had two doses, and 50.1% had received booster shots….. The Tsai administration has spoken of a “new Taiwan model” to transition back to normalcy. The CECC has also sought to emphasize that its goals are no longer “COVID-zero” but “zero COVID” for serious cases, with priority on avoiding overburdening Taiwan’s hospital system. As such, home quarantine rules have loosened to allow for home quarantine for light and mild cases under 65.”

Most of our church events for Holy Week and Easter went on as planned, though with fewer people due to this sudden surge, but future events are less certain. The good news is that despite 25% of over-75’s being unvaccinated (and many confined to their homes for that very reason), very few people in the active population aged between 12-75 are unvaccinated. With cases increasing relatively slowly, the government is encouraging everyone to continue on as normal, with facemasks and distancing. Many people are quite relaxed about the situation – but schools are not. They are very worried about rising infections leading to more cancelled classes and postponed activities, and are making plans for all eventualities. Here at SJU, this should have been our 55th anniversary celebration week of events, but most have been cancelled or postponed ~ better safe than sorry. Fortunately, many events are just moving online rather than being cancelled altogether. The good news is that tomorrow we can go to visit our local junior high school to distribute Easter eggs (actually hard-boiled salted duck eggs) to the children and teachers, sharing the joy of Easter with our neighbours. We’re making the most of every opportunity to share our Easter joy!

Thank you for all your Easter greetings, cards and messages. Please continue to keep us in your prayers, as we pray for you too.

St. John’s Cathedral Easter flowers

Easter Joy! ❤️🐣 🌼 Thanks be to God!

January: The End of Term ~ Yippee!

January: Chinese New Year is coming ~ so it’s the end of term for us all, and the start of the New Year holidays. Yippee! We’ve been working all over Christmas so a break will be appreciated by everyone, though we do have some more serious Covid-19 clusters breaking out which might restrict the celebrations. Everyone is busy cleaning, shopping and finishing off everything that needs doing – we have one more week to go to get everything done. And it’s the Year of the Tiger, so tigers are everywhere!

One of the features of Chinese New Year is family reunions, so perhaps it’s appropriate that January is always marked by the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Every year, here in Taipei, we have a Taizé Prayer Service organized by the National Council of Churches of Taiwan (NCCT) 台灣教會合作協會, and this year it was held on Friday January 21 at the Episcopal Good Shepherd Church in Shilin. NCCT is unusual in that it also includes the RC Church, so a broad number of churches were represented…. ah, such a beautiful church and service!

I’ve been very busy doing the latest Diocese of Taiwan Friendship Magazine, which has just been published, and can be found here. There’s lots of news, reports and photos of all that’s happening in the diocese. It’s also available on the diocesan website here: https://episcopalchurch.org.tw/ under the English section.

And my next task: a CMS Link Letter ~ watch this space!

Taiwan Methodist & Episcopal Churches Sign Historic Agreement of Cooperation in Theological Education 衛理神學研究院與三一書院合作簽約聯合感恩聖餐崇拜

Bishops, deans and clergy of Taiwan Methodist & Episcopal Churches

This special event was given added significance through the kindness of Mr. Gregory Chen 陳國瑞 of the Roman Catholic Church, who designed and made four beautiful stoles for the occasion, two for each church. The stoles have the logos of the Methodist Graduate School of Theology (MGST) 衛理神學研究院 and the Taiwan Episcopal Church’s Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM) 三一書院, and were worn by both bishops and their chaplains at the service …..

Stoles: (left to right) Rev. Tai-Yao Chiu, Bishop Kwan-Wah Pong, Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang, Rev. Antony F. W. Liang, Mr. Gregory Chen

The signing of the agreement took place during a Thanksgiving Service held at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei at 3:30 pm on Saturday October 30, 2021, postponed from the original date of Trinity Sunday, May 30, due to the pandemic. Taiwan is currently under Level 2 Restrictions, so facemasks are compulsory at all indoor events, but are allowed to be removed for a few seconds to take group photos. This was the whole group after the service …..

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮主教 of the Taiwan Episcopal Church and Bishop Kwan-Wah Pong 龐君華會督 (Pang Jun-Hua) of the Methodist Church both spoke of how they share a common vision for cooperation together in the field of theological education, drawing on much that our churches share in history, tradition, experience and culture. In fact, when Bishop Chang first approached Bishop Pong about the idea of working together, Bishop Pong said he had already been wondering whether such cooperation would be possible, so he was delighted!

Agreement of Cooperation signed by: (left to right) Bishop Chang, Rev. Canon David Chee TSCM, Rev. Feng-Chuan Lin MGST, Bishop Pong

Since becoming Bishop of Taiwan last year, Bishop Chang has re-established and expanded Trinity Hall (originally founded in 1984), the diocesan theological program through which he himself did all his theological study. It is now known as Trinity School for Christian Ministry, under dean Rev. Canon David Chee 徐子賢院長, and working in cooperation with St. John’s University, Taipei. The Taiwan Episcopal Church has always been too small to operate its own theological college, and in the past has relied on sending seminarians to be trained at Taiwan’s Presbyterian or RC colleges (with supplementary courses at Trinity Hall on Anglicanism), and more recently Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong. Currently we have one first-year seminarian studying at Virginia Theological Seminary in the USA, two who have studied elsewhere and are now upgrading / completing their courses through TSCM, and we have two first-year seminarians who have just started full-time at TSCM this semester (they led the procession into the cathedral)….

‘The Methodist Church in the Republic of China’ (its official name) 中華基督教衛理公會 is much larger than the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and its Methodist Graduate School of Theology (now under their acting president, Rev. Feng-Chuan Lin 林烽銓院長) was established in 1997, with a permanent college base in Taipei City. Their students all attended the Thanksgiving Service, as did ours from TSCM. The Methodist Church also brought a choir to the Thanksgiving Service, and they sang 2 beautiful songs, one in English, ‘Jesus Changes Everything’ during the signing ceremony, and ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’, sung in Chinese during Holy Communion.

According to the new theological education cooperation agreement, seminarians from both churches are eligible to study on courses at both institutions, credits will be transferable, and there are plans for faculty exchange, joint seminars and other sharing of resources as the program develops. Each church normally has stringent procedures and discernment processes for admittance as a diocesan seminarian; under this agreement, each church will also accept the other church’s seminarians into their theological programs, meaning they will not have to apply for admission separately. Already our two first-year seminarians are taking courses at MGST, with some classes online and others in-person.

The Signing Ceremony….

Both Bishop Chang and Bishop Pong mentioned that the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley remained in the Church of England, the Anglican Church, until the day they died. They did not join the Methodist Church. Now, as Anglican and Methodist Churches in the UK and USA are working together more and more, so we in Taiwan are also called to cooperate together in a spirit of ecumenism and unity. In Taiwan our denominations are small, so collaborating together in theological education will bring great benefits to both churches, helping us to train seminarians and church workers more effectively in ministry.

After the signing ceremony, Holy Communion was celebrated together by Bishop Chang and Bishop Pong, symbolizing our belonging to one family in Christ. Bishop Pong gave the final blessing.

We give thanks to God for this historic and memorable day, for the agreement signed and those who are on the frontlines at TSCM and MGST in making this cooperation happen, including Rev. Antony F. W. Liang 梁凡偉牧師 and Rev. Tai-Yao Chiu 邱泰耀牧師 who served as bishop’s chaplains at the service and wore the specially-designed stoles. We ask you to pray in the days ahead as our churches work more closely together in the field of theological education. To God be the glory!

A great day indeed, and yes, John and Charles Wesley would have been so proud!

The Christian Tribune report of this event in Chinese is here

Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao 廖金陵牧師 (1947-2021) In Memoriam

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao 廖金陵牧師 died on September 23, 2021 in Tainan, Taiwan. His Cremation was held in Tainan on September 30, 2021, followed by Interment of Ashes within St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei the following day. The Memorial Service was held on Friday October 8, 2021 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Under Taiwan’s Level 2 Pandemic Restrictions, 80 people are allowed to attend indoor gatherings. All 80 places for the Memorial Service were fully booked several days beforehand, and people traveled from all corners of the country to attend. Bishop of Taiwan Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, St. John’s Cathedral Dean Philip L. F. Lin and Rev. C. C. Cheng led the service, with Rev. Canon David Chee as preacher. The service included Holy Communion, celebrated by Bishop Chang. There were 2 powerful and moving solos, Pie Jesu and Panis Angelicus, sung by Ms. Wang, music teacher and friend of Rev. Liao’s daughter. The flowers were beautifully arranged by Ms. Susan Shih from Good Shepherd Church. During the service, a video of photos of Rev. Liao was shown, with a short tribute and words of appreciation on behalf of the family from Rev. Liao’s son, Sung-En. Rev. Liao’s daughter, Sung-Jen had thoughtfully prepared a small box of her delicious home-made cookies for each person to take home.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Rev. Samuel Liao took early retirement from full-time church ministry aged 60 in February 2008 for health reasons. Over time, his kidney dialysis treatments required that he spend longer and longer periods in hospital, and in recent years, he lived full-time at the hospital and visited his home at weekends. During the pandemic, he was completely confined to the hospital, but his mind remained very active. He may have been physically confined, but was certainly not spiritually or mentally so. He continued to help and support the church in whatever way he could, and was a source of great encouragement to many.

Rev. Samuel K. L. Liao

Rev. Liao was a much-loved friend of Rev. Canon David Chee, who started his sermon at the Memorial Service with the words, “Rev. Samuel K. L. Liao loved his church deeply, he loved his church members, he loved his church buildings, he loved the Anglican Communion and the Taiwan Episcopal Church”. And he continued on to share about Rev. Liao’s ministry of pastoral care, how he would listen carefully to all those who wanted to share with him, and he would remember long afterwards everything they had said in great detail. His memory was excellent! Rev. Canon David Chee shared moving stories of how Rev. Liao was also well-known for his high standards of cleanliness, and at each church he served, he would personally put a lot of time and energy into making sure the church building and surroundings were spotlessly clean. In the diocese, Rev. Liao was most appreciated for his phenomenal knowledge of the history of the Anglican / Episcopal Church, but he was also very knowledgeable about world history and geography in general. He was extremely humble, gentle, generous and showed great patience, particularly as he faced many years of failing health after his retirement. He was well-prepared for death; his hope was in Christ, in the resurrection of the dead, and in everlasting life.

All Saints, Kangshan

The last time I met Rev. Samuel Liao was at Grace Church, Tainan at Chinese New Year in 2019, and we had also met at Grace Church the previous Chinese New Year too. The last time I talked to him was in June 2021 when I phoned to wish him a Happy Dragon Boat Festival. We talked for 20 minutes about his great love for the Anglican Church, his wide reading of English history and love for church traditions, and how he continued to serve as spiritual advisor to 2 of our seminarians, using just his cellphone. He talked about how delighted he was that one of his Maori classmates (from the year he spent at St. John’s Theological College, Auckland in 1984), now a bishop in New Zealand, had come to Taiwan for a conference only a few months earlier, and had been to Tainan to visit him. And he told me how his daughter would deliver each issue of the diocesan Friendship Magazine to him. He would read each one from cover to cover, and he thanked me for everything I did for the diocese. I was very touched.

All in red for Chinese New Year 2018 at Grace Church, Tainan, with Rev. & Mrs. Liao and Song-Jen (centre), friend A-Guan on the far right, me on the far left

In 2009, just after his retirement, Rev. Liao told me his life story, and together we wrote the following article (updated a little as appropriate) for the Friendship Magazine.

‘Vocation and Ministry’, Testimony of Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao 廖金陵牧師

“My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose’. I find this verse very moving, and it continues to inspire me as I look back over my life and think of the variety of experiences I have had. My journey of faith has not been easy, and yet I feel it is a great honour and privilege to serve as an Anglican priest. Being a priest in the Anglican Communion and sharing in this long tradition and heritage makes me so proud. How I long to improve this sense of Anglican identity and consciousness in the Taiwan Episcopal Church! In my retirement, this is my burden and prayer for the church, that our clergy and church members may learn more of this unique Anglican identity.

Chinese New Year 2018 at Grace Church, Tainan

But how did I reach this point in my spiritual journey? Let me start at the beginning. I am a ‘second-generation Mainlander’, born in Mainland China in December 1947. My Chinese name is ‘King-Ling’ 金陵, the old name of Nanking (Nanjing), where my parents were married. My father was in the Nationalist Chinese Air Force, and in 1949, we came to Taiwan, leaving behind our ancestors and the traditions of ancestor worship. My parents were not particularly religious, and my first contact with the Christian gospel was at Feng Chia University in Taichung. I can still remember the ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’ meetings that were held every Monday evening on the campus. During my second year, I started to attend those meetings with 2 purposes in mind, firstly to learn English, secondly to make friends. I also joined the Sunday Fellowship because of the missionaries who were there working among the students. My major was in International Trade, on my father’s advice. One of my classmates invited me to live in their student dormitory accommodation, which was run by the Mennonite Church.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

On Easter Day, March 29, 1970, in my third year at university, I was baptized by Rev. Simon Wung in the Mennonite Church. Even now, I regard him as the most influential person in my whole life; he supported and encouraged me even when later I decided to join the Anglican / Episcopal Church. My first contact with the Anglican Church was through Rev. Wang Hsien-Tzi, then vicar of St. James’ Church, Taichung. He used to come to the Student Fellowship to preach.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

After graduation, I was assigned to military service and it was during this time that I felt called to ordination. First though, I went to work for China Airlines in Kaohsiung Airport as a Traffic Agent. For over 3 years I handled the incoming and outgoing planes. In Kaohsiung however, I faced 2 problems, firstly I rarely had a Sunday off, so hardly ever went to church, and secondly there was no Mennonite Church in Kaohsiung.

All Saints, Kangshan

While at China Airlines, I also met the lady who would become my wife, Su San-Su (Susan). She worked in the downtown office of China Airlines and unlike me, is of Taiwanese descent. Although she was not a Christian, we got married in 1976 in a Presbyterian Church in Kaohsiung. For her parents, it was their first ever visit to a church. I encouraged my wife to take part in a Bible Correspondence School, and the school sent 2 women to visit her, both Baptists. As I was not free to go to church on Sundays, my wife started to go to their church, and a year after we were married, she was baptized in the Baptist Church. She continued to support and encourage me throughout my ministry, and was a very good priest’s wife! We are a very multi-denominational family. After their retirement, both my parents were baptized in Taipei, my mother in a Lutheran Church, and my father in the Mission Alliance Church, while one of my sisters was baptized in the Little Flock. Looking back, I can say that my only regret in all my years of ministry was to my parents. I invited them to come and live with us, but they could not accept the frequent moving from place to place every few years. They said that I always take good care of my parishioners but not my parents! I still regret the little time that I was able to spend with them during their lives.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

One day at work in Kaohsiung Airport, I bumped into Rev. Wang Hsien-Tzi, seemingly by chance. He encouraged me to join the Episcopal Church, so I started to attend St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung. Through Rev. Wang and the Rev. Peyton Craighill, I was eventually recommended to the diocesan Commission on Ministry for ordination. They also suggested I should be confirmed, and so my wife and I were confirmed by Bishop James Pong on June 5, 1977 in Grace Church, Tainan, because by then we had moved to Tainan Theological College.

Chinese New Year 2019 at Grace Church, Tainan

I was ordained deacon on September 21, 1980 and served at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for a year under the Rev. Samuel T. T. Chen. We then moved to St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung, where I was ordained priest on July 12, 1981 by Bishop P. Y. Cheung. We stayed there 5 years including one year (1984) when I was at St. John’s Theological College, Auckland, New Zealand studying ‘Anglicanism’. We then spent 4 years at Trinity Church, Keelung, then 3 years at St. Andrew’s, Jieding, when I was also in charge of the 30 or so students at St. Michael’s Hostel, Tainan. I spent 6 months at Trinity College, Singapore, doing further study, then served as Acting Rector of Good Shepherd Church, Taipei for a year, followed by 4 years at St. Luke’s Church, Hualien. Finally, I became Rector of All Saints Church, Kangshan for 9 years before my retirement in 2008. From utmost east to west, utmost north to south, we have lived in all 4 corners of the Taiwan Diocese! However out of all these places, the most fulfilling was the time we spent in All Saints, Kangshan (most of the photos shared here were taken during that time), when I was also Dean of Trinity Hall, the Diocesan Center for Theological Studies, as well as serving as Dean of the Southern Deanery.

All Saints, Kangshan

In summary, I can say that I have an evangelical faith – from my days of Campus Crusade and the Student Fellowship, a Calvinistic theology – from my training at Tainan Theological College, and I like the Catholic tradition – from the Episcopal Church liturgy and hierarchy! I love the Anglican Church for its ‘middle way’; it is not extreme in any direction. Confucianism also follows the middle way in lifestyle and thinking. I love history too, and enjoy reading about the history of England and the Anglican Church, always in English, as there are so few books on this subject in Chinese.

Bishop John C. C. Chien and Mrs. Chien visit All Saints, Kangshan

In my retirement, I continue to serve on the Diocesan Standing Committee, the Commission on Ministry, and to act as Spiritual Advisor to our seminarians. My wife and I are now faithful members of the congregation of Grace Church, Tainan; my wife also teaches flower arranging and Chinese knotting. Our daughter, Sung-Jen plays the organ at Grace Church. Our son, Sung-En is a member of St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung and is the father of our 2 grandchildren.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s children, Sung-Jen and Sung-En at the Diocesan Convention 2021

My total ministry was 27 years and 4 months, and I know that throughout that whole time, Romans 8:28 has been my true experience. God does indeed work through all things for the good of all those who love him!”

Cheers! All Saints, Kangshan

We give thanks to God for the life and ministry of our beloved Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao; may he rest in peace and rise in glory, and may his wife and family be comforted and strengthened at this time.

Congratulations to Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu on his Ordination as Priest 台灣聖公會吳家圭會吏按立會長聖職典禮!

The Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu 吳家圭 was ordained priest by the Rt. Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop of Taiwan, at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Wednesday September 29, 2021, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas). The service was held at 11:00 am and livestreamed via You Tube…

Chia-Kuei’s ordination as deacon by Bishop Chang took place at St. James’ Church, Taichung on St. James’ Day, Saturday July 25, 2020, in a service that also celebrated the 50th anniversary of St. James’ Church (see that report here). These are the clergy photos from the two ordination services….

Ordination as Deacon, July 2020
Ordination as Priest, September 2021

Chia-Kuei graduated from the seminary at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei in 2019 and has been serving since then at St. James’ Church, Taichung (under rector Rev. Lily Chang, who preached at the ordination service), having also been on placement there at weekends for his final year of theological college. He and his family live at the Church of the Leading Star, St. James’ daughter church in Taiping, on the outskirts of the city. He will continue serving at the Church of the Leading Star, and this Sunday, October 3, there will be a special service there, at which its official status will be upgraded from mission station to church, with Chia-Kuei in charge. Please do pray for Chia-Kuei, his wife and family and all at Leading Star Church.

Friends from St. James and Leading Star Church

Chia-Kuei was born in 1981, grew up in Taipei, and is the first Christian in his family. He studied at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT, now St. John’s University, SJU), and became involved with the student fellowship by offering to play the piano for the choir. He later returned to SJU to do his master’s degree, and during that time, in 2006, he was baptized by the then chaplain, Rev Lennon Y. R. Chang, now bishop. Chia-Kuei served as worship group leader and as junior warden at Advent Church while he worked at Siemens as an engineer. He met his wife, Wen-Ting (Wang-Wang) at the student fellowship too, and they were married at Advent Church in 2013. They have a daughter aged 6 and a son almost a year old.

Chia-Kuei and his family

The ordination service on Wednesday was held under Level 2 Pandemic Restrictions, and so 80 people were allowed to attend the service. Facemasks, hand sanitizer and temperature checks were compulsory for all. Social distancing was followed in the seating arrangements. No eating was allowed, so at the end of the service, everyone left with a box of food to take home. In accordance with current diocesan policy, there was no wine offered at Holy Communion, bread only. This is Chia-Kuei serving his daughter….

Apart from all our diocesan clergy and Chia-Kuei’s family members, there were groups of church members in attendance from Advent Church, including Ms. Wang and Ms. Hai, who sang a very moving song during the service, accompanied by Chia-Kuei’s daughter on the tambourine; also St. James’ Church and Leading Star, St. John’s Cathedral, plus friends from Good Shepherd Church. A beautiful service!

Friends from Advent Church
Friends from St. John’s Cathedral

Before the service….

During the service….

After the service, we had photo time!

Many congratulations to the Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu, and thanks be to Almighty God!

PS: The next big event is the wedding tomorrow of Yu-Lin, our diocesan seminarian and my former colleague in St. John’s University Chaplaincy, and her fiancé San-Yuan here at Advent Church. This is them at the end of the ordination service on Wednesday, being blessed by Chia-Kuei and posing for a photo together. Please do pray for them too!

陳銘佑會吏按立會長聖職典禮 Congratulations to Rev. Chen Ming-You 陳銘佑 on his Ordination as Priest!

And what a great day it was!

Newly-ordained Rev. Chen Ming-You

Rev. Chen Ming-You 陳銘佑 was ordained priest by the Rt. Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop of Taiwan, at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Friday August 6, 2021, the day the church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. Thanks be to Almighty God!

Ming-You was ordained deacon by the Rt. Rev. David J. H. Lai, then Bishop of Taiwan, at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Saturday January 18, 2020, just a few weeks before Bishop Lai retired (for that report and photos see here. As you will see, it was definitely winter and we were all in our warm clothes!) Ming-You’s ministry is as a Non-Stipendiary priest, serving at weekends for the last 4 years at St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung, under Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin, who preached very powerfully at yesterday’s ordination service.

The ordination service was originally scheduled for Friday June 11, St. Barnabas Day, but due to Taiwan’s Level 3 pandemic restrictions, which came into force on May 15, all religious events and gatherings of more than 4 people were prohibited, so the service was postponed. Bishop Chang stressed the importance of all the clergy in the diocese being able to participate in-person at the ordination service, and so they decided to delay the service until that was possible, however long it might take. On July 27, Taiwan lowered the alert level from 3 to 2, and under level 2 restrictions, indoor gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, as long as there is social distancing, with compulsory facemasks, temperature checks, name registration and hand sanitizer in use for all. With only 50 people allowed to attend, so a list was drawn up, and everyone else was invited to watch the livestream on YouTube….

Thanks to the wonderful Livestreaming Team, working behind the scenes! This is Linda on the left, wife of St. John’s Cathedral Dean, Philip Lin, and Pin-Huei, on the right, daughter of Rev. C. C. Cheng…

Due to there still being community transmission of Covid-19, Bishop Chang requested that all clergy coming from the south and east of Taiwan should preferably drive to Taipei, rather than use high-speed rail or train, and he offered to provide accommodation for those needing overnight stays. Actually most of our clergy have relatives in Taipei, so they were pleased to visit them, others did the round-trip in one day, and a few did take the high-speed rail, which they said was virtually empty because of the pandemic – and the rain. ☔

Back in May, we were still praying for an end to Taiwan’s drought, the most serious in over 50 years. Now in August, we have had so much rain in the last 2-3 weeks that there’s serious flooding and landslides in some areas, including a rockslide that has cut off the high-speed rail line in Miaoli, reservoirs are having to release water, and southern Taiwan has closed schools and offices today due to the torrential rain alerts. The rains started with Typhoon In-Fa the weekend before last, then the typhoon gave way to more continuous rains, and now we have a tropical storm working its way north up Taiwan’s west coast, bringing flooding to the mountains and coastal areas. Our in-person church services only just restarted again last Sunday, but some had to be canceled due to the rains, and it’s likely some will have to cancel again tomorrow as well. Fortunately the ordination service could go ahead, though it was certainly very wet outside. The other precaution, advised due to the pandemic, was that it was not possible to serve wine during the Holy Communion, nor any kind of meal after the service. Instead, the cathedral kindly provided us with boxes of breads, cakes and desserts for us to take home. Thanks to St. John’s Cathedral for all their hard work to make us so welcome!

The Dean, Philp Lin and St. John’s Cathedral friends

Ming-You tells me that he comes from a very traditional Taiwanese family, and as the only son (with 2 older sisters), so he grew up well-aware that it would be his responsibility to take care of his parents as they grew older. In fact, he and his wife, their 2 sons (aged 12 and 15) and his parents all live together in Longtan, Taoyuan, just south of Taipei. His parents are retired, and Ming-You and his wife run a computer business during the week, which leaves them free at weekends to serve at St. Stephen’s Church, about an hour’s drive on the other side of Taipei. His wife says that even before they were married, he would talk about his calling to be a priest, though it took many years of part-time study and training for his calling to become a reality.

Ming-You and his family with Bishop Chang, and Regina Chang (far right)

By serving as a non-stipendiary priest, he is able to fulfill his traditional duties of ‘filial piety’ towards his parents, while also fulfilling his calling to serve in the Taiwan Episcopal Church. He talks about the freedom to be able to do both, and the joy of serving God both in his family and in the church. Others might feel weighed down by taking on so many responsibilities, but instead, Ming-You thrives on the freedom and joy of being the person God has called him to be. Fortunately, a few years after Ming-You and his wife were married, his parents became Christians themselves, and belong to a local church near their home; praise God that they are fully supportive of Ming-You’s calling and ministry.

Ming-You serves his father Holy Communion

Ming-You was born in 1975, and became a Christian through the witness of the student fellowship and chaplaincy at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT), Taipei, (predecessor to St. John’s University SJU), while studying on the 5-year program in electronic engineering. Towards the end of his time at SJSMIT, he was baptized in Advent Church by the then chaplain, Rev. Samuel Ying-Chiu Lin, who later became dean of St. John’s Cathedral, and where many of the students later worshiped after graduation, including Ming-You.

Quite a few SJSMIT student fellowship members from that era have since gone on to be ordained, and many others serve in the church in lay ministry. In yesterday’s service, one of their student fellowship, Regina Chang (張沁杏), member of Christ Church, Chungli and also on the diocesan Standing Committee, sang a beautiful solo, titled ‘Beloved Lord, Please send me’. Ming-You was visibly moved, and later recounted how he was reminded, as she sang, of how Regina and other older fellowship members had shared the Gospel with him as a younger student, and how far he has traveled since then, particularly these last 10 years as he followed God’s call towards ordination. He said that God has been so faithful to him, and he found it hard to contain his tears. It was really moving!

Regina singing the solo, accompanied by Mr. Lu on the piano

Since Bishop Chang’s consecration in February 2020, Ming-You and his wife have been busy helping the diocesan office putting in a whole new computer system, video-conferencing and meeting room, plus setting up our new email addresses for the Taiwan Episcopal Church clergy and churches, plus our new website at https://episcopalchurch.org.tw/ Having a professional computer person always on hand is very wonderful for us all! Every weekend, Ming-You, his wife and sons spend much time at St. Stephen’s Church, where they help run outreach programs in the local community with Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin, who is already well past usual retirement age and looking to step back a little from all her many church responsibilities.

Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin and Ms. Su with Ming-You’s family

Julia has really built up the ministry at St. Stephen’s over these last 10+ years, and is widely respected in the local community. The church is in a largely disadvantaged area with many problems of poverty, family breakdown, addiction, suicide, unemployment, domestic abuse and more. The people are struggling even at the best of times, and much more so in this pandemic, plus the spiritual oppression from the local temples and shrines is much in evidence in people’s lives. Ming-You clearly loves the people there, and fits right in; he says that many similarities with his own family background have helped in developing relationships.

Ms. Huang and Ms. Su from St. Stephen’s Church with me, we’re all in black and white!

The ordination service – getting ready….

The service started at 3:00 pm….

Part 2 of the service starts with Ming-You introducing his family…

The blessing….

And then photo-time!

The service all went so smoothly, and Ming-You celebrated his first Holy Communion so professionally that it looked like he had been doing it for years! The readings, as set for the Feast of the Transfiguration, were read by Mrs. Marjorie Kuo from the cathedral, Ms. Huang Min from St. Stephen’s Church, and our deacon, Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu read the Gospel.

After the service, Rev. Lily Chang, as chair of the diocesan standing committee, officially welcomed everyone and thanked the cathedral for hosting the service, she was followed by Mr. Gary Tseng, cathedral senior warden who also gave us a warm welcome on behalf of them all…

Ming-You with Mr. Gary Tseng, cathedral senior warden and his wife, Ms. Amy Chin, our diocesan chancellor

We give thanks to Almighty God for Ming-You and his family, and we pray for him as he settles into his ministry as priest, serving at St. Stephen’s Church, and as he tries to balance his time between his business, family and church ministry. He joins a great group of clergy, all pictured here at the ordination service. Thanks be to God for them all!

What’s in a name?

It’s Holy Week, and of course, this coming weekend is Easter. One of Christianity’s best kept secrets; unlike Christmas, it seems few people in Taiwan have any idea what Easter is, and certainly no idea that it’s coming this weekend. Probably far fewer people than usual will be in church to celebrate too, as this coming weekend is also Taiwan’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qingming), Women’s Day and Children’s Day all combined into one long 4-day weekend.

For young professionals and families in Taiwan’s cities, it’ll be a holiday weekend away from their high-pressured office jobs, enjoying some spring weather before the heat of summer, with trips to Taiwan’s outlying islands, up to the central mountains or beach resorts. Covid-19 restrictions for overseas travel mean that everyone is holidaying in Taiwan these days and domestic tourism is booming. For our students here at St. John’s University (SJU), they’ll be in demand for part-time work either near their homes or in our local restaurants, cafes, beaches and tourist sites lining Taiwan’s northern coast, like Laomei and the Fuguijiao Lighthouse…

Laomei’s famous Algal Reef – taken last weekend

One things for sure, wherever we go, there’ll be major traffic jams all weekend!

The Lighthouse Cat guards Fuguijiao Lighthouse, on Taiwan’s northern tip

The good news is that we got off to a good start for Holy Week with a celebration of Palm Sunday at Advent Church and SJU….

Otherwise, March has been a much quieter month than most years, with activities considerably reduced due to concerns about Covid-19, though daily life continues mostly as normal. Fortunately, Taiwan currently has no known community transmission, with 10 deaths and 1,024 confirmed cases, all contained by strict border and quarantine controls. Imported vaccines have resulted in health workers and Olympic hopefuls receiving their first shots in recent weeks, but for the general population, we await final trials of local vaccines, the government eager to proceed at a safe and normal speed of vaccine development. This weekend Taiwan’s very first carefully-monitored travel bubble is starting with the tropical island paradise of Palau; their new president is currently in Taiwan for the official launch, returning home on the first official bubble flight tomorrow.

Common Jester Butterfly (Symbrenthia Lilaea Formosanus) at Yangmingshan…

Spring is here, and with it has appeared the cherry blossom, azalea and wisteria, all looking spectacular. I’ve counted up to 7 crested serpent eagles circling on the thermals above our campus, while down here below we have frogs, lizards, snakes and butterflies all enjoying the sunnier weather (photos / videos in this post were all taken in the last few weeks, some locally, others up at the mountains of Yangmingshan).

11-second snake video: False Taiwan Habu 擬龜殼花

I’ve had 2 sermons to write this month for 2 different English congregations, and in both, I’ve used the same story as an illustration. Some sermons generate more comments than others, and this was one of them. In the light of so much division, separation and isolation in this world – in the church as well as in society as a whole, it seems good to share this story here, with thanks to Rev. Samuel C. L. Liao who originally included a paragraph about this in a piece he wrote for the ‘About Us’ section for our upcoming new website. For once, this is a happy story of 3 church / mission groups plus 2 bishops who put aside their differences and decided to work together for the sake of the Gospel and the people they served. And it all happened in the mid-19th century, when egos and self-interest played just as large a role in decision-making as they seem to do today.

Azalea Season

First a disclaimer, I am not particularly interested in Anglican / Episcopal Church history, hierarchies, titles and governance as such, but I am interested in the background story of how the Taiwan Episcopal Church got its Chinese name. Knowing only the basic facts, I acknowledge that there could be a whole lot more to discover deep in the archives. Sadly, church history got way too complicated when Henry VIII started knocking off all those poor wives with names the same as mine, so a little church history goes a very long way. But what I have also discovered is that most of our church members here also know very little about this story – but, like me, they are interested.

It’s fair to say that most countries where the Anglican / Episcopal Church has been established have just adapted the ‘Anglican’ part of their name into something acceptable in their own language while still being recognizable as the word ‘Anglican’, so in Rwanda for example, the church is known as ‘Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda’, in Brazil as ‘Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil’.

But this is not so in places like Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan…

Oldham’s Azalea, growing up in the mountains

First a bit of background: the word ‘Anglican’ means ‘English,’ denoting the country where the Anglican Church was originally founded. In England, the Anglican Church is just known as ‘The Church of England’ because it’s the national church. The American Church, which originated in England, uses the title, ‘The Episcopal Church’; ‘Episcopal’ means ‘bishops’. One of the main differences when The Episcopal Church was established was that while bishops in England were appointed by the crown, not so in the USA, where they considered themselves free from English rule, so US bishops were – and still are – elected instead of being appointed.

Here in Taiwan, we call our branch of the Anglican Communion by the name ‘Taiwan Episcopal Church’ because we belong to the US-based Episcopal Church. We’re part of Province VIII, officially established in 1954. The Chinese name for the Taiwan Episcopal Church is 台灣聖公會 (Taiwan Sheng Kung Hui). There are 3 Chinese characters in the church part of the name: Sheng 聖 means ‘holy’, Kung 公 means ‘catholic’ (meaning ‘universal’), Hui 會 means ‘church’. So how come the Chinese name of the Taiwan Episcopal Church translates in a way that is completely unrelated to the English name? It’s clear that there’s no word in the Chinese name that can be translated as ‘Anglican’ or ‘Episcopal.’

So the story goes like this. The US Episcopal Church started their evangelism in Mainland China in 1835, and in Japan in 1859; they were followed soon after by CMS and SPG (now USPG) Anglican mission societies from England, and much later (1888 in Japan) by the Anglican Church of Canada. But working together was not easy, each church and mission society had their own style of mission and their own style of worship. In 1866, aged 37, US Bishop Channing Moore Williams was consecrated to serve as ‘Episcopal Bishop of China and Japan’, largely based in Japan. Twenty years later, in 1886, aged 36, UK Bishop Edward Bickersteth was consecrated to serve as ‘Missionary Bishop of the Church of England in Japan,’ (succeeding Bishop Arthur W. Poole, 1883-1885). Wrap your mind around that bit of history – that’s how they did things in those days.

Cherry Blossom at SJU

Anyway, surprise, surprise, these 3 groups in Japan: the US church, CMS and SPG, led by these 2 bishops – 20 years’ difference in age – agreed to work together and unite their missionary efforts into one autonomous national church. The first Japanese synod, instigated by Bickersteth and presided over by Williams, was held in Osaka in 1887. At that meeting, the Japanese church (then with a membership of about 1,300 and with lay delegates sent from every church) decided to take part of the Nicene Creed, ‘We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church’ and from that phrase to adopt ‘The Holy Catholic Church’ (聖公會, 聖: holy, 公: catholic, 會: church) for its name, pronounced in Japanese as ‘Nippon Sei Ko Kai’ (NSKK), the ‘Holy Catholic Church in Japan’.

In 1912, the Anglican / Episcopal church in China also decided to call their new church, ‘Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui’ (CHSKH) 中華聖公會, the ‘Holy Catholic Church in China’. From that came ‘Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui’ (HKSKH) 香港聖公會, the official title of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong. And some of the CHSKH members who later moved to Taiwan became founding members of the Taiwan Episcopal Church (Taiwan Sheng Kung Hui) 台灣聖公會 in 1954. We are really the ‘Holy Catholic Church’ in Taiwan.

And guess what, we’re not totally unique in the Christian world ~ other churches also chose Chinese names that are totally unrelated to the original, most notably the Roman Catholics – but that’s a whole other story. And we’re nowhere near unique in having a history of mission societies and church groups in conflict with each other in the same country – just think of East Africa, but that is also a whole other story. Ah, church history, sigh!

Just as those 2 bishops decided to work together to try to resolve their differences, so we need to continue to preserve our unity today. Our diocesan motto this year is ‘Working together as one in Christ to build the church’, and that was one of the themes of our diocesan convention held a few weeks ago in Kaohsiung. What does it mean for us to ‘work together as one in Christ?’ Partly it means not being divided by our differences, old and young, traditional and modern, high church and low church, liturgical and non-liturgical, hymns and choruses, informal and formal, Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese, urban and rural, liberal and conservative, online and in-person – and more. All these things have the potential to divide and separate us – or to bring us together, depending on which way we choose to go. Let’s try putting ourselves and our own agendas on one side this Holy Week, Easter and in the future, and find ways to work together – for the sake of the Gospel and each other.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

Wisteria Season

Children sometimes do better at this than adults, putting aside their differences that is, and Children’s Day on April 4 is a way to celebrate. At our local Xingren Elementary School (photos below are taken from their website), we celebrated Children’s Day recently by making paper people and each child choosing 4 countries that have some meaning for them – many children in Taiwan have mothers from other SE Asian countries, and Japan, Korea and USA are always popular choices. Gotta love the row of monsters on the back wall too! The fun song to sing for this is on YouTube: Hello to all the Children of the World – check it out, you’ll be singing it all day!

Meanwhile yesterday we distributed salted duck eggs around SJU to wish everyone a Happy Easter…

And to you all too ~ wishing you all a meaningful and blessed Holy Week, and a joyous and hopeful Easter!