Just spent Palm Sunday weekend at St. James’ Church, Taichung where I was assigned to do the sermon in the English service. It seems that usually, with only an hour for the service, they don’t have time for a Palm Sunday procession and miss out the readings for Palm Sunday too, just concentrating on the ones for Holy Week. But my Palm Sunday sermon, based on Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (the Palm Sunday liturgy) was all prepared when I discovered that fact. And so it was that Rev. Lily Chang kindly rearranged the whole service, and for the first time, St. James’ English Service had the Palm Sunday Liturgy and Palm Sunday Procession, waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna’ as everyone walked around.
The Chinese congregation had a Palm Sunday Procession that went around the streets of St. James; the English congregation had a smaller one, just around the church building ~ but in its own way, just as meaningful.
We also had a choir, formed from the English congregation, who sang all the traditional Palm Sunday hymns and songs.
This was not the only major event of the weekend going on at St. James. On the Saturday morning, we had the first of 3 Bishop Candidates Public Forums for all the church members in central Taiwan to meet and hear from the 3 candidates nominated for election to succeed Bishop Lai when he retires early next year. About 60 people came along, and it was very worthwhile. Report coming in a few weeks, when we’ve had the next one, in Kaohsiung.
And in-between times, I went off to visit my old friends, these are the Lai family, and the 2 girls are my former pupils, now all grown up! So great to see them!
Came back home yesterday into major traffic jams caused by processions of worshipers, deities, musicians and vast numbers of people celebrating a traditional Taoist festival, marching along the sides of the roads along the streets of Tamsui and further north. Just as the date of Easter is set by the Lunar calendar, so the week before Easter, when we are observing Holy Week, that same week is always also a busy time for temples in this area, who are observing the same Lunar calendar. The 860 bus route from Tamsui, that normally takes about 25 minutes, instead took an hour. Ah, I was so happy to arrive home!
So wishing you all a meaningful Holy Week as we remember Jesus’s last supper with his disciples, his arrest, trial, crucifixion and death on the cross. Do take time to pray, reflect, meditate, contemplate, worship, remember, fast, observe and take part in the events going on in churches around about. It’s the most important week of the Christian year, so do get into it!
This year’s annual convention was hosted by St. James’ Church, Taichung, and, as always, it was wonderful! These are the 2 official group photos below…
Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Church and her team of church members and volunteers organized and arranged a big welcome for us, including supplying delicious snacks and fruits for each break time. THANK YOU! Here’s all the St. James’ team, being thanked on the last day…
After a very early start for most of us, we started the convention with a Holy Communion service at 10:30 am on Friday morning at St. James, followed by the group photos, then lunch nearby…
After lunch, off we went to a hotel for the meetings. This was the seating plan…
The hotel we stayed in is located near the former Taichung City Council and other colonial buildings from the Japanese era. Not far away in one direction is the river, now marked by blue lights, and in the other direction is the Taichung Rail Station – the old building has been retained, and the new station built behind it. Great for late night and early morning walks!
It was good to meet up with all our old friends from every one of our churches in Taiwan. Great reunions! The official meetings focused on presentation of reports, discussions, proposals and elections. Reports were given by all the different diocesan committees. And at the beginning of the convention, Bishop Lai formally welcomed our good friend from the Episcopal Church, Rev. Bruce Woodcock, Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific….
On Saturday it was a special day for Jerry Liang ~ his birthday, but he had completely forgotten all about it! So it was fun for us all to sing to him – and for him to be hugged by his son, Antony. Antony is to be ordained priest at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Wednesday May 1. Do pray for him and all the family.
And so Day 2 began with breakfast, and followed by meetings, including a report from Dr. Herchang Ay, president of St. John’s University. All of our churches gave their reports. And the day finished with lots of photos!
The collection from the opening service the previous day was presented to St. James’ Church, but they kindly donated it to St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung to help with urgent repairs to their church building and vicarage…
The most important matter to ask you to include in your prayers is the forthcoming election of the new diocesan bishop of Taiwan. The mandatory retirement age for bishops in the Episcopal Church is 72, so Bishop Lai must retire before March 2020. We now have 3 official candidates, seen in the photo below with Bishop Lai. From left: Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector of Advent Church, Bishop Lai, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung, and Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu, vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung.
In April, May and June, there will be 3 sessions to meet the candidates, one each in the north, central and south of Taiwan, then the actual election of the new bishop will take place on Saturday August 3 at St. James’ Church. The consecration, ordination and installation of the new bishop will take place on Saturday February 22, 2020 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. Please pray!
Thanks to Bishop Lai and all who helped to organize the convention, and especially to Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary, who has been working hard for months, along with all in the diocesan office. Special thanks to Ms. Amy B. H. Lin, our honorary diocesan treasurer who devotes much of her spare time to this role, and together with Bruce and Bishop Lai, they form a great team!…
And next year our convention will be hosted by St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung as they celebrate their 50th anniversary. Get ready!
Thanks be to God, and please continue to pray for the Diocese of Taiwan!
Many congratulations from St. James’ Church, Taiwan – to Bishop Dixie on his retirement, and to Bishop Rex on his installation – YES!
A group of 6 of us from St. James’ Church, Taichung, Taiwan had the honour of attending the installation service of Bishop Rex Reyes as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Philippines (EDCP) on Thursday March 14, 2019. Thanks be to God!
And I had the fun of taking photos from all angles and heights…
And the place was packed with busy people as EDCP were holding their 47th diocesan annual convention in the provincial offices from March 12-14…
The convention culminated in the installation service of the new bishop, held at the diocesan ‘pro-cathedral’ at St. Stephen’s Parish, in the ‘China Town’ area of Manila – not to be confused with the National Cathedral, which is for the whole province of the Philippines. Yes, it’s kinda complicated having both provincial and diocesan buildings in the same city, especially when getting from one to another may involve long hours in traffic. This was us arriving on Wednesday evening and driving from the airport into the city…. hey, it’s all part of the experience; even traffic jams are ‘more fun in the Philippines’ as the advertising slogan goes!
For historical reasons, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines is strongest among the indigenous Igorot people in the mountainous provinces of the northern Philippines, but many have moved south, looking for land to farm and settle on, and some have settled in the EDCP area around Manila (they, together with the 2 Chinese-speaking Episcopal churches in Manila, form the backbone of the EDCP today). The partnership between St. James’ Church, Taichung and EDCP started in 1998 when Bishop Manuel Lumpias wrote from Manila to Bishop John C.T. Chien in Taiwan describing how groups of Igorot Episcopalians gather to worship under mango trees due to lack of church buildings. Mango trees are everywhere in the Philippines, big and broad and shady; great for groups to meet under them on a temporary basis, but not much good in the rain!
Bishop Chien gave that letter to Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, then rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung, and Charles was deeply moved. He remembers how St. James’ itself started through the generosity of Christ Church, Greenville in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina (USC) and the United Thank Offering (UTO) way back in the early 1970’s. As Charles said, when he read Bishop Lumpias’ letter, “In Taiwan, we had nothing and we were so poor; now we have everything, so it is time for us to help others. Just as Christ Church and the UTO gave so willingly to us in our early days, so we want to express our thanks by sharing our wealth with others.”
And so Charles sprang into action, and within a short time, St. James’ Church had raised US$ 6,000 to build a church in EDCP. Then, on finding out that the village had no water supply, they raised a further US$ 3,000 to install a permanent water supply for the whole community. That church was Christ the King, Sandeline, Nueva Ecija, consecrated on July 27, 1999. But it was only the beginning, and through succeeding EDCP bishops, Bishop Benjamin Botengan and then Bishop Dixie Taclobao, the partnership expanded from that one church to eventually become 12 churches, all built with money raised by St. James’ Church. In many cases, it was individual donors from St. James who wanted to express their gratitude to God by building a church in the Philippines, in other cases it was a collective church effort.
As time went on, so the cost of construction increased, but Charles always loves a challenge and he continued undaunted! In 2010, thinking the project was at an end with 11 churches built, a Thanksgiving Service was held at Holy Carpenter Church, Villa Labrador (church No. 8, consecrated in November 2009), and attended not only by Charles and his wife, Maryjo, but also the Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai and his wife Lily. Actually it turned out that one more church was to be built after that, St. Gregory’s, Cogeo, Metro Manila, consecrated in November 2012; one third of the money was donated by a member of St. James, Ms. Hsu Hui-Lan, in memory of her husband, whose Chinese name translates as Gregory, the rest of the money was raised by St. James’ Church. We visited St. Gregory’s Church on this trip, and were warmly welcomed by the church members…
Since 2012, with the official completion of the church-building project, our partnership has developed in different ways. St. James Church, Taichung welcomed Lynn Baguiwet, trusted and faithful EDCP Finance Officer for a 2-week visit in September 2013, followed by Rev. Joel del Rosario who came to St. James for 2 months in the summer of 2015. Both have become great friends of us all, and we hope for more visits from EDCP clergy and friends in the future! This is Lynn on the left, and Fr. Joel on the right with Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, current rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung…
It was Rev. Lily Chang who organized this visit to EDCP; it was actually her first visit, she became rector of St. James in 2015. Rev. Charles Chen and Maryjo came too of course, they are both so amazingly full of energy at 84 years old, and intrepid travelers still. They couldn’t wait to get to the Philippines and meet all our old friends once again! And we were accompanied by Rev. Sam C. S. Cheng and his wife, Julie, such great supporters of this whole partnership. Sam is former junior warden of St. James from way back in the late 1990’s, and so it was Charles, Maryjo, Sam and Julie who had made that first visit from St. James to EDCP to see the first church, Christ the King, Sandeline; we think that visit was in the summer of 1999. That was just after I arrived at St. James. Since that initial visit, there have been 7 visits altogether of St. James’ people to EDCP with a grand total of about 20 church members from St. James having visited one or more times. Charles has been on 6 of the visits, with a gap of one in the middle, I too have been on 6 of the visits, excluding the very first one. Thought you might like to see one of the early photos, from my first trip in 2003, when we visited one of ‘our’ churches, St. Mark’s Church, San José, Nueva Ecija – when were all a bit younger!
In 2017, when we heard that Bishop Dixie was going to retire, we had originally planned to come to the consecration of the new bishop, really as a way to say goodbye to our beloved Bishop Dixie and to thank him again for all his support in our partnership. But it wasn’t possible to come to the consecration due to timing, so we resolved to come instead to the installation. Thus it was that we arrived on Wednesday evening, March 13, after a 1¾ hour flight from Taipei. Two very helpful seminarians, Fray and Go, met us at the airport on behalf of the diocese. When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered that, staying at the same hotel as us and also attending the installation service, were our old friends, Archbishop Ng Moon Hing (Bishop of West Malaysia, Archbishop of the Province of S. E. Asia and Chair of CCEA – Council of Churches of East Asia), and his wife, Siew Lan. They are just so lovely and friendly! And then Archbishop Ng went off for a conference call, and Bishop Dixie, his wife Juliet and assistant Moises all came by to say hello. By then it was quite late, after their full day of meetings, but it was so great to renew our friendships and reconnect once again!
On Thursday morning, Lily and I were up and out ready for pick-up at 6:00 am (yes, EDCP conventions start really early!) We attended the 6:30 am Memorial Service at the National Cathedral, held on the third day of the convention each year, in memory of those of EDCP who have died in the previous year.
Then breakfast with the delegates and reunions with our old friends, especially Fr. Joel!
While the delegates had their meetings, we waited for the rest of our group, and then went on a tour of the compound. First to the National Cathedral. In 2012, we had the chance to meet Bishop Manuel Lumpias, whose letter had sparked the whole partnership (he used to say that it was the best letter he ever wrote, even though he couldn’t remember anything particular about it!) Bishop Lumpias sadly died last summer and his ashes are interred in the columbarium at the National Cathedral. Lynn took us to see his memorial and Charles was delighted to discover that he and Bishop Lumpias in fact share the same birthday, 5 years apart! We had a prayer in thanksgiving for the life and ministry of Bishop Lumpias, it was very moving to remember him on this visit.
We also visited St. Andrew’s Seminary (SATS) with a warm welcome and tour of the buildings too!
And we were delighted to meet up with Bishop Benjamin Botengan, Bishop Dixie’s predecessor, and his wife, Mrs. Kate Botengan. Such a happy reunion, and a group photo – of course!
We met up with Fr. Gerry, such a delight…
And then we visited Prime Bishop Joel Pachao in his office, just above the meeting room of the EDCP convention; ‘prime bishop’ means he’s in overall charge of all 7 dioceses of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines…
After lunch, while the delegates finished up their convention meetings, we were taken to visit St. Stephen’s High School, where we enjoyed meeting the principal, Dr. Judy Tan, and her staff once again. The school is bilingual, Mandarin Chinese and English, and they persuaded me to visit 2 of the classrooms to talk to the students to try to enthuse them to keep up their Chinese – yep, wish I’d had the chance to learn it when I was their age!
And then next door to the ‘pro-cathedral’ for the installation service at 5:00 pm. Also at the service were Bishop Luke Muto and a group from the Diocese of Kyushu, Japan, companion diocese of EDCP, and other bishops of the Philippines, plus ecumenical partners, friends and family of the new bishop. It turns out that Bishop Rex has many friends in the Taiwan Presbyterian Church through his former work as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), and ongoing responsibilities at the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum. Wonderful!
After the service, we went to another part of the school for the installation dinner – yummy yummy! We had beauitful music and dancing displays from students of St. Stephen’s High School…
On behalf of Bishop David J. H. Lai, Rev. Lily Chang presented both Bishop Dixie and Bishop Rex with artillery shell crosses…
And Bishop Rex presented our group with distinctive Igorot bags from Sagada Weaving… THANK YOU! 😊😊😊
Bishop Rex also presented Bishop Dixie with a special plaque of thanksgiving ….
We met Bishop Rex’s family…
And so many friends!
On Friday, March 15, while Bishop Rex was meeting with his clergy, Bishop Dixie and Juliet kindly gave up their first official day of retirement to take us to visit 2 of ‘our’ churches. At the first one, St. Gregory’s, we were warmly welcomed with coffee and snacks. We sang in English, Tagalog and Chinese, then shared in fellowship with the church members. The plot of land is tiny, so the church has an upstairs, and it was great to see the way it is being so well used for Sunday School, and as a place where seminarians can stay when they come for the weekends.
The senior warden and one of the church members came on with us to visit the second of our churches, St. James, in rural San Isiro, about an hour away from St. Gregory’s. The road has now been paved to within a few km of the church so everyone was delighted. We passed a jeepney with people sitting on the roof, and resolved if we ever come again, then we hope Bishop Dixie’s energetic and adventurous wife, Juliet can take us for a trip on the top of a jeepney! The 15 church members had all gathered at St. James to welcome us and cook lunch, made from their own vegetables, fruits and chickens. It was really delicious! Fr. Ben, in charge of both St. Gregory’s and St. James, is currently in Jerusalem, but his wife, Liz had come especially to St. James to join us, and she had brought a Ugandan friend, Catherine who came to Manila originally to do a PhD and is now doing research. It was great to find myself speaking Swahili with her – in the unlikely setting of the middle of the Philippine countryside! We had brought a box of T-shirts from our St. James’ Language Institute, bearing the name of St. James, for the people of both churches, also boxes of pineapple cakes!
By then we were exhausted and ready to go back to Manila, but hey, there was some shopping to be done, and energy levels suddenly shot up – off to the shopping mall to buy some must-have dried mangoes!
That evening, Rev. Lily Chang (on behalf of St. James’s Church) hosted a dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and it was wonderful to be able to share our gratitude with our wonderful hosts. We welcomed Bishop Dixie and Juliet, Bishop Rex, Fr. Joel, Lynn, Fr. Lendehl (EDCP, but formerly supported by AsiaCMS, we’ve met twice at CMS conferences in Malaysia and Cambodia!), Moises (who organized all our program and answered every question we ever had!), Deacon Ritchie (our amazing driver), plus Emily and Soledad who are members of the diocesan partnership committee. We shared our vision for future partnership and had a lot of laughs and fun, then presented gifts from St. James to everyone present…
And finally a group photo, YES!
And on Saturday early morning, we found ourselves on the way to the airport, driven by Fray – and accompanied by Fr. Joel who had come to see us off. They are all so kind and wonderful! Saturday apparently is even busier on the roads than weekdays, especially it being just after pay day – but we got there so early, we missed most of it!
And so farewell to Manila – the sun was shining as we took off, and as we looked down on the land below…
In fact it was beautiful weather all the way to the southern tip of Taiwan – which you can just see in the distance below…
After that, well, the clouds rolled in, and by the time we reached Taoyuan Int’l Airport, guess what, it was back to the rain that so characterizes the north of Taiwan. The sun was definitely great while it lasted!
A very big thank you to all our good friends in the Philippines, to Bishop Dixie and Bishop Rex and all in EDCP for their warm welcome and gracious hospitality, for their vision and their willingness to participate with us in this great adventure in mission. Thank you too to Rev. Lily Chang for welcoming me to join their group, and to St. James’ Church for their support. And to Rev. Charles Chen (and as always supported by MaryJo) especially, in gratitude for his vision, courage, passion and energy which has inspired so many to give to this project and enabled our partnership to develop over the years. Most of all, we give thanks to our Almighty God for His many blessings and for his enabling. To God be the glory, Amen!
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!
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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!
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!
Two weekends of non-stop music, drumming and dancing!
Yes, two different presentations, a double Show Time. And it was all wonderful!
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!
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.
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.
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…
At Advent Church, there’s the student fellowship music group who welcome all students to come and learn …
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!
My English classes run at both churches, here we are at Advent Church, performing a song from Sound of Music…
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!
Thanks to all those who worked so hard to make these presentations happen, and of course… Thanks be to Almighty God!
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!
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…
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.
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!
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!
The artillery shell crosses were on sale at each concert – here is Gloria and Daniel selling them at the cathedral…
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!
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…
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
This was St. Stephen’s Church Welcome Team all ready!
And so many clergy, friends and supporters….
And all the clergy together!
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….
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….
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.
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!
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!
The other group who sang were the St. Stephen’s Church senior group. Oh, they were so lovely ~ and so expressive!
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!
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.
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.”
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!