Category Archives: Taiwan Episcopal Church, Diocese of Taiwan

Advent Adventures & Christmas Colours 2019! 🕯️🔔🎄🎅🎄🎁⛪⛄🎶🌟❄️🎄

And a Happy New Year 2020!

Wishing you all a good start to the new year! If you’re going to read this blog post all the way through, then I suggest you first stop and brew up, it’s a long read, but hey it covers everything! My own drink of choice for such activity is Vanilla Tea – kindly supplied by our good friend, Alice who arrived recently from Mauritius bearing 2 large packets of it – it’s really good!

Let’s just rewind a little, to the point where I realized that as the termites had eaten all my Christmas decorations a year or so ago, then a new strategy was called for in 2019. Yes, the time had come to move the decorations out of the house ~ and to just wear them all instead. And so it was that I spent much of Advent covered in tinsel, Santa glasses, reindeer antlers, Christmas trees – carrying with me an abundant supply to give out to those who appreciate such things ~ like Bishop Lai and all those in the diocesan office in Taipei…

Professor Mei-Mei Lin had been waiting for me to come on down to the diocesan office to celebrate her birthday on December 7 ~ I got there a week late, but hey, we had a very lively time! Newly-retired from Dong-Hua University, Hualien, Mei-Mei is now dedicating all her time to publishing a book and papers on the history of the Taiwan Episcopal Church; she’s a real character and there is never a dull moment! We will miss Bishop and Mrs. Lai when they retire in a few months time, but they kindly presented us with an artillery shell cross each, and Bishop Lai welcomed all the diocesan office staff to choose one of his own calligraphy carvings – with words from the Bible. Thank you Bishop and Mrs. Lai!

Meanwhile, here at Advent Church, our Advent 2019 celebrations kind of started at the end of November with our ‘Happy Ending Christmas Party’ to mark the end of 10 weeks of English Classes this semester. This is a community outreach of Advent Church – beginner’s English on Tuesday evenings and intermediate English on Monday afternoons – and a combined party on November 26. Yippee! I am very blessed to have some wonderful assistants, Xiao-Chien and Marge, without whom the party and the classes wouldn’t have gone anywhere near so smoothly. Some of the group brought their families, everyone was welcome!

The following day was our annual St. John’s University (SJU) Coming-Of-Age Ceremony for all students turning 18 years old this year, of which there were 290+, all wearing their new school ties. Not really an Advent activity as such, but this year it was held much later than usual, so close to Advent in fact that it felt like it was! This ceremony – with a theme of looking back in thanksgiving and moving forward into all the responsibilities of adulthood – has been highly praised by the Ministry of Education and involves each student drinking a small cup of wine, presentation of gifts to parents and teachers, lighting of candles, prayers and speeches. It’s run by the SJU chaplaincy office, assisted by the student fellowship…

For Advent Sunday, December 1, I was in St. James’ Church, Taichung for the sermon in the English service, but went there early in order to celebrate in advance the 60th birthday of my good friend, A-Guan (4th left, back row, in the photo below), whose birthday is December 20, plus our other good friend, Jhr-Mou (second left), older son of Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, who turned 60 on December 22 ~ so we kind of celebrated both birthdays together… 🎉🍰🎈 St. James’ people just love parties!

The official launch of Advent at SJU was on December 3 at 4:45 pm, just as it was getting dark – with a short service and the switching on of the Christmas tree lights by SJU President Ay…

Every Advent, Advent wreaths are distributed to each department and admin office in SJU, and we go on a 3-hour walkabout each week, gathering everyone in each office together, lighting the relevant candle, sharing a reading, praying and singing. This is a selection of photos from Week One, when we prayed by name for each person attached to each office, going through the names of all those working at SJU …

On Thursday December 5, our student fellowship held their Christmas outreach event, and what a great occasion it was! There were games, singing, dancing, drama, testimonies and prizes. The highlight was the drama, long-practiced and really well-performed. I’ve persuaded them to put the drama on YouTube for your benefit, so please check it out…

We had over 70 people there in total, really good numbers and lots of happy students….

On December 6, we invited visitors from this year’s charity, Tszai Education and Nursing Institute, 財團法人天主教會台中教區附設台灣省私立慈愛殘障教養院, to come and share about their work. Every year, SJU and Advent Church work together to raise money for a charity through our Christmas bazaar (held on December 18) and donation-drive. This year we chose a Roman Catholic charity who run a residential centre in Changhua for disabled people ~ they want to upgrade their facilities to provide ceiling fans in each room. Despite the heat, in summer they do not put on the A/C until it reaches 28°C, so these fans will help a lot. Such is the pollution and declining air quality in central and southern Taiwan, that opening the windows becomes a risk to those with sensitive health conditions. Previously upright fans have been used, but they are an obstacle to safe movement in the rooms. Ceiling fans are out of reach, and they also move the air around all over the room rather than just at ground level. The charity’s director, Mr. Chang (in the blue and white checked shirt in the centre) came to share about their work – and we all gathered to listen, and to advertise our fund-raising!

Advent Week Two at SJU started with our weekly walkabout….

Then on December 10, our group of 20 international trainees from Haiti had their closing ceremony – in French and Chinese, in the church centre. This is the second group to participate in this project, of 11 weeks of training in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, under a Taiwan ICDF program. This group used French, our previous group used English. The only problem was that the group were then delayed by a whole week due to the strike in France affecting flights!

As part of that ICDF project, Camille and Jun-Hong came to work at SJU, Camille with the French / English / Chinese translation and administration, and Jun-Hong with the engineering classes and as general assistant. Their contracts finished on December 20, and both are much missed, thank you guys! We all wish them well as they move on elsewhere ~ here we are at our farewell lunch!

Saturday December 14 ~ and a trip to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi for the very joyful wedding of Isaac Chen Wei-Chieh 陳瑋杰 and his beautiful bride, Ya-Hsin 羅雅馨, see that blog post here….

The next day, December 15, I was at St. John’s Cathedral for the sermon in their English service, followed by a lively pre-Christmas potluck celebration, complete with roast ham and all sorts of delicious goodies! Thank you everyone for a really good party!

And so to Advent Week Three at SJU, which started with our weekly walkabout, lighting candles in each office…

At lunchtime on Wednesday December 18, we held our charity bazaar in aid of the ceiling fans at Tszai ~ the bazaar always takes weeks and months of preparation, but it’s all in a good cause. After several weeks of sunshine, the rain started, but it didn’t dampen spirits! Our student fellowship were busy for days beforehand collecting and sorting lots of second-hand goods to sell, while our church members were busy in the kitchen cooking up delicious food for people to buy for lunch. Some of our former colleagues in the university also came back to visit and help, a great reunion for us all. The idea is that everyone can buy their lunch at the bazaar plus a few extra snacks – all yummy!

An added bonus at this year’s bazaar was to welcome Tunshan Elementary School, whose kindergarten class came along with their parents and teachers – they had their own stall selling food, toys and postcards that they had made. They were full of energy and fun, and really brightened us all up on a gloomy day!

On Thursday December 19, the day started with me visiting a very small and remote (but local) elementary school, Xing-Hua, at the foot of the mountains, where the children made their own Christmas cards by recycling my old ones. If you’ve sent me a Christmas card by post in the last few years, chances are it is now recycled into a new Christmas card, all covered in glitter and stickers by the children. Thank you everyone!

In the evening, our student fellowship went carol-singing around the SJU campus in the rain, including to the student dormitories, to our neighbours and to President Ay’s house, where we were warmly welcomed by him and his wife for refreshments…

At 7:30 am the next morning, we gathered at the SJU Chaplaincy to walk to our neighbouring junior high school, Xian-Xiao, to bring them our Christmas greetings at their school assembly, followed by lighting all the candles of the Advent wreath with the principal, staff and some of the parents. Always great to see them all!

In the evening, Advent Church and SJU student fellowship members went to share the good news of Christmas in the local community. We sang ‘Silent Night’ on the doorstep on each home and then wished everyone a Merry Christmas. We started in the Japanese Ramen restaurant above the Carrefour Supermarket, run by Mr. and Mrs. Wu from Advent Church, which was warm and dry…

And then we went in 4 cars, a motorcycle and a minibus northwards up the coast to Baishawan, where we received a wonderfully warm welcome from the Chang sisters, who took us on a tour around their neighbours singing to them all. Whereas the Ramen Restaurant had been very light, very warm and very dry, now it was completely dark, cold, bleak and absolutely pouring with rain. They live right by the sea, in an remote area where many of the houses are either ruins or look like they’re struggling to stay upright, and where the wind and rain make winter a challenge for everyone. But hey, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Our carol-singing tour – with some of our older church members in their mid-80’s – was full of joy, and we enjoyed soup and red bean tang-yuan dessert along the way. It was too wet for me to take photos, so I have taken these from facebook. Advent Church is certainly an ‘Advent-urous’ Church!

On Saturday December 21, off I went to Shuang-Lien Elderly Home to wish my very lovely friend, Mrs. Hsu a Merry Christmas. We gathered in the coffee shop with some of the other residents, their Filipino helpers and other staff ~ it was very lively! And then we all clapped 91 times in celebration of Mrs. Hsu’s upcoming 91st birthday 👏👏😊 YES!

Fast forward to Christmas Eve ~ and our final walkabout during the afternoon to light all the candles on each Advent wreath and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! We also passed by 2 beautiful displays in the Creative Design dept done by members of our student fellowship….

In the evening at 7:30 pm was the Advent Church Christmas Eve service, and we welcomed old friends and new, including a group of students who came to church instead of their regular Wednesday evening class, along with their teacher, Dr. Wang, our SJU Vice-President. And our church choir wore their brand new robes for the very first time ~ their first new robes for 20 years!

Christmas Day is a normal work and school day in Taiwan, so at 7:45 am off I went for my early morning English class at Xian-Xiao Junior-High School….

We had a small Christmas Day service at 10:00 am in Advent Church. It was a beautiful sunny day, what a change from a few days ago when it was so wet and cold! The view from Advent Church of the SJU campus on Christmas Day morning…

The service was attended by SJU faculty, staff, students and church members. The rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, presented a cheque for NT$ 100,000 on behalf of Advent Church to SJU President Ay as a donation to cover the costs of repairs, maintenance, utilities and cleaning that are carried out by SJU for Advent Church throughout the year. Another cheque, for NT$ 50,000, was presented by the SJU Alumni Association to the fund run by the SJU chaplaincy that provides meal coupons for students from disadvantaged families, one of whom received the cheque. Thanks be to God!

The service was followed by a light lunch for our students who receive meal coupons, for my group of students who normally meet on Wednesday lunchtimes for an English Bible Study, plus some church members. We had 5 dishes ~ fried noodles, fried rice, 2 vegetable dishes and fizzy juice with fruit, all very good, and a really good way to spend Christmas Day ~ before we went back to work for the afternoon!

On Christmas Day afternoon came the other really good news of the day ~ we had reached our target in the SJU and Advent Church charity fundraising drive 2019 for the Tszai Education and Nursing Institute in Changhua! Thanks be to God! At lunchtime we were still over NT$ 60,000 short, and we had asked people to pray and to give – and then to pray and to give some more! We are deeply grateful to our good friend, Dr. Christopher Chih-Yung Chen, son of Rev, Charles C. T. Chen and professor here at SJU, who came to our rescue by asking all his colleagues to donate, and he came to our chaplaincy office just before 5:00 pm with the money he had collected that day: NT$ 87,000 in cash, which brought our grand total to well over the target. Our deadline was Christmas Day – and so the target was reached just in time! God is good, and we are very grateful! This is us celebrating in the SJU Chaplaincy office with Christopher: 感謝上帝 Thanks be to God!

On Friday December 27, our SJU Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang took a group of us to visit the Tszai Education and Nursing Institute, 財團法人天主教會台中教區附設台灣省私立慈愛殘障教養院 (link here to their website / facebook – their facebook page has lots of good photos of their activities) in order to present our donation and to have a short tour. The drive to Changhua in central Taiwan took 3 hours, and we were warmly welcomed by Mr. Chang, the director and his staff – for coffee, lunch and a tour of the premises. The main building on the compound was built 20+ years ago and houses 124 residents with varying degrees of disability (another 20+ come on a daily basis and return home at night). All residents are recommended for admittance by social services, and families pay a certain amount each month, but for low income families, the government helps out and nobody is turned away. Some come from loving homes, others have little contact with their families. They all find a warm welcome at Tszai!

On the same compound, next to the main building is the original building, which was built many years ago by the Maryknoll Sisters to take care of leprosy patients. As the number of leprosy patients deceased, people were other disabilities were admitted. But space was limited, so the new building was added 20 years ago, and now both are in use. This is the original building in the foreground, the one at the back with the cross is the very famous Changhua Christian Hospital.

The vision of Mr. Chang, the director and his team to install ceiling fans in each of the 60 twin-bedded dormitory rooms, has first been tested by installing fans in 2 of the bedrooms, including this one below. They proved such a success that they decided to fund-raise to fit out the remaining rooms. Each fan costs NT$ 4,800 x 60 = NT$ 288,000….

We thank God that we were able to hand over our donation of NT$ 344,250! It was a great day indeed, and we are grateful for God’s grace and the generosity of all those at SJU and Advent Church😊😊

Sunday December 29 was the nearest Sunday to St. John’s Day (Dec. 27) and tradition has it that the SJU Student Fellowship take leading roles in the Sunday service on that day – leading the singing, readings, offerings, as much as possible. Lots of former student fellowship members also came back to join the celebrations, and in the afternoon they had a great Christmas party ~ here they all are after the service. It was really great to see them – but hey I had no time to stop, we were off the airport to pick up our VIP visitors!

And so to the final big event of 2019, and the long-awaited visit of a group of 22 very lovely family members of the late Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970), the first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70). It was an action-packed 30-hour visit, the highlight being a very moving Thanksgiving Service on Monday December 30 in Advent Church, during which Rev. Charles C. T. Chen gave the sermon, sharing many inspirational stories about Bishop Wong. Another highlight was for the group to meet up with Bishop Lai, senior clergy and church members who had personally known Bishop Wong. And in-between were gift presentations, photos and delicious meals galore. Here’s the extended Wong family ~ and you’d never know from their smiles and enthusiasm that it hardly stopped raining the whole time they were here!

Bishop James Wong achieved more in his 5 short years in Taiwan than most of us do in a whole lifetime, including founding this institution, St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT – now St. John’s University), setting up the diocesan office in Taipei and establishing a companion diocese with the Diocese of Upper South Carolina in the USA, thereby raising a huge amount of money which was used to build many of our churches. As Rev. Charles C. T. Chen said in his sermon at the Thanksgiving Service, Bishop Wong inspired a whole generation of clergy through his motto of ‘Transforming Lives through the Life of Christ’, encouraging them to raise funds to build their own churches and to reach out and help the less fortunate ~ the result of which can be seen today, for example in Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and St. James’ Church, Taichung raising money to build 12 churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Philippines from 1998-2012 (for more details of that project see my blog post here) ~ and in Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector of Advent Church here at SJU, raising the funds to build our Advent Church Centre, for ministry on the campus and in the local community.

Bishop Wong is buried here, under the altar at Advent Church ~ in fact the church was built around his grave. He had 4 children, and the group of 22 who came to visit included all the direct descendants of Bishop Wong’s oldest son, Francis, who died last year in his 80’s. In fact, Francis was born on December 30, 1929, so it would have been his 90th birthday on the day of our Thanksgiving Service. It’s meaningful to think that on that very day 90 years ago Bishop Wong and his wife became parents for the first time! Francis Wong’s 5 children (standing in the photo below with Bishop Lai, Rev. Charles Chen, Rev. Lennon Chang, Rev. Wu and President Ay) and their families had gathered from Australia, New Zealand, UK and Brazil in Hong Kong for Christmas, and extended their time to come to Taiwan, most visiting Taiwan for the very first time.

The group arrived at Taoyuan Airport on Sunday December 29 early afternoon. We brought them to SJU, where they spent the night, and Advent Church hosted a welcome dinner that evening. Then the Tan family and church members arrived at 6:00 am on Monday to cook them a really fantastic breakfast, all laid out with table-cloths, flowers and even background music….

On Monday December 30, we held the Thanksgiving Service at 10:00 am, all in English, in Advent Church, to remember Bishop Wong ~ and we invited alumni from the first SJSMIT intake from 53 years ago, clergy and church members, as well as SJU President Ay, faculty and staff…

Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector, led the service, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen preached and Bishop Lai gave the blessing; the family also gave a speech and presented beautiful books of old photos of Bishop Wong and their family. There were also gift presentations from President Ay on behalf of SJU and from Professor Mei-Mei Lin, who spent most of the past month putting together a special booklet in honour of their visit, all about Bishop Wong’s legacy and significance for the Taiwan Episcopal Church.

In the afternoon, we took the Wong family group to Taipei where we held a sharing time at St. John’s Cathedral, giving the family a chance to listen to our beloved Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma and Rev. Michael T. H. Liu share their memories of Bishop Wong, and the family also presented them with photo books. Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary and a group of church members who had been confirmed by Bishop Wong had brought their confirmation certificates to show! Bishop Lai presented each family with an artillery shell cross, and later that evening, Bishop Lai hosted a dinner on behalf of the diocese.

It was really wonderful to welcome Bishop Wong’s family to Taiwan for this short but very significant visit (for the Christian Tribune report of their visit in Chinese, please see the link here). And if their fun way of posing for photos takes off in Taiwan (as in the photo below) it’ll become another part of Bishop Wong’s great legacy – established by the 3rd and 4th generations of his family! 😂🙃😂

Thanks be to God for a very lively and meaningful Advent and Christmas 2019, and thank you all for your Christmas cards, letters, messages and gifts! There was certainly a lot going on, and above is but a small selection of events. We give thanks for God’s mercy, for His light shining in the darkness, for the gift of eternal life. As 2019 draws to a close, may we continue to be thankful for God’s grace throughout this past year, and, under God’s leading, prepare to face the exciting challenges of 2020! Happy New Year to you all!

🕯️🔔🎄🎅🎄🎁⛪⛄🎶🌟❄️🎄🕯️🔔🎄🎅🎄🎁⛪⛄🎶🌟❄️🎄🕯️⛪

PS Updated on January 1, 2020: Today Bishop Lai invited all clergy and their families plus diocesan workers who are based in northern Taiwan to St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for a Christmas and New Year Thanksgiving Service, followed by lunch. Here we all are in the cathedral after the service shouting out altogether ‘新年快樂’ ‘Happy New Year’ to you all!

Blessings abound, thanks be to God!

Congratulations to Isaac Chen Wei-Chieh 陳瑋杰 and his beautiful bride 羅雅馨!

On September 2, 2019, I received a very special message, and it made my day! The message said, “Hello Catherine! I am going to get married on December 14, 2019! Our wedding will be held in St. Peter’s Church (Chiayi). We want to invite you to attend our wedding, we would be happy if you can come!”

🥳🥳🥳 YES! Of course I must go, I just have to be there!🥳🥳🥳

🥳 ISAAC IS GETTING MARRIED, YIPPEE! 🥳

And so it was that yesterday, 220 km south of here, in the lovely little church of St. Peter’s, Chiayi, a young and handsome Isaac 瑋杰 Wei-Chieh and his lovely bride, Angie 雅馨 Ya-Hsin were married.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

And, thanks be to God again, cos I was there too!

But I was not the only person to travel to Chiayi from Taipei; Isaac’s grandfather and some family members had also set off early to be there for the 3:00 pm wedding. And they were also, like me, going back the same day. Actually it took me 5 hours each way, and that included 90 minutes by High-Speed Rail from Taipei to Chiayi. But it was well well worth it! This is Isaac’s grandfather and the family….

Isaac is the young man who I got to know a few years ago through my visits to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi for a series of youth Bible Studies. He was teaching nearby at the time, was a relatively new Christian and had joined St. Peter’s Church – and was helping to lead the church youth group. In the summer of 2016, he was one of 3 delegates from the Diocese of Taiwan to take part in a CCEA Youth Forum in Malaysia, and as a result of that trip, we arranged for him to share his experiences with us all at an event at St. Peter’s, when Raj Patel, CMS Regional Manager for Asia came to visit Taiwan in October 2016 (see that blog post here). We were all most impressed. The Church definitely needs more people like Isaac! Here he is with the St. Peter’s youth group….

That event in October 2016 at St. Peter’s was held while the vicar of St. Peter’s, Rev. Simon T. S. Tsou, was away in the USA for a 3-month training program with the Diocese of Los Angeles. As Simon recounted yesterday at the wedding, it was also while he was away in the USA, that Simon’s wife informed him that Isaac had started to bring a very nice young lady along to church. That young lady was his colleague, Angie – at the time she was interested in the Christian Gospel and taking part in Bible Studies, but had not yet found a church to go to. She continued at St. Peter’s, and soon afterwards was baptized, they got to know each other better, and well, as they say, the rest is history! These days, they both work in Kaohsiung, and worship 3 Sundays a month at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, and one Sunday a month at St. Peter’s. So the wedding was held in St. Peter’s, led by Rev. Simon Tsou, but with the vicar of St. Paul’s, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang giving the marriage blessing.

The St. Peter’s Youth Group, many of whom have since moved away for university study, all returned to sing at the wedding. Isaac also sang his own song for his new wife. Ah, it was very moving!

There were lots of church members there from St. Paul’s, Kaohsiung…

And even more from St. Peter’s, Chiayi…

Many congratulations to the happy couple, may God bless them in their new life together, and as they continue to serve him and serve in the church! Thanks be to God for them both, they are so lovely. Please do keep them in your prayers.

I left for home straight after the service and refreshments – after all there was a 5-hour journey to face – but we were all given a little pack of yummy homemade cookies for the journey. Such thoughtfulness! Thank you Isaac and Angie and all at St. Peter’s Church for a great day, it was a wonderful and very special occasion!

NCCT 基督徒聯誼運動會 Sports Day 2019!

Walking, Running, Relays, Obstacle Race, Table Tennis, Frisbee, Ball Throwing and a new game called Taspony (rules similar to tennis but using bare hands and a sponge ball): non-stop action all day! All part of the annual ecumenical NCCT Sports Day, held on Saturday November 9 here at St. John’s University (SJU).

The National Council of Churches of Taiwan (NCCT) 台灣教會合作協會 is affiliated with the World Council of Churches, and in Taiwan it consists of 6 member churches – Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, Methodist and Lutheran. There’s also 11 member organizations, the Bible Society, Christian AV Association, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Tainan Theological College & Seminary, Taipei Christian Academy, Taiwan Christian Service, Taiwan Theological College & Seminary, The Garden of Hope Foundation, World Vision, YWCA and YMCA.

The Sports Day is organized by the different churches and organizations in turn; this year it was the turn of Taiwan Christian Service 台灣基督教福利會, and they asked to hold the event here at St. John’s University. Taiwan Christian Service is a relief agency, founded in 1954 by the Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief. The short sermon at the opening service of the Sports Day was given by Rev. Liu Ren-Hai of the Lutheran Church, who is also chair of Taiwan Christian Service.

The bishop of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop David J. H. Lai has always made the ecumenical Sports Day a big priority and he attends every year, competing in the Table Tennis competition, and this year was no exception. Participation by different churches over the years comes and goes ~ this year there were 6 teams in total, from the RC Church, Taiwan Christian Service, YMCA, YWCA, Episcopal Church and a small team of 9 from the Presbyterian Church. Some years, the Roman Catholics and Presbyterians choose to participate in big numbers – their indigenous church members are so strong and always win every tug of war race with one slight jolt on the rope (at least, that’s my impression of the last time the Sports Day was held here at SJU, back in 2012!) The team with the most colourful T-shirts were in bright orange – despite their name, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Organization) had almost equal numbers of men and women, and on inquiry they said that they were all working at the YMCA Hotel in Taipei – I told them we always recommend their hotel to visitors – it’s a good place!

This year the Taiwan Episcopal Church had by far the largest group of participants. St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung sent a bus of 35 church members, the teenagers and children to join the sports, the older ones for cheer-leading and singing. A group of about 20 came from St. John’s Cathedral and a similar group came from Advent Church and our student fellowship at St. John’s University. So we had all ages and all abilities…

And we had a great time! I was in the 400 m walking race, and part of the team of 20 for the relays and the obstacle race (which included a sack race, hopping, jumping through the hoops and running with the sack back to base). Ah, it was all fun!

At lunchtime, we had performances from the cheer-leading teams or songs and dances. St. Stephen’s Church senior group sang some choruses, they were so lovely!

Awards were presented to individual winners as well as to the teams. The Taiwan Episcopal Church came out as overall winners, and Rev. Philip Lin accepted the cup on behalf of the church from Fr. Mbudi Masela (CICM, based at Qidu, Keelung, originally from the Congo), and then the RC Church received the award for the most energetic team, presented to Fr. Masela by Bishop Lai.

Thanks be to God for great weather, great spirit and energy, and lots of fun, fellowship and laughter! The weather was indeed wonderful – this is the SJU campus that afternoon after everyone had gone home, looking splendid in the late afternoon sun…

And so we’re looking forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Celebrating Taiwan’s Double Ninth / Chong-Yang Festival 重陽節!

Today is the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, known as Double Ninth Festival or Chong-Yang Festival 重陽節 and in Taiwan, it’s a special day for honoring all senior citizens. Yesterday I was in Taichung at St. James’ Church and the Rev. Lily Chang kindly invited me to stay on after the services for their Chong-Yang Festival lunch in a nearby restaurant. All those aged 65 and over were invited to join – and they had a few spare seats, which is how I got to be there too. The oldest there was 86, and the youngest had just turned 65 this year. Several were retired clergy and their wives, also one clergy widow. One of the main things to eat is long rice noodles – to wish for longevity. No wonder everyone lives to a great age in Taiwan!

On August 8, Double Eight, Taiwan celebrated Father’s Day (eight is pronounced ‘ba’, so 8/8 is ‘baba’, the word for ‘father’) but that was according to the Gregorian Calendar, not the lunar calendar. And this coming Thursday is Double Ten 10/10, Taiwan’s National Day, again according to the Gregorian Calendar. My neighbours assure me that this is the best kind of holiday for them, as Gregorian Calendar holidays do not require ‘bai-bai’ (ancestor or temple worship), so they’ll get a break. October 10 is a holiday, and we worked last Saturday in lieu of this coming Friday ~ so a four-day weekend is coming up, yes!

Rev. Dr. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮牧師 elected as next Bishop of Taiwan ~ Congratulations!

Update on Tuesday August 6: the official report on the Episcopal News Service announcing these results is now published here

After many months of prayer and preparation, today was THE big day, when Bishop David J. H. Lai gathered the Diocese of Taiwan clergy and laity representatives at St. James’ Church, Taichung to elect the next Bishop of Taiwan. Thanks be to God that Rev. Dr. Lennon Y. R. Chang 張員榮牧師 was elected on the second ballot ~ many congratulations! Above is the photo of the bishop and bishop-elect with their wives, and below is Bishop-elect Lennon and his wife, Hannah posing in their formal photo!

The day started with a Holy Communion service at 10:00 am, led by Bishop David J. H. Lai. Most of us had had very early starts, for us in the far N. W. of Taiwan at Advent Church, we set off at 6:00 am in a small bus and fortunately got to St. James, Taichung without any trouble well before 9:00 am. We are grateful for the prayers of friends around the world for good weather and safe travels. This month, after all, is actually the height of the typhoon season, so we are glad that our schedule for today was not disrupted by bad weather. Here we are arriving at St. James ready for the big day!

Just so you know, Bishop David J. H. Lai 賴榮信主教 is the 5th diocesan bishop of Taiwan, he was consecrated on November 25, 2000 as coadjutor, and then installed as diocesan bishop in 2001 on the retirement of Bishop John C. T. Chien 簡啟聰主教. Bishop Lai retires in March 2020, so today we have elected our 6th diocesan bishop to be Bishop Lai’s successor.

We are grateful to all 3 nominees who stood for election, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang 張員榮牧師, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang 張玲玲牧師 and Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu 吳明龍牧師.

For most of our clergy it was their first bishop election. For Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary, it was his second, and we were glad that he was here today to lead the way. He was on hand to check everyone in, helped by diocesan staff, clergy and and his daughter …

First was the Holy Communion Service…

Then the election was held immediately after the service, on the 7th floor of the St. James’ Education Building, with the observers watching from the balcony above, and an overflow group watching it all by video link on the 6th floor.

The rules are that all clergy and elected lay delegates are allowed to vote, and the person elected must receive over 50% from both the house of clergy and house of laity on the same ballot. Of our 18 clergy, 17 voted, and we had 36 lay delegates, all of whom voted. Ballot 1 results as follows…

After the first ballot, the candidate with the lowest number in both the house of clergy and house of laity did not then proceed onto ballot 2. In the second ballot, there was a clear result ~ and when it became clear, the whole room erupted in applause! Ballot 2 results as follows….

Lennon gave a short acceptance speech in which he thanked all the clergy and lay delegates for their support…

And then we had photos, of course! Group photos and individual ones. And we were so pleased to welcome Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock, representing the Episcopal Church, and here he is!

And other friends and church groups…

A bit of background: Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, 張員榮牧師, 64, is the rector of Advent Church on the campus of St. John’s University, Taipei, where the church serves as both the university chapel and as a parish church. Among many projects and ministries over the years, Lennon has also raised huge amounts of money to install the most beautiful stained glass artwork in the Advent Church ceiling, and to build the Advent Church Centre. He is also very involved in leading short-term mission trips within Taiwan and overseas, most recently in a mission program working together with our companion diocese of Osaka. Later this month he will lead an 8-day mission trip with about 20 mostly young people from Osaka and Taiwan to the Diocese of West Malaysia. Do pray for them!

Lennon is married to Hannah, they have 2 adult daughters and 2 young grandchildren. He was born and brought up in Taipei in a military family, with parents from a Baptist background who moved to Taiwan from Mainland China in 1949. As a student at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology SJSMIT (predecessor of St. John’s University SJU) Lennon was baptized aged 15 in 1970 by Rev. Charles C. T. Chen in Advent Church, and then confirmed in 1971 by Bishop James Pong. Hannah is a former kindergarten teacher, she grew up in Keelung, where she and her older sister, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, were members of Trinity Church. Elizabeth and her husband, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen were both there today at the election as observers, they have retired to Tamsui, and now worship each week at Advent Church. Lennon studied theology through the diocesan Trinity Hall Theological Program, and was ordained deacon on December 21, 1995 and ordained priest on January 25, 1999. Lennon has devoted virtually his whole life and ministry to St. John’s University, first as a student, then in succession as Associate Professor of Mathematics (he has a PhD in Algebra), SJU chaplain and now as full-time rector of Advent Church.

So, please do pray for Lennon and his family, for Advent Church and St. John’s University, and for Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan. We give thanks to Almighty God for his many blessings and for the smooth election process today. A lot of the hard work and responsibility rests with Mr. Richard B. S. Hu, chair of the diocesan Standing Committee. Today’s result still needs to receive consent from the bishops and standing committees of the Episcopal Church; but provisionally the date of consecration, ordination and installation is set as February 22, 2020.

All clergy and laity representatives at today’s bishop election

Much respected and well-loved by all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, the Rev. Dr. Peyton G. Craighill (who sadly died on June 4, 2019 at the age of 89) served in Taiwan for many years along with his wife Mary, based at Tainan Theological College from 1961-1978, and then in their retirement, they came back for 2 years to serve at St. James’ Church, Taichung. In June 2012, Peyton came to Taiwan to lead workshops on Member Mission, his last visit to the country and people he loved so much. At the end of his visit then, he shared with me how he thought that the next bishop of Taiwan would be Rev. Lennon Chang – Peyton thought Lennon to be eminently suitable to be bishop. Sadly Peyton is no longer here to see today’s election result, but we know he would be thanking God!

Bishop Dick Chang sadly died 2 years ago, but during his time as Bishop of Hawaii, he and his wife Dee were good friends and wonderful supporters of us all in Taiwan, and Dee continues to support us today. Bishop Dick would be pleased that another Bishop Chang has been elected in the Episcopal Church!

Lennon is 64 years old and in the diocesan public forum meetings leading up to this election, he emphasized that, if elected, he has a clearly defined 7-year plan to embark upon immediately, as his time as bishop would be limited (mandatory retirement age of bishops in the Episcopal Church is 72). He assured everyone that he is prepared to work very hard to respond to God’s calling. His inspiration and role model is Bishop James C. L. Wong (Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70 and founder of SJSMIT / SJU) whose motto was always, “Transforming Lives Through the Life of Christ.” Bishop Wong was 65 at his consecration, and achieved so much in those 5 years. Lennon hopes to do the same – certainly his determination and dedication are legendary – and we pray for God’s blessing upon his ministry, his health and his family. Thank you!

All clergy, laity, observers, volunteers, diocesan staff and visitors at today’s bishop election!

The official report announcing these election results is published here on the Episcopal News Service website. The report in Chinese on the Christian Tribune website is here. Thanks to Rev. Antony F. W. Liang for some of the photos used above, to St. James’ Church for hosting the election and lunch, and to you all for your support, prayers and concern for us ~ and thanks be again to Almighty God!

Prayers Requested for the Diocese of Taiwan Bishop Election This Coming Weekend!

Happening this very weekend, on Saturday August 3 is the election of the new diocesan bishop of Taiwan. Prayers requested please!

The mandatory retirement age for bishops in the Episcopal Church is 72, so our current diocesan bishop, Bishop David J. H. Lai 賴榮信主教 must retire before March 3, 2020. Bishop Lai is the 5th diocesan bishop of Taiwan, he was consecrated on November 25, 2000 as coadjutor, and then installed as diocesan bishop in 2001 on the retirement of Bishop John C. T. Chien 簡啟聰主教. So we are electing our 6th diocesan bishop as Bishop Lai’s successor. The date of consecration, ordination and installation is provisionally set as February 22, 2020.

We have 3 official nominees, seen in the photo below with Bishop Lai, all are from within the Diocese of Taiwan. From left: Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang 張員榮牧師, rector of Advent Church, Taipei, Bishop David J. H. Lai, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang 張玲玲牧師, rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung, and Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu 吳明龍牧師, vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung.

The 3 nominees were confirmed at our diocesan convention in March, then in April, May and June, there were 3 very well-attended public forums, one each in the north, central and south Taiwan. It was a chance for the nominees to share about themselves, their vision for the diocese, and an opportunity to ask and answer questions.

We are pleased to welcome Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock, coming to Taiwan for the election on behalf of the US-based Episcopal Church, of which Taiwan is an overseas diocese, part of Province VIII.

The election of the new bishop takes place this coming Saturday, August 3 at St. James’ Church, Taichung, starting at 10:00 am with a service, followed by the actual election. Most people are traveling there for the day from our various churches throughout Taiwan. We pray for safe travels and good weather, a smooth election and a clear result. Please join us in prayer!

Kinmen 金門: Transforming War into Peace @ The Home of the Kinmen Artillery Shell Crosses!

My first ever visit to the Kinmen Islands – YES!

Artillery Shells, Kinmen

Kinmen 金門 (aka Quemoy / Chinmen / Chin-men), one of Taiwan’s farthest-flung islands, is where the 823 Artillery Shell Bombardment 八二三炮戰 happened in 1958 as part of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, when an estimated 450,000 artillery shells were fired at the Kinmen Islands. It’s also where the Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai had his vision in 2016 to transform some of those artillery shells into crosses, a symbol of hatred and war now transformed into a symbol of love and peace.  The Chin Ho Li Steel Knife Workshop 金合利, founded in 1963 in Kinmen, uses the discarded artillery shells to make high-quality steel blades for both kitchen and ornamental use. Maestro Wu, grandson of the founder, now runs the company, and he kindly offered his expertise to work with Bishop Lai on the design and production of the prototype crosses.  To produce lighter-weight crosses, he suggested using moulds, and this was done by sending the artillery shell steel to another factory elsewhere.  This project of the Taiwan Episcopal Church has now been fully realized, and while I was in the UK on home leave this past year, I presented Kinmen Artillery Shell Crosses to many church leaders. This included acting on behalf of Bishop Lai to present one to the Archbishop of Canterbury; Bishop Lai himself led a delegation from the National Council of Churches of Taiwan to the Vatican in December 2017, where he was able to present one to Pope Francis.   This is Maestro Wu’s workshop in Kinmen – the smell of the smelters in the workshop is really strong!

But y’know, until now, I had never actually visited Kinmen.  So you can imagine how excited I was when Bishop Lai invited me to join this church visit to Kinmen for 29 members and friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, from May 20-22, 2019!  His purpose on this visit was firstly to visit Maestro Wu to thank him for his help…

Secondly to visit the Zhaishan Tunnel翟山坑道 in Kinmen to sing our specially-composed Artillery Shell Cross hymn, and thirdly to visit Dadan Island 大膽島, open to the public only since March 2019.  This is everyone in the Zhaishan Tunnel….

Thanks be to God that, through His mercy and grace, we accomplished all that we wanted to do in Kinmen!  But as we arrived at Songshan Airport in Taipei City on Monday May 20 at 7:00 am to check in for the 8:00 am hour-long flight to Kinmen, we wondered whether we would even get off the ground.  The Plum Rains were here in full force; outside was torrential rain (in fact we learned later that flash-flooding caused St. John’s University to cancel classes that day), while we also heard that Kinmen Airport was closed and over 1,000 people had been stranded in Kinmen overnight waiting for the weather to improve.  The 7:00 am flight to Kinmen was first delayed, then cancelled, and we feared ours would be next. Down south in Kaohsiung, 7 of our group were already stranded at the airport there as their flight to Kinmen really was cancelled, so all they could do was wait on standby for a spare seat.  Our group at Taipei was 22 people, far too many to all get to Kinmen on standby if our flight was to be cancelled too.  Aaaah!  Then suddenly at about 8:30 am, the announcement came that we could proceed to check in our luggage and onwards to boarding.  YES!

And our group from Taipei have arrived at Kinmen!

The skies were dark as we started to fly west over the Taiwan Strait towards Kinmen.  But as we got closer, blue sky emerged up above, and by the time we arrived, the rain had stopped.  But it did continue to rain on and off all day, mostly heavily.  Fortunately our group from Kaohsiung also all managed to get there in the end, although it took until about 2:00 pm before the last 2 arrived.  Here we all are, united at the ceramics factory – possibly our only group photo of 28/29 of us (taken by Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu, one of our group) …

Like many islands in this part of the world, Kinmen has a complicated history.  “Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949, the government of the Republic of China (ROC) under Chiang Kai-shek began withdrawing its forces from mainland China to Taiwan. However, ROC garrisons remained stationed on the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, located off the coast in Fujian Province.”  In fact, the Kinmen Islands were so heavily militarized that, at its peak, an estimated 100,000 troops were stationed there.  Many hundreds of thousands of Taiwan men have done their military service in Kinmen, including our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang. For years, military service was 2 years, so Kinmen made a deep impression on those serving there.  These days, the total number of military personnel in the whole of the Kinmen Islands numbers less than 5,000.  What a difference! But there are the remnants of army bases, equipment, museums, guard posts and military memorials all over Kinmen.  Many of these more obvious memorials are standing right in the middle of roundabouts – guess it makes moving military equipment easier if there’s a roundabout rather than a sharp corner, anyway Kinmen has more roundabouts on that one single island than I have ever seen in the whole of the rest of Taiwan. 

Kinmen is located in Xiamen Bay, at the mouth of the Jiulong River, 227 km west of Taiwan, but only 10 km east of Xiamen.  Xiamen is a huge port city in China, population 3,500,000 (census of 2010), and formerly known as Amoy – it was a British-run treaty port from 1842 to 1912.  The main Greater Kinmen Island is shaped like a dumbbell or a butterfly (depending on your imagination); the narrowest part is 3 km wide, and at the widest part, east-west, it is 20 km.  There’s also the neigbouring island of Small / Lesser Kinmen 小金門, and the much smaller islands of Dadan, Erdan and more. 

Sadly Kinmen has been very badly deforested by all the political chaos, civil wars and centuries of pirate attacks, so instead of being protected by its forests, it is now famous for its northeast monsoon winds that roar around all autumn and winter and make cultivation very difficult.  All over Kinmen are Wind Lion God statues, originally installed to protect against wind damage, and now also believed to protect against evil spirits… 

And then there’s the cows – like roundabouts, it seems as if there’s more cows in tiny Kinmen than in the whole of Taiwan.  They’re on every grassy bit of field, all individually tied up and with their own bucket of water, and all with their own personality!

For me, the most interesting things in Kinmen are the old houses.  There’s old houses all over Taiwan, but nothing like the ones in Kinmen. I expected to see a few, but there are thousands.  Most of them are well-preserved and still inhabited, others have been converted to guest houses and holiday cottages. Their style is traditional Fujian, with swallowtail or horseback-shaped ridges on their roofs.  They are stunning – and I couldn’t get enough of ‘em!

Tourism is now a major source of income for Kinmen people, and being so close to Xiamen means that trade with China is booming.  The water supply even comes from there, via a pipeline, installed in 2018. The Kinmen government has invested a lot of money in developing the islands for tourism and trying to attract their people to move back from Taiwan and China. Business is good, and there are supermarkets and department stores, big houses and luxury developments.  Kinmen is also famous for the production of Kaoliang wine, made from sorghum, and at this time of year the fields of sorghum have just been harvested.  Food production also includes oysters, and out on the beach at low tide are vast oyster farms – the sky was hazy, but in the distance we could just see the skyscrapers of Xiamen.

On our arrival on Monday May 20, we went to the visitor centre, to the Zhaishan Tunnel (constructed between 1961-66 to keep military boats safe from attack), where we sang our artillery shell hymn, to the ceramics factory and then to Shishan (Mt. Lion) Howitzer Front獅山砲陣地 where we had a demo of artillery shells being fired from the Howitzer, which has a firing range of 17 km, and was used in the 823 Artillery Bombardment.  In the torrential rain, we also visited the cultural park.  Most of these places were inside – so fortunate – seeing as the rain kept on pouring down!

We were staying at a guest house called 璞真民宿, located in Jinning Township, in the NW of Kinmen and owned by Mr. Kao, a relative of one of our church members in Taipei.  He arranged all our itinerary for us, and we also very much enjoyed his wife’s home-cooked breakfasts – and the chance to use his main room for evening worship. Here he is with Bishop Lai, drinking tea…

Early on Tuesday morning, I was up early to walk around the area. Fields of peanuts, tractors, temples and so many old houses to take photos of – oh yes, and a deer ranch! 

On our third day in Kinmen, I was up early again for sunrise over the fish farms, and walked along to the nearby villages of Nanshan and Beishan…