Tag Archives: Advent Church

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

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

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

Workshop

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

Workshop

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

Workshop

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

Workshop Group Photo

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

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

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

Workshop

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

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

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

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

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

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

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

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

Convention: Advent Church

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

Convention

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

Convention

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

Convention: Diocesan Office

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

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

Clergy Group Photo, Holy Week 2022

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

Easter Joy! ❤️🐣🌼

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. John’s Cathedral Easter flowers

Easter Joy! ❤️🐣 🌼 Thanks be to God!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 24 🌟🕯️🎄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day24: This is the very lovely Cai-Pei 采沛, just arriving now at St. John’s University (SJU), and all ready for her baptism during tonight’s Christmas Eve service ~ and she gets the largest Teddy Bear chocolate in the Advent Calendar! Ah, she’s so happy! She comes every Sunday to Advent Church from her home in Taoyuan, having graduated last year from SJU in Creative Design, a classmate and good friend of Yi-Ting who works on our SJU Chaplaincy staff and the one who originally invited her to join the student fellowship. They also did their senior project together on the theme of Advent Church, designing and making a wonderful welcome video, cards and a book, all now featured on the Advent Church website.

Like Jia-Wei, who is also being baptized tonight, Cai-Pei is the first (and so far only) Christian in her family. She says she’s still waiting for the right moment to tell her family of her decision. Like many of our recently-graduated students, she’s finding it difficult to find a permanent job in her chosen field, design. Please do pray for her and her family, her search for a job, and her new-found Christian faith. Thanks be to God, and to you all for your prayers ~ and joyful greetings to you all this Christmas Eve! 🕯️🕯️

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 20 ⛄🎁🎄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day20: This is Shi-En 世恩, this year’s chair of St. John’s University Student Fellowship. He’s popular and outgoing, generous with his time and money, and his latest hair styles are always the talk of the town! Shi-En is a third year student in Leisure Sport & Health Management, and comes from Kluang, Johor, West Malaysia, where his family are members of Peace Assemblies of God Church 佳安神召會.

Shi-En’s sense of identity coming from a Christian family is very strong. His name Shi 世 means ‘world’, En 恩 means ‘grace’, and he says his parents gave him this name hoping that wherever he goes in the world he will share God’s grace with others. They certainly have a great vision, and Shi-En is a wonderful blessing to us all! In the student fellowship, he is always so welcoming of everyone, especially those on the edges of the group, and is very good leading online meetings, making sure everyone is included. In the fellowship meetings, he often leads the praise and worship ~ it’s always very lively! When Advent Church services were all online, his parents joined in from Malaysia and shared the peace with us during each service. Now, his family are preparing for his brother’s wedding at Chinese New Year, but sadly Shi-En won’t be able to return home due to the pandemic. Please do pray for him, his family and all in the student fellowship ~ they’re busy preparing for their big Christmas evangelistic outreach on Thursday December 23. 🎄🎶🔔

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 17 🔔❄️🎄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day17: This is Ming-Chuan 銘傳, senior warden of Advent Church, and his lovely wife, Meng-Zhen 孟蓁. This evening they welcomed 30 of us from Advent Church, including 12 from the St. John’s University Student Fellowship, to their home for an Advent Service followed by a delicious meal. The cold wind was howling outside, but inside it was so warm and cosy. They are just so hospitable and kind!

Ming-Chuan is a former police officer, and Meng-Zhen recently retired from her work in a busy hospital, and despite some serious ongoing health challenges these past 2 years, they both continue to faithfully serve in Advent Church. They really love our student fellowship group and are always finding ways to help them feel more and more part of the church community, like this evening’s meal at their home. Yes, we all love them so much ~ and please do pray for them both!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 16 ⛄⛪🔔

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day16: This is Jasmine Yu 游珮琪主任, our good friend in charge of the local junior high school, Xian-Xiao (branch of Zheng-De Junior High School 正德國中賢孝校區). Xian-Xiao is so close that their pupils walk through the St. John’s University campus each day to get there, so we see them all often. There’s 85 children in the school, aged 12-15. Small is beautiful ~ they are so well cared for! The school specializes in giving the children all sorts of opportunities to discover what kind of career they might like in the future, with chances to learn everything from cooking to horticulture, electronics to hair-styling. They’re all very lovely and welcoming ~ we go there regularly for different classes, and we’re really looking forward to going next week to wish them all a Merry Christmas! 🎄🎅🏽🎶

With so many responsibilities, Jasmine is very very busy and her weekends are often full of school activities, but she tries hard to fit in the Sunday service at Advent Church ~ where she was baptized on Christmas Eve 2017, the first Christian in her immediate family, the second in her extended family; she brought about 20 family members along to witness her baptism that day! For many years, she has kindly invited me to go hiking some of Taiwan’s famous 100 Peaks (Baiyue 百岳) with her family, such a great experience. Please pray for her, her family and all in Xian-Xiao Junior High School!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 15 👼🌟⛄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day15: This is Dr. Huang Hung-Pin 黃宏斌校長, President of St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei since August 1, 2020. Previous to this position, he served as professor in the National Taiwan University (NTU) Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Taipei. President Huang was here at SJU today to open the SJU Christmas Charity Bazaar, run by the SJU Chaplaincy, helped by members of Advent Church and SJU ~ and it went really well!

There are many challenges facing SJU; the priorities are to stabilize the financial situation, increase student enrollment and improve academic standards, so President Huang really has his work cut out for the next few years. He’s very very busy and needs great wisdom, good health and lots of energy. Please pray for him!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 14 🎄🎁👼

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day14: This is Jing-Huei 靜慧 (left) and Jin-Luan 金鑾 (right), who keep Advent Church running smoothly from morning to night! Both have their birthdays this week, and we celebrated today ~ thanks to Jin-Luan for sharing her yummy chocolate birthday cake with us all. Happy Birthday to these 2 Lovely Ladies! 🥳🎂🎈

Jing-Huei works for Advent Church in charge of the office, while Jin-Luan works for St. John’s University (SJU) in charge of Advent Church cleaning, which is mostly done very early in the morning before 8:00am. She’s always leaving just as we’re arriving, off to clean other parts of the SJU campus, part of a small team who do a wonderful job, working long hours in all kinds of terrible weather ~ but always cheerful! Please pray for them both, for their health and strength, their families and their work in Advent Church. We value them both so much! 🥳

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 12 ❄️🎄🕯️

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day12: This is Huei-Ling 惠苓 (left) and Shu-Jing 淑靖 (right) who are the best of friends and for the first time ever, they were both serving together at this morning’s Advent Church service. They both work for the Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Huei-Ling in the diocesan office in Taipei, Shu-Jing in St. John’s University (SJU), where Bishop Chang is the chair of the board. Until this year, Shu-Jing was on the staff of the SJU Chaplaincy, she’s also a qualified Japanese teacher, skills put to good use in our companion diocesan partnership with Osaka. And they both came with me to India at Chinese New Year 2017 ~ we had a such a great time together!

Their birthdays are both in March, one year apart. They both became Christians at university, the first (and so far only) one in their families ~ Huei-Ling was a student here at SJU and baptized in Advent Church, while Shu-Jing moved here looking for a quiet place to write her MA Thesis, and so joined Advent Church; she and her husband Jian-Chiang were married here in 2018. They ask for your prayers for their work, as they’re both extremely busy, often running from one place to another – there’s always so much to do!