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Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會第60屆教區年議會 Diocesan Convention August 15, 2020

Temperature checks ✓ hand sanitizer ✓ face-masks ✓ And so the 60th annual convention of the Taiwan Episcopal Church could begin!

This event was originally scheduled to take place from March 27-28, 2020 in St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung – in conjunction with St. Timothy’s 50th anniversary celebrations. But the pandemic caused a delay, and a new date was set for Saturday August 15 – also it was decided to limit it to a single day, and to relocate it to Advent Church at St. John’s University (SJU), Tamsui.

Advent Church Center is large enough to host a gathering of 80 or more people, and if we needed to reschedule again, it could be done more easily than if we had booked a hotel meeting room, which is usually the case. Also it is well-ventilated, spacious and often quite breezy, being near the sea.

Currently Taiwan has still managed to contain Covid-19, and although there have been a few unexplained individual outbreaks, so far there has been no widespread community transmission, so our annual convention could go ahead this past Saturday. Government regulations say that face-masks are mandatory at places of worship, so everyone wore theirs for the actual service. This is the masked group from St. John’s Cathedral….

Limiting the event to a single day meant the meeting had to be condensed and finished in half the usual time, so a lot more work had to be done in advance to make sure everything could run quickly and smoothly. And it did, thanks be to God! And, of course, thanks to Mr. Yang, the diocesan secretary and all the staff at the diocesan office. The opening service was at 10:00 am in Advent Church…..

The service was followed by group photos and lunch, then after a short break, we started at 12:30 pm for 3 sessions, each of about 1-2 hours. During the breaks, locally famous snacks from the Tamsui area were provided by Advent Church for everyone to enjoy. The meeting finished about 5:30 pm and everyone was given a box of sandwiches and cakes to eat on the journey home. All delicious!

Advent Church was sparkling for the occasion – church members and clergy had worked really hard to make sure everything was ready, including cleaning everywhere inside and out. Each visitor was presented with a small handmade bag, individually decorated with buttons and designs – this was a wonderful team effort led by Marge Tan, chair of our ladies group, using materials from their Tan T-shirt company and helped by talented members of our student fellowship – a 2-day project. I loved mine! Inside was a set of postcards of Advent Church, designed by our student fellowship graduates as part of their final-year project in the SJU Dept. of Creative Design. Beautiful!

On the day itself, all the Advent Church vestry members came along to help, plus a team from the student fellowship – they were there all day – thanks to them all!

For our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this was his first diocesan convention as bishop, and in his sermon, he was clearly delighted to be back in his old home of Advent Church for his first convention…

He started by showing his appreciation to the current leadership team at Advent Church, our lovely retired priest, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, SJU Chaplain Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and churchwarden Mr. Chen Ming-Chuan. All 3 are really great at encouraging church members to get involved and be part of the church ministry. Bishop Chang commented on how, as the regular cleaning person is sick, the church members have taken over the cleaning of the church, giving up their free time and spending hours and hours polishing, dusting, sweeping, washing and cleaning. He said how moved he was to hear that Ms. Shiao-Chien is bringing to the church the high standards she has at home for cleaning the church toilets, scrubbing the floors tile by tile, while 85-year-old Rev. Peter D. P. Chen is dusting and polishing the pulpit and choir chairs, while other church members and the student fellowship spent a whole Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago using high-pressure hoses to wash the white walls around the building, and clean all the windows.

Flame Tree next to Advent Church, August 15, 2020

Bishop Chang said that this year, 2020, 3 of our churches in the diocese celebrate their 50th anniversaries: St. James’ Church, Taichung, which celebrated on July 25, St. Timothy’s, Kaohsiung, which has postponed their celebration to September 19, and Advent Church. St. James celebrated the 50th anniversary of the actual church building, while St. Timothy’s and Advent Church are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment or official naming of their churches.

He said that for Advent Church, this is a very special 50th anniversary. Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) was bishop for only 5 years, and yet in those 5 years, he accomplished so much, including the foundation of St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) in 1967 (now SJU). On March 6, 1970, at the 10th annual diocesan convention, held in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, Bishop Wong formally announced that the new church / chapel to be built at SJSMIT would be named ‘Advent Church’. Only 3 weeks later, on March 28, at the Easter Eve Vigil at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, Bishop Wong was taken ill and admitted to hospital. He died on April 27, 1970, so he never lived to see Advent Church be built. Bishop Wong was buried on the highest plot of land at SJSMIT, and over the next few years, the new Advent Church was constructed over and around his grave, which became the site of the altar. The new church building was consecrated on February 17, 1973. Bishop Chang said that it was almost as if, as Bishop Wong died, so Advent Church was born.

Fast forward 50 years, and while Advent Church is thriving, unfortunately SJU is possibly at its lowest point in all those 50 years. Our new SJU president, Dr. Huang Hung-Pin, who took over on August 1, 2020, is determined to turn things around and has already implemented huge cuts to faculty and staff, and is introducing many new ways of working. The priority is to stabilize the financial situation, increase student enrollment and improve academic standards. The finances are desperately low, and Bishop Chang announced that he has started a big fundraising campaign for SJU. He said that, after discussion with the Advent Church leadership team, that Advent Church would be celebrating their 50th anniversary, not by spending money on a big celebration, but by raising money to present as a gift to SJU. His goal is NT$ 500,000 (about US$ 17,000); to be presented to SJU on St. John’s Day, December 28, 2020, and he has invited all clergy, churches and church members to contribute. He also said that for SJU alumni and friends in the USA who would like to contribute, we are grateful to The Episcopal Church for their help in channeling donations to the Diocese of Taiwan. This is SJU President Huang giving his speech at the convention….

Bishop Wong was a true disciple of Christ, who saw the great importance of reaching out through his life and witness to share the Gospel, so fulfilling his motto of ‘Transforming lives through Christ’. Bishop Chang encouraged everyone to follow Bishop Wong’s example ~ not to just sit there in church waiting for people to come, but to go out into the world ~ and share the good news of Christ!

Clergy Group photo

The Taiwan Episcopal Church has 8 kindergartens, and in his sermon, Bishop Chang also said very strongly that the purpose of the kindergartens is to help and support the local community, and for outreach among the kindergarten children and their families. He emphasized that our kindergarten ministry is not just for making money, and the church must stop relying on them for income – and must rely on the church members instead. Later in the meeting, Mrs. Liu, chair of the kindergarten committee talked about how a group of our kindergarten principals, supervisors and teachers had visited church kindergartens in the Province of Hong Kong last year and how moved they had been to see so many Bible verses decorating their buildings, and how they have resolved to do the same here in Taiwan. Children will now learn 5 Bible verses a semester, and small cards with the verses have been printed out and distributed to all our kindergarten children. Mrs. Liu produced statistics that show, in total, our 8 kindergartens have 1,103 children, of whom 94 (8.5%) come from Christian homes. We have a total of 140 full-time teachers and staff, of whom only 30 (21%) are Christians; and 101 part-time teachers and staff, of whom 19 (18.8%) are Christians. So we have a huge amount of work to do sharing the Gospel with the teachers, children and parents. Bishop Chang also emphasized the importance of the kindergarten supervisors being church members of that particular church, and being active in outreach to the parents, getting to know them, inviting them to events and sharing the Gospel with them. This is Mrs. Liu (second left) with the delegation from St. John’s Cathedral, including her son, standing next to her…

Much of the actual meeting-time was taken up with procedural matters, discussions of financial reports, elections to the different committees etc. However, a few other items of note:

1) Rev. David Chee, assisted by Rev. Antony Liang, is now officially starting work on re-establishing the Trinity Hall Theological Center, based at the diocesan office, but running primarily online to all our different churches. This ministry will include developing theological courses for church members, interns, seminarians and clergy. They will focus on strategic planning for each of these groups, which will then help the diocese to have a clearer long-term plan and set realistic goals. This is Rev. David Chee – with Ms. Shiao-Chien, they’re great friends, both involved in the music ministry at Advent Church and though not related, both have the same surname…

2) St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung has a church building that, when it was constructed in 1964, was considered an amazingly innovative design for modern church architecture – it is shaped like a tent with a roof that goes down almost to ground level. However, that same roof leaks very badly and the other church buildings on the site – which house the kindergarten and meeting rooms – are also in a bad state of repair, and becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. The vision of the church is that the whole site could be re-developed, with a new church built. However, the local government is now assessing whether the church should be classified as a historic building, in which case, there will be huge restrictions on what can be done on the site in the future. The vicar, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang asked for prayer and for any legal experts who might be able to offer their assistance.

3) The newly elected chair of the Diocese of Taiwan Standing Committee is the Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, Rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung. Please pray for her, and all the different committees as they continue the work of the diocese. This is Rev. Lily Chang below, with newly-ordained deacon Rev. Stoney Wu and the delegation from St. James – with and without their face-masks!

4) The next diocesan convention will be – as originally planned for this year – hosted by St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, possibly over the first weekend of March 2021 – to be confirmed.

Annual Convention official photo

Thank you for your prayers for the convention. And to all those involved in the running of the event, thank you! Special thanks to the churchwarden of Advent Church, Ming-Chuan and his wife, Meng-Chen who have spent months preparing for this great occasion – and posed especially below. We love them to bits, and are truly grateful that everything went so smoothly under their care and direction.

And thanks be to Almighty God ~ and please do continue to pray for Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and all in the Diocese of Taiwan!

Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌 takes over as new President of St. John’s University, Taiwan 臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長

The SJU student team arriving at Advent Church today to help with the Handover Ceremony

St. John’s University (SJU) held a formal Handover Ceremony on July 31, 2020, at which the SJU Chair of the Board of Trustees, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang and outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay handed over the SJU presidential seal to Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌, who becomes the ninth president of SJU – and its predecessor, St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology SJSMIT.

Bishop Chang (centre) with outgoing President Ay (right) and incoming President Huang (left)

The Handover Ceremony took place in the context of a Thanksgiving Service, held at 10:00 am in Advent Church, led by SJU Chaplain, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and assisted by clergy of the diocese, including Rev. Keith C. C. Lee and Rev. Lily L. L. Chang who read the prayers, also members of the SJU Student Fellowship and friends who sang in the choir, and Professor Yu-Wen Chang who played the piano…

In line with Covid-19 precautions, temperatures were checked at the entrance and face-masks were worn during the service. The event was organized by St. John’s University and SJU Chaplaincy and attended by a large number of SJU faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, students and church members….

One very special guest was President Ay’s predecessor, former SJU President Chen Jean-Lien. Here she is with Hannah, Bishop Chang’s wife…

Many of the visitors were friends and colleagues of Professor Huang, including a large group of alumni from the University of Iowa, his alma mater, many wearing university T-shirts, all pictured here with Prof. Huang in the middle….

University of Iowa Alumni

Distinguished guests, who all gave short speeches, included Prof. Huang Jong-Tsun 黃榮村, President Designate of the Examination Yuan (assuming office September 1, 2020) (below left) and Minister Li Hong-Yuan 李鴻源, former Minister of the Interior, attending as a dean of the University of Iowa (below right)….

Also former Taoyuan County Mayor John Zhi-Yang Wu 吳志揚 (below left) and Chen Chwen-Jing 陳純敬, Deputy Mayor of the New Taipei City Government (below right)…

Outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay, as the first SJSMIT / SJU alumnus to be appointed president, has completed his 4-year term as SJU president and returns to his post as Professor at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences. We will miss him! Here he is with his wife and Bishop Chang…

Incoming SJU President, Professor Hung-Pin Huang is a professor in the National Taiwan University (NTU) Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, he has also served as Deputy Governor in the Taoyuan Government (2011-14) and as Director of the Ministry of Education (2003-4). His whole profile is listed here on the NTU website, as follows:

Dr. Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌:
Education: Ph.D., The University of Iowa, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Iowa Institute for Hydraulic Research (IIHR) 01-08-1984 to 31-08-1988, Iowa City, USA (note that the NTU website incorrectly states that it was Iowa State University – his friends, wife and daughter all confirmed today that it was actually The University of Iowa).

Experience:

  1. Taoyuan City Government, Deputy Magistrate Room, Deputy governor 01-01-2011 to 25-12-2014
  2. National Taiwan University Experimental Farm, Associate Director 01-08-2009 to 31-12-2010
  3. National Taiwan University Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Chair/Head 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  4. National Taiwan University, Experimental Farm Division, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  5. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  6. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Director 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  7. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Vice President for Student Affairs 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  8. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 20-05-2004 to 01-01-2011
  9. Ministry of Education, Director 15-01-2003 to 20-05-2004
  10. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 01-08-1992 to 15-01-2003
  11. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Associate Professor 01-08-1988 to 01-08-1992

Research Fields: Forestry, Soil & Water Conservation, Ecological Engineering, Civil Engineering (Hydraulics), Environmental Protection, Disaster Prevention

Today’s distinguished guests ….

And the celebratory flower arrangements sent by friends and institutions…

Today’s service…

After the Thanksgiving Service, we all moved to the Advent Church Centre for entertainment provided by SJU students and graduates…

This was followed by presentations to outgoing President Ay, from Bishop Lennon Y.R. Chang as Chair of the SJU Board of Trustees (below left), and Tseng Hong-Lian 曾鴻鍊 as Chair of the SJU Alumni Association (below right)….

After the formal events, it was time for lunch – which was delicious, with entertainment provided throughout. Followed by lots of photos with our visiting clergy and church members!

Congratulations to St. John’s University, and to our new president, President Huang. Please do keep him and the university in your prayers as he starts in his new position, officially as from tomorrow, August 1. Thank you!

The Chinese-language report of the Handover Ceremony on the SJU website is here:

臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長 帶領團隊打拼光輝未來

Update from Taiwan: Masked Summer Camp in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

Yes, Advent Church Summer Camp 降臨堂兒童喜樂營 2020 (Kids Games) has been happening this week, on the theme: “Guardians of the Earth 地球防衛隊” ~ and a great time was had by all!

Every summer, for the first 2 days of Taiwan’s primary / elementary school summer holidays, Advent Church holds a children’s non-residential summer camp (aka holiday club), and for many children, as well as our student leaders, it’s one of the main highlights of the whole year! Last year, we had 80 children and 35 student leaders, and the theme was ‘Be Brave’ (see that report here). This year, we had 60 children and about 35 student leaders, and the theme was ‘Guardians of the Earth’. Every activity was about protecting this planet – and learning about litter, pollution, recycling, the effect of plastics on ocean animals, preserving the environment, taking care of God’s creation and much more. We had drama, singing, dancing, games, team-building activities, lunch, rest, sharing time and of course plenty of water fun to finish!

The student team was led by Tze-Wei, our wonderful colleague in the St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy, who is now into her third year as camp leader. She was assisted by a whole group of student fellowship members past and present, plus some who attended the camp in the past as children and now come as leaders, and a few friends and church members too. We are especially grateful to Ming-Chuan, our senior warden, who supported us throughout…

Left to right: Tze-Wei, Ming-Chuan and Pi-pi – who came along with several of his Sunday School group from his church in Beitou

There was a lot to prepare and practice, but the student team were amazing, as always, and have dedicated a huge amount of time and energy to the camp, in fact they all arrived on Sunday for 3 days of preparation first. Several are SJU student fellowship graduates who have used up nearly the whole of their annual leave from work to take part. Of the 35 on the team, 10 are from Malaysia, all SJU students or graduates, and one is from Hong Kong. Five came from St. James’ Church, Taichung, and they will use the same theme and materials for their own summer camp this weekend at the Church of the Leading Star, Taiping, led by Stoney Wu – who will be ordained deacon on July 25. And we were well-supported by Advent Church clergy, including Rev. Wu, here he is with some of the team, all masked up ready for the children arriving…

As we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, so we are well aware that most places in the world have had to cancel their summer camps this year or move them online. Ours could go ahead because Taiwan continues to do really well in keeping the coronavirus at bay. Taiwan’s official figures for Covid-19 currently are 454 confirmed cases, 440 recovered and 7 deaths, and no domestic transmissions since April 12. Taiwan’s borders remain closed to all visitors, so a church group from Hong Kong who were originally scheduled to join us for the camp sadly had to cancel. The silver lining to the borders being closed is that some of our overseas students who may normally have gone home for the summer, could stay in Taiwan and take part in the camp instead. As you can see from the photos, it was great fun for everyone!

Normally all government-run elementary schools in Taiwan break up on June 30 for 2-months summer holiday, but as schools were delayed by 2 weeks starting their new semester after Chinese New Year due to Covid-19, so they made up for it by extending the semester for 2 weeks until July 14. Our summer camp is usually July 1-2; this year it was held July 15-16. Because there was always a concern that we might have to cancel at the last minute, so we did not order any T-shirts like we normally do – which then also made it cheaper for the children. Some wore their T-shirts from previous years, as we did also ~ check out Mr. ‘Be Brave’ below after an onslaught of water!

We did take other precautions too: usually we would allow up to 80 children to take part – but this year we reduced the number to 60; face-masks were to be worn inside, except for leaders who were singing, dancing or speaking from the stage; there were temperature checks and hand sanitizer at the main entrance, frequent hand-washing throughout the day, and parents were asked not to send any children who were unwell. Actually all this is standard procedure now in Taiwan, and children are well-used to wearing masks, though some found them hot and later took them off. We even had 2 sets of group photos, one in masks and one without…

Thanks be to God, everything went really well, and yes, I took a lot of photos!

Day One Morning;

Day One Afternoon:

Day Two Morning:

Day Two Afternoon:

And finally, at the end of the afternoon….

In case you’re thinking that’s way too many photos, don’t worry too much! The student leaders were not allowed to take any photos during the summer camp (until the last few minutes of the last day, that is!) so that they could concentrate on being with the children, so only I and Yu-Lin were taking photos, and the parents, children and student leaders are looking forward to seeing the results. Yu-Lin was in charge of producing a short video of the whole camp which might appear here in the next few days. She has gone off to the next summer camp at Church of the Leading Star, starting tomorrow, Saturday. Do pray for them all ~ they must be just a bit exhausted!

Update: this is the video!

Grateful thanks to all the student leaders of this year’s summer camp, and especially to Tze-Wei and her team, also to Bishop Chang, all the Advent Church clergy and church members for their support, and to you all for your prayers! Thanks be to God that everything went well, the weather stayed dry, and the children stayed safe, happy and full of fun. And hey, it’s not so bad having a summer camp with face-masks after all! 😷

Update from Taiwan: Masked Celebration in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

First the good news, today Taiwan has reached the biblical milestone of 40 days, that’s 40 straight days with no domestically transmitted Covid-19 infections. Cautious optimism all round. 😌

Good news part 2 is that it’s perfectly possible for everyone to get used to wearing face-masks. You too! It’s not weird, honest. And think how much money us women can save on lipstick as a result! 👩💄The above photo is of our Mother’s Day celebration on Sunday May 10 at Advent Church, celebrated each year in Taiwan on the second Sunday of May, all wearing face-masks. 😷 And good news part 3 is that it’s also perfectly possible for small children to take to wearing face-masks all day every day in school. That’s the Taiwan experience this term. And the result? Our church kindergartens are finding that all those horrible coughs, colds, flu and nasty bugs that normally spread so easily among groups of children are just not happening at all this term, and the kids are healthier than ever. So are their parents and teachers. And it’s not just our church kindergartens, but everyone else I talk to as well, all agree that having to wear face-masks so much is having a positive effect on our general health. Of course, it’s getting hotter and more humid as summer nears, and face-masks really restrict air-flow to the face – so you also need a fan, but y’know, so far it’s working. Let’s face it, social distancing with hundreds of very small children is hardly practical, whereas face-masks are. Never underestimate small children and their ability to adapt – and if it’s working in Taiwan, then hey, take my advice and follow Taiwan’s lead! 😷😷

(PS Updated on June 10 with this link to an article in the Taipei Times titled ‘Infectious Diseases Incidence Falls‘ which provides the statistics confirming what I’ve written above.)

All masked up at St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung (photo taken from their facebook page)

A month ago, on April 21, Taiwan’s official Covid-19 statistics were 425 confirmed cases, 217 recovered and 6 deaths. Today, May 22 and the figures are 441 confirmed cases, 408 recovered and 7 deaths. As mentioned above, today is also the 40th straight day with no domestically transmitted infections; the last time Taiwan recorded a domestic infection was on April 12. We had had no imported cases for 13 straight days too, but then a new case was confirmed yesterday of a Taiwanese man who had traveled to Mexico for work in January, returning to Taiwan on May 20 with symptoms, and testing positive soon after his arrival. Of course, Taiwan is still closed to all visitors and even transit passengers; those allowed in must have either a Taiwan passport or resident permit, and are then subject to a 14-day closely-monitored mandatory quarantine.

So far, the virus continues to remain contained and we have not been in lockdown. Schools, work and church Sunday services continue with many precautions, like temperature checks, face-masks etc, but now plans are being made to resume some of the social activities that were on hold. We proceed cautiously, as every so often a new crisis erupts, along with fresh worry in case there’s new infections. One such is coming up in the next few weeks when 77 far-sea squid fishing boats and their 4,000 crew members are due to return home after 6 months at sea – new stricter rules mean that despite having been effectively isolated at sea for so long, they will also be subject to a 14-day quarantine, so let’s hope everything goes well there too. Plans are also being made for gradually opening up the country for business visitors, but it’s not happening yet; instead, starting soon is a project to design protocols for travel resumption. It’s a collaboration between Taiwan and Stanford University School of Medicine, whereby they send 500 people from San Francisco to Taipei; once here they will undergo testing every two days in a 14-day quarantine period, to try to work out the shortest possible isolation requirement for travelers.

Two days ago, March 20, was Taiwan’s presidential inauguration, broadcast live but held behind closed doors, with none of the usual public events and no delegations invited from overseas. Heightened tensions and military activity in the skies and seas around Taiwan usually accompany such important occasions, and this one is no exception, though possibly aggravated by the Covid-19 situation as world powers try to distract from their own failings and take to threatening each other instead. At Taiwan’s elections in mid-January, President Tsai Ing-Wen 蔡英文 was elected to serve a second term. The vice-president for her first term, Chen Chien-jen 陳建仁 is an epidemiologist and former Minister of Health during the SARS crisis in 2003, also a devout Roman Catholic – his was an ace appointment given the current Covid-19 crisis. The new vice-president, William Ching-te Lai 賴淸德 also has a medical background, but is most famous as being mayor of Tainan, 2010-2017, and more recently as premier. Most of the cabinet continue in their posts for a second term, including the very popular Minister of Health, Chen Shih-chung 陳時中 who is still giving briefings on the virus situation each day live on TV. His first briefing was on January 21, exactly 4 months ago, the day that Taiwan confirmed its first case of Covid-19, and he’s been doing them ever since. The government continues to be upfront, proactive and vigilant, and Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus crisis provides a beacon of light and hope in this dark world. And all this without any help or support from the World Health Organization and – despite the intervention of numerous countries around the world – no invitation to join the WHO Assembly held earlier this week either.

Meanwhile up in Yangmingshan, the Tajima Cattle escape the heat of summer…

It was Ascension Day yesterday, and today is exactly 3 months since the consecration of our new bishop, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, on February 22. He’s been busy overseeing the renovations and remodeling at the diocesan office building, now virtually complete. The main changes are on the third floor, which was previously a meeting room with a large oval wooden table in the middle, with a double bedroom for guests at the far end, separated from the meeting room by a wall of books. All the books have gone, mostly moved down to the first floor; the wall and bedroom have also gone and the meeting room has been enlarged to make one big conference room, which is already being well-used by groups for meetings and training courses. There’s also been major work done to the bishop’s apartment and rooms on the 4th and 5th floors, plus the roof. Bishop Chang kindly hosts a monthly lunch for diocesan office staff, and on Wednesday he and his wife invited us up to their apartment for lunch (see photo below). They still don’t have any hot water, and they’ve already had one major flood – the water leaked from the 5th floor down to the 4th floor – but hey, everyone is still smiling! 😊

Check out the following photos taken over the last 3 months of the Diocesan Office remodeling project….

Floods inside, and now flooding outside too, it’s particularly bad in southern Taiwan. The first typhoon of the season passed by Taiwan a few days ago, leading straight into the plum rainy season, ⛈️ with heavy rains all this week, and warnings of further severe weather and ‘disastrous’ rainfall in some parts over this weekend. 🙏 Last weekend though, the weather was glorious, and the northern tip of Taiwan looked spectacular with its lighthouse, Shimen Arch and the Fuji Fishing Harbour…

As did St. John’s University (SJU), which is only 12 km south of Taiwan’s northern tip. Check out Sunday’s photo below of Advent Church and SJU, with the Yangmingshan Mountains so clear in the background. The people playing basketball are all from the Filipino community, who often spend their Sundays here having sports competitions….

SJU is now in the second part of the semester, and preparing for graduation and end of term events coming next month. The SJU Dept. of Creative Design has its annual graduation exhibition this week, and 3 of the girls from our SJU Student Fellowship in that dept, Yi-Ting, Yumi and Cai-Pei have based their design project on Advent Church, including the design for the new T-shirts for the student fellowship, modeled here by our chaplaincy staff and Yi-Ting (far left) 😊

The girls also designed all sorts of beautiful cards, books, calendars and souvenirs around the theme of ‘Advent Home’, all really creative, and I’ve persuaded them to put their short video on YouTube so you can enjoy it – just click on the arrow below….

You will see that the final scene of the video is shot at the SJU labyrinth. It’s located just behind Advent Church, on the SJU campus but next to the main road, and during this time of the coronavirus crisis, I’ve found it really helpful to use the labyrinth as a way of walking prayer. It’s hot out there, so late afternoon, just before sunset is a good time. If you don’t happen to have a real labyrinth nearby (ha ha, who does?!), you can print one from the internet and use your finger to ‘walk’ around, or just follow the red dot as it does the walking for you online. Anyway, I asked Nien-Tzu from SJU to take some photos of the labyrinth from his drone. Here they are….

Thank you for all your prayers, cards, letters, emails and messages of support. We have much to give thanks to God for here in Taiwan, and we pray that there’ll be more good news coming from the rest of the world. Hope you are all doing OK in the circumstances wherever you are – and staying safe.

These days, even the artworks at the Tamsui Light Rail Stations wear face-masks…

And finally, this short 3-minute video has resurfaced recently, it’s a wonderful antidote to today’s problems. Actually an advert for a bank, it’s based on a true story of a group of 5 elderly men in Taiwan ‘who turned the death of their life-long friend into the chance of a lifetime to relive a dream from their youth’. Many people in Taiwan do a round-island trip by bicycle or motorbike in their youth, it’s 900+ km, and usually takes about 9-10 days. Plenty more people dream of doing such a trip, but never get round to it. Maybe, just maybe, this pandemic has led you to remember and rekindle some of your own dreams and aspirations from long ago, and I hope these 5 elderly Taiwan men will encourage you to get on your bike (or feet, even) when this is all over and ride, ride, ride!

And if that doesn’t inspire you, then check out our local swallows who always choose the noisiest, dirtiest, most dangerous places to build their nests, right above the main entrances of the local shops over the road from SJU. There’s a whole load of nests over there. Fortunately for them, swallows are believed to bring blessings, so local shopkeepers go to great lengths to protect their nests. I might think it’s not the most scenic location to set up a new home, but hey, there’s plenty of flying insects to provide food for their young, and then there’s the tender loving care from the shopkeepers…