Tag Archives: Advent Church

Adventures with Advent Church Choir 台灣聖公會降臨堂詩班 @ Jiji 集集, Checheng 車埕 and Wang Hsiang 望鄉部落 Kalibuan Village, Nantou County!

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A choir that has fun together, laughs together and goes on trips together is sure, yes, sure to sing and harmonize better at church on Sunday mornings.  And y’know, our Advent Church Choir is not just any old choir singing any old hymns. This choir is really quite special.  They are dedicated, not just to singing in the morning worship, but also to their rehearsal time on Sunday afternoons.  They spend hours and hours practicing.  And when they sing in the morning service, they sing with great joy.  They look happy.  Smiles all around.  This is a gift from God.  Not every choir sings quite so joyfully, believe me. What’s more, they are all friends.  And friendship means having fun together.  And having fun involves an annual trip somewhere interesting, usually involving an overnight stay, and singing at that church on the Sunday morning.  Visiting other churches and other denominations is a great blessing, and in doing so, we bring greetings from the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and our own church, Advent Church @ St. John’s University, Tamsui, Taipei.  The annual choir trip is officially called their choir retreat.  And so it was that this past weekend, I was invited to tag along too.  Thanks to the choir, especially their leader, Meng-Zhen, who invited me to join them.  So, early on Saturday morning, off we went in cars driving to Nantou County, in central Taiwan, about 3-4 hours south of Taipei…

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First we went to Jiji Town 集集 , famous for its train station, originally constructed by the Japanese colonial government in 1933, but very badly damaged in the Sept. 21, 1999 earthquake. Since rebuilt, incorporating the original design, and now a major tourist destination for Taiwan people.  And that means us – that’s us at the train station above.  The station is beautiful, and the surrounding station area is full of things to take photos of.  And with.  And next to.  And behind, in front of, above, below and around.  You can jump up.  Or sit down.  Or buy a balloon.  Or whatever.  By the time you have taken 100 photos, the train might have arrived.  For that is our main purpose.  To get the train along the Jiji Line to Checheng 車埕 Train Station.

The Jiji Train Line was built in 1922 as a single track to help move construction materials used in the Sun Moon Lake Hydroelectric Project.  Get to the very front of the train and the view is especially wonderful!

Checheng 車埕 Town lies just below the Mingtan Reservoir and Power Plant, with water coming into the reservoir from Sun Moon Lake further upstream.  Checheng itself is an old logging town, with a log pool and old buildings where the Japanese workers lived and laboured in the wood-processing plant and in preparing the logs for transportation downhill on the railway.  Now the buildings are a huge museum with all sorts of interesting things to do and look at….

About an hour or so from Checheng, further up in the central mountains, is Wang Hsiang Village.  Our main destination ~ and the real reason why I came along on this trip.  Any chance to visit an indigenous village with friends who know people there – and I’m in!

Wang Hsiang 望鄉部落 is known as Kalibuan in the Bunun language. This is a Bunun Village.  The Bunun people 布農 are a Taiwanese indigenous people, traditionally living in the very high mountains of central Taiwan.  Famous for their singing and their physical strength – turned out I recognized several of the men in the village who have come with us on our mountain expeditions in the past, helping us to carry everything and cook the food.  One of the aims of our visit this time was for us to learn something about the village – and the challenges, customs, faith and way of life of the people there.  The current population of Wang Hsiang is over 900, all members of the Presbyterian Church (built in 1951), where we worshiped on Sunday and our choir sang, accompanied by Yu-Jie on the piano – all so beautifully!

The Bunun choir sang too, their songs are incredible.  The church has 2 services, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with 200 at the morning service – often extending to 300 if all the children come too.  The church was so full that many were sitting outside.  Services are held in the Bunun language, but with a power point so everyone can follow the words in pinyin.  Actually, for our benefit, the sermon and some of the announcements were in Chinese, with translation into Bunun.  The preacher was Rev. Wu, who was visiting from a neighbouring village.  Most of the people now are second or third generation Christians – a challenge in itself, and in his sermon, Rev. Wu talked about how for Kalibuan Church to be a strong church, it needs victorious Christians, who are well-equipped through prayer, Bible reading, teaching and fellowship, united in love, and with a vision to go out and share the Gospel with others.

Wang Hsiang was not always a Bunun Village.  The history of Taiwan’s indigenous people and their relationship with the Japanese authorities during the colonial period of 1895-1945 is complex.  The Japanese authorities wanted Taiwan to modernize and develop, and all in Taiwan to be law-abiding model citizens under their control and management.  The indigenous peoples, especially those in the high mountains (like the Bunun people) – who were known as fierce warriors, resented such interference and responded with hostility. This led to conflict, violence, uprisings, killings and brutal crackdowns.  The Japanese authorities forced the high mountain peoples to relocate to lower altitudes where they could be more easily controlled, and killed many of their fiercest warriors who opposed their authority – including those in this photo, displayed on the village wall. This is the last known photo of the men before they were put to death.

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Wang Hsiang was originally inhabited by the Tsou 鄒 people, and when the Bunun people first moved here, there was much conflict.  But as the Bunun people grew in numbers, so eventually the Tsou moved away to the Alishan area, where they still are today.  The story goes that when the Bunun people were forced to move down from the high mountains, they were offered 3 choices of location, and they chose Wang Hsiang because of its distant view of Yushan 玉山, Taiwan’s highest mountain (3,952 m).  From their original high mountain village they could also see Yushan in the distance, so they felt more at home.  Their original home village was located up over 3,000 m in altitude, with snow every winter.  Down in Wang Hsiang, they’ve had snow once in the last 20 years.  The name, ‘Wang Hsiang’ means ‘looking towards home’ and that described their own longing to be back in their high mountain village, which was over the mountain of the same name – and / or maybe it described the feeling of the young homesick Japanese police officers stationed in Wang Hsiang.  Many theories of where the name came from… but the view is there all the same.  Except in the afternoons, the clouds roll in and it often rains in the high mountains ~ like on Saturday afternoon, when we arrived.  Yushan is in the clouds on the left of that big mountain in the centre…..

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Towards the end of the Japanese Era, the first missionaries appeared in the Wang Hsiang area and eventually the village elders made the decision to convert to Christianity.  In doing so, they also realized that their days of headhunting and violent conflict with the authorities were over, and so started a complete transformation of their way of life and thinking.

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These days, the pastors and church leaders are Bunun people from the village, and together with the tribal and village leaders, several income-generating projects have started locally.  These are community enterprises, designed to benefit the whole village.  Originally considered one of the most underdeveloped and backward of the local villages (they were the last to be connected to mains electricity, for example), in recent years there has been much hard work, and success is coming slowly but surely.  The government provides a lot of support, like free wifi throughout the village.  These days also, when the Bunun people remember the Japanese era, not all is completely negative, they say they are grateful for the infrastructure, education facilities and benefits provided by the government.  But still, it must have been terrible at the time.  Recent development projects are in 3 main areas: leading and supporting mountain-climbing expeditions – training and licensing as mountain guides and high-altitude porters, providing guest house accommodation for mountain expeditions and for weekend visitors / ecotourism (like us!) and thirdly the development of high-altitude agricultural projects, particularly fruit and vegetables.  Ah yes, and coffee too…

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This was not the first time I had stayed in Wang Hsiang. Last year at this time, on the night before our ascent of Yushan, we also stayed in Wang Hsiang.  This time, we stayed in a different guest house and had a tour of the village with one of the local guides.  This time also, the personal connection was that Sheng-Feng (Simon) and Hsuan-Ying (Grace), one of our choir couples (who had also invited me to join their trip to visit Grace’s home village at Nantian, Taitung earlier this month – see that post here) are old friends of the pastor and his family – actually they had been student members of a fellowship group that he led in Taichung many years ago.  That personal connection made all the difference, and we enjoyed hearing their stories and sharing time together in the guest house…

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The food was amazing.  Loved it all!  Delicious, completely so!  The bamboo tubes are a traditional dish – filled with sticky rice. The lemon slices are flavored with – guess what?  That dark stuff is coffee granules.  Really special!  And then we sang…

On our tour of the village, we learned that it consists of 4 streets, all leading off to the left of the main road.  The walls of all the houses and gardens have mosaic / stone patterns showing aspects of Bunun daily life.  Each house – and corner – has a notice explaining about each place.  Really amazing.  In some places, millet, the staple food was lying out in the sun drying….

We finished our tour with a group photo at the village sign at the entrance to the village…

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Early on Sunday morning, some of us climbed up the hill behind the village.  Bit foggy, but by the time we got back the mist had cleared and the view toward Yushan was beautiful. Yushan is the pointed peak in the far distance.

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One of our group had a drone – this is us!

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And so to church.  First to the rehearsal – our choir are dedicated!  Our music conductor on the retreat was Shiao Chien, she has a real gift of enthusing everyone with a love of singing and music, and always chooses really suitable songs to sing.  She had also asked everyone to wear one (any one!) of the Advent Church T-shirts, of which we have many,  going back years, hence all the bright colours.

Also at the church were a group of young ABC (American-born Chinese) whose families are originally from Taiwan, they are here for a few weeks in the summer as part of a project to help Wang Hsiang children learn English.  They also sang a song, and the church provided lunch for us visitors after the service.  Ah, it was so delicious!

A big ‘Thank You’ to Advent Church Choir for their kind invitation and welcome to me to join their trip.  Thanks to Paul and Christina for driving me there and back – and all the way home.  It was all a wonderful adventure.  The choir all love singing and having fun ~ a great combination!

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Thanks too to the pastor and people of Wang Hsiang Village, for their hard work and time to make us so welcome.  And thanks be to God for safe travels, beautiful views, delicious food, new experiences, fresh mountain air, and of course, friends, fellowship and fun!

Advent Church Summer Camp 2018 降臨堂兒童喜樂營!

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Possibly the best summer camp in the whole world!  YES!  A great team of student leaders, backed up by our clergy and church members, and loads of happy and enthusiastic children, supported by their parents – oh, yes, and grandparents.  Never forget the grandparents ~ after all, it’s school holidays and lots of grandparents are looking around for ways to keep their grandchildren entertained and having fun!

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Thanks be to God, this year’s Advent Church summer camp, held on 2 very sunny but breezy days, July 2-3 in our Advent Church centre, was one of the most successful ever!  We had 5 teams, named after 5 colours, here they are with their banners, each team also had a action song or rhyme to introduce themselves.  Fun!

With a drastically falling birthrate in Taiwan, it is rural areas that are particularly affected, so in our local area, schools are really struggling with hugely reduced numbers. One of our local elementary school teachers, who just retired last year, talks about how when she first started teaching here 30 years ago, her school had over 300 kids – now the school has about 70.  Actually that was Laomei School, and a whole group of them came along to our summer camp with Ms. Cheng, as they have done for several years now… we’re now long-term friends, and here we all are!

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To help struggling schools, the government and charitable foundations sponsor tons of free and fun activities, especially in school holidays.  So our summer camps over the last few years have seen decreasing numbers as a result… from 100 in years gone by, down to 80, and last year, less than 60 ~ so this year, we started advertising very early, in April rather than June ~ and we were pleasantly surprised when 94 children registered!

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So we had 94 kids and 32 student leaders – helped by their relatives, friends and church members, and our older church members, who offered to come along and supply breakfast and dinners for the student team.   The whole summer camp was wonderfully coordinated and organized by Yu-Ru, our church outreach worker, she was helped by 2 student leaders, and all supported by our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, chaplain Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang plus church members ~ here’s the leaders and the back-up team!

Everyone worked so hard ~ the student team have been training and preparing full-time since Friday afternoon ~ ah, and it was worth it!

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This year’s theme was the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30), rearranged and adapted into a drama for 3 little pigs (yep, and it worked!) – 2 of whom went into business together selling shoes, while the third one, well, of course, he didn’t do anything much at all…. but he was so funny!

All the games and activities that followed were then focused on discovering, sharing and using our possessions, abilities, gifts, skills and of course, the greatest gift of ourselves ~ and our love.  For example, one of the games involved the kids working together to completely turn a sheet over to the other side, without any of the group stepping onto the floor…

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Many of the activities also had a Bible verse to learn too.  The children had the chance to ‘earn’ some paper money, which they collected up, and at the end they could decide to donate it, or if they had a lot, they could donate some, and enter a lucky draw to ‘buy’ some snacks to take home.

On the second day, we heard the story, ‘Boxes for Katje‘ by Candace Fleming: “After World War II there is little left in Katje’s town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom “thick and bright,” Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje’s street to deliver a mysterious box—a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What’s inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks: beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.”  Loved it!

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We also had the drama of a king who tries to go incognito to visit a town in his kingdom where everyone is busy preparing for his official visit ~ there he meets a girl who is distraught because she thinks she has no talents to perform or to make something to welcome the king, and so can only offer visitors some water from the well ~ only to find that what the king wants most of all is her friendship.  Everyone just loved our ‘king’ (who was also the third little pig!) and his ‘Supershy’ T-shirt!

And for nearly everyone, the highlight was Tuesday afternoon’s water games – and then huge water fight!

We had testimonies too, plus prayers and a blessing from our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang…

And in case you’re wondering what my role was, well I was there taking a few photos.  Over 2,300 to be precise.  Now reduced to less than 300, you’ll be glad to know, and only a few are posted here.  One of the great things is that our student team is so disciplined that they do not use their cellphones during the summer camp, so they rely on us for the photos…

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Our Advent Church summer camps are legendary in the local area, and each year they get better and better.  Months of hard work, training, preparation and prayer pays off.  Always grateful to all those who make it all possible, and to Almighty God for his many blessings!

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And if you want to see all the photos and videos, check our our facebook page here: 台灣聖公會降臨堂 Advent Episcopal Church at St. John’s University, Taiwan

Already looking forward to next year YES YES YES!

 

Advent Church and St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei 成果發表會 Show Time!

Two weekends of non-stop music, drumming and dancing!

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Yes, two different presentations, a double Show Time.   And it was all wonderful!

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Many of our churches put on an end-of-school-year performance for each of their community groups to do a presentation of what they’ve learned, just before they finish for the summer. These community groups are organized by the church, using church facilities, but with outside teachers or coaches, who may or may not be related to the church.  The idea is to encourage people in the local community and church members to attend the classes together. The students usually pay a small fee, but not always.  Classes cover very diverse topics, for all ages, for the active and inactive, for men and women, happening at all times of the day / evening / weekend.  And of course, all fun!

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The performance time is a great chance for the churches to bring everyone together and get to know each other, and through that, we hope that some more of the local community can join and maybe become part of the church ~ but there’s no pressure.

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Last Saturday was Advent Church’s first ever show time, held in the church centre, and today was the turn of St. John’s Cathedral.

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Some of the highlights are the Taiko Drumming Classes at both churches…

Then there’s Taichi at Advent Church….

Pilates, a new class at St. John’s Cathedral…

Praise Dance…

At Advent Church, there’s the student fellowship music group who welcome all students to come and learn …

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And Advent Church also organizes dancing classes for the neighbouring junior high school children…

We had lots of people in attendance at both church presentations, and we finished either with refreshments (Advent Church) or by taking zhong-zi home for lunch, this being the Dragon Boat Festival weekend (St. John’s Cathedral).  The cathedral also had some games and craft activities arranged for after the presentations, plus a lucky draw.  Both churches also had their clergy present to pray and / or give a short talk and welcome everyone.  Ah, there’s lots going on!

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My English classes run at both churches, here we are at Advent Church, performing a song from Sound of Music…

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At St. John’s Cathedral, we put a lot of effort into creating, rehearsing and performing a drama ~ of a class of ‘children’ who all have some ‘problem’, and each thinks of a great excuse to explain why they are daydreaming in class, haven’t done their homework, worn their uniform, late everyday, took a day off yesterday, their dog is barking outside or they’re falling asleep in the class. Ah, they were great, so creative and very expressive!

This kind of Show-Time presentation is one of the best things about the church in Taiwan ~ they really try hard to integrate their different community service programmes into their main church outreach ministry, and really try hard to find ways of bringing the groups together and sharing a little of the Gospel with them.  My English classes are a mix of church members and those from the local community, and it is often through friendships made in the groups that those from the local community start to come along to the church and maybe from there come to faith.

So, if you’re a church wondering how to connect the dots with your seemingly-unconnected-and-very-different groups of people who use your buildings, then this is one way.  Many of them may well be looking for a chance to showcase what they do, so as to attract more members themselves. A termly Show-Time is one way.  Highly recommended!

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Thanks to all those who worked so hard to make these presentations happen, and of course…  Thanks be to Almighty God!

Bishop David J. H. Lai assumes the position of Chair of St. John’s University Board of Trustees 賴主教 榮信董事 就任聖約翰科技大學 董事長感恩禮拜 Thanksgiving Service @ Advent Church, Taiwan

St. John’s University (SJU) 聖約翰科技大學 Board of Trustees recently elected Bishop David J. H. Lai as their new chair.  Yesterday at Advent Church (on the SJU campus), we held a Thanksgiving Service in which the official university seal was formally presented to Bishop Lai, as a sign of his new position. The presentation was made by 3 of the trustees ~ from left to right in the photo below, Mr. Yeh Zai-Cheng, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen, and to the right of Bishop Lai is Mr. Lai Jun-Nian (also chair of the SJU alumni).

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In the opening words of his sermon, Bishop Lai expressed his sincere thanks to the outgoing chair of the trustees, Dr. Cecilia Koo, who has stepped down after over 40 years of devoted service to SJU.  Unfortunately she was unable to come to the service yesterday.  He also expressed his thanks to Dr. J. S. Wang, former secretary to the board.  As he continued his sermon, Bishop Lai encouraged us all to work together focusing on 5 ‘P’s, of Purpose 目標, Passion 熱忱, Profession 專業, Perseverance 毅力 and Performance 表現.  YES!

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The service was attended by church and university VIPs from far and wide. It was so wonderful to see so many people, the church was completely full!  Bishop Lai came to the service accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Lily Lai.  Some of the SJU Board of Trustees came too, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen and his wife, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, Dr. Winston Yu and his wife, Ms. Marjorie Kuo, also Mr. Yeh Zai-Cheng and Mr. Lai Jun-Nian.  Here they are – 3 smiling trustees on the left, 2 lovely wives on the right!

Also the new secretary to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Chen Chyi, who is also senior warden of Advent Church (his brother, Dr. Chen Gung is also a trustee).  He read a lesson, as did Mr. Richard B. S. Hu (photo below), chair of the Diocese of Taiwan Standing Committee….

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We were pleased to welcome some of the other diocesan Standing Committee members, Mr. Di Yun-Heng and Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu, who had both traveled from Kaohsiung.  Plus our diocesan treasurer Mrs. Amy B. H. Lin and her husband, Dr. Chen; and many of our diocesan clergy (some of whom are also alumni):  Rev. Philip L. F. Lin and Rev. Antony F. W. Liang from St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, Rev. Keith C. C. Lee from Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, Rev. Julia S. H. Lin from St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung, and 3 from very far away, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang from St. James’ Church, Taichung, Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu from St. Luke’s Church, Hualien, and Rev. Simon T. S. Tsou who drove up from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi specially for the occasion!

From left to right below: Mr. Chen Chyi, Dr. Winston Yu, Mr. Richard Hu, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, Mr. Di Yun-Heng….

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Representing St. John’s University, Dr. Herchang Ay, SJU President, gave a lively speech with Bishop Lai in action next to him ~ ah, what were they actually saying at that very moment, I wonder?!

Also present were SJU Vice-President Dr. Hsu, SJU General Secretary Dr. Sophia Y. S. Hsieh and many of the deans, faculty and staff of the university, plus students, church members and friends, including Ms. Jasmine Yu from our neighbouring junior high school, and Mr. Chang Fu-Tai and Ms. Chao Wen-Yi, former members of staff.  Two very important people who keep things running smoothly by phone and email are President Ay’s secretary, Ms. Zhu (below right) and Bishop Lai’s secretary, Ms. Lisa Hsu (below left), here they are meeting in person for the very first time yesterday!

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And all guests were well-looked after by our staff and wardens, helpers and supporters, led by Mr. Chen Ming-Chuan (holding the blue order of service booklet below), Advent Church junior warden, and Hannah, wife of Rev. Lennon Chang, who were ready and waiting to welcome everyone from 1:00 pm onwards!  Photos taken before the service started, as everyone signed their names…

Personally invited by Bishop Lai were his special friends, Dr. Yeh Ming-Yang 葉明陽 (left photo below), Professor and Vice Superintendent of Cheng Hsin General Hospital, Taipei, where Bishop Lai recently had successful surgery to remove his inflamed gall bladder and received such wonderful care under Dr. Yeh’s supervision.  And also Mr. Philip J. J. Wu (right photo below), General Manager of Grace International Co. Ltd; he was responsible for producing Bishop Lai’s artillery shell crosses in his factory, one of which was being worn by Bishop Lai yesterday.

And so the service began at 2:00 pm, led by Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang and assisted by SJU Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, starting with words of commitment from Bishop Lai in his new position of chair – and from all in the congregation a commitment of support for him; also the official presentation of the university seal, plus hymns, readings, sermon, prayers, speeches and the closing blessing from Bishop Lai.

And finally, the group photo on the steps of Advent Church at 3:40 pm yesterday…

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Please do pray for Bishop Lai as he assumes his new position as chair of the SJU Board of Trustees.  It is a huge undertaking and a major responsibility for him and all in St. John’s University and the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  Many challenges lie ahead.  In God’s strength we go forward, trusting God to lead the way.  We give thanks to God. Please pray for us all!

Holy Week and Easter 2018 @ Advent Church, St. John’s University, Taiwan!

Christ is risen, Alleluia!  It’s been a meaningful, joyful and blessed Holy Week here at Advent Church, St. John’s University ~ and now Easter is upon us, so a very happy Easter to you all!  This is the Easter fire, lit last night at 8:00 pm as we started our Easter Vigil Service…

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And the sun’s been shining all week, and the cherry blossom was still out at the beginning of Holy Week…..

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Holy Week started last Sunday, Palm Sunday ~ YES!

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We began our Palm Sunday service with a procession around the main entrance of St. John’s University.  We were very pleased that Bishop Lai was able to join us for the service and procession too.

The procession wound its way around the church, where we have the Stations of the Cross, pausing at each in turn.  Then as we processed into the church, each person took one of the small green palm crosses…

During the service, we had a dramatic presentation of the events of Holy Week, acted out by our students, past and present…..

Then on Monday night, the St. John’s University ‘Movie Club’ showed the movie ‘Silence‘ 沈默 on a big screen on the main playing field.  This was not done intentionally for Holy Week, rather they had to choose an evening when there was no baseball practice, and they chose the movie because it was filmed in Taiwan.  But it so happens that it was so appropriate for Holy Week – and quite a number of us turned up to watch.  This was my second time to see it, and it’s much improved on the second viewing ~ like I knew when the gruesome bits were coming up, but also I noticed things I had missed the first time round.  Still utterly compelling and challenging.  Brutal and horrific, and yet also so moving. And so fitting for Holy Week.  For me, this was one of the highlights of the week.

On Maundy Thursday, we held our Passover Meal in the Advent Church Center, and a wonderful mix of students and adults came along.  This took a huge amount of work and preparation, but all worth it.  We were so pleased to welcome SJU President Ay and his wife too.

During the service that followed in the church, we had foot-washing.  President Ay had his feet washed by our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang – the teacher washing the feet of his former student.  We also had our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, washing the feet of Jin-Ching, our SJU Student Fellowship Leader, and Shu-Jing from our chaplaincy washed the feet of Pei-Ching, one of our 4th year students who was preparing for her baptism on Easter Eve.  We celebrated the ‘Last Supper’ together, remembering the evening when Jesus instituted the Holy Communion, and shared bread and wine with his disciples just before his death.

The altar had been stripped after the service on Maundy Thursday, and the crosses were covered in black cloth.  On Good Friday, it being a working and school day, we had a lunchtime service with our students, faculty and staff acting out the events of Good Friday – the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus, and we finished in silence around the cross and the altar…..

Then to last night, which was Easter Eve, Saturday, and we held our Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm, with the lighting of the Easter fire, and also 2 baptisms. It was great to see so many of our student fellowship coming along to support Pei-Ching in her baptism…

I was outside taking photos during the baptisms, along with a little 2-year-old and his father.   He was totally absorbed in watching events inside at the font….

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This morning, Easter Day, we could truly say, ‘Christ is risen, Alleluia!’  I even wore a skirt for the occasion, and got mentioned in the Notices as a result!  Advent Church was filled with wonderful choir music as our choir sang and sang so much beautiful Easter music.

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Yu-Jie accompanied the choir on the piano, and glorious sounds filled the church!

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Ah yes, and to finish, we had an Easter egg hunt!

And then we had lunch and birthday cake – celebrating all April birthdays.  Here we all are at the end of the service singing happy birthday together!

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And so, wishing you all a Happy Easter.  Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

R.I.P. Tan Mama 譚鄧承義姊妹追思聖餐禮拜 And what an amazing lady she was!

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Today was Tan Mama’s funeral and funeral party.  It was held in Advent Church, the sun was shining, the cherry blossom was out and Tan Mama would have been smiling!  Just like in these photos of her taken a few years ago!

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Tan Mama’s funeral was moving, dignified and fitting, a service that included Holy Communion, in which we thanked God for Tan Mama’s life and commended her into God’s care and keeping.  Her ashes were in a box (actually a chocolate biscuit box!) at the front of the church for the service.  The church was full, family and friends had come from all over.

Following the service, we moved into the church center for the funeral party.  And what a funeral party it was.  It was totally in the unique style that is Tan Mama and all the Tan family.  She would have loved it!

The church center was decorated with paper flowers and real flowers and with all Tan Mama’s beloved possessions, her large wooden cross decorated with horseshoes (from their own horses), her multi-coloured socks (Tan Mama ALWAYS wore 2 different coloured socks!), her hats with their beautiful feathers, her Bibles and books, her home-made candles, and all the T-shirts.  Yes, T-shirts!  The Tan family business is T-shirts, and they come in all shapes and sizes, colours and patterns, and with logos or words, many designed by Tan Mama herself.  And her homemade wine was offered to everyone for a toast!

Tan Mama and Tan Baba have 4 children and 5 grandchildren, and all were there – the grandchildren sang 2 songs, and the whole family sang a song….

Some friends gave short tributes, some sang songs, others recalled happy memories of Tan Mama.  I was the last to speak, and fondly remembered Tan Mama’s love for parties.  She was the party girl of Advent Church!  Whenever and wherever there was a party, Tan Mama would be there. And wherever Tan Mama was, there was always the potential for a party.  If Tan Mama decided to have a party, well, it happened big-time.  She was the life and soul of any and every social event!

I’ve found many photos in my collection, taken over the last 6 or more years, many of them at parties or social events.  Spot Tan Mama in the middle of each, smiling away!

Anyway, back to the funeral party today.  After the sharing time, we had yummy food to eat, and we were all given potted plants and chocolate-filled Easter eggs to take home.  Y’know, it was quite an occasion, never has Advent Church seen any funeral party like this!

Tan Mama died on March 3, peacefully in her sleep. These last 2 years have been difficult ones for her and the family after she suffered a bad stroke in January 2016, but she valiantly rose to the challenge and determined to walk again, which she did, with some help.  What was amazing was the way the family cared for her and devoted their time and energy to the task. It is just so moving to see their love in action.

Tan Mama’s No. 8 younger sister came to the funeral.  Here she is today, standing in the centre, next to the Tan family cross with the horseshoes, with Hannah (wife of Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang) on the left, and Janet Tan on the right….

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Tan Mama was the oldest child in her family, with 10 younger siblings, and her family were Christians, all living in Sichuan, China.  She studied at West China Union University 華西協合大學 in Chengdu, and in about 1948-9 came with her then-fiancé to Taiwan – they married in Gangshan, southern Taiwan, where Tan Baba was stationed in the air force.  That was a period of major political upheaval in China, and like many others who came to Taiwan at the time, they had no idea that they would not be allowed any contact with their families back home for decades to come.  And so, sadly, Tan Mama was never able to see her parents again.  In recent decades, visits have been possible, and these days, we’re glad that No. 8 sister is able to come from Sichuan and visit, she is so delightful!

We truly thank God for Tan Mama’s long and amazing life (95 years or thereabouts, we never quite knew what year we were celebrating with Tan Mama!), her joyful spirit, her cheerfulness and friendliness, her warm hospitality and generosity, her witness for Christ and her dedication to her family.  And when I say ‘family’, I also mean all the animals that are so much part of the Tan family – their horses, dogs, cats and geese.  Nobody else in Taiwan has quite the family that Tan Mama has.  Yes, the Tan family are quite amazing!

This is Tan Mama in years gone by….

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Tan Mama and Tan Baba recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, and Tan Baba celebrated his 100th birthday only last week.  They were such a support for each other, and it will not be easy adapting to life without Tan Mama.  We were so pleased to see Tan Baba today, and he posed for many photos….

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We pray for Tan Baba and all the Tan family to know God’s strength and comfort in their time of loss.   Tan Mama was one very special lady, and we will miss her, but we thank God for her life and the blessing that she was to so many of us.  May she rest in peace and rise and glory.

Updated on August 6, 2018….

Tan Baba passed away peacefully on July 7, 2018.  His funeral service was held yesterday at Advent Church, with many family members and friends in attendance – the church was completely full.  Tan Mama died on 3/3, Tan Baba on 7/7.  Both 3 and 7 have special spiritual significance for Christians.  Both also died on a Saturday, meaning the family were all at home, and could pay their last respects more easily.  At the funeral, their oldest son, Benjamin shared about his father’s life, and what an wonderful man he was.  I remember Tan Baba very fondly.  Always cheerful, always smiling.  He will be much missed.  May he rest in peace, rise in glory and may all the Tan family know God’s deep comfort and great strength at this sad time.

Wedding Blessings and Celebrations for our beloved Setu and Jacob!

Ah, THE DAY finally arrived! YES!

After years and years of waiting ~ they’ve FINALLY made it down the aisle, tied the knot, had the obligatory kiss AND the wedding blessing!  CONGRATULATIONS!

Advent Church on Saturday February 10 at 2:00 pm was THE place to be. It may have been pouring with rain and cold, cold, cold outside, but inside, it was a buzz of activity and filled with warmth! Excitement was in the air, but, also, well, let’s face it, a little concern about whether it was all actually going to happen as planned, or yes, even if at all! So when we all got to the church, and actually saw bride AND groom BOTH there, both looking Ready with a capital ‘R’, well, what a great relief! Smiles all around. And y’know what? Everything went off without a hitch. Thanks be to God! The bridegroom smiled all afternoon. He even smiled in my direction. At my camera. So did the bride, but, well, we knew she would smile! The bride’s months of careful planning and organization, plus the hard work and support of a huge team of helpers all paid off. And what a great day it was!

To understand our smiles of relief and amazement, you just have to understand a little about the very lovely bride and her very handsome groom. Setu works with our Chaplaincy Team at St. John’s University (SJU). We’ve been based in the same office now for about the last 7 years. We even went together to India this time last year. She has the most wonderful, fruitful and inspiring ministry with our students, particularly those in our SJU Student Fellowship. That’s how come so many SJU Student Fellowship alumni came back to participate on Saturday, joining with current Student Fellowship members in singing or playing instruments or acting as ushers, or whatever – all there to ensure everything ran smoothly.

In our life in the SJU Chaplaincy, Setu also provides us with plenty of laughs on a daily basis. She doesn’t mean to, of course, but she does! She’s creative, idealistic, gifted in multiple languages, compassionate, kind, and is always searching for ways to make the world a better place – whether it’s some words of encouragement for our students on facebook, or through Bible Studies, meetings, organizing activities, outreach ~ she’s on the go from morning to night. She runs, yes RUNS around the office. It’s a small office, there’s hardly no room to swing a cat, yet Setu, on the move, manages to run! (She even ran on Saturday…. round to the front of the church!)

And guess what, in the process of all this, she totally forgets to eat. Breakfast lies unopened, or half eaten on her desk until lunchtime. Her lunch is still being eaten, one noodle at a time, throughout the afternoon. Actually she has much improved over the years, but hey, if a student asks Setu about the deeper meaning of life and the world and the universe, her face lights up, she stops running, and wow, before you know it, a whole hour is gone in deep and meaningful discussion.

And guess what too, in this respect, Jacob is very similar. While other couples might spend hours discussing how to decorate the house, what to buy at the supermarket, where to go on holiday etc etc; no, not these two. They thrive, positively thrive on discussing all things spiritual, philosophical, theological, ethical, moral, eschatological and, of course, meaningful.

So, not surprisingly, when it comes to arranging something as practical and down to earth as a wedding, well, it has taken rather a long time. They’ve kind of been ‘together-but-not-really-together’ for what seems like a century, and ‘married-but-not-really-married’ for the last five years. So, as our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang explained during his sermon on Saturday, their wedding celebrations were more of a marriage blessing, which of course in this situation is just as meaningful and moving.

Setu’s parents both died while she was at university in Taipei, and partly through that experience, she became a Christian and found much support and friendship in their Student Fellowship. She discovered the Anglican / Episcopal Church when she moved out to the countryside, not far from Advent Church, looking for a quiet place to write up her thesis for her MA in Japanese (on Shūsaku Endō, author of ‘Silence’), and has been here ever since. She LOVES the Episcopal liturgy and traditions, the spirituality and quiet reflection of monastic orders, and every year disappears off for a few days of silent retreat in a RC Retreat House. So, in planning her wedding, she invited her good friend, Fr. Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁), originally from France, now at the Jesuit Community at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei, to walk her down the aisle. In his speech, he said that he accepted the role as an elder brother in the Christian faith. And he looked so natural!

And the bridegroom, Jacob? He’s the man to talk to if you want a deep and profound discussion. In the days when we used to have monthly English Bible Studies at Advent Church, he would be the one to ask the most very deepest and most very profoundest questions, all the result of much contemplation and reflection prior to the Bible Study. In more recent years, since he got busy running his own design company, he keeps very unconventional hours, working very late into the night and sleeping very late into the day, and rarely gets to come to Advent Church, and if he does, well, it’s quite a bit later than everyone else. And because he usually wears a face mask, Taiwan-style, he appears even more elusive and mysterious! Kind of like James Bond 007, we all want to know what he’s thinking, what makes him the man he is! In the event, we needn’t have worried about what would happen on Saturday. Jacob rose wonderfully to the occasion, and did Setu (and all of us!) proud. He smiled all day long, graciously cooperated for all photos and charmed us all with his elegance and grace. Thank you to Jacob!

The wedding blessing service was led by Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, assisted by our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, with songs from our Student Fellowship choir, Advent Church choir, and supported by our seminarian Stoney on the organ and piano, plus former and current students all on hand to help as necessary. We even had live streaming for those unable to attend…

After the blessing of the couple, they bowed to the congregation in thanks – then we had THE KISS!

This was all followed by Holy Communion….

After the final blessing, we had the procession out of the church of bride and groom…

And the 2 best men and 2 best bridesmaids…

And so to the church centre next door, where we had a buffet-style reception (I found some interesting delicacies ~ rolls of bacon with a strawberry in the middle!)…

Jacob’s great friend is Rev. Joseph Ho, in charge of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung ~ Joseph couldn’t be with us on Saturday, but his lovely wife and gorgeous daughter and mother-in-law were all there, so we had special photos for Joseph!

The entertainment at the reception was provided by different groups of students and friends. Some danced, others sang, some had even written their own songs for the occasion. One group who were not able to attend were our Student Fellowship members from Malaysia who have all gone home for Chinese New Year. They had each recorded a short video of their greetings which was shown at the reception, so lovely.

And the other group who must be mentioned are Machiko, Junko and Megumi, who came especially from Osaka, Japan to attend the celebrations. Last summer they were here for our joint youth outreach (with our companion diocese of Osaka), organized by Rev. Lennon Chang, with much support given by Setu. I had the chance to take the 3 of them around Taipei on Friday, including a great visit to drink tea with Bishop Lai, and later accompanied them to Taiwan’s most famous dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Feng, kindly hosted by Rev. Keith Lee, from Good Shepherd Church. So, yes, a very warm welcome to them!

After the food, speeches and entertainment, we had group photos, first the family…

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And those belonging to Advent Church!

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By then it was already 5:30 pm and I had to leave to get to St. James’ Church, Taichung, in time for preaching at the English service the next day, so I had to leave before the photos were finished. Actually I had the chance of a lift to the MRT Station, and as it was pouring with rain and I had tons of luggage, I made the most of the opportunity, and got to Taichung by 9:00 pm. Since then, I’ve been sorting out the 604 photos that I took on Saturday afternoon. Ha ha, you’ll be glad to know that I am not posting all 604 here, just a few!

Thanks be to God! It was a wonderful occasion! We are also grateful that Setu and Jacob had this opportunity to stand together in Advent Church to receive God’s blessing, and that of the church and university community. Thank you to all those who organized, helped, supported, and made sure everything went so well. Yulin and Ro-Han deserve our special thanks, plus the church clergy and staff, church members and all who came to show their support.

We all love Setu and Jacob so much, and wish them all the best for their future together. Please pray for them, and give thanks to Almighty God!