Tag Archives: Anglican Church

Happy Chinese New Year from Beautiful Bangalore, South India!

Rarely, possibly once in a lifetime, does such a wonderful opportunity come along ~ a chance to take 2 of my very good friends from Taiwan along with me to visit my many very good friends in South India ~ YES!   The opportunity came at Chinese New Year, and with the blessing of the bishop of Taiwan, Bishop David J. H. Lai and the rector of Advent Church, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang and all our friends and church members, off we went!

God has blessed me with many good friends in Taiwan, and my 2 traveling companions were 2 of the very best!  Shu-Jing 薛淑靖 is my colleague here at St. John’s University Chaplain’s Office, and Hui-Ling 許惠苓 is Bishop Lai’s secretary and my colleague in the diocesan office in Taipei. Both are the first, and so far only Christians in their families, both are devoted long-time members of Advent Church, and very importantly, both very good friends with each other. So there was certainly never a dull moment on our whole trip ~ and rarely even a quiet one!

We set off together on Saturday January 21 for Bangalore, at the invitation of my very good friend from Tanzania days, Jyothi.  Jyothi welcomed us all so warmly and graciously, willingly giving up 2 weeks of her valuable time to take such good care of us all.  I first visited Jyothi in Bangalore in February 2013, also for the Chinese New Year holiday, along with New Zealand friend Ruth.  This was my second visit, but the first ever for Shu-Jing and Hui-Ling.  And what a great welcome we had from Jyothi and all her friends!

We arrived in Bangalore in the middle of the night and got to bed at 3:30 am, but a few hours later we were upright and wide-awake, all ready for the main 8:30 am service at St. John’s Church, Bangalore, part of the Church of South India (C.S.I.)  We were there along with 600 others – and 300 in the Sunday School.  The latecomers have to sit on chairs outside, there’s so many people.  Amazing.

Amazingly also, the new pastor of the church, Rev. G. Wilson, studied for a year in 2004 at Tainan Theological College in Taiwan, and was delighted to tell us how much he loved Taiwan, and what wonderful people the Taiwan people are!  One of his many gifts is preaching, and everyone enthused about his sermon after the service.  Here we all are, posing for photos!

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We met so many of Jyothi’s good friends at the church, including Asha and her family who took us all out for breakfast straight after church.  Oh yes, and Nancy (and her daughter – both looking stunning in the above right photo) who was to accompany us on our 2 big trips! Then to lunch with Rhena and her family ~ ah, Bangalore people are so welcoming!

The next day, we were up bright and very early, along with Jyothi and Nancy, in time to watch the sunrise from Bangalore Station as we set off for the 10-hour train journey to Kerala.  There’s nothing boring about spending 10+ hours on a train in S. India, we met and talked to everyone, smiled and played and laughed with the babies, took photos of and with everyone, ate, drank and even shopped onboard.  Ah, it was such fun!

The terminus is at Ernakulam Jn, and from there it’s a short drive to Kochi (Cochin), the centre of the Indian spice trade for many centuries and the first of the European colonies in colonial India, first occupied by the Portuguese in 1503.

We spent 3 nights in a really great guest house in Fort Kochi and visited the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, one of 8 basilicas in Kerala and oozing with history – like everywhere else we visited! Also the Chinese Fishing Nets, and then the Paradesi Synagogue.  This was THE most fascinating place to visit (do check out the Wikipedia page on the Cochin Jews), though no photos were allowed inside. There’s been trade going on between India and Israel since the days of King Solomon, mostly of peacocks, teak, ivory and spices.  The synagogue guidebook says that the first Jews probably arrived in Kerala in King Solomon’s merchant fleet, and “the oldest Tamil word found in any written record in the world appears to be the word for peacock in the Hebrew text of the Book of Kings and Chronicles. The old Tamil word ‘Takai’ became in Hebrew ‘Tuki'”.  These days virtually all the Paradesi Jews have moved to Israel, and there are only 5, 2 men and 3 women, remaining in Kochi (others from the wider Cochin Jewish community remain, but their numbers are dwindling fast too).  We had the honour of meeting one of them, Sarah, who was seated in her living room, next to her shop, where she sells traditional Jewish embroidery. She sang to us one of the ancient songs ~ it was beautiful!  And to finish the day, after a bit of spice shopping over near the CSI church in Ernakulam, we went to St. George’s Mar Thoma Church (facebook page here), founded in 1913, and looking stunning in the sunshine!

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We also went on a boat tour of the famous and very beautiful Kerala backwaters, floating along all morning and disembarking to visit 2 small business ventures, one converting clam shells into lime for use in such things as whitewashing and pharmaceuticals, and the other, the coir industry, converting coconut fibre into ropes.  We were in a group with other tourists, including several independent travelers from Israel and a Punjabi family – parents, daughter, and newly-married son and daughter-in-law ~ it wasn’t a honeymoon they said, this was their ‘family-moon’!

And our final stop was a performance of Kathakali, a traditional ‘story-play’ form of classical Indian dance, which included us watching the make-up session and then a demonstration of how the all-male team use their eyes and hands to convey meaning. Amazing ~ those eyes!

And so back to Bangalore by train, but this time in an A/C compartment, which is definitely more comfortable, but oh so boring by comparison to the one on the outgoing journey to Kerala!

Friday in Bangalore was a day of rest, and our first chance to go to visit my good friends, Varghese and Rachel, Kerala friends from Birmingham days – so wonderful to see them. And then a meet up with Rhena who took us shopping.  The world’s best shopping assistant!  And what a great way to spend Chinese New Year’s Eve – shopping!

On Saturday, the first day of Chinese New Year, we set off by car, again with Jyothi and Nancy, with Driver Joseph at the wheel, for Coorg (Kodagu) ~ a 3-day trip to Madikeri and Mysore, NW of Bangalore.  Met our very first Chinese-speaking group en route, 7 adults and 3 children, all Chinese expats living in Bangalore and working in the IT industry, on their way to Mysore for the weekend.  On the way, we stopped to visit the famous Hindu Temple, Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna, dedicated to a manifestation of the god Vishnu, which saw us join a huge long line of several hundred pilgrims, all of them there to pay homage. No photos inside, this is the outside….

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The journey from Bangalore was uphill all the way to our destination, Madikeri, altitude 1170 m, followed by a visit to Abbey Falls, where we joined thousands of people on a busy Saturday afternoon, including 200 girl guides and boy scouts and their 23 teachers, who all became our best friends within 5 minutes!  Photos galore!  We visited all the sights of Madikeri, the old fort, the viewpoint at Raja’s Seat, the toy train – and did plenty of shopping for spices and coffee.  Note the petrol station pumps covered in tinsel that we passed en route!

Next day was really the highlight of the 3-day trip, and a visit to the Elephant Camp at Dubare.  In 2013,  we had visited but at the wrong time of day, but this time, we were right on time to see the elephants eating and drinking in the river.  Spectacular.  Loved it!

And this was followed by another highlight, the Tibetan Settlements at Bylakuppe, including the Namdroling Monastery – the largest teaching centre of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world, with over 5,000 lamas (both monks and nuns), a religious college and hospital.  We met a large group of pilgrims from Himachal Pradesh, the neigbouring state to Tibet, who loved posing for a group photo!

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And so to Mysore via the garden centre for Nancy to buy some plants (from then on, we could always spot our vehicle by the orchids in the back window!), an afternoon visit to the Brindavan Gardens and evening visit to Mysore Palace, all lit up at night, and open for tours during the day.  Loved it!  We also visited St. Philomena’s Cathedral, the Chamundi Hills and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, before arriving back in Bangalore in time to hit the Monday night rush hour. Ah, such fun – or not, as the case may be.  Anyway it was an experience.  The drivers are amazing, and there are so few accidents – we saw only one minor one on the whole trip!

On Tuesday, Nancy kindly took us on a tour of Bangalore, to the Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens, St. Mark’s CSI Cathedral and a look at the outside of Bangalore Palace – modeled on Windsor Castle…. and finally back to her home for a delicious lunch and to listen to her daughter, Vasanthie, playing the veena, a classical ancient stringed instrument, a bit like a zither. Ah yes, we had such a fun time with Nancy over the 9 days or so we were with her!

Check out Vasanthie’s You Tube Channel: HimalayanPeony Peony and this:

Wednesday was shopping day with Rhena (ah, how we loved those auto-rickshaws – oh, and how we loved Rhena too of course – always laughing and always on hand for shopping advice!) In the evening, Shu-Jing and Hui-Ling had to return to Taiwan – oh, we were so sad to see them go!

I still had a few more days, and on Thursday, Jyothi and I took the train down to Madras / Chennai for 2 nights to visit her good friend, Josephine and her family.  They welcomed us so warmly, and we stayed in the neighboring church hostel, next to a church building used as a wedding hall, which was quite an experience in itself, a busy busy busy place! We visited San Thome Basilica (St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica), one of only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus (the other two being St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain). St. Thomas is buried there in Chennai, and it is fascinating to link his early ministry in India with the Jewish community in Kerala, where he found his first converts.

Josephine’s son, Andrew kindly took us to visit St. Mary’s Church, Fort George, the oldest Anglican church (C.S.I.) east of the Suez and also the oldest British building in India, and where Andrew’s father was the first Indian priest-in-charge, from 1972-75, the 98th priest-in-charge in total; he later became bishop.  Very meaningful and moving to visit with someone so directly connected.

Then we went to the Armenian Church in Chennai, constructed in 1712 and reconstructed in 1772, ‘one of the oldest churches on the Indian subcontinent’, famous for its belfry of 6 bells. The caretaker was on hand to welcome us and inform us that these days sadly there are no longer any Armenians resident in Chennai, but twice a year they hold a service, and he was cleaning the church, getting ready.  The service was to be held the very next day, and at that very moment, the Armenian pastor for all India and a group arrived from Calcutta to prepare for the service.  Amazing.

And so to buy some leather goods, famous in Chennai, and back to our accommodation, where another wedding reception was taking place – lights and glamour galore!

And so we returned by train to Bangalore on Saturday night, and said our fond farewells on Sunday to all Jyothi’s friends, especially Asha, who kindly invited us out for breakfast, and later to her home for lunch, sooooooo yummy!

I left Bangalore late on Sunday night, and arrived home on Monday mid-afternoon. Despite being warned by so many people here in Taiwan of the dangers of India, and experiencing for ourselves the thrills (?!) of road travel in Bangalore, Kerala, Coorg and Chennai ~ in fact we traveled everywhere so safely, only for me to get all the way back to Taiwan and almost home, when the bus I was on from Tamsui managed to crash into a road sign right outside St. John’s University – the sign came crashing down into the front windscreen, which took out the lights and shattered all the glass. Fortunately we were all at the back of the bus and nobody was injured.  Ah, perhaps India is not so dangerous after all.  Certainly the drivers are all amazing, weaving in and out at tremendous speeds with non-stop horn-blowing, but oh so safely!

So what else did we notice?  In great contrast to Taiwan, we saw hardly any young people wearing glasses, hardly anyone smoking, hardly any young men (or old men even) wearing shorts, hardly anyone wearing face masks (only the traffic police at busy road junctions, in fact), hardly any corrugated iron buildings.  Ah, such a break not to have to look at miles of grey corrugated iron!  I loved the colours of the S. Indian buildings, bright and bold! And what did we miss?  Well, noodles and dumplings, of course!  Actually Shu-Jing didn’t really miss anything food-wise, she loved it all and made the most of every opportunity to enjoy the array of foods on offer, and Jyothi spent several evenings teaching them both to cook some delicious dishes, ready for their return to Taiwan.  Yes, we loved the food, loved the weather, loved the churches and scenery, and most of all, loved the people! So friendly, so beautiful, so elegant, so lovely!

Yummy, yummy!

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Apologies to many friends and former pupils in S. India who I didn’t get a chance to see, or even contact. Sorry about that, hopefully there’ll be a next time, one day!

And a very big THANK YOU to Jyothi and all her friends for their gracious hospitality, warm welcome, kindest generosity, endless time and abundant energy in giving us such a wonderful time, and THANKS BE TO GOD for His protection and safekeeping, good health (yes, even though 2 of our group got a little sick, it was only for a day or so – and that’s all part of the experience, or so they say, ha ha!) and oh so many good friends!

Happy Year of the Rooster to you all!

YES to India, YES, YES, YES!

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Church of England’s Holy Week and Easter short film of Psalm 22….

“My God, My God why have you forsaken me ?” The words spoken by Jesus on the Cross from Psalm 22 inspired our new JustPray video for Easter. The film follows on from The Lord’s Prayer advert launched by the Church last Christmas which was banned by cinemas for its religious content.

The stars of the film have struggled with drug addiction, crime and homelessness on their journey to faith. Find out more about their stories here: http://www.justpray.uk/Psalm%2022/  Visit www.justpray.uk to learn more about prayer and to share your own prayers.

So do check the Just Pray website here and especially the background stories of the people in the film, and their Saturday Night Gathering…. brilliant!

From the Diocese of Osaka, Japan ~ a big welcome to Taiwan!

And they’ve brought the sun with them too ~ ah, at last, the weather is great!

The Diocese of Taiwan has had a companion link with the Diocese of Osaka since 2004, and so there’s been regular church group visits to and fro for different occasions. Since their last visit, for our 60th anniversary celebration in April 2014, the Diocese of Osaka has a new bishop, Bishop Andrew Haruhisa Iso.  So Bishop Iso has brought a group to Taiwan this week, primarily to attend the opening service and first session of our annual diocesan convention, which starts tomorrow.  Sadly our good friend, the Dean of the Osaka Cathedral, Rev. Peter Akira Iwaki couldn’t join the group for health reasons, but we’re really pleased that so many have come, and they’ve also come a few days early to see a little of the diocese – and the beauties of Taiwan – YES!

Their group of 17 includes 6 clergy, and Bishop Iso and Bishop Uno (retired) have both brought their wives, and some of the group have come to Taiwan more than once, so there’s some familiar faces among them!  Not only that, but my good friends in York, UK, Rev. Pam Cooper and Evelyn Wroe were CMS-UK mission partners in Osaka for many years and so we have several mutual friends.  Pam was the first woman to be ordained priest in the Diocese of Osaka, and now Kiyomi is the second – and the first Japanese – so when I met Kiyomi yesterday for the very first time, well we just had to take a photo of the 2 of us, to say hello to Pam! We are of course delighted to welcome them all, they are all so graceful, charming and happy ~ Bishop Iso and Bishop Uno haven’t stopped smiling since they arrived, wonderful!

So off we went yesterday – me and Shu-Jing from our St John’s University Chaplain’s Office – to meet up with Rev. Joseph Ho and a group from Christ Church, Chungli to welcome the group on their arrival at Taoyuan Int’l Airport.  Fortunately Shu-Jing speaks Japanese, and I can take photos, so we’re a good team!

A quick welcome at the airport, and off to a delicious welcome lunch at a Hakka Restaurant in Chungli, hosted by the Diocese of Taiwan.  Then to visit Christ Church for singing – with actions of course, then an introduction to the church and photos. The group from Osaka had specially asked to be able to visit Christ Church, it’s our newest church in the diocese, and started from really just one church family 5-6 years ago, and now grown into a small church…..

And a group photo ~ Bishop Iso is holding his beautiful gift from Christ Church, in fact there was one for all the visitors to welcome them all to Taiwan 🙂

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And then Shu-Jing and I accompanied the group as far as their hotel in Taipei, and said goodbye.  They were preparing for dinner, then a visit for some of them to Bishop Lai’s office for a tea-drinking welcome!

Actually the Osaka group has come with a travel company who’ve organized their visit, and today they’ve been sightseeing in Jiufen and Tamsui, with a quick visit to us at St. John’s University and Advent Church this afternoon.  It’s Girls’ Festival in Japan today, and one of the Osaka group has brought her wooden flute, so we had a nice recital while the rest of the group sang along, then it was our turn ~ a welcome from President Chen of St. John’s University, and then Shu-Jing shared about the university, church and chaplaincy ministry and everyone was introduced and gifts were given…

And finally a group photo with some of our students on the steps of Advent Church!

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A great visit, a great welcome to Taiwan for all our Osaka friends ~ and we look forward to seeing them all tomorrow at the diocesan convention opening service!

From the Anglican Church of Korea: Welcoming Rev. Stephen Sikyung Yoo!

A big welcome to Taiwan to Rev. Stephen Sikyung Yoo, his first ever visit to Taiwan!

Rev. Stephen Sikyung Yoo is the Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Korea, and was invited here earlier this week for a conference of East Asia leaders hosted by the Taiwan Presbyterian Church.  Before becoming Provincial Secretary, Stephen worked at the Seoul Anglican Cathedral, and before that he and his family spent 10 years in Japan as missionaries from the Korean Anglican Church; Stephen was chaplain of Rikkyo (St. Paul’s) University, Tokyo, the largest Anglican University in Japan, with over 20,000 students.

Yesterday Bishop Lai welcomed him to visit our diocesan office in Taipei.  Stephen is also Executive Director of TOPIK (Towards Peace in Korea (사)평화를일구는사람들) and brought gifts from himself and Archbishop Paul Kim (Bishop of Seoul and Primate of the Anglican Church of Korea) and his wife – stoles and scarves made in Rason City, North Korea under the TOPIK program, and Bishop Lai gave him a beautiful teapot and Chinese tea!

So, a big welcome to Taiwan and greetings to all our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of Korea!

Thornham Parva Retable ~ Stunning!

St. Mary’s Church, Thornham Parva in deepest Suffolk is just about everybody’s favorite UK church!  Very small, very quaint, very thatched and very very old.  It also happens to be one of my supporting churches and the people are wonderful ~ I visited them earlier this year (see my blog post here) ~ the salt of the earth!

The church is also very famous for the retable that hangs above the altar, apparently the largest surviving altar-piece from the English Middle Ages.  St. Catherine is second left, holding her wheel ~ so I bought lots of postcards of the retable to give to all our clergy on my return to Taiwan….

And now I’ve just received a Christmas card from my good friends in Thornham Parva, titled ‘Altarpiece in Dazzle Camouflage (Thornham Parva)’, a woodcut on Japanese paper, by Jonathan Lloyd 2015, his studio is in Northumberland ~ isn’t it just beautiful?

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I LOVE IT!

Advent Word Global Advent Calendar 2015!

Advent Word is a really great Global Advent Calendar project!  I love it!

It’s run by the Anglican Communion and the brothers of The Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE), based in Boston, USA.  The brothers write a daily meditation on an Advent theme – with a photo – which they post to social media, and we respond with an image of our own and the hashtag #AdventWord plus the hashtag for the appropriate theme for the day…. it works best on Instagram, and shared to Facebook, partly because the Instagram filters are so good, and make the photos look really special!

This project was launched last year in Advent 2014, and I loved it!  Now this year, the Diocese of Taiwan has been helping out a bit, and our good friend at St. James’ Church, Taichung, Jerry Liang has kindly translated all the daily meditations into Mandarin Chinese, and these are now posted on the Advent Word website each day along with other languages too ~ check it all out here!

My humble contributions so far (without the Instagram filters of course!), as follows:

Day 1: #Wake Up #覺醒 Advent Sunday, November 29

‘Look clearly and honestly at your life – and take action. Now. For now is the time to waken out of sleep. That is the watchman’s trumpet call – the clarion call of Advent. Now is the time for you – a choice to be made, a decision to be taken’.

應誠實看待自己的生命;把它看清楚,並且採取行動。現在就是你我應該覺醒的時候,那守護者的號角,降臨節的清澈喇叭聲,已經響起。就在這一刻,你(我)必須下定決心,做出抉擇。

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Above photo taken in the park opposite St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi last weekend!

Day 2: #Proclaim #宣告 Monday November 30

‘John boldly asserts that Christ—the very Word of God–is the light and life of all people. In our personal lives, seeing truth, speaking truth as best we can, is essential to the dawn of light and life’.

施洗約翰勇敢地宣告,基督是上帝的道,世人的生命之光。在你我一生中,誰能「眼見真理、口說真道」,那人就能點燃生命之光,好比破曉晨曦帶來光明一般.

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Above photo also taken in the park opposite St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi last weekend!

Day 3: #Give #給予 Tuesday December 1

‘What is your treasure, what is it you value most and feel you have to have to live? Maybe it is money, maybe it is time, maybe it is knowledge, maybe it is love that needs to be squandered on those who have none, who lack hope and need help. Are you being challenged at this time to give all that you have?’

你的財寶是什麼?什麼是你最看重,深感生活中不可或缺的東西?是金錢?時間?或是知識?愛心?也許應當將你某些最愛,分給那些兩手空空,希望渺茫,亟需幫助的人。此刻,你是否接受挑戰,將你所有,濟助他人?

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Mrs. Grace Chien 簡師母 lights the first Advent Candle at St.Peter’s Church, ‪Chiayi‬‬ on ‪Advent Sunday‬ 2015. She and Bishop John C.T. Chien 簡啟聰主教 [1940-2013] have given their whole lives in faithful Christian service. An amazing witness! ‪Thanks be to God‬!

Day 4: #Forgive #寬恕 Wednesday December 2

‘This is the promise of God: not that he will make life simpler but that God will save us, and salve us and heal us and forgive us from all that is broken and diseased in us’.

寬恕是神的應許,其意義,不在於簡化生命,讓生命變得異常容易;而是要我們真心領會,即使身陷全然破碎的困境,我們仍有上帝的拯救、醫治、和寬恕。

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God forgive us for our obsession with convenience and ‘instantness’, help us this ‪‎Advent‬ to patiently wait for your coming….

Day 5: #Repent #悔改 Thursday December 3

‘In Advent, we are called to more clearly engage the subject of God’s judgment; we are challenged to realize that we have sinned and are in need of God’s forgiveness. God’s judgment is his love and his truth. If we would hook into God’s love, we must walk through the door of repentance and forgiveness’.

降臨節期間,上帝呼召我們更清楚祂公義審判的課題;祂要我們理解,人犯了罪,需要祂的寬恕。上帝的審判,換言之,就是祂的愛和真理。若要真正抓住上帝的愛,我們必須穿過「悔改與寬恕」之門。

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Above photo was taken at the chapel at the diocesan office in Taipei ~ the wood carving was done by Bishop Lai himself!

Day 6: #Worship #崇拜 Friday December 4

‘In this season, we not only contemplate, but we worship the One who came, but who is still here. The One who is to come, but who is here already. Time present, time past, time future—three layers of time, bound magically together, bound so deliciously together in the vision of Christ’.

這段期間,我們除了努力思索,更要用心崇拜,那「早已來臨,當下猶在;既已臨在,還會再來」的主。時光的三個層面—-現在、過去、未來,在基督的異象中,神奇地綁在一塊兒,美妙地結合在一起。

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Above photo taken at St. John’s University Library on our Advent Walkabout on Tuesday!

Do join up and take part if you can – it’s very meaningful and of course great fun!