Tag Archives: Coronavirus in Taiwan

So, where are we now?

(On first sight, doesn’t that sign above look like it’s saying ‘Avoid Catherine’?!) 😮

Taiwan is now in its 3rd month since the fear and worry about the coronavirus situation started.  It was just before Chinese New Year in the 3rd week of January that things started to happen big-time and Taiwan started its wall-to-wall News coverage, with daily press briefings from the health minister, and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in non-stop action.  Check out the Wikipedia Site ‘2020 coronavirus pandemic in Taiwan’ for a good description of what has happened so far. 

And so far, thankfully, it seems that Taiwan is just about keeping its head above water.   Even as the coronavirus situation worsens worldwide, the government here continues to be very vigilant and the people very willing to comply with all restrictions.   I was in Taiwan for the SARS epidemic in 2003, when we were the third most badly-affected country in the world after China and Hong Kong, and my memories are of it being a very fearful time for everyone; the depressing doom and gloom lasted for many months, and it was clear that the government regretted not being quicker and more proactive in preventing community outbreaks.  This time the government did not delay, and did what governments are supposed to do, that is learn from history and act for the benefit of the people.  On the very first day that the outbreak was officially reported by China (December 31, 2019), that same evening, the government here started checking incoming passengers on flights from Wuhan, even before they disembarked from the plane. 

By February 22, the day of the consecration of our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, there were 26 confirmed cases in Taiwan, but no serious community outbreak, and it was felt safe to go ahead with the actual consecration service, though with a lot of precautions, including cancelling the consecration banquet, and temperature checks on everyone at the service.  Travel restrictions imposed by Taiwan at the time meant that visitors from Hong Kong had to cancel, but we welcomed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and 12 other archbishops and bishops from the USA, Japan and Korea for the occasion.  

When we said goodbye to those bishops a few days later, it was South Korea, Italy and Iran that were the developing hotspots.  Fast forward a month, and the virus has spread worldwide, and with cancellations of school and work in Europe and the USA, so we are in a second wave of confirmed cases, as anxious Taiwanese overseas flee for the safety of home, all with stories of how relieved they are to be back in a country that really is taking this virus seriously.  Since last week, only those with Taiwan passports or a resident permit are allowed into the country; all are quarantined for 14 days and all are closely monitored; while the few who have tried to escape quarantine have been caught and fined. 

As of this afternoon, Monday March 23, we have a total of 195 confirmed cases and 2 deaths, with an increase of 26 new infections today, all accounted for, as announced by the health minister.  It feels like we are still holding our breath, still treading water, not daring to let down our guard, just in case, but also relieved that so far the virus remains contained.  Here at St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei, we are now in our 4th week of the semester (after an initial delay of 2 weeks), and this morning, I was on duty for an hour of temperature-checking of all students and staff arriving for classes.  Most of those arriving at the front entrance had just got off a bus or motorcycle and were wearing face-masks, many will wear them all day long. I wear mine in church, on public transport, in the supermarket, sometimes in the office and of course for temperature-checking, in fact anywhere where there’s too many people in too small a space, at the very least it keeps my hands off my face.  We use a digital forehead thermometer to check everyone, after which they get their hands sprayed with sanitizer and a sticker with a ‘1’ on it, denoting the first day of the week (in Mandarin Chinese, Monday is Day 1) showing that they have passed the temperature check. If they get a reading over 37.5°C, the thermometer light glows orange or red, so we wait a few minutes and check again. If it happens a second time, they get checked with an ear thermometer, and if that reading is over 38°C, then they are not allowed to enter the campus and instead sent to seek medical advice, and their details are recorded and followed up.  This temperature-checking activity takes a lot of organization, as everyone entering the campus has to be channeled through a central processing area at the main entrance, so it involves a whole rota of people, and there’s another group checking temperatures of those driving in by car.  The same rules of daily temperature-checking apply at all schools and government buildings in Taiwan; but apart from that, work and school continue vaguely as normal, with plenty of precautions, though many after-school, extra-curricular activities are cancelled, same for the churches.      

Our Sunday services are an ongoing challenge as they involve a wider age range of people, but they have not been cancelled, although numbers are down as some of the most at risk stay home.  We have the usual temperature checks, face-masks to be worn by clergy and congregation alike, and depending on the church, it may or may not be Holy Communion, and if so, mostly with bread only. Here at Advent Church, the clergy adjust the service protocol each week as they try to accommodate for everyone and everything in as safe a way as possible.   Our fellowship groups, Sunday Schools, Bible Studies etc are all cancelled, some are taking place online.  One thing’s for sure though, with so many cancellations, everyone has a lot more free time than they had before.    

It’s a month since Bishop Lai retired and Bishop Chang was consecrated, and our new bishop has not wasted one moment, starting immediately on the renovation, remodeling and updating of facilities at the 5-storey diocesan office building in Taipei City. He was also here at SJU this morning, now as chair of the SJU board of trustees, but I mistook him for one of the students as he arrived at the campus with his face-mask on, and lined up with everyone else for temperature-checking; the same with SJU President Ay.  When it comes to temperature-checking, from bishop to university president, staff, students and even the bus drivers delivering students, all have to line up to be checked; vigilance is demanded of everyone. 

As the coronavirus situation worsens worldwide, and restrictions continue in Taiwan with so many activities cancelled, I too have more time than usual.  Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in the UK and my mother celebrated her 88th birthday only a few days before.  It is a worrying time for those there and for us far away.  A few days ago I went through my address book and compiled a list of friends and family members mostly in far-off countries who are particularly vulnerable at this time.  Many are elderly or have elderly parents, many are in isolation, some have underlying health conditions.  My list has about 60 individuals / couples on it and I have committed myself to praying for them all by name every day for the foreseeable future, specifically for God’s protection, grace, strength and comfort at this time.  I’m happy to extend the list with a few more people and add your name or the name of someone close to you who you feel especially needs prayer at this time. Just one or two individuals / couples will be fine, not a whole list, I have to be realistic.  Just let me know the name and a few details.  Happy to help!

I am very grateful to my sending organization, Church Mission Society (CMS) for their support, care and concern, and especially for treating us as individuals, within the context of the church and country in which we work, and for respectfully standing back when appropriate and reaching out when necessary.  The last thing I would want is mission support done ‘helicopter parent’ style, so a big thank you to all in CMS.  Other people working in the charity sector are not so fortunate, I’ve realized recently, and some US mission societies have ordered everyone to return home, regardless of where they live or the current virus situation or the health facilities in that country; Peace Corps even has a worldwide evacuation order for all 7,300 of their volunteers to return to the USA, and finish their term of service.  Yes, sometimes less is more, which is the quote on the photo above (and below), though at first sight I thought the final phrase said, ‘Avoid Catherine’ but it turns out it’s not my name after all, but ‘Avoid Gathering’ with the ‘s’ missed off (duh!🙄) Certainly, avoiding people doesn’t mean we also need to avoid God, and surely He is nearer to us than we can expect or even know, and especially in these darkest of times.

Let me finish with this prayer, which I really like, from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the National Day of Prayer and Action yesterday, Mothering Sunday, as everyone was encouraged to light a ‘candle of hope’ in their homes: “May the God of all hope show us his face and his way within the darkness that enfolds us. In all things, God can work with us to transform and bring light, however desperate our present may be”.

And finally, it’s spring and these pink wood sorrels are out all over the SJU campus, looking glorious on a sunny day….

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support, you are all much appreciated. Thanks especially to my CMS-supporting link churches. Please do stay safe, healthy, prayerful and hopeful, and let me know if you’d like me to pray. There’s a comment section up near the title if you want to write something. 

Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮 consecrated and installed as bishop of Taiwan!

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang (center) at his consecration as bishop of Taiwan on Feb. 22, 2020, with Bishop David J. H. Lai (left), bishop of Taiwan 2001-2020, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (right), chief consecrator. Photo: Mr. Yei Yung-Xian for the Diocese of Taiwan

“Hello, Taiwan! It is a blessing to be with you on this glorious day, and I know that I speak for all the archbishops and bishops that this is a glorious day!” With that joyful introduction, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry began his sermon to an expectant crowd of over 400 people gathered inside and outside St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei on Feb. 22 to witness the ordination, consecration, installation and seating of the Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as the sixth bishop of Taiwan.

Whole congregation photo by Warren Chuo

Despite growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, it was considered safe to continue with the consecration service, although the evening’s consecration banquet was canceled and travel restrictions meant that the archbishop and bishops of Hong Kong were unable to participate. The service was performed in Mandarin Chinese and English, and Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The co-consecrators were Bishop David J. H. Lai of Taiwan, Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick of Hawaii, Archbishop and Primate of Japan Nathaniel Uematsu, Bishop Haruhisa Iso of Osaka (Taiwan’s companion diocese) and Bishop Greg Rickel of Olympia. Archbishop and Primate of Korea Moses Yoo, Bishop Todd Ousley of the presiding bishop’s staff, Bishop John Smylie of Wyoming, most of the Province VIII bishops and a group of 15 clergy and church members from the Diocese of Osaka gave the service a special international flavor. Clergy stoles, flowers and decorations were all in traditional Chinese red, while firecrackers and a taiko drum performance enlivened the celebrations during the service, as did the combined choir from three Taipei churches.

Flower arrangement by Ms. Susan Shih, Good Shepherd Church

Chang, 64, is married to Hannah Fen-Jan Wei and has two daughters and three grandchildren. He graduated in 1975 with a diploma in industrial engineering from St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology, the predecessor of St. John’s University, Taipei, where he was also baptized in 1970. As associate professor of mathematics at St. John’s University from 1983 to 2016, Chang was ordained a deacon in 1995 and a priest in 1999. He served as chaplain of St. John’s University (1997-2016) and vicar, later rector, of Advent Church on the St. John’s University campus, which serves as both university chapel and parish church.

Bishop Chang, his wife Hannah and 2 daughters

In his acceptance speech after his election as bishop on Aug. 3, 2019, Chang said, “Building on the work of Bishop David J. H. Lai over the past 20 years, I will continue to go forth in the name of the Lord.” His inspiration and role model is Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and founder of St. John’s University, whose motto was “Transforming lives through the life of Christ.” Chang sees himself as inheriting Wong’s legacy, and in his sermon Curry referred to Wong’s life and witness, exhorting the congregation, “I want you and your bishop-elect to claim this high calling, to transform lives through the life of Christ, through the love of Christ, through the goodness of Christ. Bishop Wong was right! I hope you are as excited about this as I am!” He ended his sermon with some personal encouragement to Chang: “Help us to follow Jesus, help us to find our way to God and to each other, and may the legacy of Bishop Wong be your ministry in the future!”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry encouraging Bishop-elect Chang in his sermon

At the end of the service, Curry paid tribute to Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Episcopal Church in Taiwan, which was established in 1954 and is now a member diocese of Province VIII.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry with Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma

The above article was our official account of the consecration, published on the Episcopal News Service (ENS) website here.

Photos of the Consecration Service

Part 1: Before the service – checking temperatures and preparation…

Part 2: The Consecration Service…

And some of the group photos…

We give thanks to God that everything went so smoothly, and we thank you all for your prayers, concern and support.

It was particularly moving for us that so many bishops decided to come to Taiwan, despite the coronavirus situation, to join in the consecration service.  As you know from the ENS article above, the archbishop, bishops and visitors from Hong Kong, and also the Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock from the Episcopal Church sadly had to cancel because of travel restrictions.  Many Taiwan people chose to stay home and watch on the livestream instead, a wise move particularly for those sitting outside.  It was sunny in the morning but in the afternoon a cold wind blew and it started to rain – definitely chilly and wet! 

Archbishop and Primate of Japan Nathaniel Uematsu and Bishop Haruhisa Iso of Osaka are escorted back into the cathedral in the rain after distributing Holy Communion to the congregation outside

Fourteen bishops signed and sealed the ordination certificate, those mentioned in the article above, plus other Province VIII bishops: Bishop Megan Traquair of N. California, Bishop Gretchen Rehberg of Spokane, Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah, Bishop Mark Lattime of Alaska and Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce of Los Angeles, who is also secretary of the House of Bishops and who read one of the testimonials in the service – in Mandarin Chinese!  The Province VIII bishops had arrived earlier in the week to hold a meeting from February 19-21.  For Bishop Greg Rickel’s account of his visit to Taiwan for the consecration, see his blog post here. These are the bishops who were at the consecration service, along with the retired RC Archbishop of Taipei and bishops from the Methodist and Lutheran Churches in Taiwan… 

photo by Mr. Yei Yung-Xian

The first of the US bishops to arrive in Taiwan was Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea from Hawaii who came especially early in order to meet with Bishop-elect Chang as his ‘coaching bishop’. They met all day on Tuesday, while Bea spent the day with Hannah, and I went along too.  Yes, they’re all such lovely people!…

Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea, with Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and his wife, Hannah

The official events of the consecration weekend started on Friday February 21, when Presiding Bishop Michael Curry met with the press, namely the Christian Tribune (whose report is here) and the Christian Daily (here) and I was there too.  The first question was from the Christian Tribune, about how Presiding Bishop Curry responds to the fear created by the coronavirus situation.  He answered with the words of 1 John 4:18, ‘Perfect love casts out fear’ and described how, for him, that meant trusting in God through prayer, following medical advice about what precautions to take, caring for others, and working to making sure that everyone has access to good healthcare.  He was also asked about how he balances ancient traditions with a changing modern society, how to encourage young people in their faith, and the importance of being involved both ecumenically and internationally. 

This was followed by a meeting with the diocesan clergy and spouses, then lunch together.  In the afternoon, there was a rehearsal for the consecration service, and a welcome dinner in the evening, with gift presentations and speeches. 

On the Saturday, the bishops gathered in the morning for the signing and sealing of the ordination certificate, then a meeting with the Presiding Bishop…

The completed ordination certificate, ready for framing….

And the bishops are ready!

The consecration service went so well! One special mention must be made of 13-year-old Samuel Z. W. Liu, grandson of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, former dean of the cathedral. Samuel did the the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 42: 1-9, in English, and we were all really impressed. He spoke clearly with beautiful pronunciation, and he was calm and confident; a real credit to himself and his grandfather!

Samuel Z. W. Liu reads the lesson

That the consecration service went so well was in part due to a team of key people who made sure everything ran smoothly, on time and according to plan.  Ms. Sharon Jones (in red in the photos below with bishops and spouses) is Presiding Bishop Curry’s executive coordinator, and it was wonderful to find out that she comes from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  This is a very important country to Taiwan, one of the few with official diplomatic relations. Taiwan is recognized by only 14 out of 193 United Nations member states (plus the Holy See) – and St. Vincent is one of them.  We were able to share with Sharon about the 3-month training project at St. John’s University last year with a group from Latin America and the Caribbean, including 5 trainees from St. Vincent (see that blog post here). Welcome Sharon!

Mr. Tim Pan is our translator-extraordinaire!  He translated for the Presiding Bishop on his last visit to Taiwan in 2017, and he arranged his schedule to help this time too.  He has extensive knowledge of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan and in the US, he knows his Bible, and he knows how to translate from Chinese to English and back again very quickly, plus he has a really good connection with the Presiding Bishop and even coordinates his body language as he translates.  Yes, Tim was great!  Knowing he was coming to translate meant we could all breathe a huge sigh of relief – and we could relax and enjoy the whole experience!

Mr. Tim Pan translates for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Another key person was Canon Mark Stevenson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, with whom I had corresponded in a grand total of 98 emails (yes, it’s true!) since August 2019, when we started to organize the consecration.  He even came to Taiwan for a few days in October 2019 to help us with the planning.  Just amazing.  At the rehearsal last Friday afternoon, he had everyone rehearsing over and over until it all went like clockwork.  This is Canon Mark in action on the left with Rev. Lily Chang on the right…

After the consecration service on Saturday, everyone was talking about how beautiful the service was, such a grand occasion and so well-choreographed. Much of the credit for that must go to Canon Mark, but he himself said it was largely due to Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Taichung.  She was the very hard-working chair of the liturgy and music section of the consecration committee, helped considerably by the other members, Rev. Keith C. C. Lee, Rev. Simon T. H. Tsou, Very Rev. Philip L. F. Lin, Rev. Antony F. W. Liang and Mrs. Amy Chee.  The consecration booklet they produced in both Chinese and English was extremely comprehensive, and the list of all those who participated was very extensive.  The music was amazing, the combined choir from St. John’s Cathedral, Advent Church and Good Shepherd had been practicing for weeks. The choir sang from the cathedral balcony and they were wonderful! 

Mrs. Amy B. H. Lin was a key leader in the consecration committee, in charge of the reception, the welcome dinner, transport for the Presiding Bishop and his team, and the ushers at the service. Mr. Di Yun-Hung helped too.  The ushers were really well-coordinated and well-organized, keeping an eye on the congregation as well as making sure everyone had their temperatures checked on arrival, and hands sprayed with sanitizer. (The clergy had made the decision that they and all those in the procession would not wear face-masks for the service, but for the congregation, it was a personal decision).  Amy was invaluable, as always, and much of the success of the whole event was due to her organization and coordination.  This photo was taken at the welcome dinner, Amy is 4th from the left next to Linda, wife of the cathedral dean, Philip Lin.

Thanks to our photography team, Mr. Yei, Mr. Warren Chuo, Rev. Antony Liang and Mr. Derchu Chan.  I took a few photos too (2,500 in fact, and it’s taken me all week to get them sorted – hence the delay in producing this blog post!) and mostly I had to wear a purple jacket to show I was on the team.  Everyone else, those in the congregation, were discouraged from taking photos during the service so as to keep a worshipful atmosphere.  There were many other people who helped and supported, planned and organized. Too many to name – but a big thank you to all!

The photography team

The consecration was livestreamed and recorded for you to watch on YouTube here – it’s nearly 3 hours long but really worth watching!

The consecration banquet, originally arranged for the Saturday evening was cancelled, meaning everyone could go home, but for the international guests, we arranged a small dinner.  During the dinner, Archbishop Moses of Korea asked to sing a song, and that led on to all the other groups of bishops and visitors standing up to perform.  For the Taiwan group, Hannah led a children’s action song in Taiwanese.  I am sure that not many new bishops, on the night of their consecration, find themselves standing up in front of other bishops performing an action song for children!

Among all the international visitors was a group of 15 clergy and church members from our companion diocese of Osaka, Japan, led by their bishop, Bishop Haruhisa Iso.  One of their very lovely clergy, Rev. Akira Iwaki and his wife were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary that very day. Rev. Iwaki has been to Taiwan many times, and the last time he came, it was his 70th birthday. This time he was celebrating 50 years of marriage.  Many congratulations to them both!  He led the Osaka ladies in a lively song at the dinner….

Bishop Lai generously gave everyone a prize for singing, either a teapot or some tea!  He and Lily have now retired, and on Sunday they left Taipei for Tainan, where they will live.  We have really appreciated Bishop Lai’s leadership in the diocese, and particularly in developing the international friendships and relationships that have helped our diocese to be more outward-looking and with a broader vision that goes way beyond this small island of Taiwan.  Presiding Bishop Curry and Bishop Lai are House of Bishops classmates, meaning they became bishops in the same year.  As the Presiding Bishop said at the welcome dinner, now that Bishop Lai is retiring, he is the last one from his class still in the House of Bishops.  Bishop Lai will be much missed and we wish him and Lily a happy and healthy retirement! 

Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai with Lily’s sister and her husband at the consecration

On Sunday morning also, the Presiding Bishop and his group went to Christ Church, Chungli, Taoyuan for the service there and Archbishop Moses from Korea was preaching at the English service at St. John’s Cathedral, while the Osaka group visited Good Shepherd Church, Taipei. Our brand new bishop, Bishop Chang and his wife, Hannah were at Good Shepherd Church too, and I also went along.  Bishop Chang wore his new green stole, a gift from Bishop Iso at the welcome dinner.  I just love this photo of Bishop Chang and Bishop Iso, taken at Good Shepherd Church.

For Bishop Chang it was most appropriate that he should start his new ministry as bishop at Good Shepherd, as that was the church where he was ordained deacon in 1995. Bishop Iso preached and the rector, Rev Keith C. C. Lee translated.  The Gospel was read in Japanese by Rev. Kiyomi Semmatsu from Osaka, and in Chinese by Keith Lee. Keith is able to preach in 4 languages, Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, English and Japanese; so he’s a really valuable person to have around!  At the end of the service, Bishop Chang presented gifts to Bishop Iso, Rev. Iwaki and his wife, and Ms. Chao Wen-Yi, our former colleague in the St. John’s University Chaplaincy for many years, whose 70th birthday was on Sunday – and what a special way to celebrate!

All the Osaka group with Bishop Chang, Hannah and Rev. Keith Lee…

And everyone in the congregation at Good Shepherd Church…

Then followed the most exquisite and delicious Japanese-style lunch, prepared by the ladies of Good Shepherd Church.  It was just beautiful, with special place mats too, welcoming everyone to Good Shepherd Church – printed in Japanese, with the Good Shepherd cross…

Ms. Susan Shih, the very talented wife of Good Shepherd’s senior warden, Jake Hung was in charge of the lunch.  She was also in charge of all the beautiful flower arrangements for the consecration service at the cathedral, all in stunning Chinese-style, with a lot of red. And she sang in the combined choir too. Thank you Susan, a really special lady!   

On Monday morning, I went with Bishop Chang to take the Presiding Bishop and his group to the airport for their departure.  They were flying via Seoul, and their flight was full of boys from a Korean youth baseball team, all in uniform with identical jackets, bags and all wearing face-masks and white gloves.  The coronavirus situation in Korea is extremely serious, and later on Monday, the Taiwan government announced travel restrictions to be imposed from Tuesday onwards.

Taiwan is still holding its collective breath, and we are still hoping and praying that the coronavirus situation will improve.  Taiwan currently has 32 confirmed cases; so far they remain contained and there has been no big community outbreak. Schools started their new semester this week and so far all is well, St. John’s University starts its new semester on March 3. All around us, in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, the situation is very serious.  The Taiwan government continues to be very vigilant, and yesterday announced the cancellation of big gatherings, including temple events, which would bring together large numbers of people in close contact, which probably would also have included our consecration service.  President Tsai Ing-wen announced that she has suspended preparations for her inauguration ceremony, due to be held on May 20. We have also cancelled (or possibly rescheduled for next year) the World Anglican Chinese Clergy Fellowship conference in Taipei that was to have been held in April. 

And what next? Well, on Tuesday, Bishop Chang was elected as the new chair of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees, succeeding Bishop Lai who was chair for the last 2 years. The challenges ahead are many.

Please do pray for him and Hannah as they settle into the new role, for wisdom, grace and strength. 

To end with, some photos with my favourite people!

And finally a special prize goes to this charming young man for sitting through the whole consecration service outside in the cold and rain, and who was still smiling to the end!

Please do continue to pray for us, for the coronavirus situation, for the Diocese of Taiwan and our new bishop.

Thank you, and thanks be to God!

News from Taiwan of Consecration and Celebration in a time of Coronavirus

The consecration and installation of Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮 as the new Bishop of Taiwan will take place this coming Saturday, February 22, 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, starting at 2:00 pm Taiwan time (UK time: 6:00 am). You can watch it on this live stream, via YouTube …

CMS (Church Mission Society) asked me to write a short article about the Coronavirus situation in Taiwan, how it affects daily life and an update about the coming consecration. This is the CMS article here, published today. They asked for only 300 words, but it grew to over 500, and I’ve now added a few updates from today’s news, so bear with me….

“Taiwan holds its collective breath. We hope and pray that the coronavirus situation improves and that a community outbreak does not occur. The Taiwan government is being cautious and vigilant, schools have an extended 2 weeks’ holiday, many people are working from home and others are driving rather than using public transport. After panic-buying of face-masks caused a major shortage, the government wisely urged that healthy people wear them only in crowded places, on public transport and in hospitals. So far, Taiwan has 22 (now 24) confirmed cases and one fatality, a 61-year-old taxi driver in central Taiwan, thought to have been infected by transporting infected passengers recently returned from China. The passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship (currently quarantined in Japan) visited Taipei’s famous tourist sites on January 31, and the government had a busy time following up all those in Taiwan who might have been infected. The all-clear was given a few days ago, and tourist sites are open, along with hotels and restaurants, though all are seeing far fewer visitors.

This coming Saturday, February 22, the Taiwan Episcopal Church will hold the consecration and installation of our new bishop, Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, succeeding Bishop David J. H. Lai, who has faithfully led the diocese for almost 20 years. As the coronavirus so far remains contained, we will go ahead with the welcome dinner for international visitors on Friday night and the service on Saturday, but we have cancelled the consecration banquet, originally scheduled for Saturday evening. Travel restrictions mean that the archbishop and bishops of Hong Kong have had to cancel their visit; we hope there will be no further such cancellations. Fortunately the group of 16 from our companion diocese of Osaka, Japan led by Bishop Haruhisa Iso, arrived safely this afternoon. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be the chief consecrator, and we are expecting 13 other archbishops and bishops from Japan, Korea and the USA, plus church leaders from within Taiwan (including the RC Archbishop of Taipei), and over 300 in the congregation, many of whom will have to sit outside in the cathedral courtyard watching by video. All who enter the cathedral compound on Saturday will have their temperatures checked, in accordance with current Taipei City Government regulations, and hands sprayed with alcohol-based sanitizer.

For several weeks now, many of our clergy and church members have been wearing face-masks for worship services, while most other church activities have been cancelled, and all those with colds or fever told to stay home. For Saturday, we are trying to be careful without being fearful. Clergy, servers and those processing into the cathedral for the service will not wear face-masks, while for the congregation it is by personal choice. There will be bowing instead of hand-shaking during the peace, and everyone will take Holy Communion by dipping the wafer into the wine. We pray for safety and God’s protection at this time, especially on Saturday, and pray that this situation will draw us closer together as the body of Christ, committed to caring for each other and striving to be tolerant, understanding and patient with others. We pray also for the Diocese of Taiwan in this time of transition, and for Bishop Lai and Rev. Chang. May God’s peace fill our hearts and minds, and may our witness be strong and courageous. Amen.”

Wall-to-wall coverage of the coronavirus situation: the 3 collages used in this post are random shots of Taiwan’s TV News Channels taken this Thursday lunchtime…

And finally, do check out the live stream on Saturday – and watch out for the celebratory firecrackers and Taiko Drum Performance immediately after ‘The Seating’ of the new bishop!