Tag Archives: Coronavirus in Taiwan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One Morning;

Day One Afternoon:

Day Two Morning:

Day Two Afternoon:

And finally, at the end of the afternoon….

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

Update: this is the video!

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

CMS Link Letter #80

Published yesterday by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below..

I sent the link letter to CMS on June 11, before I had heard of the ‘Black Lives Matter Solidarity Rally’ being held the following Saturday, June 13, in the 228 Peace Park, Taipei outside the National Taiwan Museum – that’s the building in the photos below, built in classic Renaissance style by the Japanese Colonial Government in 1908.

I went the rally with Chia-Lin, one of our church interns, and we both felt it was very moving to join in. Now for the hard work of making change happen. Check out the Taipei Times report of the event here.

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

Congratulations to all our St. John’s University (SJU) graduates!

Face-masks on, temperatures checked, gowns a-swaying, mortar boards balanced in place, and we’re off!

Today, Saturday June 20, 2020, we celebrated the graduation of 722 students from the 4-year SJU Bachelor’s degree program, plus 78 students awarded SJU Master’s degrees and 75 students graduating from the Junior College section. Thanks be to God!

This year marks the first graduation for the junior college students since this program was reintroduced 5 years ago, aimed at those who want to do more specialized study after leaving junior-high school. They are now 20 years old and most are ready to move on to university – with a further 2 years to go. One such is Chang Fan, in the Dept of Applied English, whose family came along today too…

It was also the first graduation for Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as the new Bishop of Taiwan – and also as new chair of the SJU board of trustees…

And it was the last graduation for SJU President Herchang Ay, who finishes his 4-year term next month…

We also welcomed many VIP guests, including some of our SJU trustees, members of the alumni association, plus 10 very distinguished alumni who were receiving awards…

Our SJU Student Fellowship said goodbye to 10 of our group who are graduating, including last year’s elected chair of the student fellowship, Yi-Ting. She’s brought several of her classmates along to the fellowship over the years, which partly explains why, of that group of 10, 6 are classmates from the Dept. of Creative Design. Yi-Ting and one of her best friends, Yumi are from Malaysia. Normally their parents would have come to attend the graduation and maybe travel around Taiwan for a few days as a family, but due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, that’s not possible this year. Then again they appreciate that at least they can have an actual graduation ceremony, unlike many other countries still in lockdown. Yi-Ting was also one of the recipients of a special prize presented by Bishop Chang today…

After the graduation ceremony, and after the students had said goodbye to their teachers in each dept, student fellowship members came with their parents to Advent Church. Former students had already gathered there to offer their own congratulations – and of course for photos. Check out the photos below where we had to lie down to get the right angle!

To rewind a little to last month, and the annual highlight of our fond farewells to the SJU Student Fellowship graduates is always a big fancy-dress party, held this year on Thursday June 4. The costume theme was ‘Movie Characters’, and we had a wide variety from Men in Black, James Bond, Tangled and Harry Potter, to name a few. Really spectacular! Lots of our former student fellowship members came back to visit, and we had a meal, worship, games, presentations – and finished with sparklers outside on the SJU labyrinth…

Check out the photos. It was all great fun!

It’s great to be able to celebrate graduation with our students. In particular, we are grateful that Taiwan continues to remain a safe and secure country to be in at this time of Covid-19. As a result, this year’s SJU graduation could go ahead as planned. We had to cancel our annual SJU foundation celebrations at the end of April, but the pandemic situation in Taiwan has stabilized considerably since then. A month ago, on May 22 the official Covid-19 figures for Taiwan were 441 confirmed cases, 408 recovered and 7 deaths, and there’s not been too much change since then. Today’s figures are 446 confirmed cases, 434 recovered and 7 deaths. All the new cases are imported, meaning they’re Taiwan people returning from overseas; there have been no domestic transmissions since April 12. The borders remain closed but there are plans to open them a little for closely-monitored business travelers from selected ‘safe’ countries, with reduced quarantine times, starting this coming week. After that, the next step may be to allow the return of more overseas students, also from selected countries – who weren’t able to return before travel restrictions hit. It’s expected that they’ll do their 14 days of quarantine during the summer vacation in their university dormitories. Otherwise, while temperature checks and face-masks continue, other restrictions are gradually easing, domestic tourism is being encouraged, large events are now allowed (with face-masks and temperature checks), and in our churches, worship and fellowship activities are more or less back to normal. And all swimming pools are open, including the 50m outdoor pool here at SJU – Yes! So, welcome to SJU! 🙂

One of the highlights of today’s graduation day was the opening ceremony beforehand to honour the donation from one of our alumni, Mr. Cheng, who has worked with students from the SJU Dept of Industrial Engineering on this wonderful robotic coffee-making machine. We were all invited to try out a coffee afterwards ~ the whole process is really interesting, and the coffee was great too!

Today was a big day ~ many congratulations to all our students on their graduation! As they leave for pastures new and places yet unknown, we hope and pray that they’ll take many happy memories with them of their time at SJU. One of the graduating students gave a speech today and recalled her time at SJU, some of the more memorable events included the annual fun run in the year when everyone ran through a torrential rainstorm – I remember that! And then of course, no-one will ever forget that this was the year of graduating in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Quite something to remember – and to appreciate, given that education has been so badly affected in so many countries.

The graduation ceremony ended with Bishop Chang giving the blessing. Yes, indeed. May God bless one and all, today and always!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your prayers for Taiwan continue to be appreciated, for newly-inaugurated President Tsai and her government starting a second term, for safety and stability, God’s protection, provision and grace. Thank you! 😷😷

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

Masked church services, masked communion, and now masked confirmations ~ all happening now at Advent Church @ St. John’s University, Taiwan!

It’s just over 2 months since the consecration of our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, and yesterday was his first official visit as bishop of Taiwan to Advent Church – where he was previously rector of the church and chaplain of St. John’s University (SJU). For him and his wife it was like coming home, and all the church members turned out to welcome them!

St. John’s University dates its officially foundation day as April 26, 1967 so yesterday was the 53rd anniversary. And today is the actual 50th anniversary of the death of Bishop James C. L. Wong, founder of St. John’s University, who is buried under the altar at Advent Church. Normally we would have had an official SJU Thanksgiving Service and other celebrations, and Bishop Chang, as the newly-elected chair of the SJU board of trustees would have been here for them, but events have been postponed or cancelled as a precaution in this time of Coronavirus. Fortunately, Sunday services at Advent Church continue, more or less as normal. As part of the anniversary celebrations each year, our SJU Student Fellowship attend the church service on the last Sunday of April, and take part as ushers, servers, readers, taking up the collection etc. This year, we continued with this tradition. The only thing they didn’t do as normal, due to the Coronavirus precautions, was that they didn’t sing as a choir group – in fact, all the choir and music group participation in the Sunday services is cancelled for the time being.

SJU Student Fellowship at Advent Church, Sunday April 26, 2020 with Bishop Chang and SJU Chaplain Rev. Wu.

Also as a precaution, as well as temperature checks for all those entering the church, everyone wears a face-mask throughout all our services, with the exception of the sermon when the preacher can take the face-mask off, as they stand so far away from everyone. This was the sermon yesterday, done in a new style, with Bishop Chang speaking without notes from the front of the altar by the communion rail – the sermon was based on the Gospel reading of the Road to Emmaus, and full of action!

We also had the confirmation and reception of 3 people, and Bishop Chang did this by laying hands on their heads as they were standing, rather than kneeling – also as a precaution in this time of Coronavirus.

Ms. Luo and Mr. Huang were both received into the Taiwan Episcopal Church – they were well-supported yesterday by their spouses and family members; and Tze-Wei was confirmed. Tze-Wei is the very lovely and very newest member of our SJU Chaplaincy Team, the one on the far left in the photo below…

After graduating from SJU last summer in the Dept. of Creative Design, Tze-Wei was baptized in July 2019, and now has the distinction and honour of being the very first person being both baptized and confirmed by Bishop Chang. Tze-Wei is from West Malaysia, and along with her Malaysian classmates in the Dept. of Creative Design, and her handsome boyfriend, Jing-Ching, she got involved in the student fellowship during her 4 years at SJU. When Jing-Ching became chairperson of the student fellowship for a year, he instigated exercise sessions of sports and games, and these still continue until now, organized by Tze-Wei. Although Jing-Ching started the exercise sessions, when Tze-Wei took over in the second term, she famously renamed them ‘Juicy’ Exercise, with the purpose of trying to lose weight as well as get fit. Asked why, she squeezes the spare tyre round her middle and says, “I am so juicy!” 😅🤣😂

Anyway, last summer she was the main student leader of the children’s summer camp at Advent Church, and did a really great job. Now she’s working full-time in the chaplaincy, and is putting her creative design skills and talents to good use, while Jing-Ching is doing his 4 months of military service. Her family in Malaysia are not Christians, and so, out of respect for them, she waited until after her graduation to be baptized – the early-morning baptism service was held in Advent Church at 7:45 am on Monday July 22, 2019, St. Mary Magdalene’s Day, and attended by Jing-Ching and many classmates. Back then, Bishop Chang was still rector of Advent Church, so he performed the baptism. That day was also chosen because it was Tze-Wei’s first official day of work in the chaplaincy office, so it was very meaningful….

After the confirmation part of the service yesterday, we had communion (bread only, as a Coronavirus precaution)…

And after the service finished, there were presentations from Advent Church of a Book of Common Prayer for each one ….

Thanks be to God! And please do continue to pray for Bishop Chang, Advent Church, SJU, the student fellowship, and all of us in the chaplaincy ~ that’s the SJU chaplain Rev. Wu, Shu-Jing, me – and especially our delightful Tze-Wei!

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

So here I am, along with 23 million other people, on this small, densely-populated island of Taiwan, only 130 km across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China, and only 1,000 km or 2 hours’ flight from Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus. In late January, Johns Hopkins University said Taiwan was one of the most at-risk areas outside of mainland China, owing to its close proximity, ties and transport links. Taiwan’s first case was announced on January 21, exactly 3 months ago today, and let’s face it, it did not look promising.

Yet, fast forward 2-3 months, and a CNN report on April 5 is titled, “Taiwan’s coronavirus response is among the best globally”. True. As of today, Taiwan has 425 confirmed cases, 217 recovered and 6 deaths. The latest group cluster are 27 military personnel from the Panshi Fast Combat Support Ship, part of a goodwill fleet that visited Palau from March 12 to 15, they are now being followed up and contacts traced. Hopefully, as has happened so far, the virus will remain contained. Although the economy is suffering badly, so far there has been no lockdown or isolation imposed by the government, and although many activities are cancelled, schools, work and Sunday church services continue more or less as normal…

Maundy Thursday at Grace Church, Tainan, Taiwan

Global suspension of postal services due to the virus means I can write to you in the USA, but not if you live in Hawaii. On the other hand, you can write to me from anywhere in the USA, including Hawaii. If you’re in Canada, you can write to me here in Taiwan, but sadly I can’t write back. I can write to you in the UK, but you can’t write to me, so my Easter cards have arrived with you, but yours will not arrive here until after postal services resume again. We can send our diocesan magazines to Northern Ireland, but not to Ireland, and Ireland can’t send anything to Taiwan, whereas Northern Ireland can. We certainly live in interesting times.

So it’s a good job we have other ways to communicate. And communication in Taiwan these days is mostly done from behind a face-mask. Face-masks have been popular in Taiwan for years, but now they are compulsory on public transport, in all government buildings, schools, markets and many shops, along with temperature checks, hand sanitizer and social distancing. Most people wear them most of the time, me too. Face-masks hide virtually all facial expressions, especially as many Taiwan people also wear glasses, so you never again need to smile at anyone, in fact you can happily ignore everyone around you. That is until you get to teach a class of children and need them to speak, like in my weekly early morning class at the local middle school. They sang for my birthday a few weeks ago, all masked up. Thanks everyone! We also went there in Holy Week to distribute Easter eggs (actually salted duck eggs, dyed by our student fellowship) to the staff and children…

In our church services, wearing a face-mask has also become compulsory, but now I realize it’s easy to get away with not singing any hymns because nobody can see your lips moving, and anyway, it’s fiddly to sing as it moves the mask too much and you need to adjust it again – so it’s better to stay quiet. But if you stay too quiet, then the live broadcast doesn’t sound very live, as nobody can hear the congregation saying anything. And be careful not to yawn, or the mask comes loose, and certainly don’t laugh – masks only stay in place if you don’t move your mouth. The only time in the church service that anyone takes their mask off is the preacher for the sermon, and for everyone to receive the bread at Holy Communion. The photo at the top (and below) shows our masked communion service on Easter Sunday at Advent Church….

Actually, we encourage all the elderly to stay home and watch the livestream of services from our cathedral and some of the other churches instead. Advent Church cancelled its Holy Week services this year, and we all stayed home. Isn’t it just great sometimes to lie on your bed and go to church? That’s what I did, flicking through church services throughout the diocese as they broadcast live. And that’s how come I watched the end of the Maundy Thursday service from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi. After the altar was stripped and the cross covered in a black cloth, the priest sat down and prepared to turn out the light, and to read aloud, in the darkness, the moving story of Jesus’ last hours. Except that at that exact moment that he switched out the light, the music started outside in the street, telling us all that the rubbish (garbage) truck was coming. The rubbish trucks have a set timetable, but all play music to let everyone know they’re coming along, like ice-cream vans do in the UK. And y’know, it was really quite surreal, but also kind of appropriate – the people outside throwing their rubbish into the trucks to be taken away, as the story of Jesus taking away our sins on the cross was being recounted inside. Almost a parallel universe.

On Easter Sunday, our preacher at Advent Church encouraged us to follow the example of Mary, on the day of resurrection at the tomb, who turned and saw the risen Christ, having first thought he was the gardener who had removed the body. In times of turmoil, grief, pain and suffering, we are inclined to blame others for everything that’s going wrong. But in reflecting on our own sin and turning in repentance, so we turn, as Mary turned, and see the risen Christ – and we pray that we might see the risen Christ in others too. We so easily see the evil in others, rather than the good. That is my challenge and prayer this Easter season for all of us, as individuals, communities, governments, countries and world leaders.

Cherry Blossom at Advent Church, April 3, 2020

But, when I ask myself what is my response to all the pain and suffering in the world caused by the coronavirus, I am angry. Taiwan has done so well in handling this terrible situation, all without any help from the World Health Organization, which it’s not allowed to join, and all in such contrast to so-called ‘Great’ Britain, where the government has not just been slow to act, but inept and arrogant in its response. People here have asked me so many times to explain ‘herd immunity,’ and how come the UK government is in such a mess that even Prince Charles and the prime minister ended up infected. Don’t get me started, but it’s a good job the queen appeared on TV at the right moment to give a great speech and some hope to us all. Of course, all the credit must go to the exhausted front-line workers in hospitals, care homes, emergency services, supermarkets, delivery vans, schools and all those who’ve stayed home and done their bit to flatten the curve, plus those who’ve used their time creatively to raise money and help those affected. Yes, Taiwan learned from SARS in 2003 (read this account of what went wrong then) and has been proactive and vigilant ever since; plus the people are willing to comply with all restrictions for the greater good. And now the country is donating face-masks by the million to governments around the world who for the last few months have had the arrogance to say that face-masks don’t work or are not necessary. God have mercy!

In an opinion piece by Ian Inkster in the South China Morning Post titled, “In the battle against the coronavirus, East Asian societies and cultures have the edge”, he includes Taiwan when he says, “What has come through in each of the East Asian societies is a moral economy compounded of ancient traditions of Confucianism and Buddhism, and moderation of individualism by deep values of benevolence, shared responsibilities and obligations that might well be at the heart of East Asia’s success. Cultures that are sturdy in a world of change do not have to rely on expensive policies or promises of rapid economic recovery, for cultural suasion can go a very long way. It can save lives.” Food for thought indeed.

These few weeks we were supposed to be hosting the World Anglican Chinese Clergy Conference (WACCF) in Taiwan, and the 53rd anniversary celebrations of the foundation of St. John’s University, held each year near the last week of April. The result of so many events being cancelled is that we have far more time than usual, not just because the events are cancelled, but the planning and organization of them all too. It does mean more time for our new bishop, Lennon Y. R. Chang, who continues to be very busy as chair of the board of trustees of St. John’s University, as well as overseeing the remodeling and modernizing of the diocesan office building in central Taipei, which we hope will be finished next month.

Having less weekend events means more free time, and encouraged by the government to get out into the countryside for fresh air and exercise, so all the bicycle paths, parks, mountains and scenic areas locally are full of people, young couples, families, small groups of students, retired people, all enjoying themselves. That just has to be a good thing. Nature is there waiting for us to come and see it. The cherry blossom season is over, so is the wisteria at the middle school (photos above and below, courtesy of Jasmine Yu), and now it’s the frog-croaking season in full swing – they go on and on all night long!

Thanks for your continuing prayers, support and concern for us all in Taiwan, they are much appreciated. Praying for God’s mercy, grace and comfort in a hurting world. Stay safe everyone 😷

Update from 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 “COVID-19 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…