Written during Easter week, and just published by the Church Mission Society, my latest CMS link letter ~ click on the link below…
Christ is risen, Alleluia! It’s been a meaningful, joyful and blessed Holy Week here at Advent Church, St. John’s University ~ and now Easter is upon us, so a very happy Easter to you all! This is the Easter fire, lit last night at 8:00 pm as we started our Easter Vigil Service…
And the sun’s been shining all week, and the cherry blossom was still out at the beginning of Holy Week…..
Holy Week started last Sunday, Palm Sunday ~ YES!
We began our Palm Sunday service with a procession around the main entrance of St. John’s University. We were very pleased that Bishop Lai was able to join us for the service and procession too.
The procession wound its way around the church, where we have the Stations of the Cross, pausing at each in turn. Then as we processed into the church, each person took one of the small green palm crosses…
During the service, we had a dramatic presentation of the events of Holy Week, acted out by our students, past and present…..
Then on Monday night, the St. John’s University ‘Movie Club’ showed the movie ‘Silence‘ 沈默 on a big screen on the main playing field. This was not done intentionally for Holy Week, rather they had to choose an evening when there was no baseball practice, and they chose the movie because it was filmed in Taiwan. But it so happens that it was so appropriate for Holy Week – and quite a number of us turned up to watch. This was my second time to see it, and it’s much improved on the second viewing ~ like I knew when the gruesome bits were coming up, but also I noticed things I had missed the first time round. Still utterly compelling and challenging. Brutal and horrific, and yet also so moving. And so fitting for Holy Week. For me, this was one of the highlights of the week.
On Maundy Thursday, we held our Passover Meal in the Advent Church Center, and a wonderful mix of students and adults came along. This took a huge amount of work and preparation, but all worth it. We were so pleased to welcome SJU President Ay and his wife too.
During the service that followed in the church, we had foot-washing. President Ay had his feet washed by our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang – the teacher washing the feet of his former student. We also had our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, washing the feet of Jin-Ching, our SJU Student Fellowship Leader, and Shu-Jing from our chaplaincy washed the feet of Pei-Ching, one of our 4th year students who was preparing for her baptism on Easter Eve. We celebrated the ‘Last Supper’ together, remembering the evening when Jesus instituted the Holy Communion, and shared bread and wine with his disciples just before his death.
The altar had been stripped after the service on Maundy Thursday, and the crosses were covered in black cloth. On Good Friday, it being a working and school day, we had a lunchtime service with our students, faculty and staff acting out the events of Good Friday – the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus, and we finished in silence around the cross and the altar…..
Then to last night, which was Easter Eve, Saturday, and we held our Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm, with the lighting of the Easter fire, and also 2 baptisms. It was great to see so many of our student fellowship coming along to support Pei-Ching in her baptism…
I was outside taking photos during the baptisms, along with a little 2-year-old and his father. He was totally absorbed in watching events inside at the font….
This morning, Easter Day, we could truly say, ‘Christ is risen, Alleluia!’ I even wore a skirt for the occasion, and got mentioned in the Notices as a result! Advent Church was filled with wonderful choir music as our choir sang and sang so much beautiful Easter music.
Yu-Jie accompanied the choir on the piano, and glorious sounds filled the church!
Ah yes, and to finish, we had an Easter egg hunt!
And then we had lunch and birthday cake – celebrating all April birthdays. Here we all are at the end of the service singing happy birthday together!
And so, wishing you all a Happy Easter. Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Christ is risen, Alleluia!
Our Easter celebrations started with the Easter Vigil last night, Easter Eve at 8:00 pm, and the lighting of the Easter fire outside in front of Advent Church.
The service started in candlelight….
And then all the candles were lit, and the Gospel reading was accompanied by 3 of our tallest students and church members as servers and carrying the cross…
The flowers were looking beautiful!
We were delighted to have 4 baptisms, 8-year-old Bo-Chang, whose aunt is a member of our church ~ he himself comes every day after school to do his homework, accompanied by one or two of our students…
And one of our alumni from 30 years ago, with 2 of his children – he attended our student fellowship at the time, and always regretted not being baptized before he graduated….
And here they all are with family and friends….
And so to Easter Day, and the big egg hunt after the service!
Happy Easter everyone, Christ is risen, Alleluia!
From darkness to light!
Christ is Risen, Alleluia! 耶穌復活了!
Our Easter celebrations began with the Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm on Saturday, Easter Eve, with the lighting of the Easter fire, and then the first lighting of candles. After days of heavy rain, the sun had actually been out all day, and although it was very cold, it was dry, yes! We were delighted to welcome one of our students involved with our chaplaincy at St. John’s University, Mei-Han, who was baptised during the service. The church looked beautiful, the choir were amazing, and it was a very moving and inspiring service….
Easter Day, and we gathered for a very joyful morning service!
And an Easter egg hunt…. salted duck eggs!
Happy Easter everyone ~ Christ is Risen indeed, Alleluia!
It’s Maundy Thursday, and there’s an air of anticipation in our chaplain’s office here at St. John’s University as our students get ready for the service tonight ~ many have volunteered to take part in the foot-washing, and they’re excited!
Excitement in Holy Week?! OK, it’s also the birthday of the leader of the student fellowship, and they’re all trying to keep their plans secret, but he knows something’s afoot and, well, we’ll just wait and see what happens!
While I was in the UK last year, I was given a copy of the CMS publication, ‘365 Days of Yes’, subtitled ‘Daily Prayers and Readings for a Missional People’ (2012). Yes, I admit the bright and beautiful cover was the key attraction, but having got it back to Taiwan, the next challenge was to start using it. So on January 1 this year, I dutifully launched forth on a whole year of readings and prayers. And y’know, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s really quite good!
A big surprise was to come across my own name in the book a few days ago with a story from one of my past CMS Link Letters. But an even bigger surprise was to come when I looked ahead to the reading for Easter Day; unbelievably CMS has chosen another one of my stories. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and spent some time looking up the original story. Turns out, the original was a reflection I included in my Link Letter in May 2008, which started as an experience I had during a church service on February 17, 2008 during my first – and so far only – visit to New Zealand.
On February 23, 2008, our church here at St. John’s University, Taiwan, held a special Thanksgiving Service for the new stained glass that had been installed in the church roof over the previous few months. The stained glass depicts Christ the Light of the Dawn, inspired by the name of the church, Advent Church, and the association of Advent with the coming of Christ and the light that He brings into the world. The glass is eight-sided, as is the baptismal pool at the main entrance to the church. Numbers are important in Taiwan. Our chaplain and rector, Rev. Lennon Chang is also Professor of Mathematics here at St. John’s University and his specialty and great passion is Calculus, so he loves to explain the significance of different numbers. Eight (八 Pinyin: bā) is an auspicious number in Chinese culture (which is why the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 8/8/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm local time) and the digit 8 also matches the mathematical symbol of infinity ∞. In the Bible, the eighth day of creation was the first full day of the newly-created world, and circumcision was traditionally carried out on the eighth day. New creation, new beginnings, new hearts!
It’s now 8 years since I was in New Zealand, 8 years since the stained glass was installed and dedicated in Advent Church, and 8 years since I wrote the following reflection:
Reflection for Holy Week and Easter 2008
“Over Chinese New Year, I had the opportunity to visit New Zealand. On the last Sunday I joined my friends for worship in their home church in Paraparaumu (that’ll test your Maori pronunciation!). The church itself is built right next to a small airport, used mainly by light aircraft. The large window behind the altar was of clear glass, and through the window there was a view of trees, hills and sky.
That Sunday morning, as we were praying the final post-communion prayer (the one where we are sent out into the world in the power of the Spirit, to live and work to God’s praise and glory), suddenly through that altar window I saw in the distance a helicopter plummeting head-first towards the ground, followed by pieces of wreckage. The few of us in the congregation who saw it knew that a crash was inevitable, with almost certain death for the pilot. Later we discovered that a light plane had collided in mid-air with the helicopter, both then crashed onto neighbouring houses and shops, and all three people onboard died.
Six days later, I was back in Taiwan, and attending the Thanksgiving Service for the new stained glass. The artwork is magnificent, full of blues, yellows and reds; with a Jacob’s ladder sculpture hanging down towards the altar from the centre. The altar itself is of marble, and usually left bare, reminding us of the stone that Jacob slept on when he had his dream of the angels ascending and descending the ladder. The top of the sculpture, the flat part of the ceiling, is covered in mirrors, giving an impression of never-ending ladders, going on and on, up and up into eternity. The whole artwork vividly depicts the glory of God and the light of Christ, with the ladders calling us to come closer to God in prayer, joining heaven and earth in one glorious whole.
What a huge contrast between those two images. One glass window invites us to look out at the world; the other invites us to look up at the glory of God. Through one window I saw images of death and destruction; in another I saw images of the glory of God and light of Christ. Holy Week and Easter! Yet in both church services I heard words of how God sends us to take His light out into the dark world, and I also heard words of invitation to bring the concerns of the world to Him in prayer. We are indeed called to do both, to do our part in reconciling the world with God, and God with the world.”
I can still remember that helicopter crash and that service, in fact my New Zealand friends reminded me about it only a few weeks ago. There’s an official account of it here. I remember the gasp of shock and horror which echoed round the church from the few of us who had our eyes open and saw what happened. The others who saw it were mostly the youth group who were sitting up high on the balcony at the back of the church. I remember the news reports at the time and the tragic images of the crash site, and I remember the vicar calling later to ask if I was OK. It was tragic, horrific and kind of bizarre all rolled into one.
And now we’re in Holy Week 2016, and sadly death and destruction once again dominate the news reports. Our screens are filled with tragic tales of grief and despair, of missing loved ones, of broken hearts and shattered lives in the city of Brussels, the heart of the European Union. Our hearts and prayers go out to them all. We do not understand why and how people could willingly bring about such death and destruction. All we can do is to cry, pray and plead with God for mercy, justice and peace to prevail. All we can do is to hold onto the promise of Easter, the promise of the resurrection, of death being conquered, of new life in Christ, of reconciliation with a loving God who cries with us in the pain and the brokenness.
In ‘A Maryknoll Book of Inspiration’ (Orbis 2010) the reading for today, March 24, is from ‘The Violence of Love’ by archbishop and martyr Oscar Romero (assassinated during Mass on March 24, 1980, his feast day has since been declared as March 24) ~ ‘Everyone can contribute much that is good, and in that way trust is achieved. The common good will not be attained by excluding people. We can’t enrich the common good of our country by driving out those we don’t care for. We have to try to bring out all that is good in each person and try to develop an atmosphere of trust, not with physical force, but with a moral force that draws out the good that is in everyone, especially in concerned young people. Thus with all contributing all can build the beautiful structure of the common good, the good that we construct together, and that creates conditions of kindness, of trust, of freedom, of peace.’
And so the reading for Easter Day in the ‘365 Days of Yes’ finishes with the prayer, ‘Lord, on this resurrection day, send us out again, inspired, refreshed, renewed to do our part in reconciling the world to you. Amen’.
Amen indeed, and blessings for Holy Week and Easter to you all.
A great Easter tradition, but not so much in Taiwan, so one of the highlights of this Easter is to see what Easter gardens are around ~ and there’s some fantastic ones!
This one was in All Saints Church in Maidstone, Kent this morning ~ not only does it look good, but the hyacinths smell so wonderful too…
And then this one, the empty tomb, in Rochester Cathedral this afternoon….
Can’t let you go without 2 more photos of Rochester Cathedral today – evensong was happening, but they still let visitors in to wander around the main part taking photos… now that’s my kind of cathedral!
Ah Rochester, great little city, and very welcoming cathedral!
Wishing you all a blessed and happy Easter ~ Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
“Not the empty tomb
but the uninhabited
cross. Look long enough
and you will see the arms
put on leaves. Not a crown
of thorns, but a crown of flowers
haloing it, with a bird singing
as though perched on paradise’s threshold.
We have over-furnished
our faith. Our churches
are as limousines in the procession
towards heaven. But the verities
remain: a de-nuclearised
by our coinage; the chalice’s
ichor; and one crumb of bread
on the tongue for the bird-like
intelligence to be made tame by.”
Poem: ‘Not the Empty Tomb’ by R. S. Thomas 1990