Tag Archives: Faith

Fondly Remembering Mrs. Aline Y. L. Ma 馬蕭亞麟 (Ma Siao Ya-Lin) 1930-2022

Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, 2014

Mrs. Aline Y. L. Ma 馬蕭亞麟 (Ma Siao Ya-Lin) died peacefully on June 18, 2022, the beloved wife of Professor Herbert H. P. Ma (馬漢寶 Ma Han-Pao), Canon Chancellor of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  Mrs. Ma, always known affectionately as Ma Mama, was a gracious, kind and warm-hearted friend of all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church. 

Professor and Mrs. Ma with Bishop David J. H. Lai, 2015

Her memorial room has been set up in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and the family are on hand every afternoon from June 23-29 to welcome visitors wishing to pay their respects.  The private cremation service will be held on June 29, followed by the memorial service on Saturday August 20 at 10:30 am, which will also be live-streamed from St. John’s Cathedral.  The long gap between these events will, along with fulfilling Taiwan’s quarantine requirements, enable the grandchildren to come from overseas and the Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang to return home from the Lambeth Conference.  At this sad time, please do remember Professor Ma and all the family in your prayers. 

Yesterday I visited Mrs. Ma’s Memorial Room, remembering Mrs. Ma with her eldest daughter, Gabrielle

Professor Herbert Ma is a well-known figure in Taiwan, having taught law at National Taiwan University (NTU) for 52 years and served for 12 years as a Grand Justice of the Constitutional Court. In his retirement, he has kept in touch with many of his former students, including politicians, professors, judges and lawyers who count it an honor to have been in his classes.  In pride of place in the Ma family home are 2 photos of Professor Herbert Ma with one of his former students, former president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou 馬英九, who was among the first visitors to pay his respects at Mrs. Ma’s memorial room yesterday. 

Mrs. Ma’s Memorial Room, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Mrs. Aline Ma was born in Shanghai, China in 1930, but her mother died when she was very young.  Her father, a banker, feared for the safety of his only child due to the war with Japan, so at the age of 7, he sent her with relatives to Germany.  The relatives were based in Berlin, studying at Berlin University; and the young Mrs. Ma went to live with a Prussian general’s family in Brandenburg City, where she always liked to say she learned ‘order, discipline and punctuality’, characteristics which stayed with her throughout her long and incredible life.  The Prussian family had Chinese connections in Beijing dating from before the Boxer Rebellion, but they could not speak Chinese, and on arrival, Mrs. Ma had no German language.  By the time her father visited her a year later, her German was fluent, but unfortunately she had forgotten all her Chinese, and only remembers sadly being completely unable to communicate with her father.  That was to be the last time she saw her father, as war and civil war intervened and they remained apart for the rest of his life.  He later remarried and had 3 more children, all of whom Mrs. Ma got to know in later life. 

Mrs. Ma’s early life story (photo from the Ma family)

The young Mrs. Ma spent the whole of World War II in Brandenburg City, suffering along with the German people, but in 1945 she and her relatives escaped the Russian occupation and fled to Switzerland where she was sent to boarding school.  After graduation, she had no resident permit to continue living in Europe, and so in 1955, unable to return to China, she travelled alone to Taiwan.  Although she could speak German, French and English, she could not speak Chinese, which initially made it difficult for her to find a job.  She later taught herself to speak and read Chinese, but German always remained her first language. 

Mrs. Ma with her early life story (photo from the Ma family)

It was, in fact, her inability to communicate in Chinese that brought Professor and Mrs. Ma together, as they found they could communicate perfectly with each other in English.  Their fathers had known each other in Shanghai, and the young couple met for the first time at a wedding reception in Taipei hosted by mutual friends.  The Ma family had moved to Taiwan in 1947, and the young Professor Ma, then a student, was invited by Episcopalian neighbors to attend worship services in their home. Apart from his brother-in-law who had been baptized in China, this was Professor Ma’s first direct contact with the Christian faith.  The services (which expanded to become the cathedral congregation) were led by a pastor from the China Inland Mission, Yang Yong-Jing 楊詠經, who later baptized the young Professor Ma.  Mrs. Ma was baptized after her marriage, and eventually Professor Ma’s parents became Christians too, and all played an important role in the development of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.

Professor and Mrs. Ma on their wedding day, 1957

Professor and Mrs. Ma were married in 1957 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and their 4 children were born between 1959-64, Gabrielle 佑敏, Mason 佑聖, Vera 佑真 and Beatrice 佑遠. The family lived with Professor Ma’s parents, 3 generations under one roof. Mrs. Ma first taught German at the German Cultural Center and then for 30 years at NTU. As well as supporting her extremely busy husband, she also took care of their 4 children and her parents-in-law, and for some years led the cathedral ECW (Episcopal Church Women) and later the diocesan ECW.  In her retirement, she continued to inspire and support her family and church, welcoming visitors and sharing her warm hospitality.  Many of us count it an honor to have visited her home to listen to the story of her extraordinary early life, which has since been published in German and Chinese.  At every major church event, Mrs. Ma would be at her husband’s side, smiling and caring for everyone who came to greet them. Throughout their 65 years of marriage, Mrs. Ma has been a tower of strength and support for her husband, and Professor Ma has always acknowledged how blessed he has been to be married to such a great woman.   

Professor and Mrs. Ma with newly-consecrated Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and his wife, Hannah, standing behind are Mr. Gary Tseng, senior warden of St. John’s Cathedral and his wife, Mrs. Amy Chin, diocesan vice-chancellor: February 22, 2020

Since the pandemic started, Professor and Mrs. Ma have largely remained in the safety of their home, participating in church services and events online.  A few months ago, Mrs. Ma suffered a stroke and had been in hospital since then. The most recent major church event they attended in person was the consecration of Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as Bishop of Taiwan on February 22, 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral.  At the end of the service, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry paid tribute to Professor Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  By his side, as always, was his beloved wife, Mrs. Ma, smiling and content.  A great woman indeed, and she will be much missed by us all. 

Professor and Mrs. Ma with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: Consecration Service at St. John’s Cathedral, February 22, 2020

We fondly remember Ma Mama at this time, giving thanks for her long life of dedication and humble service to her family, her church and to Almighty God. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Happy memories of a wonderful lady!

CMS Link Letter #86: UK Calling!

Published this week by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below…

As you’ll have read in my link letter above, I’m preparing for my ‘home leave’ in the UK, so I’m busy saying goodbye to friends, schools and churches here in Taiwan. Last week, I said farewell to the 8th grade in our local junior high school…

Also said goodbye to St. John’s Cathedral English Congregation, where I’ve been going once a month for the last few years, helping out by doing the sermon. It was a joint celebration to say goodbye to Rev. Antony Fan-Wei Liang and his family – he’s in charge of the English congregation and moves in the summer to become vicar of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien. Everyone loves him so much! Thanks to the congregation for such a huge and delicious cake – the yellow is actually flakes of white chocolate!

We’ve also been celebrating graduation for members of our St. John’s University Student Fellowship, with a farewell party recently for them on the theme of Old School Graduation …

And on the day of the actual graduation (which was held online due to the pandemic), lots of students still came by, and we had photos in Advent Church…

In between all the celebrations, the pandemic continues. Although this current Omicron surge – which really got going only just after Easter – seems to have peaked and numbers are not as high as they were a few weeks ago, we are still seeing 50,000+ new cases and about 100-180 deaths per day. The total number of deaths from Covid now stands at 5,651, all but 850 or so occurring in this present Omicron surge – most have underlying conditions, about half unvaccinated.

Vaccination rates are now about 90%, and they’re about to start vaccinating children above 6 months. Borders are gradually opening up, and quarantine for all arrivals is now 3 days in isolation, followed by 4 days of self-health management, which can be done at home if requirements are met. That’s a vast improvement from not so long ago when it was 2 weeks of hotel quarantine for all arrivals. But many activities have been canceled or postponed or rearranged online and all with reduced numbers. Our summer camps are going ahead but numbers are about 1/2 to 2/3 of what we would normally expect. Economic hardship continues for many. Advent Church has responded to the diocesan ‘Love Your Neighbour’ Project (as mentioned in the diocesan Friendship Magazine, published in the previous post) to reach out to help those affected by Covid. For our students who are isolating due to Covid, we’ve been giving out small care packages…

And to those students who are receiving meal coupons, and our local junior high school students affected by Covid (as mentioned in my link letter), we gave out zong-zi for the Dragon Boat Festival at the beginning of June…

Then we had a fundraising project in Advent Church to raise money to provide care packages of basic essentials to local families affected by Covid…

We delivered 17 of these care packages to our local elementary school for them to deliver to children’s families. The principal and the chair of the parents’ committee were moved to join in and made financial donations themselves. This is us delivering the packages last week – it was pouring with rain!

When the rain stops, then we’re out and about! Cycled on the You-Bike into the sunrise, past the northern tip of Taiwan lighthouse, and around the northern coast to Yehliu Geopark. It’s full of stunning rock formations, most famously The Queen’s Head, which is having its neck gradually eroded by the wind and salty air…

Yesterday, my friend Chien kindly invited us to visit Juming Museum, featuring the sculptures and artwork of Juming 朱銘, a nice trip to say goodbye to each other as I leave for the UK soon. You need good weather for that place, but not too hot – and the day was perfect!

So a big thank you to everyone here in Taiwan for your blessings ~ and to you all for all your prayers and support!

And finally, as related to my CMS Link Letter above, check out this video from the CMS website, it’s really good!

Diocese of Taiwan New Friendship Magazine Just Published!

The latest edition of our diocesan Friendship Magazine, June 2022, is just published online, and the printed version will be coming out soon. I’m the editor of this publication, so please read ~ and pray for us! It contains news of all our 15 churches, photos, updates, and articles. We really appreciate all your support. Thank you!

It’s published under Friendship Magazines in the English section of the diocesan website: https://episcopalchurch.org.tw/ and also here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/18uNKbrMb29LkohavgYF0NbvHBkmVzsEz/view

Blog posts always look better with a photo – so this is from Advent Church last Sunday, red for Pentecost!

Happy Pentecost to you all ~ and coming up, Trinity Sunday too!

2022 Taiwan Diocesan Convention & Workshop: Next Year Hualien 明年花蓮!

Yes, we’re looking forward to it already, next year’s diocesan convention on Taiwan’s scenic east coast ~ St. Luke’s Church, Hualien here we come! We’ve just had this year’s convention online, for the first time ever, preceded by a day’s workshop held in person at the cathedral. We loved seeing everyone there but it was only a day, so here’s to next year!

Many years ago, we had a visiting bishop who came to speak at our diocesan convention / synod here in Taiwan.  He described his experiences of visiting diocesan conventions elsewhere.  In England, he said, where such events are called synods, they’re held mostly in a single day, usually in some cold and draughty church hall, with the wind and rain howling around outside.  Coffee may be served, but there’ll be no lunch on offer – you have to bring your own – all of which is considered quite normal.  In complete contrast, he described his experience visiting the USA, where such events are called conventions, and which often meet over 2 days in a 5-star luxury hotel with all meals provided, and all hotel amenities available for use; all at great expense to the church – but also considered quite normal. 

Workshop

And then he came to Taiwan, where we fit somewhere in-between – and he loved it! The friendly welcomes, the atmosphere, the dedication of our church members in attending such events.  Our churches take it in turns to host the event.  Many of our church members like to combine attending the convention with a visit to, say, relatives nearby or to some tourist attractions ~ but staying in a nice hotel, seeing all our friends again is the main reason why everyone is willing to come.  The Taiwan Episcopal Church is after all much like a large family, everyone knows each other, and many are even related to each other or grew up together.  The actual meetings – the reports, elections etc may be necessary but, well, let’s face it, they can be a bit of an endurance test.  It was during the online meetings at our convention last week that I remembered that visiting bishop and his experiences in England, USA and Taiwan, and wondered to myself if online is the way to go for future conventions (I hope not!) – or just how do we get the balance right?!  

Workshop

Anyway, aware that people need to be encouraged to attend such events, often held far away – but also aware of the costs and the negative image of church funds being spent on extravagant hotels, so Taiwan’s convention is usually held at a hotel that is mostly 3 or 4 (or occasionally even 5) stars, but one where we’ve managed to get a large discount through our church members. The costs are further reduced by holding the opening service and initial meetings in the local church hosting the event. This year it should have been the turn of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien.  Seeing as we were going so far, so our bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang also decided to organize a ‘workshop’ for the day before the actual convention started, intended for our clergy and church members involved in youth and community outreach. 

Workshop

Then along came Taiwan’s latest and by far the biggest Covid surge so far.  A month ago, cases started going up on a huge scale. With most people vaccinated, so the government has changed track from a zero-covid policy with lots of restrictions, to allowing normal daily life to continue on as much as possible.  They’re trying to keep hospital beds available for only the most serious of cases by allowing home quarantine for everyone else.  Apart from facemasks and quarantine rules for confirmed cases and their close contacts, Taiwan’s central government is no longer imposing strict rules and regulations on society as a whole, so it is up to individuals and institutions to make their own decisions.  Numbers are now up to over 40,000 new cases per day and rising, and the virus is everywhere.  During last week’s convention, two of our clergy had tested positive, and two others were in home quarantine due to their children’s contact with confirmed Covid cases.  We face an uncertain time ahead as the country tries to gradually open up its borders while at the same time dealing with a major surge in cases.  Fortunately, a few weeks ago, as the cases started to rise, Bishop Chang announced that the diocesan convention would be moved online, starting Thursday evening May 5 and lasting all day Friday, May 6, though the workshop would be held in person on Wednesday, May 4 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for those able to attend.    

Workshop Group Photo

And so it was that most of us gathered last Wednesday at St. John’s Cathedral. The workshop was actually a day of worship, sharing, teaching and prayer, led by the Rev. Ian Liao 廖文華牧師, pastor in charge of Truth Church, Taipei, 基督教台北真道教會, a large, growing and very lively church in Wanhua, one of Taipei’s poorest areas and oldest red-light districts. Bishop Chang had invited him to come to share the experiences of their church in community outreach and youth ministry. He was specifically asked to share not just their successes, but also their failures, and what they had learned from their ministry that could help us.  It turned out that Rev. Liao had studied for several years in the UK at Cambridge University, and while there had worshiped in a lively Anglican Church, so he was very familiar with our style of worship and liturgy. Living in Cambridge had clearly made a big impression on him, especially being surrounded by so many magnificent church buildings which had only a few elderly church members, or were even closed down completely and converted to bars and restaurants. He had also done a lot of research into our Episcopal churches in Taiwan, going on prayer walks circling around some of them and checking out nearby schools, colleges and other suitable places for outreach.  In fact, their church used to be located very near our cathedral, but they had opted to buy a new building in Wanhua to better serve the people there. He was very well-placed to challenge us all about our outreach ministry. 

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang presents Rev. Ian Liao with a thank you gift

This was the first time I had seen this kind of ministry event organized by the diocese as part of our diocesan convention and held in our cathedral.  Rev. Liao had brought the leadership team from his church, who led the worship, and during the prayer times, they moved around praying with different people.   It was very moving to see so many of our clergy and lay members respond to Rev. Liao’s call – and the moving of the Holy Spirit – to go to the front to receive prayer for their own children, those whose children no longer go to church or who have made choices in their careers or relationships which put them at odds with their parents.  It was also very moving to see so many respond to Rev. Liao’s call to come forward to commit themselves to ministry among different groups of people, and later he specifically called several clergy and their spouses to the front to pray for them, sharing as led by the Holy Spirit.   

Workshop

On Friday morning, Rev. Liao appeared by video to give the opening sermon of the diocesan convention.   It was a really excellent and very challenging sermon, and plans are already in hand here in Advent Church to show it to our vestry committee and church leaders too. He preached from Ezekiel 47, ‘the river from the temple’ and he talked about how the living water comes from the temple then spreads out from there. As we long for the living water of the Holy Spirit to fill our churches, so the living water will then pour out onto our local communities, bringing blessings to all.  With this longing in our hearts and filled with the Holy Spirit, so we need to start out walking, and we will see God’s anointing on our ministry as we go.  The deeper we go into our local communities, the deeper into the living water we will go, until, just as in Ezekiel’s vision, it covers our ankles, then knees, and shoulders, until we are swimming in this living water of the Holy Spirit. 

In Ez. 47:8, the water flows to the Dead Sea and the salty water becomes fresh – so as we move out from our churches, lives around us will be changed and relationships restored. Their church has a ministry in Ximending helping children with their studies in after-school classes and giving them evening meals, thus helping families, as well as improving results for local schools, so local people no longer need to send their children to schools outside the area to get better results.  In Ez. 47:10, ‘fish of every kind’ will fill the rivers and sea – so our churches will be filled with people of every kind, every age & background, rich & poor, indigenous and every ethnic group.  Wanhua was ground-zero for last year’s Covid surge, and their “Church Can Help” project helped deliver relief packages to 4,000 families during Level 3 Covid Restrictions, and some have started to come to church. In Ez. 47: 12, the trees will bear fruit every month and the leaves will not wither, and their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing – so God’s blessings are ongoing every month, but he blesses us not to make us proud of our achievements, but for us to continue to bless others.  That’s a brief summary!

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

In his sermon at the opening service on Thursday evening, Bishop Chang reviewed and commented on some of the lessons learned at the previous day’s workshop, and encouraged and exhorted all the clergy to spend less time in their church offices – and get out into the community, doing outreach and sharing the Gospel!

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

The opening service was held at St. John’s Cathedral, we watched it online.  After the service finished, Rev. David Chee presented a graduation certificate to Vivian Meng-Rung Kuo, our first graduate of the Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM), our newly-established diocesan theological college. Congratulations to her and to all at TSCM! 

Bishop Chang, Vivian Kuo & Rev. David Chee (TSCM dean)

And so to the start of the diocesan convention online.  The idea was that each church would host the online event for their own clergy and delegates, so everybody gathered at their respective churches – all that is except for those who were in Covid quarantine, who stayed home.  

Convention: Advent Church

So what did I learn?  Firstly, an online diocesan convention using zoom takes much longer than a meeting in person, especially elections for the different committees.  This was done by scanning the QR codes, and although it mostly went smoothly, it seemed to go on and on!  Normally our meetings run not just to time, but often finish early, but by lunchtime on Friday, we were running about an hour late. The fun thing was to check out all the different people and churches and how they were doing things there.  Some had their group sitting very close in full view – they provided quite a lot of entertainment as they forgot the camera was so close, while others, like us here at Advent Church had ours set well back, so we could even walk around and nobody would notice.

Convention

On Friday afternoon, after all the formalities of the convention were over, each of our 15 churches had 10 minutes to do a presentation.  This was really interesting, and each church presented a detailed vision and action plan for the next 1, 3 and 5 years. Our clergy tell me that this has been a really good exercise, sitting down with their vestry committee and praying and planning for the future. Most used PowerPoint to do their presentations. In my humble opinion, our Advent Church PowerPoint was the most beautiful, and our rector’s talk the most concise. We’re grateful to our chaplaincy team – to Yi-Ting for putting the PowerPoint together, and to Tzi-Wei , who was actually in the diocesan office all that day taking care of the zoom arrangements.  We did have a bit of a PowerPoint (PK) competition with Christ Church, who have Yu-Lin, one of our former chaplaincy team based there, well-known for her design skills – and theirs was looking very stunning too, but Advent Church was, well, definitely the best!  But Christ Church did win hands down on the yummy-looking snacks provided to their delegates, which were in full view of their camera. Ha ha, it’s the small things that matter!  It so happened that all their group of 6 were wearing blue, so they looked really well-coordinated.  St. Paul’s Church also had snacks available, we could see 2 bowls of fruit, including a plate of bright red tomatoes.  Looked good!  But the prize for overall colour coordination goes to St. Mark’s Church, who had large bright green divider boards set up to separate their meeting room from the actual church, and with these as a backdrop, so their PowerPoint also used that same bright green colour, and 2 of their delegates were dressed in bright green too – ah, l loved it! You can see them in these photos, check out the bright green! 

Convention

And so ended our diocesan convention 2022, giving thanks to God that everything went smoothly, and to the diocese for all the arrangements made.  St. Luke’s Church, Hualien had also prepared well for this convention, but then put all their arrangements on hold, so the plans are that this same time next year to actually hold the convention in person there on Taiwan’s scenic east coast.  YES!

Convention: Diocesan Office

Please pray for the 18 clergy and 15 churches in the Diocese of Taiwan, that all will be filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, and that we can all get out of our church offices and into our local communities to share the Gospel, bringing living water and changing lives!

Every year, we take a group photo at our diocesan convention, but it wasn’t possible this year. But we do have a group photo of our 18 clergy, taken during Holy Week at St. James’ Church….

Clergy Group Photo, Holy Week 2022

Please also pray for Taiwan as we face this major Covid surge in the next few months. Although most people over the age of 12 are vaccinated, there are a large number of elderly people who decided against it, and many are now confined to their homes – they are a major concern. Our churches are facing many challenges not knowing what’s ahead, and whether services, activities, summer camps etc can go ahead or will need to be canceled or rearranged online. Your prayers are much appreciated. Thank you!

‘Easter Advent Calendar?!’ Update from Taiwan: Surviving Lent, Looking to Easter!

Screenshot

Yes, ‘Easter Advent Calendars’ are all the rage – and there’s lots available, as you can see above. This is your chance to forget the dreariness of Lent and its grim associations with fasting and penance; instead we can have a fun 24 days leading up to Easter. But get yours quick, as the 24 days have already started!

Lent feels extra long this year, and we have Tomb-Sweeping Festival coming up this weekend, plus tons of rain and miserable weather, so we need some good news to look forward to ~ and so what better than to focus our sights on Easter. Even the cherry blossom, which looked beautiful for a brief few days, has now given up waiting for the sun to return. Petals cover the ground ~ the season is nearly over for another year….

These were the moody skies along Taiwan’s northern coast at Fuji Lighthouse, LaoMei and along to Yehliu Geopark just after the rain stopped a few weeks ago. See the people queueing to take their photos with ‘The Queen’s Head’ rock?!

It’s not all bad news weather-wise, and we had a few weeks of sunshine earlier this month, and a few hiking trips up to Yangmingshan – see the sea of clouds in the distance….

And views from Guanyinshan …

While for those more interested in staying in the city, in Taipei’s Da-an Forest Park, there’s a series of water fountains that are powered by pedal power…

We’ve had nice views of Advent Church from the offices on the 5th floor too…

But then last week the rain started again, and it’s been raining more or less since then. Good job we’re all mostly indoors with the new semester well and truly underway – and my English class too….

And diocesan office February and March birthday celebrations ….

Yes, facemasks can come off for photos! Taiwan continues to do well in the pandemic, though there are still cluster outbreaks in different places, with yesterday’s headline being ‘Domestic COVID-19 cases spike in Taiwan as clusters grow’. Yesterday, there were 83 new domestic cases in 6 clusters, the highest number since last June, today there’s another 34 added to the total. One cluster of 39 is in Keelung, linked to a karaoke bar, spread to the police force and resulting in even the city’s mayor now being quarantined after he had contact with an infected police officer. Another cluster of 63 is among Thai migrant workers working on a power plant in Taoyuan. There were also 120 imported cases yesterday, 93 today. Even though a negative PCR test is required to travel to Taiwan, testing is also done on arrival at Taoyuan Int’l Airport, and a surprising number always found to be positive – 55 today. Total COVID death toll is 853.

Border controls are still strict, and the country is still closed to tourists and those without visas ~ although hotel quarantine for all arrivals is now reduced from 14 days to 10, followed by 7 days’ home quarantine. The government is saying that there’ll be some sort of quarantine requirement for the rest of this year at least. The general public continues to widely support these measures, even though individuals who need to travel overseas of course find them very inconvenient. But given the choice between these strict pandemic restrictions for arrivals, or opening up like other countries have done, and risk huge numbers of cases – so far, I have not yet heard anyone say that they think we should change track. Most of us have just had our booster shots in the last 2 months, and daily life continues more or less as normal. Wearing face masks gives us the freedom to do so much without worry, and they come in all styles and colours. Check out our ‘Stand with Ukraine’ facemasks from the Taiwan Presbyterian Church….

I just spent the weekend at St. James’ Church, Taichung. The main topic of conversation there was last Tuesday night’s series of earthquakes (the biggest 6.6 but very deep) centered on Taiwan’s east coast, which shook everyone wide awake at 1:40 am and then continued through the night. Me too. No more sleep from then on, and like most people, I was distinctly bleary-eyed for the rest of the day. People living up in high-rise buildings had by far the worst of it, but here in Taipei, it seems more people were amused to be woken by the very noisy beeping of the earthquake text alert, rather than by the actual earthquake. Anyway, things have quietened down since then. Until next time.

I was there at St. James to do the sermon at the English service. Mostly, I like to speak on the Bible readings and link in with the News if it’s relevant, but both have been hard in recent weeks. On February 20, the Gospel reading was Jesus telling us to love our enemies. Ironically, only 4 days later, on February 24, came the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lent started on March 2, with a sermon the following Sunday on Jesus’ temptations – check out the one of power and authority over all the kingdoms of the world, so relevant to the Ukraine war. Then we had Jesus and the barren fig tree last week, with all those questions about suffering.

Elephant Apples growing at St. John’s University

There is so just much suffering in the News. In Ukraine, we see the awful suffering caused by the Russian invasion, the terrible bombing of hospitals and residential buildings, the thousands of refugees trying to escape the war. In Mainland China, we see the authorities trying to halt the recent Covid surge with lockdowns of whole mega-cities for weeks at a time, while in Hong Kong, there’s been overflowing hospitals and empty supermarkets, with the world’s highest death rates. And in Australia, we just saw the worst floods ever recorded in New South Wales, thought to be directly related to climate change. Plus ongoing crises in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, S. Sudan, Haiti and more. Plus plus plus, there’s so much more each of us could add. And all this is bad enough, but then we see governments paralyzed by political wrangling, inaction, and incompetence. It’s easy to feel frozen in horror at it all.

The war in Ukraine has had a profound effect on Taiwan, completely unlike any other war I’ve seen in recent times. The phrase, ‘Ukraine Today, Taiwan Tomorrow?’ is much quoted in the media as a warning that Taiwan could be next. And interestingly, in response, Taiwan seems to be undergoing something of a transformation, as we watch with amazement the way the Ukrainian people have stood firm and defended their land. The Taiwan government has come out strongly in support of Ukraine, and in the last few weeks, we’ve had hugely successful donation drives, marches, rallies and prayer services. Everybody is talking about Ukraine, even small children at school. Taiwan has also watched with amazement the way the world has come together to impose sanctions on Russia. While many young people in Taiwan say they would defend Taiwan if attacked, older people, on the whole, have always been of the opinion that we don’t stand a chance and should just surrender. But now, watching the courage of the Ukrainians and seeing the world unite against the aggressor, has given Taiwan a boost that maybe that same courage and support might be forthcoming if we are next. The government is busy capitalizing on this momentum of change, and among other things, military training is already being upgraded and increased in both quantity and quality.

Taizé Service for Ukraine

And so to yesterday’s sermon, on the theme of reconciliation (lit. ‘bringing back together’) from the Gospel reading of the Prodigal Son. Last Saturday, I helped a Filipino migrant worker traveling on a bus with a lot of luggage, who was transferring from one factory job to another. She’s been in Taiwan for 3 years, and in all that time, has not seen her children. Her 2 daughters, aged 10 and 6, live in the Philippines with their grandmother. Can you imagine being separated from your children for that long? It was Mothering Sunday yesterday, and while not celebrated in Taiwan on that day, still it’s pretty heartbreaking to imagine what it must be like to be a family in that situation. But the good news is that in her new job, she’ll be able to live together with her husband, who is also in Taiwan. They work in different companies, but now they’ll be in the same area, so for the first time in many years, they can live together.

The next day, I was in Taipei visiting friends who live on the 17th floor of an apartment complex with a view over Taipei. One of those very tall and narrow buildings, that looks like the wind will blow it over, was built 5 years ago – but so far nobody lives there, all due to a family dispute between 2 brothers. Sigh.

And later that evening, last Sunday, I attended a Taizé service run by the National Council of Churches of Taiwan, to pray for Ukraine. It was held in the Jinan Presbyterian Church in central Taipei, and also attended by Taiwan’s former vice-president, Chen Chien-Jen 陳建仁, a Roman Catholic, plus other government representatives and church leaders. That day was the 25th day since the war started, and the service started with the bell tolling 25 times, once each for those 25 days.

Taizé Service for Ukraine

A Ukrainian girl read Psalm 140 out loud in the Ukrainian language. It is subtitled as a ‘Prayer for Deliverance from Evil Men’ and she read it with the expression, passion and anger that it deserves. Taipei’s Greek Orthodox priest was there in all his robes, and he led a prayer for peace. An R.C. priest read the pope’s prayer for peace in Ukraine, and one of our clergy prayed the prayer for Ukraine written by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We all lit candles and prayed for peace and justice, and an end to this terrible war.

Reconciliation. So difficult but so necessary.

There’s an interesting article below published in ‘Christianity Today’ about Taiwan churches and everyone’s willingness to pray for Ukraine, but otherwise differing responses to speaking out and getting involved in politics generally. Sums up the situation pretty much: ‘Ukraine Today, Taiwan Tomorrow’? Island’s Christians Warily Watch and Pray

This coming weekend, we’ll have a 4-day weekend for Qing-Ming aka Tomb-Sweeping Festival, when families come together to visit their family graves, cleaning them up and making offerings. In connection with that, I was at our local elementary school on Friday for a day of learning about ‘My Family Tree’. Never an easy subject for families divided and broken. Actually, it is easier to learn about the Family Tree in English than in Chinese. In English, we happily classify everyone as an aunt, uncle or cousin irrespective of which side of the family they’re on, and regardless of whether they’re older or younger than us, but not so in Chinese. Every category of relative has its own distinct title. Anyway, I wore my ‘Lee’ outfit and showed a few photos of my Lee grandparents, and the kids brought photos too (photos below courtesy of the school). Ah, it was fun!

My next sermon is not until Easter Sunday, oh so wonderful! This Lent has gone on a long long time, so I’m counting down the days. But somehow the thought of an ‘Easter Advent Calendar’ doesn’t do Lent justice. Much as most of us don’t like all that penance and fasting stuff, still a bit of self-reflection and prayer during Lent does put it all in perspective, and fits the national mood as well as the world as a whole. We can’t just ignore all the suffering and pretend otherwise. Fluffy chicks and bunnies and chocolate eggs have their place. But not yet. We still have Holy Week to come. Keep going, we’ll get there before too long!

Mini Toffee Apples & Tomatoes on sale at Jinshan

I’m grateful to our bishop who emphasized on Ash Wednesday that Lent lasts 40 days, but does not include Sundays, which are days, he said, for ‘celebrating Jesus’ resurrection’. Celebrating. Jesus. Resurrection. YES! Keep going, yep, we’ll get there before too long!

PS: The Taizé service to pray for Ukraine is on YouTube…

Lighting a candle, praying for Ukraine

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 3 ⛪🎄⭐🐾

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day3: This is Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu 吳興祥牧師, chaplain at St. John’s University (SJU) and rector of Advent Church on the SJU campus. Aged 37, he’s the youngest priest in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and is blessed with a very lovely wife, Yu-Ru.

Sadly, both of them have kidney disease, his inherited from his mother (who’s already been on dialysis for over 10 years), while Yu-Ru’s started as a child, with no family connection. They both try their best to follow their doctor’s advice, eating healthily with sufficient exercise and rest, but they have to be very careful not to overdo it, and especially so at this time of year ~ we have so many activities planned for Advent and Christmas! Please pray for them both, and also their much-loved dog, Nana, who provides lots of entertainment for us all! 🐾🦴🐾

Taiwan Methodist & Episcopal Churches Sign Historic Agreement of Cooperation in Theological Education 衛理神學研究院與三一書院合作簽約聯合感恩聖餐崇拜

Bishops, deans and clergy of Taiwan Methodist & Episcopal Churches

This special event was given added significance through the kindness of Mr. Gregory Chen 陳國瑞 of the Roman Catholic Church, who designed and made four beautiful stoles for the occasion, two for each church. The stoles have the logos of the Methodist Graduate School of Theology (MGST) 衛理神學研究院 and the Taiwan Episcopal Church’s Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM) 三一書院, and were worn by both bishops and their chaplains at the service …..

Stoles: (left to right) Rev. Tai-Yao Chiu, Bishop Kwan-Wah Pong, Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang, Rev. Antony F. W. Liang, Mr. Gregory Chen

The signing of the agreement took place during a Thanksgiving Service held at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei at 3:30 pm on Saturday October 30, 2021, postponed from the original date of Trinity Sunday, May 30, due to the pandemic. Taiwan is currently under Level 2 Restrictions, so facemasks are compulsory at all indoor events, but are allowed to be removed for a few seconds to take group photos. This was the whole group after the service …..

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮主教 of the Taiwan Episcopal Church and Bishop Kwan-Wah Pong 龐君華會督 (Pang Jun-Hua) of the Methodist Church both spoke of how they share a common vision for cooperation together in the field of theological education, drawing on much that our churches share in history, tradition, experience and culture. In fact, when Bishop Chang first approached Bishop Pong about the idea of working together, Bishop Pong said he had already been wondering whether such cooperation would be possible, so he was delighted!

Agreement of Cooperation signed by: (left to right) Bishop Chang, Rev. Canon David Chee TSCM, Rev. Feng-Chuan Lin MGST, Bishop Pong

Since becoming Bishop of Taiwan last year, Bishop Chang has re-established and expanded Trinity Hall (originally founded in 1984), the diocesan theological program through which he himself did all his theological study. It is now known as Trinity School for Christian Ministry, under dean Rev. Canon David Chee 徐子賢院長, and working in cooperation with St. John’s University, Taipei. The Taiwan Episcopal Church has always been too small to operate its own theological college, and in the past has relied on sending seminarians to be trained at Taiwan’s Presbyterian or RC colleges (with supplementary courses at Trinity Hall on Anglicanism), and more recently Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong. Currently we have one first-year seminarian studying at Virginia Theological Seminary in the USA, two who have studied elsewhere and are now upgrading / completing their courses through TSCM, and we have two first-year seminarians who have just started full-time at TSCM this semester (they led the procession into the cathedral)….

‘The Methodist Church in the Republic of China’ (its official name) 中華基督教衛理公會 is much larger than the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and its Methodist Graduate School of Theology (now under their acting president, Rev. Feng-Chuan Lin 林烽銓院長) was established in 1997, with a permanent college base in Taipei City. Their students all attended the Thanksgiving Service, as did ours from TSCM. The Methodist Church also brought a choir to the Thanksgiving Service, and they sang 2 beautiful songs, one in English, ‘Jesus Changes Everything’ during the signing ceremony, and ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’, sung in Chinese during Holy Communion.

According to the new theological education cooperation agreement, seminarians from both churches are eligible to study on courses at both institutions, credits will be transferable, and there are plans for faculty exchange, joint seminars and other sharing of resources as the program develops. Each church normally has stringent procedures and discernment processes for admittance as a diocesan seminarian; under this agreement, each church will also accept the other church’s seminarians into their theological programs, meaning they will not have to apply for admission separately. Already our two first-year seminarians are taking courses at MGST, with some classes online and others in-person.

The Signing Ceremony….

Both Bishop Chang and Bishop Pong mentioned that the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley remained in the Church of England, the Anglican Church, until the day they died. They did not join the Methodist Church. Now, as Anglican and Methodist Churches in the UK and USA are working together more and more, so we in Taiwan are also called to cooperate together in a spirit of ecumenism and unity. In Taiwan our denominations are small, so collaborating together in theological education will bring great benefits to both churches, helping us to train seminarians and church workers more effectively in ministry.

After the signing ceremony, Holy Communion was celebrated together by Bishop Chang and Bishop Pong, symbolizing our belonging to one family in Christ. Bishop Pong gave the final blessing.

We give thanks to God for this historic and memorable day, for the agreement signed and those who are on the frontlines at TSCM and MGST in making this cooperation happen, including Rev. Antony F. W. Liang 梁凡偉牧師 and Rev. Tai-Yao Chiu 邱泰耀牧師 who served as bishop’s chaplains at the service and wore the specially-designed stoles. We ask you to pray in the days ahead as our churches work more closely together in the field of theological education. To God be the glory!

A great day indeed, and yes, John and Charles Wesley would have been so proud!

The Christian Tribune report of this event in Chinese is here

Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao 廖金陵牧師 (1947-2021) In Memoriam

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao 廖金陵牧師 died on September 23, 2021 in Tainan, Taiwan. His Cremation was held in Tainan on September 30, 2021, followed by Interment of Ashes within St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei the following day. The Memorial Service was held on Friday October 8, 2021 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Under Taiwan’s Level 2 Pandemic Restrictions, 80 people are allowed to attend indoor gatherings. All 80 places for the Memorial Service were fully booked several days beforehand, and people traveled from all corners of the country to attend. Bishop of Taiwan Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, St. John’s Cathedral Dean Philip L. F. Lin and Rev. C. C. Cheng led the service, with Rev. Canon David Chee as preacher. The service included Holy Communion, celebrated by Bishop Chang. There were 2 powerful and moving solos, Pie Jesu and Panis Angelicus, sung by Ms. Wang, music teacher and friend of Rev. Liao’s daughter. The flowers were beautifully arranged by Ms. Susan Shih from Good Shepherd Church. During the service, a video of photos of Rev. Liao was shown, with a short tribute and words of appreciation on behalf of the family from Rev. Liao’s son, Sung-En. Rev. Liao’s daughter, Sung-Jen had thoughtfully prepared a small box of her delicious home-made cookies for each person to take home.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Rev. Samuel Liao took early retirement from full-time church ministry aged 60 in February 2008 for health reasons. Over time, his kidney dialysis treatments required that he spend longer and longer periods in hospital, and in recent years, he lived full-time at the hospital and visited his home at weekends. During the pandemic, he was completely confined to the hospital, but his mind remained very active. He may have been physically confined, but was certainly not spiritually or mentally so. He continued to help and support the church in whatever way he could, and was a source of great encouragement to many.

Rev. Samuel K. L. Liao

Rev. Liao was a much-loved friend of Rev. Canon David Chee, who started his sermon at the Memorial Service with the words, “Rev. Samuel K. L. Liao loved his church deeply, he loved his church members, he loved his church buildings, he loved the Anglican Communion and the Taiwan Episcopal Church”. And he continued on to share about Rev. Liao’s ministry of pastoral care, how he would listen carefully to all those who wanted to share with him, and he would remember long afterwards everything they had said in great detail. His memory was excellent! Rev. Canon David Chee shared moving stories of how Rev. Liao was also well-known for his high standards of cleanliness, and at each church he served, he would personally put a lot of time and energy into making sure the church building and surroundings were spotlessly clean. In the diocese, Rev. Liao was most appreciated for his phenomenal knowledge of the history of the Anglican / Episcopal Church, but he was also very knowledgeable about world history and geography in general. He was extremely humble, gentle, generous and showed great patience, particularly as he faced many years of failing health after his retirement. He was well-prepared for death; his hope was in Christ, in the resurrection of the dead, and in everlasting life.

All Saints, Kangshan

The last time I met Rev. Samuel Liao was at Grace Church, Tainan at Chinese New Year in 2019, and we had also met at Grace Church the previous Chinese New Year too. The last time I talked to him was in June 2021 when I phoned to wish him a Happy Dragon Boat Festival. We talked for 20 minutes about his great love for the Anglican Church, his wide reading of English history and love for church traditions, and how he continued to serve as spiritual advisor to 2 of our seminarians, using just his cellphone. He talked about how delighted he was that one of his Maori classmates (from the year he spent at St. John’s Theological College, Auckland in 1984), now a bishop in New Zealand, had come to Taiwan for a conference only a few months earlier, and had been to Tainan to visit him. And he told me how his daughter would deliver each issue of the diocesan Friendship Magazine to him. He would read each one from cover to cover, and he thanked me for everything I did for the diocese. I was very touched.

All in red for Chinese New Year 2018 at Grace Church, Tainan, with Rev. & Mrs. Liao and Song-Jen (centre), friend A-Guan on the far right, me on the far left

In 2009, just after his retirement, Rev. Liao told me his life story, and together we wrote the following article (updated a little as appropriate) for the Friendship Magazine.

‘Vocation and Ministry’, Testimony of Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao 廖金陵牧師

“My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose’. I find this verse very moving, and it continues to inspire me as I look back over my life and think of the variety of experiences I have had. My journey of faith has not been easy, and yet I feel it is a great honour and privilege to serve as an Anglican priest. Being a priest in the Anglican Communion and sharing in this long tradition and heritage makes me so proud. How I long to improve this sense of Anglican identity and consciousness in the Taiwan Episcopal Church! In my retirement, this is my burden and prayer for the church, that our clergy and church members may learn more of this unique Anglican identity.

Chinese New Year 2018 at Grace Church, Tainan

But how did I reach this point in my spiritual journey? Let me start at the beginning. I am a ‘second-generation Mainlander’, born in Mainland China in December 1947. My Chinese name is ‘King-Ling’ 金陵, the old name of Nanking (Nanjing), where my parents were married. My father was in the Nationalist Chinese Air Force, and in 1949, we came to Taiwan, leaving behind our ancestors and the traditions of ancestor worship. My parents were not particularly religious, and my first contact with the Christian gospel was at Feng Chia University in Taichung. I can still remember the ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’ meetings that were held every Monday evening on the campus. During my second year, I started to attend those meetings with 2 purposes in mind, firstly to learn English, secondly to make friends. I also joined the Sunday Fellowship because of the missionaries who were there working among the students. My major was in International Trade, on my father’s advice. One of my classmates invited me to live in their student dormitory accommodation, which was run by the Mennonite Church.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

On Easter Day, March 29, 1970, in my third year at university, I was baptized by Rev. Simon Wung in the Mennonite Church. Even now, I regard him as the most influential person in my whole life; he supported and encouraged me even when later I decided to join the Anglican / Episcopal Church. My first contact with the Anglican Church was through Rev. Wang Hsien-Tzi, then vicar of St. James’ Church, Taichung. He used to come to the Student Fellowship to preach.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

After graduation, I was assigned to military service and it was during this time that I felt called to ordination. First though, I went to work for China Airlines in Kaohsiung Airport as a Traffic Agent. For over 3 years I handled the incoming and outgoing planes. In Kaohsiung however, I faced 2 problems, firstly I rarely had a Sunday off, so hardly ever went to church, and secondly there was no Mennonite Church in Kaohsiung.

All Saints, Kangshan

While at China Airlines, I also met the lady who would become my wife, Su San-Su (Susan). She worked in the downtown office of China Airlines and unlike me, is of Taiwanese descent. Although she was not a Christian, we got married in 1976 in a Presbyterian Church in Kaohsiung. For her parents, it was their first ever visit to a church. I encouraged my wife to take part in a Bible Correspondence School, and the school sent 2 women to visit her, both Baptists. As I was not free to go to church on Sundays, my wife started to go to their church, and a year after we were married, she was baptized in the Baptist Church. She continued to support and encourage me throughout my ministry, and was a very good priest’s wife! We are a very multi-denominational family. After their retirement, both my parents were baptized in Taipei, my mother in a Lutheran Church, and my father in the Mission Alliance Church, while one of my sisters was baptized in the Little Flock. Looking back, I can say that my only regret in all my years of ministry was to my parents. I invited them to come and live with us, but they could not accept the frequent moving from place to place every few years. They said that I always take good care of my parishioners but not my parents! I still regret the little time that I was able to spend with them during their lives.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s Memorial Service, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

One day at work in Kaohsiung Airport, I bumped into Rev. Wang Hsien-Tzi, seemingly by chance. He encouraged me to join the Episcopal Church, so I started to attend St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung. Through Rev. Wang and the Rev. Peyton Craighill, I was eventually recommended to the diocesan Commission on Ministry for ordination. They also suggested I should be confirmed, and so my wife and I were confirmed by Bishop James Pong on June 5, 1977 in Grace Church, Tainan, because by then we had moved to Tainan Theological College.

Chinese New Year 2019 at Grace Church, Tainan

I was ordained deacon on September 21, 1980 and served at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for a year under the Rev. Samuel T. T. Chen. We then moved to St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung, where I was ordained priest on July 12, 1981 by Bishop P. Y. Cheung. We stayed there 5 years including one year (1984) when I was at St. John’s Theological College, Auckland, New Zealand studying ‘Anglicanism’. We then spent 4 years at Trinity Church, Keelung, then 3 years at St. Andrew’s, Jieding, when I was also in charge of the 30 or so students at St. Michael’s Hostel, Tainan. I spent 6 months at Trinity College, Singapore, doing further study, then served as Acting Rector of Good Shepherd Church, Taipei for a year, followed by 4 years at St. Luke’s Church, Hualien. Finally, I became Rector of All Saints Church, Kangshan for 9 years before my retirement in 2008. From utmost east to west, utmost north to south, we have lived in all 4 corners of the Taiwan Diocese! However out of all these places, the most fulfilling was the time we spent in All Saints, Kangshan (most of the photos shared here were taken during that time), when I was also Dean of Trinity Hall, the Diocesan Center for Theological Studies, as well as serving as Dean of the Southern Deanery.

All Saints, Kangshan

In summary, I can say that I have an evangelical faith – from my days of Campus Crusade and the Student Fellowship, a Calvinistic theology – from my training at Tainan Theological College, and I like the Catholic tradition – from the Episcopal Church liturgy and hierarchy! I love the Anglican Church for its ‘middle way’; it is not extreme in any direction. Confucianism also follows the middle way in lifestyle and thinking. I love history too, and enjoy reading about the history of England and the Anglican Church, always in English, as there are so few books on this subject in Chinese.

Bishop John C. C. Chien and Mrs. Chien visit All Saints, Kangshan

In my retirement, I continue to serve on the Diocesan Standing Committee, the Commission on Ministry, and to act as Spiritual Advisor to our seminarians. My wife and I are now faithful members of the congregation of Grace Church, Tainan; my wife also teaches flower arranging and Chinese knotting. Our daughter, Sung-Jen plays the organ at Grace Church. Our son, Sung-En is a member of St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung and is the father of our 2 grandchildren.

Rev. Samuel Liao’s children, Sung-Jen and Sung-En at the Diocesan Convention 2021

My total ministry was 27 years and 4 months, and I know that throughout that whole time, Romans 8:28 has been my true experience. God does indeed work through all things for the good of all those who love him!”

Cheers! All Saints, Kangshan

We give thanks to God for the life and ministry of our beloved Rev. Samuel King-Ling Liao; may he rest in peace and rise in glory, and may his wife and family be comforted and strengthened at this time.

Congratulations to 鄭喻璘 Yu-Lin and 王三源 San-Yuan on their Wedding Day!

A beautiful day for a beautiful couple! Such a special event, a wedding at Advent Church for 2 very special people, and the sun shone all day to mark the occasion. For us, this was THE wedding of the year, and a pandemic year at that. We give thanks to God that despite the uncertainties of the pandemic, everything went so well.

The wedding service was conducted by our rector, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, with Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang preaching and giving the marriage blessing. As both the bride and groom’s families are Christians, so we also had Holy Communion, celebrated by Bishop Chang. His sermon was particularly moving; he talked about Yu-Lin as if she were his own daughter, having known her since she was a child, and encouraged her all the way through. He made Yu-Lin’s parents stand up as he introduced them to their new son, and the same for San-Yuan’s mother, as he introduced her to her new daughter. There was hardly a dry eye in the church!

Yu-Lin is in her first year as a Taiwan diocesan seminarian, after a year of being a diocesan intern, which involved 6 months at Good Shepherd Church, Taipei and then 6 months at St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi. For the last few months, she has been living at the diocesan office in Taipei, with her weekend placement being at Christ Church, Chungli, Taoyuan. San-Yuan is a sound engineer, long based in Tainan, but a few months ago he moved up to Taipei, and has been attending the morning prayer services with Yu-Lin at the diocesan office, also taking part in some of the seminarian training sessions led by Bishop Chang. A great start to their future church ministry together!

Yu-Lin was our much-loved colleague here at Advent Church and St. John’s University (SJU) for many years, always keeping us on our toes. Life was never boring! She is very friendly, outgoing, extremely creative, multi-talented and highly-skilled in all things technical and practical – from fixing computers to driving her father’s minibus up and down the country. Yu-Lin’s father has long been professor of Electrical Engineering here at SJU and is now also Dean of General Affairs, which means he is in overall charge of the SJU campus and the maintenance of all buildings and equipment. He spends his weekends at SJU instructing courses that lead to license qualifications in everything from plumbing to driving fork-lift trucks, he told me once he has 23 different license qualifications! In between times he is to be found scurrying around the campus, checking the generators, the AC units, driving the workers in his forklift truck to trim some trees or installing lighting to make the campus brighter. Always busy, and in his holidays, he climbs mountains, and takes the family on holidays to interesting places. It was very moving for him, in the pre-wedding event on Saturday, when he and Yu-Lin’s mother placed the veil over their daughter’s head ~ he really struggled to hold back the tears.

Yu-Lin’s mother is the principal of the kindergarten at Jinshan RC Church, having taking over from her older sister. Yu-Lin’s mother has 3 sisters, and all but one of them are in Advent Church, all very lively and very lovely! The older one has now moved to St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung to join her daughter, Si-Yun and husband, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee, who is the rector. Si-Yun came to the wedding this weekend, acting as ‘matchmaker’ – it’s an important role in making sure everything goes to plan! This is Si-Yun, Yu-Lin’s mother and older brother ….

So, with Yu-Lin and her extended family being members of Advent Church, Tamsui, and with San-Yuan’s family home being in Tainan, it was arranged that the wedding service would take place at Advent Church on Saturday October 2 at 1:30 pm, with the official wedding reception being held in Tainan next Saturday, October 9.

Taiwan is currently under Level 2 Pandemic Restrictions, which means facemasks are compulsory and indoor events are limited to 80 people. Because Advent Church is part of St. John’s University, so we are also allowed to use our Advent Church Centre as an overflow for a further 80 people, but because of the distancing rules, we would not be allowed to host any kind of formal reception with food. So after the wedding everyone went home with a box of delicious finger food to enjoy instead.

Yu-Lin’s family

A few months ago, Yu-Lin and San-Yuan announced their wedding event on Facebook with a sign-up form for those who wished to attend, but stressing that the event would also be livestreamed, so feel free to attend online instead of in-person. This is the video…

Then a few weeks ago we had a Covid cluster outbreak in Greater Taipei, and suddenly New Taipei City (which includes St. John’s University) went into enhanced Level 2 Restrictions, and events were suddenly restricted to 50 people. Some of us uninvited ourselves, but it was worrying week, not knowing what was going to happen! Then, as the pandemic situation improved, so restrictions were relaxed and it became 80 again. Relief all round!

San-Yuan’s family

Yu-Lin and San-Yuan first met through the Taiwan branch of ANM 萬國敬拜與讚美 ‘All Nations Worship & Praise Ministries’, which started in South Korea in 1987, and sends out mission teams around the world to reach Chinese-speaking people with the Gospel. Yu-Lin studied at university in Tainan, and in 2008, she and San-Yuan vaguely knew of each other through both studying on the ANM training program in Tainan. Then in 2018, they both attended 3-month ANM “Intercultural Community Mission Training” programs in Germany that overlapped by about 6 weeks. That was the start of their relationship. Yu-Lin then spent a further year in Germany with ANM, returning to Taiwan in May 2020 to join the Diocese of Taiwan internship program. Many of the people at the wedding on Saturday were connected with ANM….

ANM friends

This is an abridged version of Yu-Lin’s testimony that she wrote for our diocesan Friendship Magazine in May 2021:

“Not long after I was born, in 1988, my parents discovered I had an abnormal condition, which led them to embark on a day of running around different hospitals with me, unable to find a doctor willing to take the risk of operating on me. My mother was anxious and overwhelmed, and she prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, if you heal my daughter, and find a doctor willing to operate on her, I will dedicate her to you…” Thanks be to God, He heard that prayer, and I was baptized in Advent Church at 7 months old, and at the age of 13, I was confirmed.

Advent Church choir

Although I grew up in the church, I didn’t really know anything about faith, and the word “Christian” was such a special label to me as if I was meant to prove: Why can’t Christians do bad things? So in adolescence I became very rebellious, stealing my parents’ money, running away from home, self-harming, bullying others.

Wedding Certificate

But God’s work is wonderful. In 2006, when I turned 18, a friend invited me to a special gathering of ‘All Nations Worship & Praise School’ (ANM). It was a 4-day event, but at the start I was unable to concentrate and ran away from the gathering until the third day, when my heart really calmed down and I found myself longing to meet the Lord who loved me. That day I met Jesus! My first feeling was being filled with the Holy Spirit, and I will never forget being touched and forgiven deeply by God’s love. He said, “My child, I don’t remember your past,” and in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I was completely set free. Later, the leader announced, “If you are willing to give your life to the Lord, come up to the stage.” I walked onto the stage with a grateful heart and in tears.

So I started to participate in the ANM training every Saturday until now, and that gathering became a turning point in my life. I experienced God’s love and forgiveness firsthand, and found myself changing my character, habits and values, including redefining what I saw as a ‘successful life’. In 2010, God led me to Advent Church as an education officer, and in 2012 I joined St. John’s University Chaplaincy (under the then chaplain, Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang) as a student fellowship counsellor and administrator, including in 2015, taking part in a memorable short-term mission trip to Myanmar.”

SJU Student Fellowship

ANM have the policy that dating couples only make their relationship public when they announce their engagement, and so it is that San-Yuan is known to many of us but has largely kept a low profile until recently. He tells me that while Yu-Lin was assigned to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi earlier this year, he was confirmed into the Episcopal Church, and he is committed to moving with Yu-Lin around Taiwan depending on where she is assigned by Bishop Chang and the diocesan office. Hopefully he can find a suitable job wherever he finds himself based. San-Yuan is certainly very accommodating and committed! So far in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, as far as I know, he is the first newly-married husband to follow this path. We have several women clergy and seminarians, but all are either single or became seminarians later in life, once their children were grown.

At the wedding, we were delighted to welcome Sheerah and her husband, Yu-Wei. We first met Sheerah some years ago, when she came with a team from the Diocese of West Malaysia to Advent Church to lead some training for our children’s summer camps, a program called Kid’s Games. So she got to know many of our students and church members, including Yu-Lin. Since then, she has relocated to Taiwan, married to Yu-Wei. They have 2 children, Ethan who turned 2 on Saturday, and Eva, aged 4 months. Bishop Chang invites them to attend our monthly birthday lunches at the diocesan office, so they have got to know us all even better. Like San-Yuan, Yu-Wei is also a sound engineer, and he was invited to help with the sound system for the wedding. So with Yu-Wei busy, we all offered to help out with entertaining Ethan and Eva, who proved a big hit with everyone, and appear in lots and lots of photos. As it was Ethan’s birthday that day, it seemed an added bonus!

Before the service…..

The wedding service ……

After the service, the throwing of the bride’s bouquet…

And group photos…..

Please do pray for Yu-Lin and San-Yuan as they begin their married life together. The road ahead is long and challenging, especially during the next few years of training, but we pray for God’s grace to sustain them. Congratulations to them both and their families, and thanks be to Almighty God!