Tag Archives: Faith

Advent Church & St. John’s University Charity Fundraising 2020 @ 天主教福利會 ‘Cathwel Service’, Shenkeng 深坑, Taipei

Cathwel Service (Cath-wel is short for Catholic Welfare) 財團法人天主教福利會, is the Taiwan branch of the US Catholic Relief Services, founded in 1949, originally to help unmarried mothers and their children. It continues its ministry helping disadvantaged women and children; many of the children have special needs, others have various disabilities. Some will be adopted by families in Taiwan, some by families overseas (you’ll find lots of info about their experiences of international adoption via google), others will remain at the centre until they reach adulthood. Currently there are about 40 children living at the centre, called Jonah House – with different age children on different floors. We visited yesterday, and saw some of the youngest children, and met some of the staff. All the other children attend local schools during the day. Despite the cold temperatures and rain outside, everyone there was so warm and friendly!

Our visit came as a result of our Christmas 2020 Charity Fundraising Events at St. John’s University (SJU) and Advent Church, which raised a total of almost NT$ 250,000 for the charity (see the previous post for details of our charity bazaar). Thanks be to God ~ and to everyone who contributed!

We visited as a group of 8, representing both SJU and Advent Church. We were also able to collect the official receipts, which will be distributed to all those who made a donation, so that they can file their tax returns. The Cathwel Service CEO, Ms. Yen-Chi Ting, presented an official Certificate of Thanks in the chapel, first to our SJU chaplain, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and then to Mr. Ming-Chuan Chen, our Advent Church senior warden.

And us altogether…

The chapel is stunning! It is in the basement area of the building along with the carpark, but it is below an open area above. I gather it used to be a fairly traditional RC chapel until it needed renovation due to a badly leaking roof last year.

Fr. Fabrizio Tosolini (杜敬一神父) is an Italian RC priest who has taught the Bible for many years at Fu-Jen RC Seminary, Taipei. Many of our clergy have also studied there under him, including our SJU chaplain, Rev. Wu, so he was able to describe to us the meaning of each picture. Fr. Tosolini is a member of the Missionary Order of Saint Francis Xavier and also a very gifted artist. He painted the pictures that decorate the newly-renovated chapel, which was completed and opened only last month, December 2020.

The picture above the altar is of Jesus, his mother and his disciple, John. The writing on the 2 long red pieces of paper was done by the children. On the left, words of Jesus: ‘Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I thank you because you have revealed the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven to little children’, and on the right it says, ‘If you fall in love, stay in love’ (from the Arrupe Prayer, attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, which starts ‘Nothing is more practical than finding God’, and is also very popular as a song).

On the right-side wall, there is a line of 14 small paintings, serving as the Stations of the Cross…. check out the eyes!

On the left wall and at the main entrance are other paintings, mostly much larger…..

This organization is based in Shenkeng 深坑, on the SE edge of Taipei, an old coal-mining town on the edge of the mountains. They have a large building right on the main road in front of Shenkeng Old Street. This is the mosaic version!

Shenkeng Old Street is famous for its stinky tofu and every other kind of tofu. This is it!

After our visit to the centre, we just had to visit the Old Street for some of the famous tofu, plus other dishes ~ kindly hosted by Ming-Chuan and his wife…. It was all delicious!

This is the Old Street, with hardly any people. At the weekend, it’s full, but even so, with the pandemic, there are no international tourists. We all agreed it was a much nicer Old Street than our local one in Tamsui!

It was, and is very cold, and it’s been raining and cold for days. A massive cold front has swept in and frozen us all up! “6°C, feels like -1°C” said my phone yesterday morning. This is not a country that does ‘cold’ very well. We have no central heating, everything is built to keep us cool not warm! Everyone is wearing a ton of layers, inside and outside – temperatures inside and outside are more or less the same. Our houses, offices, schools and lifestyle are much more suited to summer than winter – Taiwan is on the Tropic of Cancer, after all. But a few years ago, we did have snow on Taipei’s Yangmingshan Mountains, and the news yesterday morning said that 5 cm of snow had fallen up there overnight. However, the mountains were hidden from our view – in swirling clouds and rain all day. Until that it is about 4:30 pm, after we had got back from Shenkeng, when the clouds cleared ~ and yes, in the far distance we could see a sprinkling of white snow! We all rushed out and up to the 3rd floor of St. John’s University to take photos. Such excitement!

Update, Saturday – and the snow has stayed throughout last night and today. Those mountains have looked the same all day today. We’re all excited about the snow, but everyone is freezing cold!

Enough excitement for one weekend. Stay warm everyone, and thanks as always for your continuing support!

‘Happy Ending’ Party-Time 🥳 for Advent Church English Classes!

Yes, our 10 weeks of community English classes for adults – running on Tuesday evenings for beginners and Thursday afternoons for the more advanced (each class 90 minutes) – are now over for this semester, and last night we brought both groups together for a ‘Happy Ending’ Party! Ah, it was so much fun! Friends, families and a large group of our student fellowship turned up too and added some extra energy to the occasion.

Each of the English class members brought along some yummy food, I prepared some games and our good friends Marge and David provided the sharing and entertainment. We all danced along to the ‘Playing for Change’ YouTube video of ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong, and as everyone in that video is wearing different brightly-coloured T-shirts, so Marge and David gave each one of us a T-shirt from their T-shirt company. Thank you!

We played Musical Chairs….

And Musical Statues with animals – check out the photos below and you can see penguins, elephants, giraffes, frogs, snakes, spiders, crocodiles, pigs and more. We even had the same 2 winners as for the Musical Chairs, the 2 ladies – one in red and one in yellow with me above – they really got into the drama below, so real!

Special thanks to the most important person in these English classes ~ Shiao-Chien, one of our church members – formerly our senior warden – and retired military officer here at St. John’s University. She and Marge are founding members from years ago, they both come to the Thursday afternoon class, and Shiao-Chien also comes every Tuesday evening to help with the beginner’s class, many of whom are her friends and neighbours. Marge often helps out if Shiao-Chien needs a week off. Shiao-Chien organizes everything – it’s all so wonderful! Every week she also prepares 5 minutes of faith-sharing / Bible teaching (in Chinese) at the end of each class, while the Thursday afternoon class currently has the first half of the class devoted to a Bible Story. This is part of the outreach ministry of Advent Church, everyone is welcome – of whatever faith and none, and classes are free – with lots of fun!

We finished with a prayer…

And of course a group photo!

Thanks to everyone who came along, and to our SJU Chaplain Rev. Wu for taking most of the photos. These classes had to be cancelled in the spring semester earlier in the year as a precaution against Covid-19, but with no domestic transmission since Easter, we are so pleased they could take place in this autumn semester. Thanks be to God for his many blessings ~ and here’s to the next semester of English classes, starting, we hope, after Chinese New Year!

Gladys Aylward (1902-1970)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of Gladys Aylward (1902-1970): “English missionary in China and Taiwan who worked to end the traditional Chinese practice of binding women’s feet, led a large group of orphans out of occupied China, and set up orphanages in Hong Kong and Taiwan”…

Gladys Aylward is buried in Taiwan, only 12 km from where I live here at St. John’s University. Her grave is in the grounds of Christ’s College, 臺北基督學院, located on the top of a very steep wooded hill above Guandu. Every time I go into Taipei by road or MRT, I pass by just below that college, but this is only my third visit to see the grave. Bit put off by that steep hill, the heat and all the mosquitoes up there under the trees!

My good friend and CMS mission partner colleague, Shelagh was called to the mission field as a child through hearing Gladys Aylward speak at her church in Canada. Shelagh served as a missionary nurse overseas until she retired only a few years ago – and when she visited Taiwan in 2009, Bishop Lai took us up that steep hill to visit the grave. He noticed the seal (right photo below) of the then President of the Republic of China (Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正) on the grave – Gladys Aylward became a citizen of the ROC in 1936 (though I see that the gravestone says 1941). With all the political turmoil of the time, she eventually settled in Taiwan, ROC in 1958, and died on January 2, 1970.

Gladys Aylward’s Chinese name is 艾偉德 Ai Wei-De, the characters are written vertically on the wall behind the tomb (left photo above). Her life story was published in ‘The Small Woman’ by Alan Burgess (1957), and from that book, made into what Gladys Aylward always thought to be a wildly exaggerated romantic Hollywood classic, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), starring Ingrid Bergman. Ah, but it’s a great movie! Apparently it was filmed in N. Wales and the children in the movie were from the Chinese community in Liverpool.

The words on her grave are as follows:

MISS GLADYS AYLWARD
MISSIONARY (1902-1970)
Born on the Twenty-Forth of February, Nineteen Hundred and Two in London, England
She came to China in Nineteen Hundred and Thirty to preach the Gospel, in response to the Lord’s call:
And became a citizen of the Republic of China in Nineteen Hundred and Forty one
She was laid to rest in the Lord, at Taipei, Taiwan, on the Second Day of January, Nineteen Hundred and Seventy
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. John 12:24”

The grave is hidden away on the main campus, on the edge of the steep hill, next to graves of the founder and others associated with the college. The vegetation has grown up and the steep slopes are covered in trees and plants. Down below are several new high-rise apartment buildings that are almost taller than the hill itself. The graveyard is really a little oasis in the midst of a busy bustling area of Taipei. Oasis for mosquitoes that is – don’t stay there long or you’ll get eaten alive!

And most moving for me is the quote on her grave in English and Chinese:

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’. John 12:24

‘一粒麥子不落在地裏死了,仍舊是一粒;若是死了,就結出許多子粒來’ 約翰福音 12:24

Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會第60屆教區年議會 Diocesan Convention August 15, 2020

Temperature checks ✓ hand sanitizer ✓ face-masks ✓ And so the 60th annual convention of the Taiwan Episcopal Church could begin!

This event was originally scheduled to take place from March 27-28, 2020 in St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung – in conjunction with St. Timothy’s 50th anniversary celebrations. But the pandemic caused a delay, and a new date was set for Saturday August 15 – also it was decided to limit it to a single day, and to relocate it to Advent Church at St. John’s University (SJU), Tamsui.

Advent Church Center is large enough to host a gathering of 80 or more people, and if we needed to reschedule again, it could be done more easily than if we had booked a hotel meeting room, which is usually the case. Also it is well-ventilated, spacious and often quite breezy, being near the sea.

Currently Taiwan has still managed to contain Covid-19, and although there have been a few unexplained individual outbreaks, so far there has been no widespread community transmission, so our annual convention could go ahead this past Saturday. Government regulations say that face-masks are mandatory at places of worship, so everyone wore theirs for the actual service. This is the masked group from St. John’s Cathedral….

Limiting the event to a single day meant the meeting had to be condensed and finished in half the usual time, so a lot more work had to be done in advance to make sure everything could run quickly and smoothly. And it did, thanks be to God! And, of course, thanks to Mr. Yang, the diocesan secretary and all the staff at the diocesan office. The opening service was at 10:00 am in Advent Church…..

The service was followed by group photos and lunch, then after a short break, we started at 12:30 pm for 3 sessions, each of about 1-2 hours. During the breaks, locally famous snacks from the Tamsui area were provided by Advent Church for everyone to enjoy. The meeting finished about 5:30 pm and everyone was given a box of sandwiches and cakes to eat on the journey home. All delicious!

Advent Church was sparkling for the occasion – church members and clergy had worked really hard to make sure everything was ready, including cleaning everywhere inside and out. Each visitor was presented with a small handmade bag, individually decorated with buttons and designs – this was a wonderful team effort led by Marge Tan, chair of our ladies group, using materials from their Tan T-shirt company and helped by talented members of our student fellowship – a 2-day project. I loved mine! Inside was a set of postcards of Advent Church, designed by our student fellowship graduates as part of their final-year project in the SJU Dept. of Creative Design. Beautiful!

On the day itself, all the Advent Church vestry members came along to help, plus a team from the student fellowship – they were there all day – thanks to them all!

For our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this was his first diocesan convention as bishop, and in his sermon, he was clearly delighted to be back in his old home of Advent Church for his first convention…

He started by showing his appreciation to the current leadership team at Advent Church, our lovely retired priest, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, SJU Chaplain Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and churchwarden Mr. Chen Ming-Chuan. All 3 are really great at encouraging church members to get involved and be part of the church ministry. Bishop Chang commented on how, as the regular cleaning person is sick, the church members have taken over the cleaning of the church, giving up their free time and spending hours and hours polishing, dusting, sweeping, washing and cleaning. He said how moved he was to hear that Ms. Shiao-Chien is bringing to the church the high standards she has at home for cleaning the church toilets, scrubbing the floors tile by tile, while 85-year-old Rev. Peter D. P. Chen is dusting and polishing the pulpit and choir chairs, while other church members and the student fellowship spent a whole Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago using high-pressure hoses to wash the white walls around the building, and clean all the windows.

Flame Tree next to Advent Church, August 15, 2020

Bishop Chang said that this year, 2020, 3 of our churches in the diocese celebrate their 50th anniversaries: St. James’ Church, Taichung, which celebrated on July 25, St. Timothy’s, Kaohsiung, which has postponed their celebration to September 19, and Advent Church. St. James celebrated the 50th anniversary of the actual church building, while St. Timothy’s and Advent Church are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment or official naming of their churches.

He said that for Advent Church, this is a very special 50th anniversary. Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) was bishop for only 5 years, and yet in those 5 years, he accomplished so much, including the foundation of St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) in 1967 (now SJU). On March 6, 1970, at the 10th annual diocesan convention, held in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, Bishop Wong formally announced that the new church / chapel to be built at SJSMIT would be named ‘Advent Church’. Only 3 weeks later, on March 28, at the Easter Eve Vigil at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, Bishop Wong was taken ill and admitted to hospital. He died on April 27, 1970, so he never lived to see Advent Church be built. Bishop Wong was buried on the highest plot of land at SJSMIT, and over the next few years, the new Advent Church was constructed over and around his grave, which became the site of the altar. The new church building was consecrated on February 17, 1973. Bishop Chang said that it was almost as if, as Bishop Wong died, so Advent Church was born.

Fast forward 50 years, and while Advent Church is thriving, unfortunately SJU is possibly at its lowest point in all those 50 years. Our new SJU president, Dr. Huang Hung-Pin, who took over on August 1, 2020, is determined to turn things around and has already implemented huge cuts to faculty and staff, and is introducing many new ways of working. The priority is to stabilize the financial situation, increase student enrollment and improve academic standards. The finances are desperately low, and Bishop Chang announced that he has started a big fundraising campaign for SJU. He said that, after discussion with the Advent Church leadership team, that Advent Church would be celebrating their 50th anniversary, not by spending money on a big celebration, but by raising money to present as a gift to SJU. His goal is NT$ 500,000 (about US$ 17,000); to be presented to SJU on St. John’s Day, December 28, 2020, and he has invited all clergy, churches and church members to contribute. He also said that for SJU alumni and friends in the USA who would like to contribute, we are grateful to The Episcopal Church for their help in channeling donations to the Diocese of Taiwan. This is SJU President Huang giving his speech at the convention….

Bishop Wong was a true disciple of Christ, who saw the great importance of reaching out through his life and witness to share the Gospel, so fulfilling his motto of ‘Transforming lives through Christ’. Bishop Chang encouraged everyone to follow Bishop Wong’s example ~ not to just sit there in church waiting for people to come, but to go out into the world ~ and share the good news of Christ!

Clergy Group photo

The Taiwan Episcopal Church has 8 kindergartens, and in his sermon, Bishop Chang also said very strongly that the purpose of the kindergartens is to help and support the local community, and for outreach among the kindergarten children and their families. He emphasized that our kindergarten ministry is not just for making money, and the church must stop relying on them for income – and must rely on the church members instead. Later in the meeting, Mrs. Liu, chair of the kindergarten committee talked about how a group of our kindergarten principals, supervisors and teachers had visited church kindergartens in the Province of Hong Kong last year and how moved they had been to see so many Bible verses decorating their buildings, and how they have resolved to do the same here in Taiwan. Children will now learn 5 Bible verses a semester, and small cards with the verses have been printed out and distributed to all our kindergarten children. Mrs. Liu produced statistics that show, in total, our 8 kindergartens have 1,103 children, of whom 94 (8.5%) come from Christian homes. We have a total of 140 full-time teachers and staff, of whom only 30 (21%) are Christians; and 101 part-time teachers and staff, of whom 19 (18.8%) are Christians. So we have a huge amount of work to do sharing the Gospel with the teachers, children and parents. Bishop Chang also emphasized the importance of the kindergarten supervisors being church members of that particular church, and being active in outreach to the parents, getting to know them, inviting them to events and sharing the Gospel with them. This is Mrs. Liu (second left) with the delegation from St. John’s Cathedral, including her son, standing next to her…

Much of the actual meeting-time was taken up with procedural matters, discussions of financial reports, elections to the different committees etc. However, a few other items of note:

1) Rev. David Chee, assisted by Rev. Antony Liang, is now officially starting work on re-establishing the Trinity Hall Theological Center, based at the diocesan office, but running primarily online to all our different churches. This ministry will include developing theological courses for church members, interns, seminarians and clergy. They will focus on strategic planning for each of these groups, which will then help the diocese to have a clearer long-term plan and set realistic goals. This is Rev. David Chee – with Ms. Shiao-Chien, they’re great friends, both involved in the music ministry at Advent Church and though not related, both have the same surname…

2) St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung has a church building that, when it was constructed in 1964, was considered an amazingly innovative design for modern church architecture – it is shaped like a tent with a roof that goes down almost to ground level. However, that same roof leaks very badly and the other church buildings on the site – which house the kindergarten and meeting rooms – are also in a bad state of repair, and becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. The vision of the church is that the whole site could be re-developed, with a new church built. However, the local government is now assessing whether the church should be classified as a historic building, in which case, there will be huge restrictions on what can be done on the site in the future. The vicar, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang asked for prayer and for any legal experts who might be able to offer their assistance.

3) The newly elected chair of the Diocese of Taiwan Standing Committee is the Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, Rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung. Please pray for her, and all the different committees as they continue the work of the diocese. This is Rev. Lily Chang below, with newly-ordained deacon Rev. Stoney Wu and the delegation from St. James – with and without their face-masks!

4) The next diocesan convention will be – as originally planned for this year – hosted by St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, possibly over the first weekend of March 2021 – to be confirmed.

Annual Convention official photo

Thank you for your prayers for the convention. And to all those involved in the running of the event, thank you! Special thanks to the churchwarden of Advent Church, Ming-Chuan and his wife, Meng-Chen who have spent months preparing for this great occasion – and posed especially below. We love them to bits, and are truly grateful that everything went so smoothly under their care and direction.

And thanks be to Almighty God ~ and please do continue to pray for Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and all in the Diocese of 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: