St. Luke’s Church, Hualien, on Taiwan’s scenic east coast, was this year’s setting for the Diocese of Taiwan’s annual convention and workshop, held from May 9-12, and what a setting it was! Of course, the scenery in Hualien is spectacular, with mountains, sea and sky in abundance, but the warmth of the welcome we received from the vicar, Rev. Antony F. W. Liang and his wife, Anita, plus diocesan seminarian / postulant Mr. Shawn Y. H. Wang 王彥軒, brothers and delegates Mr. Yang Jie and Mr. Yang Ming (pictured below), and all the church members was just as moving. Thank you to everyone at St. Luke’s Church!
Under the guidance of the Bishop of Taiwan, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, the clergy and church members of St. Luke’s Church spent months in preparation, including the clearing out and complete renovation of the large church basement below the church, so that we could use that space – their hard work and attention to detail was much appreciated by us all!
Bishop Chang invited former Methodist Bishop Kwan-Wah Pong to lead a workshop for us all on Wednesday May 10, so he and his wife also joined us in Hualien. Bishop Pong is already well-known in the diocese due to his involvement in the Methodist Graduate School of Theology, where he currently works, and as bishop, he was one of the signatories to a historic agreement of cooperation signed with our diocesan Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM) in November 2021 (see that report here). This is Bishop Pong (left) with the TSCM dean, David Chee (right)…
Bishop Chang also invited the Asia Pacific Partnership Officer for The Episcopal Church, Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock to join us for the week; this was Bruce’s first visit to Taiwan since Bishop Chang’s consecration in February 2020, delayed due to the pandemic.
Bruce arrived on Monday May 8 from New York and I met him at Taoyuan Airport. Waiting at the airport means there’s plenty of time for taking photos of all the quirky animals on display as well as watching the plane arrive from the observation deck. Ah yes, a big welcome to Bruce and all our visitors!
On Tuesday May 9, many of us from the Taipei area met at 7:30 am in Taipei Main Station, and set off for the 2-hour-plus train journey to Hualien, part of which runs down the east coast, passing Hualien’s famous Taroko Gorge on the way.
On arrival at St. Luke’s Church, we were warmly welcomed with coffee and then an opening service in the newly-renovated church basement, led by Rev. Antony Liang…
Then followed big excitement as we set off for our outing to visit Taroko Gorge. Such a great way to see the scenery and catch up with all our old friends on the way! The day was cloudy which only added to the atmosphere at Taroko Gorge. What a stunning place!
On the way back, we visited Qixingtan Beach….
And after dinner, so eventually we got to the hotel where we stayed for 3 nights, with its amazing views and garden. And yes we did have one free evening for swimming in that lovely pool!…
On Wednesday May 10, over 70 of us gathered at St. Luke’s Church for a diocesan workshop, held in the basement, and led by Bishop Pong on the theme of “Opportunities for Traditional Churches in Modern Day Society”. Many said they found it really helpful and interesting, and Bishop Chang in his sermon at the opening service of the convention the following day spoke of how inspired he was listening to Bishop Pong’s lectures and sharing his experiences. Some clergy said how much they learned about the importance of discipleship training for their church members, and another said he really appreciated hearing Bishop Pong emphasize how our faith is not dead, but living – and even though the ancient liturgies and practices of the church can sometimes seem so out of place and irrelevant in our modern world, yet they are deeply meaningful, life-giving and can lead us closer to Almighty God. Another spoke of how he was moved to hear Bishop Pong talking about the Third Order of monastic life for lay people, and how following a disciplined rule of life can be beneficial for those who have become Christians from a similarly devout and disciplined Buddhist background but who often find it hard to adapt to being a Christian in daily life.
Also during the break in the afternoon of the workshop, Ms. Chu Ju-zi 朱菊枝 from St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung arranged for us to try her special sweet nian-gao – it was very delicious, and all cooked on site!
Among the 70 of us gathered in Hualien for the workshop, there is no doubt that the most popular person there was none other than baby Enoch, son of our seminarian, Yu-Lin 鄭喻璘 and her husband, San-Yuan. He was hugged and cuddled and oohed and aahed over by everyone, he posed for more photos than anyone else, and added a great deal of joy to the workshop proceedings!
We finished the workshop with a very beautiful and moving Taizé service, very special indeed.
On Thursday May 9, it was the official start of the annual diocesan convention. Some of those attending only the workshop had already left, and new people had come specifically for the convention, particularly those who couldn’t take more than 2 days off work. We had 94 people at the convention, and the event started with registration by QR code and then the Opening Service at St. Luke’s Church.
This is now the beginning of Bishop Chang’s 4th year as bishop, and according to his plan for his 7 years of ministry (until he reaches mandatory retirement at 72), years 1 and 2 were years of preparation, including the renovation of church buildings and training of church members etc, ready for the ‘action years’, which started last year and onwards. On being asked to summarize Bishop Chang’s sermon at the opening service in just a few words, one person said, ‘Action Year!’, and yes, it’s a good summary! Bishop Chang emphasized in his sermon our diocesan vision and development plan to expand our ministry, to reach out into new areas and establish churches. He encouraged the church members to complain less and reach out more, pushing the clergy out of their offices into the community for outreach and encouraging the clergy to take the church members with them. As part of the vision and plan to eventually expand into our own province, he explained the need for there to be 3 dioceses in Taiwan in order for this to happen. To further this process, our 2 current deaneries of north and south Taiwan will in the future become 3 deaneries, with the addition of a central deanery. This motion was later passed at the annual convention. Bishop Chang also shared the good news about St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, which has been preparing for many years to be upgraded to a parish but has been delayed by slower-than-expected growth of the congregation due to the pandemic. Now, at this convention, this proposal has also been passed. Thanks be to God!
At the end of the service, presentations were made to the three seminarians graduating this year from our diocesan Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM). On hand to make the presentations of certificates were the retiring TSCM dean, Rev. Canon David Chee, and the new dean, Tim Pan, who was dressed resplendently in his beautiful academic gown of blue and green!
Ms. Christina Hai 海小燕 and Mr. Alex Tso 左心泰 (who have both done theological training elsewhere) each received a Diploma in Practical Theology…
And Mr. Shawn Wang 王彥軒 received his Master of Divinity, the first person to ever graduate with a TSCM MDiv degree. Congratulations to TSCM and all three graduates!
After the Opening Service, group photos and lunch, there was a small graduation party for the TSCM graduates….
And a celebratory toast to Alex Tso…
Then we said goodbye to St. Luke’s Church and set off back to the hotel for the start of our official convention meetings. The whole event was magnificently led by our convention secretary, Mr. Timothy Liu 劉宜頌 along with Ms. Lisa Huei-Ling Hsu 許惠苓, the diocesan office manager. They both worked so hard to make this convention a success, and everything went so smoothly!
Mr. Yang 楊景儂 who has held the diocesan secretary role for many years also came along with his wife, they have so much valuable experience and offer helpful advice. Here they are with former chair of the standing committee, Mr. Richard Hu….
The diocesan treasurer, Ms. May Shu-Chun Hsu 許淑羣, came with 2 of the diocesan finance staff, Huei-Yu 王蕙玉and Huei-Ying 許惠瓔 to present the financial report. I’m not the only one to have noticed that of the 4 finance and admin girls working in the diocesan office, 3 of them have the same sound for the first character of their names, Huei-Yu, Huei-Ying and Huei-Ling. The sound ‘Huei’ in Chinese also means to be able to do something, so we always joke that between them, everything will always get done!
Special thanks to our diocesan chancellor, Ms. Amy Chin 金文悅 and her husband, Mr. Gary Tseng 曾國烈, chair of the diocesan standing committee, who both worked so hard throughout the convention. Mr. Tseng is pictured here with baby Enoch, ah they got on so well!…
Thanks also to Mr. Yun-Hung Di 狄運亨, chair of the diocesan evergreen (seniors) committee, who came with his wife..
And Ms. Su-Er Yang 楊淑娥, chair of the ECW, Episcopal Church Women – we sat next to each other for the meetings…
Also Mr. Jin-Lung Huang 黃錦隆, chair of the diocesan property management committee, and his wife, who soon became known as our most photogenic couple!..
And Mr. Wei-Jun 魏 駿, who takes over as the new person in charge of the diocesan Youth and Training Committee.
And many others, too many to mention by name!
The afternoon and evening (see photos above) were taken up with the church reports, each church being given 10 minutes to share their progress report on their 1-, 3- and 5-year plans. The highlight was this short video prepared by the Diocesan Youth and Training Committee to welcome people to the Taiwan Episcopal Church. Actually, it was filmed and produced by Vicky Tze-Wei, my former colleague in the St. John’s University Chaplaincy. It’s really good – and all set to music, so you don’t need to worry if you can’t understand Chinese! Please do check it out here….
On Friday May 12, at the morning session of the convention meetings, Bishop Chang spoke about the 15-year diocesan development plan for establishing new churches, based on proposals already made 25 years ago, and how the churches and areas would be distributed into the future deaneries and dioceses. He also applauded the courage of Rev. Simon Tsou and St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi as they upgrade to become a parish. Both these motions were passed, and the plan is that next year’s convention will be held at St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, to celebrate their becoming a parish and also their 60th anniversary. The second part of the meeting consisted of the election of new members of the Standing Committee (all done by QR code – and so quickly completed!) – and we finished with lunch and the train journey back to Taipei.
Our final photo was originally just with the young people of the diocese, but as more and more people wanted to join the group, so we welcomed everyone, young or old!
It was also particularly lovely to welcome some of the St. Luke’s Church members to the final lunch, including Mr. Chien Hong-Ren and his wife, he is the younger brother of our former Bishop John C. T. Chien, and long-time member of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien.
Baby Enoch had spent the actual convention away from the meetings with his father, but we were all pleased he came to see us for the meals and to say goodbye. He is just so lovely!
And this is Huei-Ling collecting up all the name bags ready to re-use for next year’s convention in Chiayi!
Grateful thanks to Rev. Antony Liang and all those at St. Luke’s Church, Hualien for their wonderful hospitality. This is Antony, his son, and diocesan intern, Mu-chi, recovering with a bit of shoulder massage! Thanks also to Bishop Chang, his wife, Hannah, all at the diocesan office, and everyone for such a successful convention. And most of all, thanks be to Almighty God! And see you all next year at St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi!
PS: The pose of the day must go to Anna and the 3 lovely dogs, taken at the back of St. Luke’s Church – aren’t they all so lovely?!