#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day21: Good News! 好消息! Remember Jia-Wei 嘉偉 from Hong Kong who featured here on #Day2? He’s one of our students in the St. John’s University (SJU) Student Fellowship, and he’d said he really hoped to be baptized on Christmas Eve, but needed courage to first ask his family. With time moving on and Christmas Eve approaching fast, he finally summoned up the courage to talk to his family last night ~ and rather to his surprise and great delight, his father agrees with his decision, saying that as Jia-Wei is an adult, so he’s free to choose his own religion. YES! 😇
So in great thanksgiving to God ~ and to everyone for your prayers ~ we assembled a group photo of some of Jia-Wei’s ‘Support Team’ at lunch time today ~ all members of the student fellowship, who’ve encouraged and prayed for him throughout his time in Taiwan. As he said, he and his family don’t know any Christians in Hong Kong, and the first ones he himself got to know were here in the SJU Student Fellowship. Thanks be to God ~ and please do pray for Jia-Wei as he prepares for his baptism on Christmas Eve!
It’s Holy Week, and of course, this coming weekend is Easter. One of Christianity’s best kept secrets; unlike Christmas, it seems few people in Taiwan have any idea what Easter is, and certainly no idea that it’s coming this weekend. Probably far fewer people than usual will be in church to celebrate too, as this coming weekend is also Taiwan’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qingming), Women’s Day and Children’s Day all combined into one long 4-day weekend.
For young professionals and families in Taiwan’s cities, it’ll be a holiday weekend away from their high-pressured office jobs, enjoying some spring weather before the heat of summer, with trips to Taiwan’s outlying islands, up to the central mountains or beach resorts. Covid-19 restrictions for overseas travel mean that everyone is holidaying in Taiwan these days and domestic tourism is booming. For our students here at St. John’s University (SJU), they’ll be in demand for part-time work either near their homes or in our local restaurants, cafes, beaches and tourist sites lining Taiwan’s northern coast, like Laomei and the Fuguijiao Lighthouse…
One things for sure, wherever we go, there’ll be major traffic jams all weekend!
The good news is that we got off to a good start for Holy Week with a celebration of Palm Sunday at Advent Church and SJU….
Otherwise, March has been a much quieter month than most years, with activities considerably reduced due to concerns about Covid-19, though daily life continues mostly as normal. Fortunately, Taiwan currently has no known community transmission, with 10 deaths and 1,024 confirmed cases, all contained by strict border and quarantine controls. Imported vaccines have resulted in health workers and Olympic hopefuls receiving their first shots in recent weeks, but for the general population, we await final trials of local vaccines, the government eager to proceed at a safe and normal speed of vaccine development. This weekend Taiwan’s very first carefully-monitored travel bubble is starting with the tropical island paradise of Palau; their new president is currently in Taiwan for the official launch, returning home on the first official bubble flight tomorrow.
Spring is here, and with it has appeared the cherry blossom, azalea and wisteria, all looking spectacular. I’ve counted up to 7 crested serpent eagles circling on the thermals above our campus, while down here below we have frogs, lizards, snakes and butterflies all enjoying the sunnier weather (photos / videos in this post were all taken in the last few weeks, some locally, others up at the mountains of Yangmingshan).
I’ve had 2 sermons to write this month for 2 different English congregations, and in both, I’ve used the same story as an illustration. Some sermons generate more comments than others, and this was one of them. In the light of so much division, separation and isolation in this world – in the church as well as in society as a whole, it seems good to share this story here, with thanks to Rev. Samuel C. L. Liao who originally included a paragraph about this in a piece he wrote for the ‘About Us’ section for our upcoming new website. For once, this is a happy story of 3 church / mission groups plus 2 bishops who put aside their differences and decided to work together for the sake of the Gospel and the people they served. And it all happened in the mid-19th century, when egos and self-interest played just as large a role in decision-making as they seem to do today.
First a disclaimer, I am not particularly interested in Anglican / Episcopal Church history, hierarchies, titles and governance as such, but I am interested in the background story of how the Taiwan Episcopal Church got its Chinese name. Knowing only the basic facts, I acknowledge that there could be a whole lot more to discover deep in the archives. Sadly, church history got way too complicated when Henry VIII started knocking off all those poor wives with names the same as mine, so a little church history goes a very long way. But what I have also discovered is that most of our church members here also know very little about this story – but, like me, they are interested.
It’s fair to say that most countries where the Anglican / Episcopal Church has been established have just adapted the ‘Anglican’ part of their name into something acceptable in their own language while still being recognizable as the word ‘Anglican’, so in Rwanda for example, the church is known as ‘Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda’, in Brazil as ‘Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil’.
But this is not so in places like Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan…
First a bit of background: the word ‘Anglican’ means ‘English,’ denoting the country where the Anglican Church was originally founded. In England, the Anglican Church is just known as ‘The Church of England’ because it’s the national church. The American Church, which originated in England, uses the title, ‘The Episcopal Church’; ‘Episcopal’ means ‘bishops’. One of the main differences when The Episcopal Church was established was that while bishops in England were appointed by the crown, not so in the USA, where they considered themselves free from English rule, so US bishops were – and still are – elected instead of being appointed.
Here in Taiwan, we call our branch of the Anglican Communion by the name ‘Taiwan Episcopal Church’ because we belong to the US-based Episcopal Church. We’re part of Province VIII, officially established in 1954. The Chinese name for the Taiwan Episcopal Church is 台灣聖公會 (Taiwan Sheng Kung Hui). There are 3 Chinese characters in the church part of the name: Sheng 聖 means ‘holy’, Kung 公 means ‘catholic’ (meaning ‘universal’), Hui 會 means ‘church’. So how come the Chinese name of the Taiwan Episcopal Church translates in a way that is completely unrelated to the English name? It’s clear that there’s no word in the Chinese name that can be translated as ‘Anglican’ or ‘Episcopal.’
So the story goes like this. The US Episcopal Church started their evangelism in Mainland China in 1835, and in Japan in 1859; they were followed soon after by CMS and SPG (now USPG) Anglican mission societies from England, and much later (1888 in Japan) by the Anglican Church of Canada. But working together was not easy, each church and mission society had their own style of mission and their own style of worship. In 1866, aged 37, US Bishop Channing Moore Williams was consecrated to serve as ‘Episcopal Bishop of China and Japan’, largely based in Japan. Twenty years later, in 1886, aged 36, UK Bishop Edward Bickersteth was consecrated to serve as ‘Missionary Bishop of the Church of England in Japan,’ (succeeding Bishop Arthur W. Poole, 1883-1885). Wrap your mind around that bit of history – that’s how they did things in those days.
Anyway, surprise, surprise, these 3 groups in Japan: the US church, CMS and SPG, led by these 2 bishops – 20 years’ difference in age – agreed to work together and unite their missionary efforts into one autonomous national church. The first Japanese synod, instigated by Bickersteth and presided over by Williams, was held in Osaka in 1887. At that meeting, the Japanese church (then with a membership of about 1,300 and with lay delegates sent from every church) decided to take part of the Nicene Creed, ‘We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church’ and from that phrase to adopt ‘The Holy Catholic Church’ (聖公會, 聖: holy, 公: catholic, 會: church) for its name, pronounced in Japanese as ‘Nippon Sei Ko Kai’ (NSKK), the ‘Holy Catholic Church in Japan’.
In 1912, the Anglican / Episcopal church in China also decided to call their new church, ‘Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui’ (CHSKH) 中華聖公會, the ‘Holy Catholic Church in China’. From that came ‘Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui’ (HKSKH) 香港聖公會, the official title of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong. And some of the CHSKH members who later moved to Taiwan became founding members of the Taiwan Episcopal Church (Taiwan Sheng Kung Hui) 台灣聖公會 in 1954. We are really the ‘Holy Catholic Church’ in Taiwan.
And guess what, we’re not totally unique in the Christian world ~ other churches also chose Chinese names that are totally unrelated to the original, most notably the Roman Catholics – but that’s a whole other story. And we’re nowhere near unique in having a history of mission societies and church groups in conflict with each other in the same country – just think of East Africa, but that is also a whole other story. Ah, church history, sigh!
Just as those 2 bishops decided to work together to try to resolve their differences, so we need to continue to preserve our unity today. Our diocesan motto this year is ‘Working together as one in Christ to build the church’, and that was one of the themes of our diocesan convention held a few weeks ago in Kaohsiung. What does it mean for us to ‘work together as one in Christ?’ Partly it means not being divided by our differences, old and young, traditional and modern, high church and low church, liturgical and non-liturgical, hymns and choruses, informal and formal, Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese, urban and rural, liberal and conservative, online and in-person – and more. All these things have the potential to divide and separate us – or to bring us together, depending on which way we choose to go. Let’s try putting ourselves and our own agendas on one side this Holy Week, Easter and in the future, and find ways to work together – for the sake of the Gospel and each other.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
Children sometimes do better at this than adults, putting aside their differences that is, and Children’s Day on April 4 is a way to celebrate. At our local Xingren Elementary School (photos below are taken from their website), we celebrated Children’s Day recently by making paper people and each child choosing 4 countries that have some meaning for them – many children in Taiwan have mothers from other SE Asian countries, and Japan, Korea and USA are always popular choices. Gotta love the row of monsters on the back wall too! The fun song to sing for this is on YouTube: Hello to all the Children of the World – check it out, you’ll be singing it all day!
Meanwhile yesterday we distributed salted duck eggs around SJU to wish everyone a Happy Easter…
And to you all too ~ wishing you all a meaningful and blessed Holy Week, and a joyous and hopeful Easter!
What a great and joyful day for all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ for Bishop David J. H. Lai ordaining a new deacon ~ and for Antony Fan-Wei Liang and his family, in particular! Many congratulations to everyone, and thanks be to God!
This all happened last night, May 1, 2018, at a special ordination service at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei ~ YES!
Antony and his parents are long-time members of St. James’ Church, Taichung ~ in fact, I’ve known him since he was a teenager. Antony’s much-loved father is Jerry Liang, lay leader for many years of St. James’ English service. I go there once a month to do the sermon and I know that whenever Jerry is there, the service proceeds oh so smoothly – but if Jerry is not there for any reason, everyone is noticeably less relaxed and anything can – and often does – happen! Antony’s very lovely mother, Jean helps too, she is the world’s most amazing singer and oozes elegance, refinement and style. Both parents are very committed Christians, the first in their respective families, and both are also retired teachers, devoted parents to Antony, and very energetic and supportive grandparents to Antony’s 2 young sons. Ah, we all love ’em so much! This is Antony and his family last night with Bishop Lai….
So, some years ago, when Antony married his beautiful wife, Anita, the wedding too was at St. James’ Church. And then the 2 boys came along ~ but in-between times, Antony responded to a call to enter full-time ministry. For his theological college training, he had the unique opportunity, kindly offered to the diocese by Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong – and supported by Bishop Lai – to train at Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong. He was there 3 years, while his wife and family stayed in Taiwan, living with Jerry and Jean, who rose to the occasion wonderfully, and provided the family with lots of love and support, as well as a warm and caring home. Antony finished at Ming Hua last summer, and his graduation in February this year was attended by former and current rectors of St. James, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, as well as Jerry Liang.
Since then the family have been serving at St. Andrew’s Mission, Jieding, Kaohsiung, and most recently involved at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung at weekends.
Now, though, starting May 1, Antony has been assigned to St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, to be in charge of a new English service, starting this Sunday – and every Sunday – at 9:00 am. Many years ago the cathedral had an English service, but in recent years it had stopped. Now it is being restarted, and Antony is taking up the challenge – along, of course, with the dean, Philip L. F. Lin.
But first to Antony’s ordination last night…
And we welcomed church members and friends from all over Taiwan ~ and an extra blessing was to welcome so many of Antony’s fellow students, faculty, clergy and friends from Hong Kong, and specially Dr. Gareth Jones, principal of Ming Hua, who also represented Archbishop Paul Kwong. Here he is with Antony… (notice the candle light that looks like it’s on the top of Antony’s head!)
I counted about 20 visitors in the Hong Kong (and friends) group photo ~ wonderful!
A coachload also came from St. James’ Church, Taichung – and they sang “I the Lord of Sea and Sky” during the service. Loved it! This is their group photo…
And then we also had all our clergy in attendance, plus many church members, particularly from our churches in northern Taiwan. These are groups photos from St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, Christ Church, Chungli, and St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung…
And this was the main group photo ~ kindly taken by one of our diocesan staff…
All our happy clergy…
Y’know, yesterday, May 1 was not just a special holy day, the Feast of St. Philip and St. James, it was also Labour Day – so quite a few people had a day off work. In Taiwan the day off is limited to those who qualify for Labour Insurance, which does not include teachers in universities and schools, so the schools were open and students were in classes. But our church kindergarten teachers and staff do qualify for Labour Insurance, so the kindergartens were closed. The good thing was that many could therefore come to the ordination, including some of the teachers from St. James’ Kindergarten and Leading Star Kindergarten. The bad thing was that everyone with a day off was out at restaurants, enjoying the beach, relaxing, and the roads were all full of cars. Students were trying to get home, and as it was also a full moon festival, so there were temple celebrations and processions all over. And in Taipei City there were Labour Day marches. Ah, crowds everywhere! Praise God we all got to St. John’s Cathedral more or less on time!
The service started at 7:00 pm, led by Bishop Lai, who also preached. Lessons were read by Samuel Chen, senior warden at St. James – in Chinese, and by Jerry Liang in English. The service was full of meaning, and very moving….
By tradition, Antony’s wife also gave a short speech after the actual ordination part of the service, she was wonderful – she thanked everyone on behalf of the family, and the whole family were introduced. Dr. Gareth Jones also gave a short speech. We had photos galore – and lots of meeting up with old friends! So, this is the album…
A big thank you to Bishop Lai and all the clergy, staff and church members of St. John’s Cathedral for all their organization – and attention to detail, and the refreshments too. This is the cathedral group photo, with our beloved Canon Chancellor, Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma in the front..
We give thanks to Almighty God for his many blessings to the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and for Antony’s ordination. Please do pray for Antony and his family as they settle into life at St. John’s Cathedral and of course, as they start the new English service this coming Sunday!
After an hour of blue sky and sunshine last Saturday, the sun sadly gave up and has never been seen since. It is a completely wet, cold and horrible week. But kinda normal for this time of year. Do not come to visit in winter! Unless you are hardy and strong and very cheerful, like most Taiwan people or our eleven lovely visitors from Hong Kong (HK), namely the dean and clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, who are visiting northern Taiwan all this week. They’re spending the week smiling, enthusing, encouraging and really enjoying themselves, hey, they seem to be having a great time, despite the weather!
The dean, the Very Rev. Matthias Der 謝子和, grew up here in Taiwan, when his father, Rev. Edmund Der 謝博文 was the vice-principal at what is now our St. John’s University (SJU). The senior Der parents visited us at the end of April last year for the SJU 50th anniversary celebrations (see here). So a triple blessing for us, 3 Ders in 9 months!
Every year, about this time, the dean and clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, HK go on a short study tour to interesting places, and this time, Dean Matthias has brought them all to Taiwan ~ yippee! They have a packed programme, visiting our churches and sightseeing. And the weather forecast all week is…. guess what? Rain. Yes, rain. All week. And cold. And horrible. But y’know, they’re a very happy group, and yesterday on their visit to St. John’s University and Advent Church, well we had such a good time together. Sharing about what we’re doing here in university and church, and hearing all about St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong ~ oh, and presenting gifts too. This is SJU President Peter Herchang Ay (left photo) and Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang (right photo) with Dean Matthias receiving gifts from St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong.
Y’know what? St. John’s Cathedral, HK has 7 (yes seven!) services at their cathedral over Saturday night and Sunday, and their Sunday main service at 9:00 am gets 700 people. And all the others together add up to over 2,000 people. That is quite some number, believe me. In fact, it’s about double what the whole of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan gets on a Sunday in all our churches put together. How’s that for a challenge, eh?!
Anyway, they have lots of clergy, some also with responsibilities for daughter churches and they all come from all over, Philippines, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and UK. Before we left for dinner with our church council members in the restaurant in Tamsui, we took them to visit Advent Church….
And in case you don’t believe me about the weather, just check out what Dr. George MacKay wrote in 1896 after 24 years of living in Tamsui……
“The climate of North Formosa is excessively trying to foreigners. Those who have traveled in the Orient will understand that statement, but to the average Westerner it will be meaningless. In fact, it cannot be fully comprehended save by those who have spent a number of years in such a climate. . . . We have no frost or snow, and those accustomed to invigorating atmosphere cannot understand how at times in Formosa we long for just one breath of the clear, crisp air of a frosty winter morning. . . . About the end of December our rainy season sets in, and continues through January and February. It is rain, rain, rain, to-day, to-morrow, and the next day; this week, next week, and the week after; wet and wind without, damp and mould within. Often for weeks together we rarely get a glimpse of the sun. All year around we have to fight against depression of spirits, and say over to ourselves as cheerfully as possible: ‘Be still, sad heart, and cease repining; / Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.'”
(George MacKay, From Far Formosa, 1896.)
So to our wonderful visitors from Hong Kong ~ a very big and very warm welcome to Taiwan!
An amazing week of 50th anniversary celebrations ~ and many many congratulations to St. John’s University. This is the grand blowing out of the candles and cutting of the cake!
But first a bit of history….
‘St. John’s University, Taiwan (SJU) is the successor institution of the former St. John’s University and St. Mary’s Hall in Shanghai, two well-known education institutions founded in 1879 and 1881 respectively, by Bishop S. I. Joseph Schereschewsky of the American Episcopal Church. St. John’s University, Taiwan was founded in 1967, initially as a five-year Junior College of Industry named in Chinese after its location, Hsin-pu (新埔), and in English known as St. John’s & St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT). In 2005, it was upgraded to university status and became known as St. John’s University. Its foundation was in large part due to the untiring effort and vision of Rt. Rev. James C. L. Wong, Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70. The university chapel, ‘The Bishop James Wong Memorial Chapel’, also known as Advent Church, is located on the campus, and Bishop James Wong is buried under the altar. St. John’s University is an active member of CUAC (Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion) and the only such Anglican / Episcopal university in Taiwan; in fact it is unique in being the only Anglican / Episcopal Chinese-medium university in the world’.
On April 26, 1967, the Ministry of Education officially notified SJSMIT that they could start to recruit students for their 5-year junior college courses. The school dates its foundation from that day. Bishop Wong’s death on April 27, 1970 means that the last week of April is always a special week of celebration, remembrance and thanksgiving.
So we warmly welcomed a group of very sprightly and energetic alumni, all aged over 85, from the original St. John’s University, Shanghai, and the first group of alumni from SJSMIT, now mostly aged about 65, and also a reunion for those SJSMIT alumni who graduated 30 years ago this year. We welcomed representatives from our sister schools around the world too, many from Mainland China and Hong Kong. It was a special honour for us to welcome the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Paul Kwong (鄺保羅) who is also currently the chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, and Rev. Canon Edmund Der 謝博文法政牧師 and his wife Margaret, Mrs. Chee Ming Lee. Rev. Der was SJSMIT Vice-President from 1972-76. They are originally from Hong Kong, and their son, Rev. Matthias Der is dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong. They have so many friends in Taiwan! Here they are, Archbishop Paul Kwong, Rev. and Mrs. Der seated, with 3 of their (and our) good friends, including Mrs. Chao and Ms. Liang…
The 50th anniversary celebration week was launched on Tuesday April 24 with a lecture by former President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou, who started his visit by planting a cherry tree at the SJU main entrance….
On Wednesday, a special Thanksgiving Service was held in Advent Church, in thanksgiving for the SJU 50th anniversary, and for the life and dedication of our founder, Bishop James Wong. The service is an annual event, but this year was extra-special as it was our 50th anniversary. Bishop Lai unfortunately was unable to come, so he was represented by Mr. Richard Hu, chair of the diocesan standing committee. We invited clergy from northern Taiwan to attend ~ Rev. Peter Chen and Rev. Elizabeth Wei, Rev. Philip Lin and his wife, and Rev. Lily Chang all came; as well as students who receive scholarships given in Bishop Wong’s memory, plus some members of Advent Church, faculty and staff. Our student fellowship choir sang and helped in the service….
After the service, in the Advent Church Center, our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang hosted the grand opening of a special 50th anniversary art exhibition ~ paintings and calligraphy of his Fu-Jen University classmate in the maths department, Ms. Tseng Hsiang-Yun (曾祥雲). She came with her husband and many friends and classmates for the service and opening. Her paintings are beautiful, in traditional Chinese style, so colorful and exquisite, and people were particularly enthusing about her calligraphy skills. Lennon had also invited our friends from neighboring Xian-Xiao Junior-High School to come too ~ a big welcome! Here they are with Ms. Tseng and SJU President Ay.
It was followed by lunch for all ~ I couldn’t resist taking photos of all the delicious food!
And a farewell photo of our northern clergy and friends as they left for home…
On Wednesday afternoon, SJU held the annual fun run, 3.5 km – around by the sea. A group of about 20 of us from the chaplaincy and student fellowship entered. The heavens opened just as we were about to start, so we delayed about 20 minutes and then started the run. But half way round, the rain came down again and we were all well and truly soaked through. Ah, but it was great fun! This is the ‘before’ ~ with SJU President Ay…
And ‘after’ ~ all soaking wet, but still smiling!
And the ‘in-between’….
The rain continued all day Thursday, but suddenly Friday dawned bright and sunny. It was beautiful! All classes were cancelled for this special day ~ an all-day Sports Day to celebrate the SJU 50th anniversary. The grand opening started with a lion dance performance from 2 local elementary schools, and then followed by processions of representatives from every university department ~ and the SJU flag presentation.
The faculty and staff sports events were held in the morning, the students in the afternoon. We entered in the dragon boat race and the 11-legged race (yep, that’s 10 people in a long line, legs all tied together!) We came mostly last in every race ha ha! Next time, we’ll know better – for an 11-legged race, make sure everyone is more or less the same height!
It was hot and sunny, and oh such a great day!
And so to Saturday, and the main official SJU celebrations. What amazing weather! Early morning there was a fun run for the local community, the same route as on Wednesday, but this time under blue skies and sun. We didn’t enter that one, we were still recovering from the run in the rain a few days earlier! The VIP visitors, all the alumni from St. John’s University, Shanghai and SJSMIT, plus the Deputy Mayor of New Taipei City, Mr. Hou You-Yi (侯友宜) and local community leaders, Archbishop Kwong, Rev. Edmund Der and his wife, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and his wife, former SJU president Chen Jean-Lien, past and present members of the SJU board of Trustees, including former dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Rev Samuel Y. C. Lin and so many more, all gathered on the campus ready to start the main celebration event at 11:00 am.
Former President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou also came, and he was greeted by our SJU President Ay on arrival, who introduced him to his research expertise ~ solar-powered cars, which had been brought along for the occasion from the Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences. They are quite amazing! Then followed the formal proceedings and the grand cutting of the birthday cake, and lunch. Outside the students were enjoying lots of stalls and food and fun and music.
The VIP visitors enjoyed a formal banquet on Saturday evening at the Grand Hotel, Taipei, but for us, the final event was our student fellowship serving in the Sunday morning service at Advent Church. For some it was their first time to take part in a church service. They were so nervous, but so willing to help, and yes, did a great job!
Thanks be to God for such wonderful weather over this past weekend as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of St. John’s University ~ YES, it made all the difference!
Thanks for everyone who planned, orchestrated and joined in the celebrations from far and wide, including our visitors in this photo – sent to me by Bishop Lai, of him with Archbishop Kwong and President Ma.
And finally, in deep gratitude and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the past 50 years ~ and we pray for God’s guidance and blessing on the next 50 years too!
A big welcome to chaplains and staff members representing the Federation of Chinese University and College Chaplaincies (FOCUCC) 華人大學校牧協會 for their Spring Meeting 2017 @ St. John’s University. Here they are after last night’s welcome dinner at Advent Church Center, with SJU President Ay and our SJU welcome team!
FOCCUC has 14 member institutions, 3 in Hong Kong and 11 in Taiwan, and most of them are represented here. Welcome to them all!
The Diocese of Taiwan office in central Taipei now has a newly-dedicated conference room, all newly-painted, and with new furniture – especially beautiful new chairs in bright blue, green and orange. So comfortable and so bright! Stimulating colours – to stimulate minds and hearts! All meetings, discussions and seminars held there from now on will be helped along by sitting in such wonderful chairs!
The money to do all this was kindly donated by the son and daughter of the late Bishop James T. M. Pong 龐德明主教 (Bishop of Taiwan 1971-79) in loving memory of their father, and they came to Taiwan especially for the dedication service on Monday November 30 (St. Andrew’s Day). What a great day it was! So many of us gathered at the diocesan office for the service and dedication ceremony, including Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai, Canon Chancellor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, diocesan secretary Mr. Yang and Mrs. Yang, Rev. Michael Liou and Mrs. Grace Liou, plus church members from all over northern Taiwan, some of whom had known Bishop Pong personally.
Bishop Pong’s son, Prof. David Pong, currently Master at Choi Kai Yau College, University of Macau, came along with his wife, Barbara and his sister Rachel. It was Rachel who had accompanied their amazing mother, Mrs. Lily Pong, to visit Taiwan maybe 5 years ago when Mrs. Pong was a very spritely 99-year-old! During the dedication service, Rachel recounted that visit and how they had traveled all over Taiwan meeting so many church members and friends, and what a great time they had had. Mrs. Pong died about 2 years ago, and this is the first time Rachel, David and Barbara have come to Taiwan together to visit the diocese and their parents’ old home. How wonderful it was for us to meet them!
Our beloved diocesan historian, Prof. Mei-Mei Lin, who is based in Hualien, came to Taipei especially for the occasion ~ here she is, meeting the Pongs in the diocesan library, just before the event. Prof. Mei-Mei has just published a paper on Bishop Pong, and the diocese printed 50 copies in honour of this special occasion.
A bit of background: Bishop Pong was born in 1911, brought up in Hong Kong, and studied at St. John’s University in Shanghai. After some years teaching in Lingnan, Guangdong, the political upheaval in China at that time became unbearable for him and his family, and they left for Hong Kong in early 1951. It was then that he received his call to serve God in full-time ministry. He was soon ordained deacon and was then sent to the UK, where he served as a curate in Hull and was ordained priest in York Minster in 1952. He even represented the Chinese Church at the Queen’s Coronation Service the following year. Then back to Hong Kong, and in 1971, he was elected Bishop of Taiwan.
During the dedication service on Monday, Bishop Lai shared in his sermon about the influence of Bishop Pong on his own life – ordaining him as priest in 1975 – and his influence on the diocese. His words were echoed by Canon Chancellor Ma, who also shared about his personal friendship with Bishop Pong. Bishop Pong’s passion and focus on education led to many clergy at the time (including Bishop Lai and Rev. Michael Liou) being sent to Ireland for further study and church experience. Bishop Pong also encouraged the churches in Taiwan to start and develop kindergarten ministries. And it was during Bishop Pong’s time, in 1973, that Taiwan received the first – and until now, the only visit from an Archbishop of Canterbury, when Archbishop Michael Ramsey and his wife popped in to visit. ‘Popped in’ is the appropriate word since they never actually left the Taoyuan Airport ~ and instead, Bishop Pong and some of the senior clergy were invited into the airport to meet up!
And so to the Officiating Ceremony of the Dedication Service for the ‘Bishop James T. M. Pong Memorial Conference Room’! What a wonderful occasion, all of us squeezed into the main entrance of the diocesan office for the service and unveiling of the official plaque….
And no ceremony would be complete without a group photo ~ for which the paparazzi (all 3 of us!) had to climb up a big ladder and perch up there clicking away!
A wonderful service, and we all came home with commemorative mugs and boxes of refreshments for the journey…..
Thanking God for the life and witness of Bishop James Pong and Mrs. Lily Pong, and for the continuing support for the Diocese of Taiwan of the Pong family!
And of course we’re now all looking forward to all those meetings we can attend in the new conference room ~ sitting on those very AMAZING chairs!
60 years old ~ and in Chinese culture, the 60th birthday is always THE major landmark… Thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings over the last 60 years, and here’s to the next 60!
Actually, the day started at 2:20am (yep, it’s true) with a massive huge thunderstorm that brought torrential rain, thunder and lightning for the next 3 hours ~ the end of all sleep for the rest of the night! No oversleeping then for those of us gathered at Advent Church for the journey to Taichung for the big day ~ but in fact by daybreak the rain had stopped and the sun came out, and the views from the bus were oh, so beautiful! Over 700 people were on their way to Taichung from all corners of Taiwan, the very farthest away – Hualien church members had left the night before, for the rest of us on the west coast, Keelung and Pingtung started out at 6:00pm, and we were a bit later at 6:30am ~ and everyone made the most of the 2-3 hour journey to practice the songs we were singing in the afternoon performance….
By 9:30am we were all gathered at Chung-Hsin Elementary School in Taichung, not far from St. James’ Church, in a big hall rented for the occasion. The Thanksgiving Service started at 10:00am with a spectacular drum performance by children from St. James, and continued until midday and a buffet lunch, and then all afternoon all our churches, congregations and kindergartens put on performances of music, song and dance….
In case you’re wondering (bear with me for a little background to all this) how come the Taiwan Episcopal Church is only 60 years old given that Henry VIII’s marital problems and break with Rome are not exactly recent history, let’s just rewind a little….
And you’ll find that actually there’s been an Episcopal Church in Taiwan far longer than 60 years, but in the early years it was Japanese rather than Taiwanese. During the Japanese colonial period from 1895 to 1945, the Japanese Anglican Church NSKK owned church buildings in Taiwan and held services for its Japanese citizens in these churches. In those days, Taiwan came under the NSKK Diocese of Osaka. After the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, most of their Anglican Church buildings were taken by the Nationalist government in Taiwan and given to other denominations. The Taiwan Episcopal Church was established in 1954 originally to serve the American military who were based in Taiwan, and came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Hawaii. It also took pastoral care of the former C.H.S.K.H (中華聖公會) Chinese Anglican Church members, who had come to Taiwan from Mainland China…..
Fast forward to 2005 and the Japanese connection was kind of rekindled when the Dioceses of Osaka and Taiwan signed a companion diocesan agreement, initially for 3 years ~ and it’s been renewed every 3 years ever since! So we were very honored to welcome a group of 29 from the Diocese of Osaka, Japan, led by Bishop Osamu Onishi and Rev. Akira Iwaki, who came for 5 days, including a 2-day visit to Hualien. During the Thanksgiving Service Bishop Onishi and Bishop Lai signed the companion agreement for a further 3 years. A member of the Osaka group, Ms. Ayano Tsuji, also composed a special song ‘Tomoni’ (一起 meaning ‘Together’) in honor of the 60th anniversary and our friendship; this was sung at the opening of the afternoon celebration, led by Ms. Tsuji on the piano….
We were also honored to welcome 3 distinguished visitors from Hong Kong, Archbishop Paul Kwong, Provincial Secretary Rev. Peter Koon and Rev. Kenneth Lau. During the Thanksgiving Service, Bishop Lai expressed his sincere thanks to Archbishop Kwong for his generosity in providing scholarships for 2 seminarians from the Diocese of Taiwan to study at Ming-Hua Theological College, Hong Kong for 3 years, starting this September, and also for help in printing the Taiwan Episcopal Church 60th Anniversary Bibles (with Apocrypha) which were dedicated during the Thanksgiving Service.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, had sent an official letter of congratulations on the occasion of the 60th anniversary and a gift of a carved wooden picture of the 4 gospels – she was represented by the Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, Sam McDonald, who was accompanied by Canon Peter Ng, Asia-Pacific Officer of the Episcopal Church. Also from the Episcopal Church, Mrs. Mimi Wu represented Province VIII and Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry. Our only regret was that Archdeacon Douglas Fenton, (from our other companion diocese of New Westminster, Canada) was unable to come at the last minute due to visa problems that were only discovered when he got to the airport to board his flight (take note, all those thinking of a trip to Taiwan!) …..
In the middle of the afternoon performances, the Mayor of Taichung, Jason Hu 胡志強 came to visit us, with a group of councilors and representatives. He spoke of his time when he studied in England (University of Southampton, and PhD from Oxford) and his acquaintance with the Anglican Church in the UK, and how honored he was to be invited here for this celebration…. check out the photos!
What a day! Never a dull moment in the whole 7-hour programme of events, helped considerably by the music, dance and performance talents of our diocesan kindergarten teachers who provided amazing entertainment keeping us all on our toes all day long, plus of course church members who sang and played instruments and led praise and worship exercises and acted out Bible stories, all wonderful! And the day finished with the singing of 3 hymns, including Amazing Grace and Onward Christian Soldiers….
And so we all left for home at 5:30pm, armed with a box of breads and cakes for the journey…. a great day YES!
But the weekend did not end there, of course! St. James’ Church, who had so marvelously hosted all the day’s events, continued their welcome to the Osaka group, who worshiped at St. James on Sunday morning, yesterday. The group (and most of our other visitors) leave for home this afternoon, and so last night we all gathered in Taipei at the Shanghai Restaurant for a grand Farewell Dinner ~ and, so it turned out ~ a Japanese Tea Ceremony, hosted by Mrs. Michiko Nishimura in her beautiful kimono ~ an appropriate and special way to end our celebration weekend, thanks be to Almighty God!
In case you haven’t guessed what I did all weekend, well – I have reduced my 1,500+ photos down to 200 or so….. here are just a few of them!