Tag Archives: NSKK Diocese of Osaka

Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮 consecrated and installed as bishop of Taiwan!

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang (center) at his consecration as bishop of Taiwan on Feb. 22, 2020, with Bishop David J. H. Lai (left), bishop of Taiwan 2001-2020, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (right), chief consecrator. Photo: Mr. Yei Yung-Xian for the Diocese of Taiwan

“Hello, Taiwan! It is a blessing to be with you on this glorious day, and I know that I speak for all the archbishops and bishops that this is a glorious day!” With that joyful introduction, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry began his sermon to an expectant crowd of over 400 people gathered inside and outside St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei on Feb. 22 to witness the ordination, consecration, installation and seating of the Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as the sixth bishop of Taiwan.

Whole congregation photo by Warren Chuo

Despite growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, it was considered safe to continue with the consecration service, although the evening’s consecration banquet was canceled and travel restrictions meant that the archbishop and bishops of Hong Kong were unable to participate. The service was performed in Mandarin Chinese and English, and Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The co-consecrators were Bishop David J. H. Lai of Taiwan, Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick of Hawaii, Archbishop and Primate of Japan Nathaniel Uematsu, Bishop Haruhisa Iso of Osaka (Taiwan’s companion diocese) and Bishop Greg Rickel of Olympia. Archbishop and Primate of Korea Moses Yoo, Bishop Todd Ousley of the presiding bishop’s staff, Bishop John Smylie of Wyoming, most of the Province VIII bishops and a group of 15 clergy and church members from the Diocese of Osaka gave the service a special international flavor. Clergy stoles, flowers and decorations were all in traditional Chinese red, while firecrackers and a taiko drum performance enlivened the celebrations during the service, as did the combined choir from three Taipei churches.

Flower arrangement by Ms. Susan Shih, Good Shepherd Church

Chang, 64, is married to Hannah Fen-Jan Wei and has two daughters and three grandchildren. He graduated in 1975 with a diploma in industrial engineering from St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology, the predecessor of St. John’s University, Taipei, where he was also baptized in 1970. As associate professor of mathematics at St. John’s University from 1983 to 2016, Chang was ordained a deacon in 1995 and a priest in 1999. He served as chaplain of St. John’s University (1997-2016) and vicar, later rector, of Advent Church on the St. John’s University campus, which serves as both university chapel and parish church.

Bishop Chang, his wife Hannah and 2 daughters

In his acceptance speech after his election as bishop on Aug. 3, 2019, Chang said, “Building on the work of Bishop David J. H. Lai over the past 20 years, I will continue to go forth in the name of the Lord.” His inspiration and role model is Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and founder of St. John’s University, whose motto was “Transforming lives through the life of Christ.” Chang sees himself as inheriting Wong’s legacy, and in his sermon Curry referred to Wong’s life and witness, exhorting the congregation, “I want you and your bishop-elect to claim this high calling, to transform lives through the life of Christ, through the love of Christ, through the goodness of Christ. Bishop Wong was right! I hope you are as excited about this as I am!” He ended his sermon with some personal encouragement to Chang: “Help us to follow Jesus, help us to find our way to God and to each other, and may the legacy of Bishop Wong be your ministry in the future!”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry encouraging Bishop-elect Chang in his sermon

At the end of the service, Curry paid tribute to Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Episcopal Church in Taiwan, which was established in 1954 and is now a member diocese of Province VIII.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry with Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma

The above article was our official account of the consecration, published on the Episcopal News Service (ENS) website here.

Photos of the Consecration Service

Part 1: Before the service – checking temperatures and preparation…

Part 2: The Consecration Service…

And some of the group photos…

We give thanks to God that everything went so smoothly, and we thank you all for your prayers, concern and support.

It was particularly moving for us that so many bishops decided to come to Taiwan, despite the coronavirus situation, to join in the consecration service.  As you know from the ENS article above, the archbishop, bishops and visitors from Hong Kong, and also the Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock from the Episcopal Church sadly had to cancel because of travel restrictions.  Many Taiwan people chose to stay home and watch on the livestream instead, a wise move particularly for those sitting outside.  It was sunny in the morning but in the afternoon a cold wind blew and it started to rain – definitely chilly and wet! 

Archbishop and Primate of Japan Nathaniel Uematsu and Bishop Haruhisa Iso of Osaka are escorted back into the cathedral in the rain after distributing Holy Communion to the congregation outside

Fourteen bishops signed and sealed the ordination certificate, those mentioned in the article above, plus other Province VIII bishops: Bishop Megan Traquair of N. California, Bishop Gretchen Rehberg of Spokane, Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah, Bishop Mark Lattime of Alaska and Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce of Los Angeles, who is also secretary of the House of Bishops and who read one of the testimonials in the service – in Mandarin Chinese!  The Province VIII bishops had arrived earlier in the week to hold a meeting from February 19-21.  For Bishop Greg Rickel’s account of his visit to Taiwan for the consecration, see his blog post here. These are the bishops who were at the consecration service, along with the retired RC Archbishop of Taipei and bishops from the Methodist and Lutheran Churches in Taiwan… 

photo by Mr. Yei Yung-Xian

The first of the US bishops to arrive in Taiwan was Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea from Hawaii who came especially early in order to meet with Bishop-elect Chang as his ‘coaching bishop’. They met all day on Tuesday, while Bea spent the day with Hannah, and I went along too.  Yes, they’re all such lovely people!…

Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea, with Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and his wife, Hannah

The official events of the consecration weekend started on Friday February 21, when Presiding Bishop Michael Curry met with the press, namely the Christian Tribune (whose report is here) and the Christian Daily (here) and I was there too.  The first question was from the Christian Tribune, about how Presiding Bishop Curry responds to the fear created by the coronavirus situation.  He answered with the words of 1 John 4:18, ‘Perfect love casts out fear’ and described how, for him, that meant trusting in God through prayer, following medical advice about what precautions to take, caring for others, and working to making sure that everyone has access to good healthcare.  He was also asked about how he balances ancient traditions with a changing modern society, how to encourage young people in their faith, and the importance of being involved both ecumenically and internationally. 

This was followed by a meeting with the diocesan clergy and spouses, then lunch together.  In the afternoon, there was a rehearsal for the consecration service, and a welcome dinner in the evening, with gift presentations and speeches. 

On the Saturday, the bishops gathered in the morning for the signing and sealing of the ordination certificate, then a meeting with the Presiding Bishop…

The completed ordination certificate, ready for framing….

And the bishops are ready!

The consecration service went so well! One special mention must be made of 13-year-old Samuel Z. W. Liu, grandson of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, former dean of the cathedral. Samuel did the the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 42: 1-9, in English, and we were all really impressed. He spoke clearly with beautiful pronunciation, and he was calm and confident; a real credit to himself and his grandfather!

Samuel Z. W. Liu reads the lesson

That the consecration service went so well was in part due to a team of key people who made sure everything ran smoothly, on time and according to plan.  Ms. Sharon Jones (in red in the photos below with bishops and spouses) is Presiding Bishop Curry’s executive coordinator, and it was wonderful to find out that she comes from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  This is a very important country to Taiwan, one of the few with official diplomatic relations. Taiwan is recognized by only 14 out of 193 United Nations member states (plus the Holy See) – and St. Vincent is one of them.  We were able to share with Sharon about the 3-month training project at St. John’s University last year with a group from Latin America and the Caribbean, including 5 trainees from St. Vincent (see that blog post here). Welcome Sharon!

Mr. Tim Pan is our translator-extraordinaire!  He translated for the Presiding Bishop on his last visit to Taiwan in 2017, and he arranged his schedule to help this time too.  He has extensive knowledge of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan and in the US, he knows his Bible, and he knows how to translate from Chinese to English and back again very quickly, plus he has a really good connection with the Presiding Bishop and even coordinates his body language as he translates.  Yes, Tim was great!  Knowing he was coming to translate meant we could all breathe a huge sigh of relief – and we could relax and enjoy the whole experience!

Mr. Tim Pan translates for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Another key person was Canon Mark Stevenson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, with whom I had corresponded in a grand total of 98 emails (yes, it’s true!) since August 2019, when we started to organize the consecration.  He even came to Taiwan for a few days in October 2019 to help us with the planning.  Just amazing.  At the rehearsal last Friday afternoon, he had everyone rehearsing over and over until it all went like clockwork.  This is Canon Mark in action on the left with Rev. Lily Chang on the right…

After the consecration service on Saturday, everyone was talking about how beautiful the service was, such a grand occasion and so well-choreographed. Much of the credit for that must go to Canon Mark, but he himself said it was largely due to Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Taichung.  She was the very hard-working chair of the liturgy and music section of the consecration committee, helped considerably by the other members, Rev. Keith C. C. Lee, Rev. Simon T. H. Tsou, Very Rev. Philip L. F. Lin, Rev. Antony F. W. Liang and Mrs. Amy Chee.  The consecration booklet they produced in both Chinese and English was extremely comprehensive, and the list of all those who participated was very extensive.  The music was amazing, the combined choir from St. John’s Cathedral, Advent Church and Good Shepherd had been practicing for weeks. The choir sang from the cathedral balcony and they were wonderful! 

Mrs. Amy B. H. Lin was a key leader in the consecration committee, in charge of the reception, the welcome dinner, transport for the Presiding Bishop and his team, and the ushers at the service. Mr. Di Yun-Hung helped too.  The ushers were really well-coordinated and well-organized, keeping an eye on the congregation as well as making sure everyone had their temperatures checked on arrival, and hands sprayed with sanitizer. (The clergy had made the decision that they and all those in the procession would not wear face-masks for the service, but for the congregation, it was a personal decision).  Amy was invaluable, as always, and much of the success of the whole event was due to her organization and coordination.  This photo was taken at the welcome dinner, Amy is 4th from the left next to Linda, wife of the cathedral dean, Philip Lin.

Thanks to our photography team, Mr. Yei, Mr. Warren Chuo, Rev. Antony Liang and Mr. Derchu Chan.  I took a few photos too (2,500 in fact, and it’s taken me all week to get them sorted – hence the delay in producing this blog post!) and mostly I had to wear a purple jacket to show I was on the team.  Everyone else, those in the congregation, were discouraged from taking photos during the service so as to keep a worshipful atmosphere.  There were many other people who helped and supported, planned and organized. Too many to name – but a big thank you to all!

The photography team

The consecration was livestreamed and recorded for you to watch on YouTube here – it’s nearly 3 hours long but really worth watching!

The consecration banquet, originally arranged for the Saturday evening was cancelled, meaning everyone could go home, but for the international guests, we arranged a small dinner.  During the dinner, Archbishop Moses of Korea asked to sing a song, and that led on to all the other groups of bishops and visitors standing up to perform.  For the Taiwan group, Hannah led a children’s action song in Taiwanese.  I am sure that not many new bishops, on the night of their consecration, find themselves standing up in front of other bishops performing an action song for children!

Among all the international visitors was a group of 15 clergy and church members from our companion diocese of Osaka, Japan, led by their bishop, Bishop Haruhisa Iso.  One of their very lovely clergy, Rev. Akira Iwaki and his wife were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary that very day. Rev. Iwaki has been to Taiwan many times, and the last time he came, it was his 70th birthday. This time he was celebrating 50 years of marriage.  Many congratulations to them both!  He led the Osaka ladies in a lively song at the dinner….

Bishop Lai generously gave everyone a prize for singing, either a teapot or some tea!  He and Lily have now retired, and on Sunday they left Taipei for Tainan, where they will live.  We have really appreciated Bishop Lai’s leadership in the diocese, and particularly in developing the international friendships and relationships that have helped our diocese to be more outward-looking and with a broader vision that goes way beyond this small island of Taiwan.  Presiding Bishop Curry and Bishop Lai are House of Bishops classmates, meaning they became bishops in the same year.  As the Presiding Bishop said at the welcome dinner, now that Bishop Lai is retiring, he is the last one from his class still in the House of Bishops.  Bishop Lai will be much missed and we wish him and Lily a happy and healthy retirement! 

Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai with Lily’s sister and her husband at the consecration

On Sunday morning also, the Presiding Bishop and his group went to Christ Church, Chungli, Taoyuan for the service there and Archbishop Moses from Korea was preaching at the English service at St. John’s Cathedral, while the Osaka group visited Good Shepherd Church, Taipei. Our brand new bishop, Bishop Chang and his wife, Hannah were at Good Shepherd Church too, and I also went along.  Bishop Chang wore his new green stole, a gift from Bishop Iso at the welcome dinner.  I just love this photo of Bishop Chang and Bishop Iso, taken at Good Shepherd Church.

For Bishop Chang it was most appropriate that he should start his new ministry as bishop at Good Shepherd, as that was the church where he was ordained deacon in 1995. Bishop Iso preached and the rector, Rev Keith C. C. Lee translated.  The Gospel was read in Japanese by Rev. Kiyomi Semmatsu from Osaka, and in Chinese by Keith Lee. Keith is able to preach in 4 languages, Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, English and Japanese; so he’s a really valuable person to have around!  At the end of the service, Bishop Chang presented gifts to Bishop Iso, Rev. Iwaki and his wife, and Ms. Chao Wen-Yi, our former colleague in the St. John’s University Chaplaincy for many years, whose 70th birthday was on Sunday – and what a special way to celebrate!

All the Osaka group with Bishop Chang, Hannah and Rev. Keith Lee…

And everyone in the congregation at Good Shepherd Church…

Then followed the most exquisite and delicious Japanese-style lunch, prepared by the ladies of Good Shepherd Church.  It was just beautiful, with special place mats too, welcoming everyone to Good Shepherd Church – printed in Japanese, with the Good Shepherd cross…

Ms. Susan Shih, the very talented wife of Good Shepherd’s senior warden, Jake Hung was in charge of the lunch.  She was also in charge of all the beautiful flower arrangements for the consecration service at the cathedral, all in stunning Chinese-style, with a lot of red. And she sang in the combined choir too. Thank you Susan, a really special lady!   

On Monday morning, I went with Bishop Chang to take the Presiding Bishop and his group to the airport for their departure.  They were flying via Seoul, and their flight was full of boys from a Korean youth baseball team, all in uniform with identical jackets, bags and all wearing face-masks and white gloves.  The coronavirus situation in Korea is extremely serious, and later on Monday, the Taiwan government announced travel restrictions to be imposed from Tuesday onwards.

Taiwan is still holding its collective breath, and we are still hoping and praying that the coronavirus situation will improve.  Taiwan currently has 32 confirmed cases; so far they remain contained and there has been no big community outbreak. Schools started their new semester this week and so far all is well, St. John’s University starts its new semester on March 3. All around us, in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, the situation is very serious.  The Taiwan government continues to be very vigilant, and yesterday announced the cancellation of big gatherings, including temple events, which would bring together large numbers of people in close contact, which probably would also have included our consecration service.  President Tsai Ing-wen announced that she has suspended preparations for her inauguration ceremony, due to be held on May 20. We have also cancelled (or possibly rescheduled for next year) the World Anglican Chinese Clergy Fellowship conference in Taipei that was to have been held in April. 

And what next? Well, on Tuesday, Bishop Chang was elected as the new chair of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees, succeeding Bishop Lai who was chair for the last 2 years. The challenges ahead are many.

Please do pray for him and Hannah as they settle into the new role, for wisdom, grace and strength. 

To end with, some photos with my favourite people!

And finally a special prize goes to this charming young man for sitting through the whole consecration service outside in the cold and rain, and who was still smiling to the end!

Please do continue to pray for us, for the coronavirus situation, for the Diocese of Taiwan and our new bishop.

Thank you, and thanks be to God!

South to North up Taiwan’s West Coast with our 18 Friends from Latin America & the Caribbean!

Smiles all round in honour of Taiwan’s Double-Tenth National Day last Thursday, October 10 ~ and the start of a 4-day weekend for us all! And what a good opportunity it was to show our 18 international friends some of the great cultural sights of Taiwan. 😊 The group are now on the final stretch of their 3-month “2019 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Vocational Training Project: Electrical and Electronic Engineering 拉丁美洲及加勒比海地區友邦技職訓練計畫-電機工程實務技術英語班”, in association with ‘Taiwan ICDF‘, and hosted by St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei. In a few weeks time, they’ll all return to their home countries of Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and we’ll miss them! Here they are celebrating Taiwan’s National Day …

Last week, the group were in south Taiwan for a 3-day Solar Energy Course at the National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, where Dr. Herchang Ay, SJU President, is in charge of the Apollo Solar Car Team. The group traveled there on Monday morning by High-Speed Rail (see photo below), and the plan was that we would join them on Thursday morning to make the most of the 4-day weekend, traveling back to Taipei by coach, via all sorts of interesting places en route along the west coast.

Thus it was that we spent Thursday in Kaohsiung, Thursday night and Friday in Tainan, Friday night and Saturday morning in Chiayi, and from Saturday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime in Taichung, returning to St. John’s University along the west coast road on Sunday evening – trying to avoid the traffic on the final day of the long weekend. We saw a huge lot of really great places, so many in fact that there was hardly any time to rest on the coach in-between stops! Here’s the group posing at the first stop of the day…

There were 4 of us from SJU, A-Tu, me, Xiang-Yann from Malaysia and Jun-Hong. We also had a very good tour guide, Thomas, and a very patient driver, Mr. Chien. A-Tu and I went to Kaohsiung on Wednesday afternoon, stayed the night at St. Paul’s Church (thanks to Rev. C. C. Cheng and his wife!) and met up with our lovely group on Thursday morning at Weiwuying – my most favourite place in all of Kaohsiung – I just love all that wall art! It was good to hear our group’s reflections on their few days in south Taiwan – all positive, and they enthused about how friendly all the people were down south. It’s a fact – the further south you go in Taiwan the friendlier the people – and this was the experience of our group too. As we traveled around these past few days, many people would come over to meet us, some to enquire about the guys’ long hair or where they’re all from or to take a photo together, ah it was fun! Anyway, after the wall murals, we walked across the road to visit the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, which is a stunning building, but it was very hot and muggy, and the sky was hazy. It is ‘air-pollution season’ in Taiwan, and while the weather forecast may have shown days of yellow sunshine, in reality, it was mostly hazy and dull. And very very hot! 🥵🥵

Then we visited the Glory Pier and the Pier 2 area, plus Xiziwan. More hot, hot, hot! In fact, we had to cut short our afternoon sightseeing to save us all from getting heatstroke, and off we went to spend an hour enjoying the air-conditioned Dream Mall instead! As it was Taiwan’s National Day, so there were flags everywhere …

Day One over, and in the evening, we drove an hour north to Tainan, where we stayed overnight in the Sendale Tainan Science Park Hotel, in Sinshih (Xinshi), Tainan. The best thing about Sinshih is that when we got up early for exercise the next morning, we discovered the very delightful nearby Sinshih Elementary School, where everyone was busy doing exercise, the school open-air pool was full of people swimming, and best of all, the school walls were covered in mosaics and murals, all done by the children to show the history of the town – including the arrival of the early missionaries. I loved it!

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, and the first capital city, so the first must-visit place was the National Museum of Taiwan History. This museum was a big surprise to me – not only had I never been there before, actually I had never even heard of it either! It was opened in 2011, and is located in what seems to be the middle of absolutely nowhere, somewhere on the coast ~ but the museum is a beautiful building and the displays are excellent. Thomas took this photo of us at the main entrance…

Y’know, it’s not easy for a government to construct a good museum telling its own history from an objective viewpoint – and as far as it goes, they’ve done a good job, and especially in presenting the history of Taiwanese customs and also the big section about the Japanese colonial era. There’s lots of interesting displays and everything is in English and Chinese. One day hopefully the museum will also extend the displays to include more about the indigenous people, Christian missionaries and churches, and what really happened during the White Terror era. Anyway it’s a highly recommended museum, and our group spent a long time looking at all the exhibits – and taking part, as appropriate!

Next stop, and we were off to Tainan City to see the Blueprint Cultural and Creative Park ~ this is an old ‘dormitory village’ of houses originally built to provide accommodation for government workers and their families in days gone by, but now reinvented for visitors to come and see, and of course, to come and shop…

We also visited Snail Alley ~ I liked the old buildings – and, well, also the snails!

The best place of the whole afternoon was the Hayashi Department Store, which I loved, it has a really fascinating history, dating from the Japanese colonial era, and it was new to me. Their website says, “On December 5th, 1932, Hayashi Department Store opened and thus a modern age of Taiwanese culture began. The decade of 1930s was the start point of modern civilization in Taiwan. As the electric lamps, telephone, and water supply lines popularized, symbols of civilization such like the airplane and motor vehicles flooded into Taiwan. The cafés were becoming the fad of the day, as well as pop culture, movies, phonographs and jazz music. People´s mentality was opening up, and freewill dating was taking over arranged marriages, while dresses were replacing kimonos and Westernized education was popularizing. This was Taiwan in the 1930s”. On the top floor, there’s a very unusual Shinto shrine, there are also great views down to the road below, plus glass-covered walls that show where the building was damaged by air-raids during World War II. After the war, the building became mostly offices, but these days, it’s transformed once again into a shopping experience, though it has retained its original charm and elegance. I really liked it!

We didn’t visit the Confucius Temple, which is usually No. 1 on a historic tour of Tainan, but we did go to Anping Fort (aka Fort Zeelandia), built between 1624 to 1634 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). After wandering around the fort, we stopped at the Old Street and also watched a folk tale performance in front of the temple. Our group had a go at the games, and Jun-Hong got himself a temporary tattoo of a tiger!

So that was Day Two, and after dinner, we set off for the hour-or-so drive north to Chiayi, where we stayed in the very stylish Kuan Hotel, on the outskirts of the city…

Day Three was Saturday, and we were all up bright and early for the world’s biggest breakfast in the hotel restaurant. All of our lunches and evening meals were in Chinese restaurants so this was a chance to have something a bit different – plus lots of coffee ready for the day ahead! Our first destination of the day was the very famous Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum; this was my second visit. My first visit was when Chiayi hosted the Lantern Festival in 2018 – with lots of people and a really festive atmosphere. This time it was far more relaxed and a chance to enjoy the lake and the architecture, there was also a special exhibit on Thailand – and large elephant inflatables in the main entrance! I really like this place, it’s spacious, well-designed and full of interesting things – but not too many – just the right size for a visit!

The most famous object in the museum is the stewed pork / meat-shaped stone: “The 5.73 cm tall Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) piece is made from banded jasper in the shape of braised pork belly”….

So that was Chiayi – and after lunch we drove north for 90 minutes to Taichung, our fourth destination of the trip. We visited Miyahara, “a red-brick architecture built by Miyahara Takeo, a Japanese ophthalmology doctor in 1927. It was the largest ophthalmology clinic in Taichung during the Japanese colonial period. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Miyahara became the Taichung Health Bureau”. After years of decay, it has now been reinvented as a restaurant and ice-cream shop, and designed like Hogwarts in Harry Potter. We also visited the Shenji New Village, but there were so many people, we didn’t stay long. Instead we decided to check into the hotel, then head to dinner and a quick visit to the Fengjia Night Market, most famous of all Taichung’s night markets – check out all those zillions of people!

Day Four arrived and there we were in the WeMeet Hotel in central Taichung. I lived in Taichung when I first arrived in Taiwan, from 1999-2006 and I kinda know my way around, so we were up very early to go and visit the nearby Taichung Park. The park is famous for the pavilion built in 1908 for the visit of the Japanese Emperor’s son to launch the railway – it’s the iconic symbol of Taichung, and looks good lit up in the darkness.

A-Tu and I wandered on and found Taichung’s oldest church, Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church 柳原長老教會, built in 1915, which has a notice saying it is the only church in the world with dragon-shaped waterspouts… well, you learn something new every day!

And then we walked to the nearby site of the famous Yi-Zhong Night Market, which in the very early morning was distinctly less lively than it would have been some hours earlier. This is where I used to come for my language classes, and every day I would pass a church on the corner opposite the night market – an old wooden building, surrounded by a parking area. That church was originally a Japanese Anglican (NSKK) Church, but when the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, there being no Taiwan Anglican / Episcopal Church at that time, so it was handed over to another church group. The building was still there until about 15 years ago, when it was demolished and a large retail building put up, with the church relocated to the top floor. You can see it in this photo. The lower floors are obviously let to Adidas – aka the Adidas Church?

My favourite place in Taichung is the Rainbow Military Dependents Village, famously saved from demolition by 97-year-old Mr. Huang, who started to paint the walls in beautiful designs, and over some years succeeded in saving his village. It is now a major tourist attraction, which is why we were there, but Mr. Huang is still the main focus, and he was posing for photos and enjoying the well-deserved attention. The government has stepped in and restored some of the buildings, and it is looking even better than before, while still very much retaining its original character. There are huge construction projects going on nearby, so soon the village will be a little oasis in the middle of a high-rise community…

After Rainbow Village, we went to the new National Taichung Theater, designed by Japanese architect, Ito Toyo, with lots of curved walls, under-floor air-conditioning and all sorts of sound caves and air-holes. We had an excellent volunteer guide who was really passionate about showing us around and explaining the design; he also took us inside the actual grand theater. His enthusiasm was so wonderful, infectious even – a very highly recommended tour!

So that was Taichung. We had one more place to visit, and that was on the way home, when we took the coastal road north to escape the worst of the traffic and visited the Miaoli Wind Farm, which was just visible far off in the sea – Taiwan’s first offshore wind farm, and on track to begin commercial operations by the end of this year…

And so we arrived back at St. John’s University on Sunday evening soon after 7:00 pm, grateful that everything had gone smoothly, thankful for our guide and driver, for good food and drink, and for all the amazing places we’d visited. This was a tour focused on Taiwan’s cities and urban areas rather than scenic landscapes, but as one of the group said, “We have plenty of beautiful scenery back home, but we don’t have high-rise cities – so that’s what we want to see!” And we certainly did see many, also a lot of baroque architecture which was the architectural style chosen by the Japanese to build Taiwan’s cities during the colonial era, 1895-1945. Now it’s just nice to back in the big open space by the sea that is St. John’s University, with the mountains in the background, and where the air is relatively less-polluted and the temps are definitely cooler. Ah yes, being away on a bus for 4 days really helps you to appreciate being home!

Thanks to SJU for all the planning and organizing of the whole trip, thanks to everyone in the group for being so lovely, and thanks be to God that everything went so well! YES!

Zhongshan Presbyterian Church, Taipei 中山基督長老教會

It’s Holy Week and the sun is shining all week in Taipei, yippee!

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Today is Maundy Thursday, and appropriate for Maundy Thursday is a visit to Zhongshan Presbyterian Church (中山基督長老教會) in central Taipei (62, Linsen N. Rd 林森北路62號), where the small stained glass window above the altar is of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, while his disciples are fast asleep nearby.

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The window at the back of the church is of Jesus the Good Shepherd…

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This morning, very early, I cycled past this church on my way into Taipei.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the traffic stopped long enough for me to take some photos without getting run over.  The church does look splendid in the sun!

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And what’s so special about this church? Well, it’s very historic, built in 1937 in a Gothic style, with a 3-story bell tower.  This was during the Japanese era 1895-1945, and it was built as a Japanese Anglican Church, Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK) with all services in Japanese.  Taiwan at the time belonged to the NSKK Diocese of Osaka.  This is the most famous of all the church buildings in Taiwan built by the Japanese Anglican Church.  Apparently, as it was near a place called Taisho Cho, its original name was “Taisho Street Anglican Church”.

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But in 1945-6, when the Japanese left Taiwan, there was no Taiwanese Anglican / Episcopal Church to hand it over to, and in 1947 it became the Zhongshan Presbyterian Church; the church celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2017.   The Taiwan Episcopal Church was founded much later, in 1954.

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Fast forward to 2004 and Taiwan Episcopal Church (Diocese of Taiwan) began a companion diocese partnership with the NSKK Diocese of Osaka, which is still going strong today.    And we have a good relationship with the Zhongshan Presbyterian Church today too – and Bishop David J. H. Lai has preached at this church many times.

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One of the places we like to take our Japanese visitors is to see this church.  It really is full of history, and it really looks quite amazing surrounded as it is by all the high-rise buildings and all that traffic, whizzing past on both sides!

And so, back to the stained glass window and its significance for Maundy Thursday ~ wishing you all a meaningful and blessed Holy Week!

Wedding Blessings and Celebrations for our beloved Setu and Jacob!

Ah, THE DAY finally arrived! YES!

After years and years of waiting ~ they’ve FINALLY made it down the aisle, tied the knot, had the obligatory kiss AND the wedding blessing!  CONGRATULATIONS!

Advent Church on Saturday February 10 at 2:00 pm was THE place to be. It may have been pouring with rain and cold, cold, cold outside, but inside, it was a buzz of activity and filled with warmth! Excitement was in the air, but, also, well, let’s face it, a little concern about whether it was all actually going to happen as planned, or yes, even if at all! So when we all got to the church, and actually saw bride AND groom BOTH there, both looking Ready with a capital ‘R’, well, what a great relief! Smiles all around. And y’know what? Everything went off without a hitch. Thanks be to God! The bridegroom smiled all afternoon. He even smiled in my direction. At my camera. So did the bride, but, well, we knew she would smile! The bride’s months of careful planning and organization, plus the hard work and support of a huge team of helpers all paid off. And what a great day it was!

To understand our smiles of relief and amazement, you just have to understand a little about the very lovely bride and her very handsome groom. Setu works with our Chaplaincy Team at St. John’s University (SJU). We’ve been based in the same office now for about the last 7 years. We even went together to India this time last year. She has the most wonderful, fruitful and inspiring ministry with our students, particularly those in our SJU Student Fellowship. That’s how come so many SJU Student Fellowship alumni came back to participate on Saturday, joining with current Student Fellowship members in singing or playing instruments or acting as ushers, or whatever – all there to ensure everything ran smoothly.

In our life in the SJU Chaplaincy, Setu also provides us with plenty of laughs on a daily basis. She doesn’t mean to, of course, but she does! She’s creative, idealistic, gifted in multiple languages, compassionate, kind, and is always searching for ways to make the world a better place – whether it’s some words of encouragement for our students on facebook, or through Bible Studies, meetings, organizing activities, outreach ~ she’s on the go from morning to night. She runs, yes RUNS around the office. It’s a small office, there’s hardly no room to swing a cat, yet Setu, on the move, manages to run! (She even ran on Saturday…. round to the front of the church!)

And guess what, in the process of all this, she totally forgets to eat. Breakfast lies unopened, or half eaten on her desk until lunchtime. Her lunch is still being eaten, one noodle at a time, throughout the afternoon. Actually she has much improved over the years, but hey, if a student asks Setu about the deeper meaning of life and the world and the universe, her face lights up, she stops running, and wow, before you know it, a whole hour is gone in deep and meaningful discussion.

And guess what too, in this respect, Jacob is very similar. While other couples might spend hours discussing how to decorate the house, what to buy at the supermarket, where to go on holiday etc etc; no, not these two. They thrive, positively thrive on discussing all things spiritual, philosophical, theological, ethical, moral, eschatological and, of course, meaningful.

So, not surprisingly, when it comes to arranging something as practical and down to earth as a wedding, well, it has taken rather a long time. They’ve kind of been ‘together-but-not-really-together’ for what seems like a century, and ‘married-but-not-really-married’ for the last five years. So, as our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang explained during his sermon on Saturday, their wedding celebrations were more of a marriage blessing, which of course in this situation is just as meaningful and moving.

Setu’s parents both died while she was at university in Taipei, and partly through that experience, she became a Christian and found much support and friendship in their Student Fellowship. She discovered the Anglican / Episcopal Church when she moved out to the countryside, not far from Advent Church, looking for a quiet place to write up her thesis for her MA in Japanese (on Shūsaku Endō, author of ‘Silence’), and has been here ever since. She LOVES the Episcopal liturgy and traditions, the spirituality and quiet reflection of monastic orders, and every year disappears off for a few days of silent retreat in a RC Retreat House. So, in planning her wedding, she invited her good friend, Fr. Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁), originally from France, now at the Jesuit Community at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei, to walk her down the aisle. In his speech, he said that he accepted the role as an elder brother in the Christian faith. And he looked so natural!