Tag Archives: SJU Chaplaincy

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

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

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

Workshop

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

Workshop

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

Workshop

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

Workshop Group Photo

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

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

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

Workshop

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

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

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

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

Opening Service: View from Advent Church

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

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

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

Convention: Advent Church

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

Convention

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

Convention

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

Convention: Diocesan Office

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

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

Clergy Group Photo, Holy Week 2022

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

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 24 🌟🕯️🎄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day24: This is the very lovely Cai-Pei 采沛, just arriving now at St. John’s University (SJU), and all ready for her baptism during tonight’s Christmas Eve service ~ and she gets the largest Teddy Bear chocolate in the Advent Calendar! Ah, she’s so happy! She comes every Sunday to Advent Church from her home in Taoyuan, having graduated last year from SJU in Creative Design, a classmate and good friend of Yi-Ting who works on our SJU Chaplaincy staff and the one who originally invited her to join the student fellowship. They also did their senior project together on the theme of Advent Church, designing and making a wonderful welcome video, cards and a book, all now featured on the Advent Church website.

Like Jia-Wei, who is also being baptized tonight, Cai-Pei is the first (and so far only) Christian in her family. She says she’s still waiting for the right moment to tell her family of her decision. Like many of our recently-graduated students, she’s finding it difficult to find a permanent job in her chosen field, design. Please do pray for her and her family, her search for a job, and her new-found Christian faith. Thanks be to God, and to you all for your prayers ~ and joyful greetings to you all this Christmas Eve! 🕯️🕯️

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 23 ⛄👼🌟

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day23: This is Melissa, second-year student of Creative Design at St. John’s University (SJU), also one of the leadership team of the Student Fellowship and in charge of tonight’s Christmas outreach event, the colours for which are blue, grey and white ~ the photo is taken against the stunning back wall they’ve designed for the occasion! She’s really amazing at leading worship, singing, dancing, design, art and music ~ in fact, she seems to be multi-talented in everything, and is such a blessing to our student fellowship. In the elections on December 30 for next year’s student fellowship leadership team, Melissa is expected to be the only candidate for the position of chair, so it’s looking like she could be the one!

Melissa is from Sabah, East Malaysia, brought up in Labuan until the age of 12, when she moved with her family eastwards across Sabah to Sandakan, where they joined their relatives as members of Good Shepherd Anglican Church. It’s really exciting for us to have someone from the Anglican Diocese of Sabah at SJU because our 2 dioceses have long been connected. Both Taiwan and Sabah dioceses have a strong kindergarten ministry, ours led by Mrs. Grace Liu (wife of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu), who arranged about 15 years ago for 2 kindergarten teachers from Sabah, Evelyn and Yvette to come for about 6 weeks to St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung. We all became friends, and in return I visited them in Sabah, including a trip to see Yvette at Good Shepherd Kindergarten, Sandakan. We had such a great time ~ and now it turns out that Yvette and Melissa are friends from the worship team and choir at Good Shepherd Church. Ah, it’s a small world!

Melissa asks for prayer as she prepares for the possibility of taking over the leadership of SJU Student Fellowship for the coming year. She needs a lot of wisdom, patience and courage, as well as time and energy to be a good chairperson and also keep up with her studies. Please do pray for her!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 21 🎄🌟🎶

#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!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 20 ⛄🎁🎄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day20: This is Shi-En 世恩, this year’s chair of St. John’s University Student Fellowship. He’s popular and outgoing, generous with his time and money, and his latest hair styles are always the talk of the town! Shi-En is a third year student in Leisure Sport & Health Management, and comes from Kluang, Johor, West Malaysia, where his family are members of Peace Assemblies of God Church 佳安神召會.

Shi-En’s sense of identity coming from a Christian family is very strong. His name Shi 世 means ‘world’, En 恩 means ‘grace’, and he says his parents gave him this name hoping that wherever he goes in the world he will share God’s grace with others. They certainly have a great vision, and Shi-En is a wonderful blessing to us all! In the student fellowship, he is always so welcoming of everyone, especially those on the edges of the group, and is very good leading online meetings, making sure everyone is included. In the fellowship meetings, he often leads the praise and worship ~ it’s always very lively! When Advent Church services were all online, his parents joined in from Malaysia and shared the peace with us during each service. Now, his family are preparing for his brother’s wedding at Chinese New Year, but sadly Shi-En won’t be able to return home due to the pandemic. Please do pray for him, his family and all in the student fellowship ~ they’re busy preparing for their big Christmas evangelistic outreach on Thursday December 23. 🎄🎶🔔

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 15 👼🌟⛄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day15: This is Dr. Huang Hung-Pin 黃宏斌校長, President of St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei since August 1, 2020. Previous to this position, he served as professor in the National Taiwan University (NTU) Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Taipei. President Huang was here at SJU today to open the SJU Christmas Charity Bazaar, run by the SJU Chaplaincy, helped by members of Advent Church and SJU ~ and it went really well!

There are many challenges facing SJU; the priorities are to stabilize the financial situation, increase student enrollment and improve academic standards, so President Huang really has his work cut out for the next few years. He’s very very busy and needs great wisdom, good health and lots of energy. Please pray for him!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 13 🕯️🎅🏽🎄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day13: This is Min-Wen 敏文 from Malaysia, 4th (and final) year student at St. John’s University (SJU), who’s about to graduate next summer in Industrial Engineering (IE). We’re going to miss her so much! She admits that originally she had no interest in IE, but a scholarship was on offer, and she took it – and has really made the most of it since then. She also applied for the SJU Chaplaincy’s meal coupon scheme for students facing financial hardship. Through her dedication and hard work, she has since received a number of awards and scholarships, and consistently scores the highest grades in her class. Many congratulations! 🥇🎓🏆

Min-Wen’s home church is the Joyous Glorious Community Church, Sitiawan, Perak, W. Malaysia, and she still regularly attends their weekly online prayer meeting. Last year she served as chair of the SJU Student Fellowship; this year she’s the worship leader, sharing her amazing gifts of singing and dancing. She’s very talented! Sadly, Min-Wen’s father died just after her last visit home for Chinese New Year 2020, and she hasn’t been able to go home since then due to the pandemic. Like many of our Malaysian students, she longs to go home to visit her family this coming Chinese New Year, but that’s out of the question too.

Now, as Min-Wen prepares to graduate, she faces many questions about her future, whether to stay in Taiwan or return home, to study for a Master’s Degree or find a job ~ if a degree then what and where, and if a job, then what job to look for? If our overseas students stay on in Taiwan, they need a job that offers a residence permit, often easier said than done. Most are torn between their family at home and the better job opportunities they say there are in Taiwan. Malaysia’s loss is certainly Taiwan’s gain – many are excellent students. It’s a very uncertain time for them all. Please pray for Min-Wen and others in her situation, that God will lead them as they prepare for the future.

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 8 🎁🎄⛄

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day8: This is Tze-Wi 芷薇, our colleague at St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy, Taipei; she and Yi-Ting 依婷 are both sponsored by the Taiwan Episcopal Church. Both are very talented & creative, and have put their skills to good use designing the Advent Church section of the diocesan website, it’s much admired by all our other churches! Together they organize all the many chaplaincy activities, and there’s always lots to do; coming up next is the SJU & Advent Church Christmas Bazaar, this year in aid of SOS Children Village in Chungli. Life is busy, busy, busy!

Tze-Wi is from Pahang, Malaysia and graduated 2 years ago from SJU in Creative Design. Her classmate & boyfriend, Jin-Ching brought her along to the SJU Student Fellowship, later she made a faith commitment and was baptized just after graduation. Now her younger sister is also a student at SJU too, in her second year of Multimedia Design. In all the busyness of Advent and Christmas, please pray for Tze-Wi, her family, boyfriend and all in the SJU Chaplaincy!

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 3 ⛪🎄⭐🐾

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

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

My Advent Calendar 2021: Day 2 🌟🎄🔔

#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day2: This is Jia-Wei 嘉偉 from Hong Kong, one of our students at St. John’s University, now in his third year studying Computer Science & Information Engineering. In his first year he joined our student fellowship and is now on the leadership team, in charge of fun activities like games ~ he’s very talented, and a real blessing to us all!

Jia-Wei is the only son in his family, and his parents and grandparents are all followers of traditional Chinese folk religion. He would dearly love to be baptized this Christmas Eve, but he needs courage to first talk to his parents and grandparents about his decision. Please pray for him – and his family!