Such a great weekend for us all in Taiwan ~ YES!
Yes, an amazing few days welcoming The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church – and his team from New York. Here they all are receiving gifts at St. John’s Cathedral….
The Taiwan Episcopal Church, Diocese of Taiwan is one of the overseas dioceses of the Episcopal Church and the only one in Asia. Bishop David J. H. Lai of Taiwan and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry were consecrated as bishops in the same year, 2000, so they are classmates in the ‘class’ of 2000, as well as being very good friends. Before being installed as Presiding Bishop in November 2015, Presiding Bishop Michael was Bishop of N. Carolina, and he was one of the House of Bishops who came to Taiwan in September 2014. So this is his second visit, but his first as Presiding Bishop ~ and this trip was the last leg of a 2-week visit to Asia, starting in the Philippines, then Hong Kong and China, and finally here to Taiwan. YES!
Presiding Bishop Michael’s team was full of our old friends, and some new ones – and all from the Episcopal Church HQ in New York. Our dearest friend, Canon Peter Ng is retiring this month as Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific, and Anglican Relations – he came along with Rev. David Copley, Director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel, Ms. Neva Rae Fox, Officer for Public Affairs, Ms. Lynette Wilson, Editor and Reporter for the Episcopal News Service, Ms. Sharon Jones, Executive Coordinator for the Presiding Bishop, and finally the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond The Episcopal Church. David, Neva and Chuck have all been to Taiwan before, so of course they’re old friends! Chuck did his Theology PhD at Durham University, UK and he really loves Durham – and I just discovered that while he was there, he used to worship at St. John’s Church, Neville’s Cross ~ one of my wonderful CMS-supporting churches! Here’s all the team at St. John’s Cathedral receiving gifts again, this time from Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma….
Their visit to Taiwan started Thursday evening and coincided with Taiwan’s coldest weather of the winter so far. Brrrr, it was cold! A cold front arrived and didn’t let up the whole weekend. And the rain didn’t stop from Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon, yesterday. Miserable was the word! However if Taiwan is going to have a cold front passing through, then what better person to come and cheer us all up, than the Presiding Bishop?! He is so friendly, warm and personable, and on top of all that, he was just so excited to be here that the weather didn’t really seem to matter all that much after all! It certainly didn’t dampen his spirits in the slightest, and he declared to everyone that he loved his first visit to Taiwan in 2014, but he loved this second visit even more!
The Presiding Bishop and his team were here for the Diocese of Taiwan annual convention (synod), this year hosted by St. John’s Cathedral and our new dean, Rev. Philip L. F. Lin. The opening service on Friday morning was at the cathedral ~ the rain and cold meant that there were even longer traffic jams than usual, and it took us 2½ hours to do what normally is a one-hour drive into central Taipei. So we only just got there in time, but missed the welcome from the St. John’s Cathedral Kindergarten children greeting the Presiding Bishop on his arrival. An extra blessing was that as it was St. Matthias’ Day, so all the clergy were in red stoles – always good for photos! Here’s the clergy and visitors – plus choir in the second photo….
The Presiding Bishop gave an inspiring and challenging sermon, the first of several talks and sermons of the weekend. Bishop Lai had invited our good friend, loyal and lifelong Episcopal Church member Tim Pan to translate ~ he came home specially for the occasion from Beijing where he works for Microsoft – which got several mentions from the Presiding Bishop as a result! Translating for the Presiding Bishop is a great honour but also a huge responsibility, and Tim rose wonderfully to the occasion. A lot of Episcopal Church and Anglican vocabulary is translated into Chinese that is local even to the Taiwan Episcopal Church, so a lot of specialized knowledge is required ~ plus the Presiding Bishop spoke with such vigour and enthusiasm that trying to keep up with him was a great challenge. They were a fine team together, Tim translating not just the words but also incorporating Presiding Bishop’s actions and expressions in a very natural way. A great double act!
After the blessing, Canon Chancellor Herbert Ma presented a gift of one of his late father’s original paintings to the Presiding Bishop, with copies for all the team, plus a book of his father’s paintings, and Bishop Lai presented him with a cross made from artillery shells, collected on Kinmen. We hope to produce many such crosses, this is the first. And Presiding Bishop presented Bishop Lai with a copy of the 2 icons in the Episcopal Church Center Chapel….
And there was just time for Canon Peter Ng to introduce the Presiding Bishop to Mr. Antony Fan-Wei Liang, our seminarian studying in Ming-Hua Theological College, Hong Kong ~ Antony had to leave for Hong Kong on Saturday, so a quick greeting and photo!
On Friday afternoon, while our Advent Church rector Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang and St. John’s University chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang and the rest of the clergy and delegates were starting the convention meeting in the Capital Hotel in Taipei, I accompanied Presiding Bishop and his team, plus our new trustee, Prof. Winston Yu, and Tim Pan to visit St. John’s University – where it was even colder and wetter than Taipei. Coats, hats and scarves all put to good use. Even the team from New York were cold! St. John’s University President Peter Herchang Ay welcomed the Presiding Bishop, who gave a very rousing speech to 100+ faculty, staff and students ~ here they all are!
The Presiding Bishop was speaking on ‘The Meaning and Significance of a Christian University in the 21st Century’ and started with the St. John’s University motto, “Talent serves virtue, Learning serves society” (德以輔才，學以致用). He moved on to focus on how selfishness is behind so many of the world’s problems today, and exhorted us all to focus instead on God’s love, the love of Jesus, and in whatever we do, whether in science or law or education or whatever, to serve in love – and to change the world to make it a better and more loving place. Gifts were exchanged and photos taken; yes, a great afternoon!
The report in Chinese on the Focus Taiwan website about the visit is here.
Actually, we had been preparing for Presiding Bishop’s visit for weeks, here’s our chaplain and students in the chaplaincy on Thursday afternoon with the posters, all ready!
After the speech, we visited Advent Church, and our great friend and church member, Andrew Chang introduced the church, ministry and new church center. Of course, our clergy were at the convention but both our clergy wives were there, plus church members and students…
Then a delicious dinner in the evening in Tamsui with faculty of St. John’s University, hosted by President Ay.
On Saturday morning the convention continued in Taipei until lunch time. I tried to get a photo of everyone in ones and twos, in-between all the discussions and debates – busy busy! The Presiding Bishop and his team came for the last 20 minutes or so, and the Presiding Bishop gave us some words of encouragement to take away with us, ‘serving in love’ was his theme. Afterwards, the clergy and delegates of each church by turn came up for a photo with the Presiding Bishop – yes, he was very gracious and smiled continually throughout!
On Saturday afternoon, the convention over, we all gathered back at St. John’s Cathedral to listen first to beautiful organ music played by David Puckett from St. James’ Church, Taichung ~ and then for a wonderful, illuminating speech from the Presiding Bishop about the Jesus Movement and how we are all called to take the love of Jesus out to change the world for the better. He said it was summed up by the Diocese of Ohio as: “Love God, love your neighbor and change the world!” The ‘how to do it’ section included 4 things to do – prayer, Bible Study, service and Sabbath rest ~ all very good seeing as Lent is coming. After the speech, Presiding Bishop kindly presented all our clergy with signed photos of himself – and for nearly everyone else, Episcopal Church lapel badges…
And so to Sunday morning, and the Presiding Bishop’s final official engagement of the trip, preaching at the Sunday service at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on this Sunday of the Transfiguration. In his sermon, he said, “God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way to change the world ~ to show us the way to transform and transfigure this world, from the nightmare we often make of it, into the dream that God has intended for it ~ from the mess humans make of it, into the miracle that God will make of it. He came to change the world – and he came to show us how to do it.”
Tim Pan’s lovely wife kindly recorded the sermon and put it on You Tube, it’s well worth taking 24 minutes of your time to look and listen to…. Towards the end, Presiding Bishop comes down from the pulpit and walks around and down the nave, challenging us all to “Go out and change the world, change Taipei, change Taiwan, change this world, change this church ~ help God change this world from the nightmare it is into the dream that God intends!” and finishing with, “May God bless you, may God keep you and may God send you on his way to change this world!”
The service continued with Holy Communion, and at the very end of the service was an amazing organ-piece from Joanna Fu, the cathedral organist, which the Presiding Bishop took out his phone to record, it was beautiful! Then more gifts and more photos, including a whole-church group photo!
And then lunch, during which the Sunday School came and sang a song for the Presiding Bishop, and then he gave them a blessing ~ ah, they were just so gorgeous!
Sunday afternoon ~ and the rain stopped! At last, finally. So far, this winter has been very dry, and the Taiwan government has been very worried about a water shortage – so this rain has been a real gift. God sends rain as a blessing, even though it may seem like a nightmare at the time ~ so just as the visit of the Presiding Bishop has transformed a wet and miserable weekend into a time of great blessing for us all, so our whole lives can be transformed from the nightmare that the world often is, and we can become a great blessing to others – and change the world!
A final photo from the visit ~ St. John’s Cathedral presenting the Presiding Bishop and his team with Taiwan scarves at the end of the service yesterday. I got one too, they are so warm, and bright – and oh so necessary in this cold weather!