Congratulations to all our St. John’s University (SJU) graduates!
Face-masks on, temperatures checked, gowns a-swaying, mortar boards balanced in place, and we’re off!
Today, Saturday June 20, 2020, we celebrated the graduation of 722 students from the 4-year SJU Bachelor’s degree program, plus 78 students awarded SJU Master’s degrees and 75 students graduating from the Junior College section. Thanks be to God!
This year marks the first graduation for the junior college students since this program was reintroduced 5 years ago, aimed at those who want to do more specialized study after leaving junior-high school. They are now 20 years old and most are ready to move on to university – with a further 2 years to go. One such is Chang Fan, in the Dept of Applied English, whose family came along today too…
It was also the first graduation for Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as the new Bishop of Taiwan – and also as new chair of the SJU board of trustees…
And it was the last graduation for SJU President Herchang Ay, who finishes his 4-year term next month…
We also welcomed many VIP guests, including some of our SJU trustees, members of the alumni association, plus 10 very distinguished alumni who were receiving awards…
Our SJU Student Fellowship said goodbye to 10 of our group who are graduating, including last year’s elected chair of the student fellowship, Yi-Ting. She’s brought several of her classmates along to the fellowship over the years, which partly explains why, of that group of 10, 6 are classmates from the Dept. of Creative Design. Yi-Ting and one of her best friends, Yumi are from Malaysia. Normally their parents would have come to attend the graduation and maybe travel around Taiwan for a few days as a family, but due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, that’s not possible this year. Then again they appreciate that at least they can have an actual graduation ceremony, unlike many other countries still in lockdown. Yi-Ting was also one of the recipients of a special prize presented by Bishop Chang today…
After the graduation ceremony, and after the students had said goodbye to their teachers in each dept, student fellowship members came with their parents to Advent Church. Former students had already gathered there to offer their own congratulations – and of course for photos. Check out the photos below where we had to lie down to get the right angle!
To rewind a little to last month, and the annual highlight of our fond farewells to the SJU Student Fellowship graduates is always a big fancy-dress party, held this year on Thursday June 4. The costume theme was ‘Movie Characters’, and we had a wide variety from Men in Black, James Bond, Tangled and Harry Potter, to name a few. Really spectacular! Lots of our former student fellowship members came back to visit, and we had a meal, worship, games, presentations – and finished with sparklers outside on the SJU labyrinth…
Check out the photos. It was all great fun!
It’s great to be able to celebrate graduation with our students. In particular, we are grateful that Taiwan continues to remain a safe and secure country to be in at this time of Covid-19. As a result, this year’s SJU graduation could go ahead as planned. We had to cancel our annual SJU foundation celebrations at the end of April, but the pandemic situation in Taiwan has stabilized considerably since then. A month ago, on May 22 the official Covid-19 figures for Taiwan were 441 confirmed cases, 408 recovered and 7 deaths, and there’s not been too much change since then. Today’s figures are 446 confirmed cases, 434 recovered and 7 deaths. All the new cases are imported, meaning they’re Taiwan people returning from overseas; there have been no domestic transmissions since April 12. The borders remain closed but there are plans to open them a little for closely-monitored business travelers from selected ‘safe’ countries, with reduced quarantine times, starting this coming week. After that, the next step may be to allow the return of more overseas students, also from selected countries – who weren’t able to return before travel restrictions hit. It’s expected that they’ll do their 14 days of quarantine during the summer vacation in their university dormitories. Otherwise, while temperature checks and face-masks continue, other restrictions are gradually easing, domestic tourism is being encouraged, large events are now allowed (with face-masks and temperature checks), and in our churches, worship and fellowship activities are more or less back to normal. And all swimming pools are open, including the 50m outdoor pool here at SJU – Yes! So, welcome to SJU! 🙂
One of the highlights of today’s graduation day was the opening ceremony beforehand to honour the donation from one of our alumni, Mr. Cheng, who has worked with students from the SJU Dept of Industrial Engineering on this wonderful robotic coffee-making machine. We were all invited to try out a coffee afterwards ~ the whole process is really interesting, and the coffee was great too!
Today was a big day ~ many congratulations to all our students on their graduation! As they leave for pastures new and places yet unknown, we hope and pray that they’ll take many happy memories with them of their time at SJU. One of the graduating students gave a speech today and recalled her time at SJU, some of the more memorable events included the annual fun run in the year when everyone ran through a torrential rainstorm – I remember that! And then of course, no-one will ever forget that this was the year of graduating in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Quite something to remember – and to appreciate, given that education has been so badly affected in so many countries.
The graduation ceremony ended with Bishop Chang giving the blessing. Yes, indeed. May God bless one and all, today and always!
Masked church services, masked communion, and now masked confirmations ~ all happening now at Advent Church @ St. John’s University, Taiwan!
It’s just over 2 months since the consecration of our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, and yesterday was his first official visit as bishop of Taiwan to Advent Church – where he was previously rector of the church and chaplain of St. John’s University (SJU). For him and his wife it was like coming home, and all the church members turned out to welcome them!
St. John’s University dates its officially foundation day as April 26, 1967 so yesterday was the 53rd anniversary. And today is the actual 50th anniversary of the death of Bishop James C. L. Wong, founder of St. John’s University, who is buried under the altar at Advent Church. Normally we would have had an official SJU Thanksgiving Service and other celebrations, and Bishop Chang, as the newly-elected chair of the SJU board of trustees would have been here for them, but events have been postponed or cancelled as a precaution in this time of Coronavirus. Fortunately, Sunday services at Advent Church continue, more or less as normal. As part of the anniversary celebrations each year, our SJU Student Fellowship attend the church service on the last Sunday of April, and take part as ushers, servers, readers, taking up the collection etc. This year, we continued with this tradition. The only thing they didn’t do as normal, due to the Coronavirus precautions, was that they didn’t sing as a choir group – in fact, all the choir and music group participation in the Sunday services is cancelled for the time being.
Also as a precaution, as well as temperature checks for all those entering the church, everyone wears a face-mask throughout all our services, with the exception of the sermon when the preacher can take the face-mask off, as they stand so far away from everyone. This was the sermon yesterday, done in a new style, with Bishop Chang speaking without notes from the front of the altar by the communion rail – the sermon was based on the Gospel reading of the Road to Emmaus, and full of action!
We also had the confirmation and reception of 3 people, and Bishop Chang did this by laying hands on their heads as they were standing, rather than kneeling – also as a precaution in this time of Coronavirus.
Ms. Luo and Mr. Huang were both received into the Taiwan Episcopal Church – they were well-supported yesterday by their spouses and family members; and Tze-Wei was confirmed. Tze-Wei is the very lovely and very newest member of our SJU Chaplaincy Team, the one on the far left in the photo below…
After graduating from SJU last summer in the Dept. of Creative Design, Tze-Wei was baptized in July 2019, and now has the distinction and honour of being the very first person being both baptized and confirmed by Bishop Chang. Tze-Wei is from West Malaysia, and along with her Malaysian classmates in the Dept. of Creative Design, and her handsome boyfriend, Jing-Ching, she got involved in the student fellowship during her 4 years at SJU. When Jing-Ching became chairperson of the student fellowship for a year, he instigated exercise sessions of sports and games, and these still continue until now, organized by Tze-Wei. Although Jing-Ching started the exercise sessions, when Tze-Wei took over in the second term, she famously renamed them ‘Juicy’ Exercise, with the purpose of trying to lose weight as well as get fit. Asked why, she squeezes the spare tyre round her middle and says, “I am so juicy!” 😅🤣😂
Anyway, last summer she was the main student leader of the children’s summer camp at Advent Church, and did a really great job. Now she’s working full-time in the chaplaincy, and is putting her creative design skills and talents to good use, while Jing-Ching is doing his 4 months of military service. Her family in Malaysia are not Christians, and so, out of respect for them, she waited until after her graduation to be baptized – the early-morning baptism service was held in Advent Church at 7:45 am on Monday July 22, 2019, St. Mary Magdalene’s Day, and attended by Jing-Ching and many classmates. Back then, Bishop Chang was still rector of Advent Church, so he performed the baptism. That day was also chosen because it was Tze-Wei’s first official day of work in the chaplaincy office, so it was very meaningful….
After the confirmation part of the service yesterday, we had communion (bread only, as a Coronavirus precaution)…
And after the service finished, there were presentations from Advent Church of a Book of Common Prayer for each one ….
Thanks be to God! And please do continue to pray for Bishop Chang, Advent Church, SJU, the student fellowship, and all of us in the chaplaincy ~ that’s the SJU chaplain Rev. Wu, Shu-Jing, me – and especially our delightful Tze-Wei!
(On first sight, doesn’t that sign above look like it’s saying ‘Avoid Catherine’?!) 😮
Taiwan is now in its 3rd month since the fear and worry about the coronavirus situation started. It was just before Chinese New Year in the 3rd week of January that things started to happen big-time and Taiwan started its wall-to-wall News coverage, with daily press briefings from the health minister, and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in non-stop action. Check out the Wikipedia Site “COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan‘’ for a good description of what has happened so far.
And so far, thankfully, it seems that Taiwan is just about keeping its head above water. Even as the coronavirus situation worsens worldwide, the government here continues to be very vigilant and the people very willing to comply with all restrictions. I was in Taiwan for the SARS epidemic in 2003, when we were the third most badly-affected country in the world after China and Hong Kong, and my memories are of it being a very fearful time for everyone; the depressing doom and gloom lasted for many months, and it was clear that the government regretted not being quicker and more proactive in preventing community outbreaks. This time the government did not delay, and did what governments are supposed to do, that is learn from history and act for the benefit of the people. On the very first day that the outbreak was officially reported by China (December 31, 2019), that same evening, the government here started checking incoming passengers on flights from Wuhan, even before they disembarked from the plane.
By February 22, the day of the consecration of our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, there were 26 confirmed cases in Taiwan, but no serious community outbreak, and it was felt safe to go ahead with the actual consecration service, though with a lot of precautions, including cancelling the consecration banquet, and temperature checks on everyone at the service. Travel restrictions imposed by Taiwan at the time meant that visitors from Hong Kong had to cancel, but we welcomed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and 12 other archbishops and bishops from the USA, Japan and Korea for the occasion.
When we said goodbye to those bishops a few days later, it was South Korea, Italy and Iran that were the developing hotspots. Fast forward a month, and the virus has spread worldwide, and with cancellations of school and work in Europe and the USA, so we are in a second wave of confirmed cases, as anxious Taiwanese overseas flee for the safety of home, all with stories of how relieved they are to be back in a country that really is taking this virus seriously. Since last week, only those with Taiwan passports or a resident permit are allowed into the country; all are quarantined for 14 days and all are closely monitored; while the few who have tried to escape quarantine have been caught and fined.
As of this afternoon, Monday March 23, we have a total of 195 confirmed cases and 2 deaths, with an increase of 26 new infections today, all accounted for, as announced by the health minister. It feels like we are still holding our breath, still treading water, not daring to let down our guard, just in case, but also relieved that so far the virus remains contained. Here at St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei, we are now in our 4th week of the semester (after an initial delay of 2 weeks), and this morning, I was on duty for an hour of temperature-checking of all students and staff arriving for classes. Most of those arriving at the front entrance had just got off a bus or motorcycle and were wearing face-masks, many will wear them all day long. I wear mine in church, on public transport, in the supermarket, sometimes in the office and of course for temperature-checking, in fact anywhere where there’s too many people in too small a space, at the very least it keeps my hands off my face. We use a digital forehead thermometer to check everyone, after which they get their hands sprayed with sanitizer and a sticker with a ‘1’ on it, denoting the first day of the week (in Mandarin Chinese, Monday is Day 1) showing that they have passed the temperature check. If they get a reading over 37.5°C, the thermometer light glows orange or red, so we wait a few minutes and check again. If it happens a second time, they get checked with an ear thermometer, and if that reading is over 38°C, then they are not allowed to enter the campus and instead sent to seek medical advice, and their details are recorded and followed up. This temperature-checking activity takes a lot of organization, as everyone entering the campus has to be channeled through a central processing area at the main entrance, so it involves a whole rota of people, and there’s another group checking temperatures of those driving in by car. The same rules of daily temperature-checking apply at all schools and government buildings in Taiwan; but apart from that, work and school continue vaguely as normal, with plenty of precautions, though many after-school, extra-curricular activities are cancelled, same for the churches.
Our Sunday services are an ongoing challenge as they involve a wider age range of people, but they have not been cancelled, although numbers are down as some of the most at risk stay home. We have the usual temperature checks, face-masks to be worn by clergy and congregation alike, and depending on the church, it may or may not be Holy Communion, and if so, mostly with bread only. Here at Advent Church, the clergy adjust the service protocol each week as they try to accommodate for everyone and everything in as safe a way as possible. Our fellowship groups, Sunday Schools, Bible Studies etc are all cancelled, some are taking place online. One thing’s for sure though, with so many cancellations, everyone has a lot more free time than they had before.
It’s a month since Bishop Lai retired and Bishop Chang was consecrated, and our new bishop has not wasted one moment, starting immediately on the renovation, remodeling and updating of facilities at the 5-storey diocesan office building in Taipei City. He was also here at SJU this morning, now as chair of the SJU board of trustees, but I mistook him for one of the students as he arrived at the campus with his face-mask on, and lined up with everyone else for temperature-checking; the same with SJU President Ay. When it comes to temperature-checking, from bishop to university president, staff, students and even the bus drivers delivering students, all have to line up to be checked; vigilance is demanded of everyone.
As the coronavirus situation worsens worldwide, and restrictions continue in Taiwan with so many activities cancelled, I too have more time than usual. Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in the UK and my mother celebrated her 88th birthday only a few days before. It is a worrying time for those there and for us far away. A few days ago I went through my address book and compiled a list of friends and family members mostly in far-off countries who are particularly vulnerable at this time. Many are elderly or have elderly parents, many are in isolation, some have underlying health conditions. My list has about 60 individuals / couples on it and I have committed myself to praying for them all by name every day for the foreseeable future, specifically for God’s protection, grace, strength and comfort at this time. I’m happy to extend the list with a few more people and add your name or the name of someone close to you who you feel especially needs prayer at this time. Just one or two individuals / couples will be fine, not a whole list, I have to be realistic. Just let me know the name and a few details. Happy to help!
I am very grateful to my sending organization, Church Mission Society (CMS) for their support, care and concern, and especially for treating us as individuals, within the context of the church and country in which we work, and for respectfully standing back when appropriate and reaching out when necessary. The last thing I would want is mission support done ‘helicopter parent’ style, so a big thank you to all in CMS. Other people working in the charity sector are not so fortunate, I’ve realized recently, and some US mission societies have ordered everyone to return home, regardless of where they live or the current virus situation or the health facilities in that country; Peace Corps even has a worldwide evacuation order for all 7,300 of their volunteers to return to the USA, and finish their term of service. Yes, sometimes less is more, which is the quote on the photo above (and below), though at first sight I thought the final phrase said, ‘Avoid Catherine’ but it turns out it’s not my name after all, but ‘Avoid Gathering’ with the ‘s’ missed off (duh!🙄) Certainly, avoiding people doesn’t mean we also need to avoid God, and surely He is nearer to us than we can expect or even know, and especially in these darkest of times.
Let me finish with this prayer, which I really like, from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the National Day of Prayer and Action yesterday, Mothering Sunday, as everyone was encouraged to light a ‘candle of hope’ in their homes: “May the God of all hope show us his face and his way within the darkness that enfolds us. In all things, God can work with us to transform and bring light, however desperate our present may be”.
And finally, it’s spring and these pink wood sorrels are out all over the SJU campus, looking glorious on a sunny day….
Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support, you are all much appreciated. Thanks especially to my CMS-supporting link churches. Please do stay safe, healthy, prayerful and hopeful, and let me know if you’d like me to pray. There’s a comment section up near the title if you want to write something.
A brand new deacon for the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ YES!
The Rev. Chen Ming-You 陳銘佑 was ordained deacon by the Rt. Rev. David J. H. Lai, Bishop of Taiwan, at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Saturday January 18, 2020, the day the church remembers the ‘Confession of St. Peter’. It was certainly a special day for Ming-You – and for us all!
Ming-You took the long route towards ordination, fitting in studying around his work, and we’ve all been looking forward to this day for a very long time! This is the last ordination before Bishop Lai retires, so it was extra-special. Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop-Elect preached, and the service was attended by nearly all our clergy, clergy spouses, family, friends and church members from all over Taiwan. It was all very moving!
Ming-You was born in 1975, and studied here at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT), Taipei, the predecessor to St. John’s University (SJU), on the 5-year program in electronic engineering. While he was here, under the SJSMIT chaplain, Rev. Samuel Y. C. Lin, Ming-You joined the student fellowship and towards the end of his studies, he was baptized in Advent Church. Many of his friends in the student fellowship are now serving in the Taiwan Episcopal Church as clergy, church members and diocesan staff. Here they all are!
These days, Ming-You, his wife and 2 young sons live near his parents in Longtan, Taoyuan, where they run a computer business. At weekends, they serve at St. Stephen’s Church. Keelung – from where a large group came to the ordination service to sing and to show their support…
Ming-You will serve as a non-stipendiary deacon. In his sermon, Rev. Lennon Chang shared about the ministry of deacons in the New Testament, particularly in taking care of the disadvantaged and poor ~ and he reminded Ming-You, as a graduate of SJSMIT, of Bishop James C. L. Wong (first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan, 1965-70, and founder of SJSMIT / SJU), who was keen to encourage students through his motto, ‘Transforming Lives Through the Life of Christ’. It is therefore very appropriate that Ming-You should be serving in St. Stephen’s Church, where there are many families and young people in challenging circumstances – and where he finds great joy in ministry. Here is Ming-You and the group from St. Stephen’s…
And St. Stephen’s vicar, Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin and the choir….
This is Ming-You and his extended family…
And all our clergy…
And all from St. John’s Cathedral…
Plus plenty of other church groups and friends…
Please do pray for Ming-You as he starts his ministry as deacon in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and for his family. He’s a very busy man, with many responsibilities at home, work and church! We give thanks that he has responded to God’s calling, and commit him into God’s care.
Photos taken before the service, including the rehearsal….
It’s 3:00 pm and the service is ready to start …..
And off we go!
It was a great occasion, followed by a delicious reception. Thanks to St. John’s Cathedral for their warm welcome!
Congratulations to Ming-You and his family and …..
Wishing you all a good start to the new year! If you’re going to read this blog post all the way through, then I suggest you first stop and brew up, it’s a long read, but hey it covers everything! My own drink of choice for such activity is Vanilla Tea – kindly supplied by our good friend, Alice who arrived recently from Mauritius bearing 2 large packets of it – it’s really good!
Let’s just rewind a little, to the point where I realized that as the termites had eaten all my Christmas decorations a year or so ago, then a new strategy was called for in 2019. Yes, the time had come to move the decorations out of the house ~ and to just wear them all instead. And so it was that I spent much of Advent covered in tinsel, Santa glasses, reindeer antlers, Christmas trees – carrying with me an abundant supply to give out to those who appreciate such things ~ like Bishop Lai and all those in the diocesan office in Taipei…
Professor Mei-Mei Lin had been waiting for me to come on down to the diocesan office to celebrate her birthday on December 7 ~ I got there a week late, but hey, we had a very lively time! Newly-retired from Dong-Hua University, Hualien, Mei-Mei is now dedicating all her time to publishing a book and papers on the history of the Taiwan Episcopal Church; she’s a real character and there is never a dull moment! We will miss Bishop and Mrs. Lai when they retire in a few months time, but they kindly presented us with an artillery shell cross each, and Bishop Lai welcomed all the diocesan office staff to choose one of his own calligraphy carvings – with words from the Bible. Thank you Bishop and Mrs. Lai!
Meanwhile, here at Advent Church, our Advent 2019 celebrations kind of started at the end of November with our ‘Happy Ending Christmas Party’ to mark the end of 10 weeks of English Classes this semester. This is a community outreach of Advent Church – beginner’s English on Tuesday evenings and intermediate English on Monday afternoons – and a combined party on November 26. Yippee! I am very blessed to have some wonderful assistants, Xiao-Chien and Marge, without whom the party and the classes wouldn’t have gone anywhere near so smoothly. Some of the group brought their families, everyone was welcome!
The following day was our annual St. John’s University (SJU) Coming-Of-Age Ceremony for all students turning 18 years old this year, of which there were 290+, all wearing their new school ties. Not really an Advent activity as such, but this year it was held much later than usual, so close to Advent in fact that it felt like it was! This ceremony – with a theme of looking back in thanksgiving and moving forward into all the responsibilities of adulthood – has been highly praised by the Ministry of Education and involves each student drinking a small cup of wine, presentation of gifts to parents and teachers, lighting of candles, prayers and speeches. It’s run by the SJU chaplaincy office, assisted by the student fellowship…
For Advent Sunday, December 1, I was in St. James’ Church, Taichung for the sermon in the English service, but went there early in order to celebrate in advance the 60th birthday of my good friend, A-Guan (4th left, back row, in the photo below), whose birthday is December 20, plus our other good friend, Jhr-Mou (second left), older son of Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, who turned 60 on December 22 ~ so we kind of celebrated both birthdays together… 🎉🍰🎈 St. James’ people just love parties!
The official launch of Advent at SJU was on December 3 at 4:45 pm, just as it was getting dark – with a short service and the switching on of the Christmas tree lights by SJU President Ay…
Every Advent, Advent wreaths are distributed to each department and admin office in SJU, and we go on a 3-hour walkabout each week, gathering everyone in each office together, lighting the relevant candle, sharing a reading, praying and singing. This is a selection of photos from Week One, when we prayed by name for each person attached to each office, going through the names of all those working at SJU …
On Thursday December 5, our student fellowship held their Christmas outreach event, and what a great occasion it was! There were games, singing, dancing, drama, testimonies and prizes. The highlight was the drama, long-practiced and really well-performed. I’ve persuaded them to put the drama on YouTube for your benefit, so please check it out…
We had over 70 people there in total, really good numbers and lots of happy students….
On December 6, we invited visitors from this year’s charity, Tszai Education and Nursing Institute, 財團法人天主教會台中教區附設台灣省私立慈愛殘障教養院, to come and share about their work. Every year, SJU and Advent Church work together to raise money for a charity through our Christmas bazaar (held on December 18) and donation-drive. This year we chose a Roman Catholic charity who run a residential centre in Changhua for disabled people ~ they want to upgrade their facilities to provide ceiling fans in each room. Despite the heat, in summer they do not put on the A/C until it reaches 28°C, so these fans will help a lot. Such is the pollution and declining air quality in central and southern Taiwan, that opening the windows becomes a risk to those with sensitive health conditions. Previously upright fans have been used, but they are an obstacle to safe movement in the rooms. Ceiling fans are out of reach, and they also move the air around all over the room rather than just at ground level. The charity’s director, Mr. Chang (in the blue and white checked shirt in the centre) came to share about their work – and we all gathered to listen, and to advertise our fund-raising!
Advent Week Two at SJU started with our weekly walkabout….
Then on December 10, our group of 20 international trainees from Haiti had their closing ceremony – in French and Chinese, in the church centre. This is the second group to participate in this project, of 11 weeks of training in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, under a Taiwan ICDF program. This group used French, our previous group used English. The only problem was that the group were then delayed by a whole week due to the strike in France affecting flights!
As part of that ICDF project, Camille and Jun-Hong came to work at SJU, Camille with the French / English / Chinese translation and administration, and Jun-Hong with the engineering classes and as general assistant. Their contracts finished on December 20, and both are much missed, thank you guys! We all wish them well as they move on elsewhere ~ here we are at our farewell lunch!
Saturday December 14 ~ and a trip to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi for the very joyful wedding of Isaac Chen Wei-Chieh 陳瑋杰 and his beautiful bride, Ya-Hsin 羅雅馨, see that blog post here….
The next day, December 15, I was at St. John’s Cathedral for the sermon in their English service, followed by a lively pre-Christmas potluck celebration, complete with roast ham and all sorts of delicious goodies! Thank you everyone for a really good party!
And so to Advent Week Three at SJU, which started with our weekly walkabout, lighting candles in each office…
At lunchtime on Wednesday December 18, we held our charity bazaar in aid of the ceiling fans at Tszai ~ the bazaar always takes weeks and months of preparation, but it’s all in a good cause. After several weeks of sunshine, the rain started, but it didn’t dampen spirits! Our student fellowship were busy for days beforehand collecting and sorting lots of second-hand goods to sell, while our church members were busy in the kitchen cooking up delicious food for people to buy for lunch. Some of our former colleagues in the university also came back to visit and help, a great reunion for us all. The idea is that everyone can buy their lunch at the bazaar plus a few extra snacks – all yummy!
An added bonus at this year’s bazaar was to welcome Tunshan Elementary School, whose kindergarten class came along with their parents and teachers – they had their own stall selling food, toys and postcards that they had made. They were full of energy and fun, and really brightened us all up on a gloomy day!
On Thursday December 19, the day started with me visiting a very small and remote (but local) elementary school, Xing-Hua, at the foot of the mountains, where the children made their own Christmas cards by recycling my old ones. If you’ve sent me a Christmas card by post in the last few years, chances are it is now recycled into a new Christmas card, all covered in glitter and stickers by the children. Thank you everyone!
In the evening, our student fellowship went carol-singing around the SJU campus in the rain, including to the student dormitories, to our neighbours and to President Ay’s house, where we were warmly welcomed by him and his wife for refreshments…
At 7:30 am the next morning, we gathered at the SJU Chaplaincy to walk to our neighbouring junior high school, Xian-Xiao, to bring them our Christmas greetings at their school assembly, followed by lighting all the candles of the Advent wreath with the principal, staff and some of the parents. Always great to see them all!
In the evening, Advent Church and SJU student fellowship members went to share the good news of Christmas in the local community. We sang ‘Silent Night’ on the doorstep on each home and then wished everyone a Merry Christmas. We started in the Japanese Ramen restaurant above the Carrefour Supermarket, run by Mr. and Mrs. Wu from Advent Church, which was warm and dry…
And then we went in 4 cars, a motorcycle and a minibus northwards up the coast to Baishawan, where we received a wonderfully warm welcome from the Chang sisters, who took us on a tour around their neighbours singing to them all. Whereas the Ramen Restaurant had been very light, very warm and very dry, now it was completely dark, cold, bleak and absolutely pouring with rain. They live right by the sea, in an remote area where many of the houses are either ruins or look like they’re struggling to stay upright, and where the wind and rain make winter a challenge for everyone. But hey, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Our carol-singing tour – with some of our older church members in their mid-80’s – was full of joy, and we enjoyed soup and red bean tang-yuan dessert along the way. It was too wet for me to take photos, so I have taken these from facebook. Advent Church is certainly an ‘Advent-urous’ Church!
On Saturday December 21, off I went to Shuang-Lien Elderly Home to wish my very lovely friend, Mrs. Hsu a Merry Christmas. We gathered in the coffee shop with some of the other residents, their Filipino helpers and other staff ~ it was very lively! And then we all clapped 91 times in celebration of Mrs. Hsu’s upcoming 91st birthday 👏👏😊 YES!
Fast forward to Christmas Eve ~ and our final walkabout during the afternoon to light all the candles on each Advent wreath and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! We also passed by 2 beautiful displays in the Creative Design dept done by members of our student fellowship….
In the evening at 7:30 pm was the Advent Church Christmas Eve service, and we welcomed old friends and new, including a group of students who came to church instead of their regular Wednesday evening class, along with their teacher, Dr. Wang, our SJU Vice-President. And our church choir wore their brand new robes for the very first time ~ their first new robes for 20 years!
Christmas Day is a normal work and school day in Taiwan, so at 7:45 am off I went for my early morning English class at Xian-Xiao Junior-High School….
We had a small Christmas Day service at 10:00 am in Advent Church. It was a beautiful sunny day, what a change from a few days ago when it was so wet and cold! The view from Advent Church of the SJU campus on Christmas Day morning…
The service was attended by SJU faculty, staff, students and church members. The rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, presented a cheque for NT$ 100,000 on behalf of Advent Church to SJU President Ay as a donation to cover the costs of repairs, maintenance, utilities and cleaning that are carried out by SJU for Advent Church throughout the year. Another cheque, for NT$ 50,000, was presented by the SJU Alumni Association to the fund run by the SJU chaplaincy that provides meal coupons for students from disadvantaged families, one of whom received the cheque. Thanks be to God!
The service was followed by a light lunch for our students who receive meal coupons, for my group of students who normally meet on Wednesday lunchtimes for an English Bible Study, plus some church members. We had 5 dishes ~ fried noodles, fried rice, 2 vegetable dishes and fizzy juice with fruit, all very good, and a really good way to spend Christmas Day ~ before we went back to work for the afternoon!
On Christmas Day afternoon came the other really good news of the day ~ we had reached our target in the SJU and Advent Church charity fundraising drive 2019 for the Tszai Education and Nursing Institute in Changhua! Thanks be to God! At lunchtime we were still over NT$ 60,000 short, and we had asked people to pray and to give – and then to pray and to give some more! We are deeply grateful to our good friend, Dr. Christopher Chih-Yung Chen, son of Rev, Charles C. T. Chen and professor here at SJU, who came to our rescue by asking all his colleagues to donate, and he came to our chaplaincy office just before 5:00 pm with the money he had collected that day: NT$ 87,000 in cash, which brought our grand total to well over the target. Our deadline was Christmas Day – and so the target was reached just in time! God is good, and we are very grateful! This is us celebrating in the SJU Chaplaincy office with Christopher: 感謝上帝 Thanks be to God!
On Friday December 27, our SJU Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang took a group of us to visit the Tszai Education and Nursing Institute, 財團法人天主教會台中教區附設台灣省私立慈愛殘障教養院 (link here to their website / facebook – their facebook page has lots of good photos of their activities) in order to present our donation and to have a short tour. The drive to Changhua in central Taiwan took 3 hours, and we were warmly welcomed by Mr. Chang, the director and his staff – for coffee, lunch and a tour of the premises. The main building on the compound was built 20+ years ago and houses 124 residents with varying degrees of disability (another 20+ come on a daily basis and return home at night). All residents are recommended for admittance by social services, and families pay a certain amount each month, but for low income families, the government helps out and nobody is turned away. Some come from loving homes, others have little contact with their families. They all find a warm welcome at Tszai!
On the same compound, next to the main building is the original building, which was built many years ago by the Maryknoll Sisters to take care of leprosy patients. As the number of leprosy patients deceased, people were other disabilities were admitted. But space was limited, so the new building was added 20 years ago, and now both are in use. This is the original building in the foreground, the one at the back with the cross is the very famous Changhua Christian Hospital.
The vision of Mr. Chang, the director and his team to install ceiling fans in each of the 60 twin-bedded dormitory rooms, has first been tested by installing fans in 2 of the bedrooms, including this one below. They proved such a success that they decided to fund-raise to fit out the remaining rooms. Each fan costs NT$ 4,800 x 60 = NT$ 288,000….
We thank God that we were able to hand over our donation of NT$ 344,250! It was a great day indeed, and we are grateful for God’s grace and the generosity of all those at SJU and Advent Church😊😊
Sunday December 29 was the nearest Sunday to St. John’s Day (Dec. 27) and tradition has it that the SJU Student Fellowship take leading roles in the Sunday service on that day – leading the singing, readings, offerings, as much as possible. Lots of former student fellowship members also came back to join the celebrations, and in the afternoon they had a great Christmas party ~ here they all are after the service. It was really great to see them – but hey I had no time to stop, we were off the airport to pick up our VIP visitors!
And so to the final big event of 2019, and the long-awaited visit of a group of 22 very lovely family members of the late Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970), the first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70). It was an action-packed 30-hour visit, the highlight being a very moving Thanksgiving Service on Monday December 30 in Advent Church, during which Rev. Charles C. T. Chen gave the sermon, sharing many inspirational stories about Bishop Wong. Another highlight was for the group to meet up with Bishop Lai, senior clergy and church members who had personally known Bishop Wong. And in-between were gift presentations, photos and delicious meals galore. Here’s the extended Wong family ~ and you’d never know from their smiles and enthusiasm that it hardly stopped raining the whole time they were here!
Bishop James Wong achieved more in his 5 short years in Taiwan than most of us do in a whole lifetime, including founding this institution, St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT – now St. John’s University), setting up the diocesan office in Taipei and establishing a companion diocese with the Diocese of Upper South Carolina in the USA, thereby raising a huge amount of money which was used to build many of our churches. As Rev. Charles C. T. Chen said in his sermon at the Thanksgiving Service, Bishop Wong inspired a whole generation of clergy through his motto of ‘Transforming Lives through the Life of Christ’, encouraging them to raise funds to build their own churches and to reach out and help the less fortunate ~ the result of which can be seen today, for example in Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and St. James’ Church, Taichung raising money to build 12 churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Philippines from 1998-2012 (for more details of that project see my blog post here) ~ and in Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector of Advent Church here at SJU, raising the funds to build our Advent Church Centre, for ministry on the campus and in the local community.
Bishop Wong is buried here, under the altar at Advent Church ~ in fact the church was built around his grave. He had 4 children, and the group of 22 who came to visit included all the direct descendants of Bishop Wong’s oldest son, Francis, who died last year in his 80’s. In fact, Francis was born on December 30, 1929, so it would have been his 90th birthday on the day of our Thanksgiving Service. It’s meaningful to think that on that very day 90 years ago Bishop Wong and his wife became parents for the first time! Francis Wong’s 5 children (standing in the photo below with Bishop Lai, Rev. Charles Chen, Rev. Lennon Chang, Rev. Wu and President Ay) and their families had gathered from Australia, New Zealand, UK and Brazil in Hong Kong for Christmas, and extended their time to come to Taiwan, most visiting Taiwan for the very first time.
The group arrived at Taoyuan Airport on Sunday December 29 early afternoon. We brought them to SJU, where they spent the night, and Advent Church hosted a welcome dinner that evening. Then the Tan family and church members arrived at 6:00 am on Monday to cook them a really fantastic breakfast, all laid out with table-cloths, flowers and even background music….
On Monday December 30, we held the Thanksgiving Service at 10:00 am, all in English, in Advent Church, to remember Bishop Wong ~ and we invited alumni from the first SJSMIT intake from 53 years ago, clergy and church members, as well as SJU President Ay, faculty and staff…
Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector, led the service, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen preached and Bishop Lai gave the blessing; the family also gave a speech and presented beautiful books of old photos of Bishop Wong and their family. There were also gift presentations from President Ay on behalf of SJU and from Professor Mei-Mei Lin, who spent most of the past month putting together a special booklet in honour of their visit, all about Bishop Wong’s legacy and significance for the Taiwan Episcopal Church.
In the afternoon, we took the Wong family group to Taipei where we held a sharing time at St. John’s Cathedral, giving the family a chance to listen to our beloved Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma and Rev. Michael T. H. Liu share their memories of Bishop Wong, and the family also presented them with photo books. Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary and a group of church members who had been confirmed by Bishop Wong had brought their confirmation certificates to show! Bishop Lai presented each family with an artillery shell cross, and later that evening, Bishop Lai hosted a dinner on behalf of the diocese.
It was really wonderful to welcome Bishop Wong’s family to Taiwan for this short but very significant visit (for the Christian Tribune report of their visit in Chinese, please see the link here). And if their fun way of posing for photos takes off in Taiwan (as in the photo below) it’ll become another part of Bishop Wong’s great legacy – established by the 3rd and 4th generations of his family! 😂🙃😂
Thanks be to God for a very lively and meaningful Advent and Christmas 2019, and thank you all for your Christmas cards, letters, messages and gifts! There was certainly a lot going on, and above is but a small selection of events. We give thanks for God’s mercy, for His light shining in the darkness, for the gift of eternal life. As 2019 draws to a close, may we continue to be thankful for God’s grace throughout this past year, and, under God’s leading, prepare to face the exciting challenges of 2020! Happy New Year to you all!
PS Updated on January 1, 2020: Today Bishop Lai invited all clergy and their families plus diocesan workers who are based in northern Taiwan to St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for a Christmas and New Year Thanksgiving Service, followed by lunch. Here we all are in the cathedral after the service shouting out altogether ‘新年快樂’ ‘Happy New Year’ to you all!
Walking, Running, Relays, Obstacle Race, Table Tennis, Frisbee, Ball Throwing and a new game called Taspony (rules similar to tennis but using bare hands and a sponge ball): non-stop action all day! All part of the annual ecumenical NCCT Sports Day, held on Saturday November 9 here at St. John’s University (SJU).
The National Council of Churches of Taiwan (NCCT) 台灣教會合作協會 is affiliated with the World Council of Churches, and in Taiwan it consists of 6 member churches – Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, Methodist and Lutheran. There’s also 11 member organizations, the Bible Society, Christian AV Association, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Tainan Theological College & Seminary, Taipei Christian Academy, Taiwan Christian Service, Taiwan Theological College & Seminary, The Garden of Hope Foundation, World Vision, YWCA and YMCA.
The Sports Day is organized by the different churches and organizations in turn; this year it was the turn of Taiwan Christian Service 台灣基督教福利會, and they asked to hold the event here at St. John’s University. Taiwan Christian Service is a relief agency, founded in 1954 by the Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief. The short sermon at the opening service of the Sports Day was given by Rev. Liu Ren-Hai of the Lutheran Church, who is also chair of Taiwan Christian Service.
The bishop of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop David J. H. Lai has always made the ecumenical Sports Day a big priority and he attends every year, competing in the Table Tennis competition, and this year was no exception. Participation by different churches over the years comes and goes ~ this year there were 6 teams in total, from the RC Church, Taiwan Christian Service, YMCA, YWCA, Episcopal Church and a small team of 9 from the Presbyterian Church. Some years, the Roman Catholics and Presbyterians choose to participate in big numbers – their indigenous church members are so strong and always win every tug of war race with one slight jolt on the rope (at least, that’s my impression of the last time the Sports Day was held here at SJU, back in 2012!) The team with the most colourful T-shirts were in bright orange – despite their name, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Organization) had almost equal numbers of men and women, and on inquiry they said that they were all working at the YMCA Hotel in Taipei – I told them we always recommend their hotel to visitors – it’s a good place!
This year the Taiwan Episcopal Church had by far the largest group of participants. St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung sent a bus of 35 church members, the teenagers and children to join the sports, the older ones for cheer-leading and singing. A group of about 20 came from St. John’s Cathedral and a similar group came from Advent Church and our student fellowship at St. John’s University. So we had all ages and all abilities…
And we had a great time! I was in the 400 m walking race, and part of the team of 20 for the relays and the obstacle race (which included a sack race, hopping, jumping through the hoops and running with the sack back to base). Ah, it was all fun!