#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! 🐾🦴🐾
It’s December 1, the first day of #MyAdventCalendar2021 and so here I start with a photo a day for the next 24 days of people here in Taiwan who I would like to ask you to pray for. It’s not really well-planned in advance, but they will all be real people who I invite to open that day’s window on the Advent Calendar to enjoy the chocolate inside, yum yum!
Day 1: this is Yi-Ting 依婷, our newest and youngest colleague on the staff at St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy, Taipei, she’s here sponsored by the Taiwan Episcopal Church. Yi-Ting is from Bintulu, Sarawak, Malaysia and graduated last year from SJU in Creative Design ~ as a student she was also chair of our SJU Student Fellowship for a year. Please pray for her, we all love her so much!
In previous years, I have participated in the AdventWord project of The Episcopal Church, with photos and meditations each day of Advent. It’s great, and is continuing this year, but their meditations are posted at 6:00 am New York time, which is 7:00 pm here in Taiwan ~ so it’s a bit late for us, the day is almost over! This year, inspired by the gift of a chocolate Advent Calendar (thanks to my good friend, Shiao-Chien) I am inviting you instead to pray for my friends and people I know here in Taiwan. I also include an ongoing prayer request for my 89-year-old mother, currently stuck for the last few days without power after Storm Arwen hit the north of England 🌨️ 🥶❄️ cold is the word ~ but relatively cheerful in the circumstances, fortified by kind people supplying lots of hot cups of tea! ⛄☕
😇 Grateful thanks to all! 😇
Wishing you a prayerful and hope-filled Advent 2021!
The title, The Soul (Still) Trembles is taken from the exhibition by Shiota Chiharu running at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum until Sunday October 17. Accumulation – Searching for the Destination is the title of one of the exhibits, as mentioned in my link letter…
But the link letter already needs updating! Since I wrote it 2 weeks ago, things have improved further in Taiwan’s pandemic situation, most notably new rules that say facemasks are no longer required outside in ’empty open spaces’, like beaches and mountains. Yippee! Two more countries, Israel and Indonesia have just come off Taiwan’s list of high-risk countries facing enhanced quarantine rules, which now leaves only 3, India, Myanmar and the UK. More good news is that the number of people who have received their first Covid-19 vaccine has now reached the milestone of 60%. The rollout of second vaccines has just started too, though it’s not easy to get a booking locally – I had to go into Taipei on Tuesday for mine, coinciding with Typhoon Kompasu passing by. It was very very wet. #SoakedButVaccinated is the new hashtag. #VaccinesNotWarships could be another, as related to my link letter. Grateful anyway. Peering at the hospital through the rain ……
It’s the time of the year when the Asia-Pacific region has its annual military exercises, plus Mainland China and Taiwan each celebrate their own national days this month with displays of military might and patriotism, so there’s a lot of tension, as you will have seen in the international news. Thanks to all who have sent messages of concern. Taiwan has also been in the international news today after a deadly fire last night in a high-rise residential building in Kaohsiung, at least 46 people known to have died. Such a tragedy. One of our students lives in the same street as that fire, and watched it all happen. Really terrible.
It’s also the time of the year when we have our annual earthquake, tsunami and WanAn air-raid drill, receiving a text message for each event ….
Actually this year’s WanAn air-raid drill was held on the day we were all at the diocesan office in Taipei for our monthly birthday celebration lunch, kindly hosted by Bishop Chang for the diocesan office workers, plus others. In past years we would have to stay put for the 30-minute drill, due to restrictions on movement outside, but this year, due to the pandemic, there were no such restrictions. Anyway we had a wonderful lunch! Thanks to all these lovely people in the photo who helped everything go smoothly at recent church events: Rev. Chia-Kuei Wu’s ordination service, Yu-Lin and San-Yuan’s wedding and Rev. Samuel K. L. Liao’s Memorial Service.
I had cycled to the diocesan office that morning ~ and back in the late afternoon too. It’s such a fun way to commute to Taipei, along the riverside paths and into the city at the Dadaocheng Wharf, passing the RC Cathedral ….
Anyway, back to the typhoon, we had another typhoon a few weeks ago too, also with lots of rain, but not so much wind. Still, a few trees fell down on our St. John’s University (SJU) campus and the sea was rough for days afterwards….
The bank had covered up the SJU ATM machine as a precaution…
Otherwise, in-between typhoons, the SJU campus and the sea down below have been looking beautiful!
Last week, we joined the local junior-high school children from Xian-Xiao on a beach clean-up. The weather was stunning….
And over at the local elementary school, we celebrated Taiwan’s success at the Olympics (photos supplied by the school)….
And we also celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with a 4-day weekend. Great chance for mountain climbing – and we went last weekend too. It’s the silvergrass season up in the Yangmingshan Mountains, while elsewhere, like Guanyinshan, its the citrus and chili season, plus spiders galore!
And finally, we all need a good book to read on a long trip to a vaccination centre in a wet and windy typhoon, and I recommend the latest in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Series… it’s so lovely!
Thank you all so much for your support. The soul may still be trembling with all that’s going on in the world, and in this region particularly, but your prayers are most appreciated.
A beautiful day for a beautiful couple! Such a special event, a wedding at Advent Church for 2 very special people, and the sun shone all day to mark the occasion. For us, this was THE wedding of the year, and a pandemic year at that. We give thanks to God that despite the uncertainties of the pandemic, everything went so well.
The wedding service was conducted by our rector, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, with Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang preaching and giving the marriage blessing. As both the bride and groom’s families are Christians, so we also had Holy Communion, celebrated by Bishop Chang. His sermon was particularly moving; he talked about Yu-Lin as if she were his own daughter, having known her since she was a child, and encouraged her all the way through. He made Yu-Lin’s parents stand up as he introduced them to their new son, and the same for San-Yuan’s mother, as he introduced her to her new daughter. There was hardly a dry eye in the church!
Yu-Lin is in her first year as a Taiwan diocesan seminarian, after a year of being a diocesan intern, which involved 6 months at Good Shepherd Church, Taipei and then 6 months at St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi. For the last few months, she has been living at the diocesan office in Taipei, with her weekend placement being at Christ Church, Chungli, Taoyuan. San-Yuan is a sound engineer, long based in Tainan, but a few months ago he moved up to Taipei, and has been attending the morning prayer services with Yu-Lin at the diocesan office, also taking part in some of the seminarian training sessions led by Bishop Chang. A great start to their future church ministry together!
Yu-Lin was our much-loved colleague here at Advent Church and St. John’s University (SJU) for many years, always keeping us on our toes. Life was never boring! She is very friendly, outgoing, extremely creative, multi-talented and highly-skilled in all things technical and practical – from fixing computers to driving her father’s minibus up and down the country. Yu-Lin’s father has long been professor of Electrical Engineering here at SJU and is now also Dean of General Affairs, which means he is in overall charge of the SJU campus and the maintenance of all buildings and equipment. He spends his weekends at SJU instructing courses that lead to license qualifications in everything from plumbing to driving fork-lift trucks, he told me once he has 23 different license qualifications! In between times he is to be found scurrying around the campus, checking the generators, the AC units, driving the workers in his forklift truck to trim some trees or installing lighting to make the campus brighter. Always busy, and in his holidays, he climbs mountains, and takes the family on holidays to interesting places. It was very moving for him, in the pre-wedding event on Saturday, when he and Yu-Lin’s mother placed the veil over their daughter’s head ~ he really struggled to hold back the tears.
Yu-Lin’s mother is the principal of the kindergarten at Jinshan RC Church, having taking over from her older sister. Yu-Lin’s mother has 3 sisters, and all but one of them are in Advent Church, all very lively and very lovely! The older one has now moved to St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung to join her daughter, Si-Yun and husband, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee, who is the rector. Si-Yun came to the wedding this weekend, acting as ‘matchmaker’ – it’s an important role in making sure everything goes to plan! This is Si-Yun, Yu-Lin’s mother and older brother ….
So, with Yu-Lin and her extended family being members of Advent Church, Tamsui, and with San-Yuan’s family home being in Tainan, it was arranged that the wedding service would take place at Advent Church on Saturday October 2 at 1:30 pm, with the official wedding reception being held in Tainan next Saturday, October 9.
Taiwan is currently under Level 2 Pandemic Restrictions, which means facemasks are compulsory and indoor events are limited to 80 people. Because Advent Church is part of St. John’s University, so we are also allowed to use our Advent Church Centre as an overflow for a further 80 people, but because of the distancing rules, we would not be allowed to host any kind of formal reception with food. So after the wedding everyone went home with a box of delicious finger food to enjoy instead.
A few months ago, Yu-Lin and San-Yuan announced their wedding event on Facebook with a sign-up form for those who wished to attend, but stressing that the event would also be livestreamed, so feel free to attend online instead of in-person. This is the video…
Then a few weeks ago we had a Covid cluster outbreak in Greater Taipei, and suddenly New Taipei City (which includes St. John’s University) went into enhanced Level 2 Restrictions, and events were suddenly restricted to 50 people. Some of us uninvited ourselves, but it was worrying week, not knowing what was going to happen! Then, as the pandemic situation improved, so restrictions were relaxed and it became 80 again. Relief all round!
Yu-Lin and San-Yuan first met through the Taiwan branch of ANM 萬國敬拜與讚美 ‘All Nations Worship & Praise Ministries’, which started in South Korea in 1987, and sends out mission teams around the world to reach Chinese-speaking people with the Gospel. Yu-Lin studied at university in Tainan, and in 2008, she and San-Yuan vaguely knew of each other through both studying on the ANM training program in Tainan. Then in 2018, they both attended 3-month ANM “Intercultural Community Mission Training” programs in Germany that overlapped by about 6 weeks. That was the start of their relationship. Yu-Lin then spent a further year in Germany with ANM, returning to Taiwan in May 2020 to join the Diocese of Taiwan internship program. Many of the people at the wedding on Saturday were connected with ANM….
This is an abridged version of Yu-Lin’s testimony that she wrote for our diocesan Friendship Magazine in May 2021:
“Not long after I was born, in 1988, my parents discovered I had an abnormal condition, which led them to embark on a day of running around different hospitals with me, unable to find a doctor willing to take the risk of operating on me. My mother was anxious and overwhelmed, and she prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, if you heal my daughter, and find a doctor willing to operate on her, I will dedicate her to you…” Thanks be to God, He heard that prayer, and I was baptized in Advent Church at 7 months old, and at the age of 13, I was confirmed.
Although I grew up in the church, I didn’t really know anything about faith, and the word “Christian” was such a special label to me as if I was meant to prove: Why can’t Christians do bad things? So in adolescence I became very rebellious, stealing my parents’ money, running away from home, self-harming, bullying others.
But God’s work is wonderful. In 2006, when I turned 18, a friend invited me to a special gathering of ‘All Nations Worship & Praise School’ (ANM). It was a 4-day event, but at the start I was unable to concentrate and ran away from the gathering until the third day, when my heart really calmed down and I found myself longing to meet the Lord who loved me. That day I met Jesus! My first feeling was being filled with the Holy Spirit, and I will never forget being touched and forgiven deeply by God’s love. He said, “My child, I don’t remember your past,” and in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I was completely set free. Later, the leader announced, “If you are willing to give your life to the Lord, come up to the stage.” I walked onto the stage with a grateful heart and in tears.
So I started to participate in the ANM training every Saturday until now, and that gathering became a turning point in my life. I experienced God’s love and forgiveness firsthand, and found myself changing my character, habits and values, including redefining what I saw as a ‘successful life’. In 2010, God led me to Advent Church as an education officer, and in 2012 I joined St. John’s University Chaplaincy (under the then chaplain, Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang) as a student fellowship counsellor and administrator, including in 2015, taking part in a memorable short-term mission trip to Myanmar.”
ANM have the policy that dating couples only make their relationship public when they announce their engagement, and so it is that San-Yuan is known to many of us but has largely kept a low profile until recently. He tells me that while Yu-Lin was assigned to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi earlier this year, he was confirmed into the Episcopal Church, and he is committed to moving with Yu-Lin around Taiwan depending on where she is assigned by Bishop Chang and the diocesan office. Hopefully he can find a suitable job wherever he finds himself based. San-Yuan is certainly very accommodating and committed! So far in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, as far as I know, he is the first newly-married husband to follow this path. We have several women clergy and seminarians, but all are either single or became seminarians later in life, once their children were grown.
At the wedding, we were delighted to welcome Sheerah and her husband, Yu-Wei. We first met Sheerah some years ago, when she came with a team from the Diocese of West Malaysia to Advent Church to lead some training for our children’s summer camps, a program called Kid’s Games. So she got to know many of our students and church members, including Yu-Lin. Since then, she has relocated to Taiwan, married to Yu-Wei. They have 2 children, Ethan who turned 2 on Saturday, and Eva, aged 4 months. Bishop Chang invites them to attend our monthly birthday lunches at the diocesan office, so they have got to know us all even better. Like San-Yuan, Yu-Wei is also a sound engineer, and he was invited to help with the sound system for the wedding. So with Yu-Wei busy, we all offered to help out with entertaining Ethan and Eva, who proved a big hit with everyone, and appear in lots and lots of photos. As it was Ethan’s birthday that day, it seemed an added bonus!
Before the service…..
The wedding service ……
After the service, the throwing of the bride’s bouquet…
And group photos…..
Please do pray for Yu-Lin and San-Yuan as they begin their married life together. The road ahead is long and challenging, especially during the next few years of training, but we pray for God’s grace to sustain them. Congratulations to them both and their families, and thanks be to Almighty God!
The Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu 吳家圭 was ordained priest by the Rt. Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop of Taiwan, at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Wednesday September 29, 2021, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas). The service was held at 11:00 am and livestreamed via You Tube…
Chia-Kuei’s ordination as deacon by Bishop Chang took place at St. James’ Church, Taichung on St. James’ Day, Saturday July 25, 2020, in a service that also celebrated the 50th anniversary of St. James’ Church (see that report here). These are the clergy photos from the two ordination services….
Chia-Kuei graduated from the seminary at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei in 2019 and has been serving since then at St. James’ Church, Taichung (under rector Rev. Lily Chang, who preached at the ordination service), having also been on placement there at weekends for his final year of theological college. He and his family live at the Church of the Leading Star, St. James’ daughter church in Taiping, on the outskirts of the city. He will continue serving at the Church of the Leading Star, and this Sunday, October 3, there will be a special service there, at which its official status will be upgraded from mission station to church, with Chia-Kuei in charge. Please do pray for Chia-Kuei, his wife and family and all at Leading Star Church.
Chia-Kuei was born in 1981, grew up in Taipei, and is the first Christian in his family. He studied at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT, now St. John’s University, SJU), and became involved with the student fellowship by offering to play the piano for the choir. He later returned to SJU to do his master’s degree, and during that time, in 2006, he was baptized by the then chaplain, Rev Lennon Y. R. Chang, now bishop. Chia-Kuei served as worship group leader and as junior warden at Advent Church while he worked at Siemens as an engineer. He met his wife, Wen-Ting (Wang-Wang) at the student fellowship too, and they were married at Advent Church in 2013. They have a daughter aged 6 and a son almost a year old.
The ordination service on Wednesday was held under Level 2 Pandemic Restrictions, and so 80 people were allowed to attend the service. Facemasks, hand sanitizer and temperature checks were compulsory for all. Social distancing was followed in the seating arrangements. No eating was allowed, so at the end of the service, everyone left with a box of food to take home. In accordance with current diocesan policy, there was no wine offered at Holy Communion, bread only. This is Chia-Kuei serving his daughter….
Apart from all our diocesan clergy and Chia-Kuei’s family members, there were groups of church members in attendance from Advent Church, including Ms. Wang and Ms. Hai, who sang a very moving song during the service, accompanied by Chia-Kuei’s daughter on the tambourine; also St. James’ Church and Leading Star, St. John’s Cathedral, plus friends from Good Shepherd Church. A beautiful service!
Before the service….
During the service….
After the service, we had photo time!
Many congratulations to the Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu, and thanks be to Almighty God!
PS: The next big event is the wedding tomorrow of Yu-Lin, our diocesan seminarian and my former colleague in St. John’s University Chaplaincy, and her fiancé San-Yuan here at Advent Church. This is them at the end of the ordination service on Wednesday, being blessed by Chia-Kuei and posing for a photo together. Please do pray for them too!
“Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past… / Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind / Cannot bear very much reality. / Time past and time future / What might have been and what has been / Point to one end, which is always present…
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; / Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, / But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, / Where past and future are gathered…
After the kingfisher’s wing / Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still / At the still point of the turning world…”
A few extracts from T. S. Eliot’s Burnt Norton (1935), part of Four Quartets ~ to set the scene for this update from Taiwan…
‘Circling Around @ The Still Point of the Turning World’ kind of describes what it all feels like. After our recent Covid-19 surge that arrived with a bang in mid-May, so Taiwan managed to contain the spread over the summer, and case numbers have gone way down to single figures, and on several days to zero. Having spent until the end of July under Level 3 Restrictions, we are now on Level 2, with facemasks compulsory everywhere outside the home, only taken off for eating and drinking. So life now proceeds with considerable normality, and we’ve got used to all the mandatory temperature checks, QR codes, facemasks, social distancing, hand sanitizer and crowd controls. Most people are still staying local, but hey, there’s still plenty to do locally. Over the last month, swimming pools and beaches reopened, indoor dining restarted, restrictions on national parks and mountain areas mostly lifted. In fact, the last full week of August, we had a week off, and so I was able to go to our local mountain areas, Yang-Ming Shan, Guan-Yin Shan and Chingshan Waterfall. Plenty of fruits, fungi, flowers, butterflies and views….
Although Taiwan as a whole is under Level 2 Restrictions, and gradually opening up, some areas up here in the north are seeing cluster infections, and further restrictions can / are / may suddenly be reimposed with immediate effect. Taoyuan has one Delta cluster – centred around 3 pilots, that has infected the teenage son of one of the pilots, but so far seems contained. Unconnected to that group is a different Delta cluster in the Greater Taipei area, centred on a kindergarten in southern Taipei (part of ‘New Taipei City’) with 23 confirmed cases so far. As a result, New Taipei City has today just announced ‘Enhanced Level 2 Restrictions’. Sports centers and places like libraries are to close for a week, and indoor dining is suspended. Yesterday they announced that 50 is now the max number of people allowed to gather inside, 100 outside, down from 80 / 300. This affects us, not only our Sunday services, but also St. John’s University (SJU), which started ‘Freshers Week’ (well, 3 days rather than a week) today, so adjustments to the program have been necessary. The training program for the student leaders for Freshers Week took place these past 2 days, assisted by our student fellowship. It finished with a ceremony in Advent Church yesterday, part of which included Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang (as chair of the SJU trustees) and some of the alumni taking part in foot-washing, as they washed the feet of the student leaders…
Schools have been closed since mid-May, when classes moved online for 6 weeks or so, and then the school holidays began. The new academic year began on Wednesday September 1. Back to school has overlapped with Ghost Month, the 7th lunar month, which only ended on September 6. Many school principals, teachers and parents were worried about starting school in Ghost Month during a pandemic. Double trouble. Some schools held ‘bai-bai’ ceremonies in honour of the ghosts, to reassure parents and children of a peaceful return to school. These photos are taken from the facebook page of one of our local schools:
September 1 was also the day I returned for my first visit to the diocesan office in Taipei City since mid-May, cycling by You Bike from Tamsui. Starting out very early, though it was already 30°C, it usually takes about 80-90 minutes, first along the river to the historic Dadaocheng Wharf, and then into the city, joining all the commuters on their motorcycles….