Tag Archives: St. John’s University SJU Taiwan

Wedding Blessings and Celebrations for our beloved Setu and Jacob!

Ah, THE DAY finally arrived! YES!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the bridegroom, Jacob? He’s the man to talk to if you want a deep and profound discussion. In the days when we used to have monthly English Bible Studies at Advent Church, he would be the one to ask the most very deepest and most very profoundest questions, all the result of much contemplation and reflection prior to the Bible Study. In more recent years, since he got busy running his own design company, he keeps very unconventional hours, working very late into the night and sleeping very late into the day, and rarely gets to come to Advent Church, and if he does, well, it’s quite a bit later than everyone else. And because he usually wears a face mask, Taiwan-style, he appears even more elusive and mysterious! Kind of like James Bond 007, we all want to know what he’s thinking, what makes him the man he is! In the event, we needn’t have worried about what would happen on Saturday. Jacob rose wonderfully to the occasion, and did Setu (and all of us!) proud. He smiled all day long, graciously cooperated for all photos and charmed us all with his elegance and grace. Thank you to Jacob!

The wedding blessing service was led by Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, assisted by our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, with songs from our Student Fellowship choir, Advent Church choir, and supported by our seminarian Stoney on the organ and piano, plus former and current students all on hand to help as necessary. We even had live streaming for those unable to attend…

After the blessing of the couple, they bowed to the congregation in thanks – then we had THE KISS!

This was all followed by Holy Communion….

After the final blessing, we had the procession out of the church of bride and groom…

And the 2 best men and 2 best bridesmaids…

And so to the church centre next door, where we had a buffet-style reception (I found some interesting delicacies ~ rolls of bacon with a strawberry in the middle!)…

Jacob’s great friend is Rev. Joseph Ho, in charge of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung ~ Joseph couldn’t be with us on Saturday, but his lovely wife and gorgeous daughter and mother-in-law were all there, so we had special photos for Joseph!

The entertainment at the reception was provided by different groups of students and friends. Some danced, others sang, some had even written their own songs for the occasion. One group who were not able to attend were our Student Fellowship members from Malaysia who have all gone home for Chinese New Year. They had each recorded a short video of their greetings which was shown at the reception, so lovely.

And the other group who must be mentioned are Machiko, Junko and Megumi, who came especially from Osaka, Japan to attend the celebrations. Last summer they were here for our joint youth outreach (with our companion diocese of Osaka), organized by Rev. Lennon Chang, with much support given by Setu. I had the chance to take the 3 of them around Taipei on Friday, including a great visit to drink tea with Bishop Lai, and later accompanied them to Taiwan’s most famous dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Feng, kindly hosted by Rev. Keith Lee, from Good Shepherd Church. So, yes, a very warm welcome to them!

After the food, speeches and entertainment, we had group photos, first the family…

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And those belonging to Advent Church!

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By then it was already 5:30 pm and I had to leave to get to St. James’ Church, Taichung, in time for preaching at the English service the next day, so I had to leave before the photos were finished. Actually I had the chance of a lift to the MRT Station, and as it was pouring with rain and I had tons of luggage, I made the most of the opportunity, and got to Taichung by 9:00 pm. Since then, I’ve been sorting out the 604 photos that I took on Saturday afternoon. Ha ha, you’ll be glad to know that I am not posting all 604 here, just a few!

Thanks be to God! It was a wonderful occasion! We are also grateful that Setu and Jacob had this opportunity to stand together in Advent Church to receive God’s blessing, and that of the church and university community. Thank you to all those who organized, helped, supported, and made sure everything went so well. Yulin and Ro-Han deserve our special thanks, plus the church clergy and staff, church members and all who came to show their support.

We all love Setu and Jacob so much, and wish them all the best for their future together. Please pray for them, and give thanks to Almighty God!

YIPPEE, SNOW!

Yes, finally, at long last, after 10 days of non-stop rain and more rain, and getting colder by the hour, today the rain has finally stopped, people’s moods have lifted, the skies have sort of cleared and in the far distance on Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山, just above Taipei City, there is SNOW!  YIPPEE!  The grey snow-laden sky is kinda merged with the white snow, but hey, check it out.  Ha ha, it’s there, honest. And just in case you’re still not sure what you’re supposed to be looking at – check out the arrows below!

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There’s no snow down here at sea-level of course, but still it’s freezing cold and we’re all bundled up with gloves and scarves and hats and coats etc etc.  Been dressed like this for several days now, it’s cold cold cold.  But today’s different, cos we are all so excited to see Real Live Snow! YES!  Albeit in the distance, 15-20 km away, but visible to the naked eye, even if not very clear on any camera.  So we’ve all been up on the 8th floor library building rooftop at St. John’s University gazing endlessly out at that distant view.  FYI, the altitude up there is about 1,000 m.

The last time this happened was exactly 2 years ago, and the time before that, well, was about a decade ago.  Before my time.  Hey guys, this is supposed to be a subtropical country.  We don’t have no central heating.  Or any heating come to that.  Only hand warmers, hot water bottles and extra layers of clothes.  And a few have those small electric fires in home or office, although there’s none here – our SJU chaplaincy opens onto the outside, where the wind howls and blows in all directions.  Ah, we just grin and bear it!  But forget the cold, today we’re all super-excited.  Just look at us all standing up on that 8th floor rooftop….  even though actually the photo doesn’t even show any snow!

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And in case you really want to see what it’s like up there in those mountains, these 2 photos below were taken yesterday up at Erziping 陽明山二子坪步道, by our good friend, Mr. J. C. Chen, who has kindly let me share them with you….a bit slushy by the looks of it, but oh so beautiful.

Yippee,  SNOW!  Happy Snow Day everyone!

And this is the view from Sanzhi late this afternoon!

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What a great view eh?!  And yes, plenty of snowmen being built up there, but so far, none down here!

Welcoming the Dean and Clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong!

After an hour of blue sky and sunshine last Saturday, the sun sadly gave up and has never been seen since.  It is a completely wet, cold and horrible week.  But kinda normal for this time of year.  Do not come to visit in winter!  Unless you are hardy and strong and very cheerful, like most Taiwan people or our eleven lovely visitors from Hong Kong (HK), namely the dean and clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, who are visiting northern Taiwan all this week.  They’re spending the week smiling, enthusing, encouraging and really enjoying themselves, hey, they seem to be having a great time, despite the weather!

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The dean, the Very Rev. Matthias Der 謝子和, grew up here in Taiwan, when his father, Rev. Edmund Der 謝博文 was the vice-principal at what is now our St. John’s University (SJU). The senior Der parents visited us at the end of April last year for the SJU 50th anniversary celebrations (see here).  So a triple blessing for us, 3 Ders in 9 months!

Every year, about this time, the dean and clergy of St. John’s Cathedral, HK go on a short study tour to interesting places, and this time, Dean Matthias has brought them all to Taiwan ~ yippee!  They have a packed programme, visiting our churches and sightseeing.  And the weather forecast all week is…. guess what? Rain.  Yes, rain. All week. And cold.  And horrible.  But y’know, they’re a very happy group, and yesterday on their visit to St. John’s University and Advent Church, well we had such a good time together.  Sharing about what we’re doing here in university and church, and hearing all about St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong ~ oh, and presenting gifts too. This is SJU President Peter Herchang Ay (left photo) and  Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang (right photo) with Dean Matthias receiving gifts from St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong.

Y’know what? St. John’s Cathedral, HK has 7 (yes seven!) services at their cathedral over Saturday night and Sunday, and their Sunday main service at 9:00 am gets 700 people.  And all the others together add up to over 2,000 people.  That is quite some number, believe me.  In fact, it’s about double what the whole of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan gets on a Sunday in all our churches put together.  How’s that for a challenge, eh?!

Anyway, they have lots of clergy, some also with responsibilities for daughter churches and they all come from all over, Philippines, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and UK.  Before we left for dinner with our church council members in the restaurant in Tamsui, we took them to visit Advent Church….

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And in case you don’t believe me about the weather, just check out what Dr. George MacKay wrote in 1896 after 24 years of living in Tamsui……

“The climate of North Formosa is excessively trying to foreigners. Those who have traveled in the Orient will understand that statement, but to the average Westerner it will be meaningless. In fact, it cannot be fully comprehended save by those who have spent a number of years in such a climate. . . . We have no frost or snow, and those accustomed to invigorating atmosphere cannot understand how at times in Formosa we long for just one breath of the clear, crisp air of a frosty winter morning. . . . About the end of December our rainy season sets in, and continues through January and February. It is rain, rain, rain, to-day, to-morrow, and the next day; this week, next week, and the week after; wet and wind without, damp and mould within. Often for weeks together we rarely get a glimpse of the sun. All year around we have to fight against depression of spirits, and say over to ourselves as cheerfully as possible: ‘Be still, sad heart, and cease repining; / Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.'”

(George MacKay, From Far Formosa, 1896.)

So to our wonderful visitors from Hong Kong ~ a very big and very warm welcome to Taiwan! 

St. John’s University Chinese New Year Banquet 尾牙 2018!

Yes, Chinese New Year’s coming soon!  The semester is already over at St. John’s University, it finished at the end of last week.  Local schools still have another week or so to go.  Offices stay open for a few more weeks after that.  Then yes, it’s holiday time!

The St. John’s University 2018 Wei-Ya  尾牙 Chinese New Year Banquet was held last night at Regalees Hotel, Tamsui – with lots of VIPs and speeches and entertainment and prizes in the lucky draw.  But of course the main attraction was the food.  All ten courses. Plus fruit. Here they are!

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Yes, all was mouth-watering deliciousness!

Advent & Christmas 2017 @ St. John’s University (SJU) & Advent Church, Taiwan

SJU is definitely a happening kind of place during Advent and Christmas!  Taiwan doesn’t have any holidays for Christmas, so apart from weekends, the students are here in classes all over Christmas, the office staff are working all over Christmas, the professors are teaching all over Christmas (and this year our engineering faculty / college had an OFSTED-style inspection starting on December 25!) so we just get on and make the most of it!

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During Advent, every department and main office in St. John’s University has an Advent wreath on display, and every week the St. John’s University Chaplaincy Team and student fellowship walk around the university campus visiting all those offices in turn, starting with President Ay’s office.

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We invite one of the staff of each office to light the Advent candle(s) and read a Bible verse, we sing a carol or say a prayer, share greetings, and move on to the next office.  It takes 3-4 hours to complete the circuit.  One day we also included our new class of Vietnamese students, who gathered in a large group and joined in…

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As there’s about 30 offices on the campus and we visit each office 4 times over the course of Advent, hey that’s quite a few candles being lit and prayers being offered!

Our students and church members have been busy for weeks preparing a Christmas drama, this year it actually included the Bible story of Christmas.  We had 2 teams rehearsing, one of students and one of church members – with some overlap; during Advent, we took the performance around the community to different places.  The students performed the drama during their evangelistic outreach event early in December, and on Saturday December 16, the church members performed the drama for our children’s Christmas party ~ it was fast-moving and thrilling to watch!

At Advent Church, we have said thank you and goodbye to Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, who after about 5 years of monthly preaching at Advent Church is finally retiring, at nearly 80 years old.  This was his last Sunday with us on December 10 – so we all gathered for a group photo.  Thank you Michael!

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My monthly visits to Laomei Elementary School (an extension of Advent Church ministry) also continued through December, with our theme of Christmas trees.  Ah, the kids are so much fun – these are the younger ones!

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Our combined SJU and Advent Church Christmas Charity Bazaar is held every year on the Wednesday before Christmas.  This year it was December 20, and everyone was busy for weeks beforehand getting ready.  This year’s charity is Taiwan Xi En 希恩之家  in Kaohsiung, which was founded originally to provide a way of helping mothers who might otherwise decide to have an abortion, and the charity’s home helps take care of babies and small children up to the age of 2 years old.  Our aim was to raise NT$ 250,000 and it looks like we might exceed that, thanks be to God!  Most of the money is actually raised from direct donations, but the bazaar gives the students a chance to do their bit to help, giving of their time and buying their lunch that day at the bazaar.  The day of the actual bazaar was dry weather – for the first time for many years!  Not only that, but the weather continued dry and even sunny throughout the whole Christmas weekend.  Possibly a first – YES!

The following day, Thursday December 21 was the Christmas carol-singing and final Advent walkabout, lighting all the 5 candles, and also visiting the student dormitories and our local neighbours.  We had also visited Xian-Xiao (our neighbouring junior-high school branch) a few days earlier for carol singing and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

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Then on Friday evening, our church members joined with the student fellowship and we extended our carol singing to cover the whole area from Tamsui up to Sanzhi. I joined the group that was singing outside the new ramen noodle shop run by our church members in northern Tamsui….

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And then all the different carol-singing groups met up to visit SJU President Ay’s home here in his university accommodation.  We had such a warm welcome!

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On Christmas Eve, we held our evening service at 7:30 pm, starting in candlelight, and wonderfully supported by our choir, who as always, sang beautifully.

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We had 2 baptisms that evening, Mr. Huang, brother of one of our former students who was baptized himself here a few years ago, and the other was our good friend, Jasmine Yu, in charge of Xian-Xiao School….

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Jasmine invited 12 members of her family to come and witness this momentous event.  These were virtually all people I know from the mountain-climbing trips we have done together over the years.  Apart from one of her cousins who is a Christian, Jasmine is the first Christian in her family, and yet they all came along to support her.  What a great testimony, and praise God!  Please pray for them all!

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Christmas Day, being a Monday, was a normal work and school day here in Taiwan.  We had a short service on Christmas Day, and then we had another one today, December 27, for St. John’s Day – patron saint of SJU…

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And last night, December 26, we had a wonderful Christmas Party for my combined community English class groups.  Normally I have 2 adult English groups, one meeting on Monday afternoons, and the other (a new class this term) on Tuesday evenings.  Actually the Monday afternoon group are mainly church members, and they took on the responsibility of running the party for the Tuesday evening group, who are mostly not.  Everyone brought food, wore red and we all had a great time. Ah, I love red!

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And just check out the fruit animals, made by Ms. Cho, one of the students!

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We danced, ate, played Bingo, musical chairs and musical animal statues and it was all so funny, I could hardly take photos for laughing so much. Spot the penguins. And the lions.  And plenty of other animals.  Just my kinda party!

SJU has a brand new set of LED lights along our main campus boulevard, strings of blue and white lights hanging from all the banyan trees, and looking very splendid.  The students are so impressed they are all taking and posting photos of themselves in the lights.  This was last night, the grand opening was tonight!

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Non-stop all month, and more to come lol.  For now though, this is it.  Christmas is well and truly upon us!

Belated Christmas greetings to you all!

Updated on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017:

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This morning in Advent Church we celebrated the First Sunday of Christmas.  As it comes only days after St. John’s Day on December 27, so our SJU student fellowship were responsible for leading the worship, doing the readings, the notices, collection etc.  They all did a great job!

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We also welcomed Bishop David J. H. Lai for a confirmation service…..

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Seven people were confirmed ~ ranging in age from 17 to 90!

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Congratulations to everyone ~ and what a great way to end 2017!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2018 ~ and I’m off to write my new year resolutions!

Advent Word 2017, Day 23 ‘celebrate’

#AdventWord #celebrate

‘The Church is quiet. We CELEBRATE the birth of a holy child. We pray with the deep intention that every day will be Christmas. Every day God gives us is a gift to CELEBRATE.’

Newly-built Advent Church 台灣聖公會降臨堂 about 1974 ~ kindergarten graduation with Rev. Charles C. T. Chen 陳金地牧師 in the centre.

#CelebrationTime!

Advent Word 2017, Day 12 ‘wilderness’

#AdventWord #wilderness

‘Israel finds her Way in the WILDERNESS. God is the only gardener in the WILDERNESS. Israel’s God is our only Way through the WILDERNESS, from the hill country of Bethlehem, pass the signpost of the Cross to the rivers that are grooved into the earth. Go into the WILDERNESS. It is where we live. God is there.’

Visit to the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會 of Bishop John A. Pinckney from Taiwan’s Companion Diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper S. Carolina (EDUSC), October 1965.

The main entrance of what is now St. John’s University, Taiwan 聖約翰科技大學