The latest edition of our diocesan Friendship Magazine, June 2022, is just published online, and the printed version will be coming out soon. I’m the editor of this publication, so please read ~ and pray for us! It contains news of all our 15 churches, photos, updates, and articles. We really appreciate all your support. Thank you!
The Taiwan Episcopal Church Diocesan Convention 2021 was held last weekend, March 5-6, at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung…
As Covid-19 in Taiwan continues to be contained through strict border and quarantine controls, so we are grateful that our convention could go ahead in-person as planned. Pandemic precautions were in accordance with government guidelines, with temperature checks and hand sanitizer on entry, and face-masks in use for the service and during meetings. We really only took our face-masks off to eat, drink, and for group photos…
Just to set the scene, Kaohsiung is south Taiwan’s largest city and Taiwan’s main port. It’s extremely hot and sultry all summer, and very mild and muggy all winter. Pollution is a major problem and the air quality over the weekend was terrible – and with no breeze, so there was haze in all directions. Famous for its shipbuilding, steelworks, heavy industry, oil refineries, port and manufacturing, it doesn’t sound like a very attractive place. These were the air quality readings for last Friday…
But Kaohsiung does have a lot of interesting history – with an old British Consulate (built 1865) up on the hill at the entrance to Kaohsiung Harbour, and nearby at Sizihwan 西子灣 is where James Laidlaw Maxwell (1836–1921) worked as a doctor, most famous for his treatment of leprosy and malaria. He established the first Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (also in 1865) and this month there are commemorations for the centenary of his death. Though he was from Scotland, he was actually sent to Taiwan in 1864 with the then Presbyterian Church of England. The old houses of Sizihwan have mostly gone, but in one place there’s an NGO working to preserve the few that remain. Nearby is Pier 2, where all the old port warehouses are now being transformed into a huge art, shopping and heritage area, with its own light rail and with hazy views of downtown Kaohsiung. There’s lots going on! There’s also the stunning wall murals at Weiwuying, where there’s always something new to see. That’s where a huge new performing arts centre has opened recently too, but as it’s white and grey in colour, so it blends in with the haze, so you can hardly see what’s what – I’ve spared you all the hazy photos!
Most of us coming to the diocesan convention from the far northern and eastern corners of Taiwan arrived in Kaohsiung a day earlier, on Thursday last week. Those of us from Advent Church, Tamsui (including Meng-Rung and Hsiao-Yen on the left below, who are also both diocesan theological students) had a bit of time for sightseeing on Thursday afternoon…
And on early Friday morning at 6:30 am with friends from Trinity Church, Keelung, we were taking photos at Weiwuying. Can’t waste a single minute!
St. Timothy’s Church is one of 2 Episcopal Churches in Kaohsiung, this one is a Taiwanese-speaking congregation, and came out of St. Paul’s, which is Mandarin Chinese-speaking. St. Timothy’s is located very near Formosa Boulevard Metro Station, famous for its “Dome of Light”, the largest glass work in the world, designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata…
This is St. Timothy’s Church from near and far, and where I stayed on Thursday night – the lower floors of the building are rented out to OSIM, a Singapore company specializing in massage chairs…
St. Timothy’s Church rector is Rev. Richard Ray-Chiang Lee 李瑞強, and his lovely mother-in-law, Ms. Chou Hai-Kuan 周海光, formerly a member of our Advent Church, has just moved to Kaohsiung to be near her daughters and the church. She and one of her daughters invited us to visit her new home, and she was also was on lift duty on Friday to give everyone the most wonderful welcome as they arrived for the convention!
St. Timothy’s Church senior warden is Ms. Jane Ou 歐秀智 (with me in the photo below). Jane is also 1 of 5 daughters of Rev. Richard C. S. Ou, our first Taiwanese Episcopal priest, ordained in 1965. We had several other clergy families well-represented at the convention too, including Song-Jen and Song-En, daughter and son of Rev. Samuel Liao – his daughter as delegate for Grace Church, Tainan, and his son for St. Paul’s, Kaohsiung – it’s the first time for both!
Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Mr. Yang, diocesan secretary, the diocesan staff team and the St. Timothy’s volunteers in their yellow jackets were all ready for action as everyone arrived for temperature checks, registration and the opening service on Friday morning…
Among the arrivals was Mr. John Chuang 莊立忠, newly-retired just last week (on his 65th birthday, February 29!) from his job as assistant diocesan treasurer. He’s worked at the diocesan office in Taipei for 39 years, and actually is continuing in a voluntary role as treasurer for the next year. He knows the diocese better than most, and has lots of stories to tell, as you can imagine. Congratulations John! He’s pictured here below right with Huei-Yu, our new diocesan accountant…
The opening service started at 10:00 am. A southern deanery choir who had gathered specially for the occasion sang beautifully! The funniest moment was watching Ming-You, one of our 2 deacons, who was given the wine to finish off after communion – it was way more than he was used to, and his face turned a very bright red colour. Spot him in the procession leaving the church and in the last photo at the end – we’ve all been smiling ever since!
After the service we had group photos, taken by St. Timothy’s former senior warden, Mr. Hsiao-Wu Chuang. His wife had done all the stunning flower arrangements for the church, and a team of ladies had arranged all the delicious refreshments and lunchboxes. Mr. Chuang also presented each participant with a bag of goodies from his Chinese medicine company, thank you! This is Mr. Chuang with Ms. Chu Ju-zi from St. Mark’s Church (left photo below)….
The offering from the opening service usually goes to the hosting church, but this time, St. Timothy’s rector and warden, with support from Bishop Chang, presented the money to Rev. C. C. Cheng, vicar of St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung for the major renovations being done on their church and kindergarten property….
The opening sessions of the convention on Friday afternoon and evening followed a different schedule for the first time this year. Bishop Chang invited Rev. Canon David Chee to give a keynote speech on the topic, “Our Church in the Pandemic – Uniting in Christ and Building Together”, followed by discussion groups, each with specific questions to discuss, and then feedback sessions related to the topic that lasted into the evening.
The Rev. Canon David Chee is originally from Singapore and has served as Episcopal priest in both Taiwan and Los Angeles – he’s now retired, and he and his wife, Amy live not far from Advent Church. He’s also heading up the newly-reestablished diocesan Trinity Hall Theological Program (now called the ‘Trinity School for Christian Ministry, Taiwan’) as dean. His one-hour keynote speech at the convention was excellent, thought-provoking and inspiring. As his speech was all given in Chinese, he’s kindly written a summary in English, now edited to 3 pages (1200 words)….
In the evening we moved the whole convention to the nearby Howard Plaza Hotel, where we stayed overnight and had the rest of the meetings there. St. John’s University President Huang was waiting for us as we arrived (pictured here with our SJU Chaplain, Rev. Wu). President Huang gave his presentation to the convention on Saturday morning. Our hotel rooms were high up, ours was on the 22nd floor, with amazing night views – into the haze!
The second day’s program was for all the reports, resolutions and Standing Committee elections…
It was the first time that most of us could meet our new honorary diocesan treasurer, Ms. May Shu-Chun Hsu 許淑羣, Chief Financial Officer at Taipei Medical University and member of St. John’s Cathedral. She replaces Ms. Amy Lin, who retired about the same time as Bishop Lai last year. Ms. Hsu is seated in the photo below next to the dean, Rev. Philip Lin and the chair of the Standing Committee, Rev. Lily Chang…
Bishop Chang announced that he has set up a Property Management Committee as part of the diocesan 5-year development plan. He has invited our good friend, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, rector emeritus at St. James’ Church, Taichung to join the committee, saying they both have so many ideas for new ministry that they should be working together – so here they go! Charles and MaryJo both attended the convention, both now aged 86, and both full of energy throughout! Here they all are…
At the other end of the age spectrum were the younger clergy, youth delegates and 2 diocesan interns…
The final announcement of the convention was that next year’s convention will be held at St. Luke’s Church, Hualien on Taiwan’s scenic east coast. This is the delegation from Hualien at this convention with their vicar, Rev. Joseph Ho – so he and churchwarden Mr. Yang will be in charge of organizing everything next year. Such excitement, such a great location!
We give thanks to Rev. Richard Lee, Ms. Jane Ou and everyone at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung for their warm welcome and hospitality. Thanks also to all the diocesan staff for their organization and planning, it has taken months of hard work! And thanks be to God that everything went so smoothly, and that we could have this convention in-person, in-place and, of course in-full-swing!
And thank you all for your prayers and concern for the Taiwan Episcopal Church – they are much appreciated!
Temperature checks ✓ hand sanitizer ✓ face-masks ✓ And so the 60th annual convention of the Taiwan Episcopal Church could begin!
This event was originally scheduled to take place from March 27-28, 2020 in St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung – in conjunction with St. Timothy’s 50th anniversary celebrations. But the pandemic caused a delay, and a new date was set for Saturday August 15 – also it was decided to limit it to a single day, and to relocate it to Advent Church at St. John’s University (SJU), Tamsui.
Advent Church Center is large enough to host a gathering of 80 or more people, and if we needed to reschedule again, it could be done more easily than if we had booked a hotel meeting room, which is usually the case. Also it is well-ventilated, spacious and often quite breezy, being near the sea.
Currently Taiwan has still managed to contain Covid-19, and although there have been a few unexplained individual outbreaks, so far there has been no widespread community transmission, so our annual convention could go ahead this past Saturday. Government regulations say that face-masks are mandatory at places of worship, so everyone wore theirs for the actual service. This is the masked group from St. John’s Cathedral….
Limiting the event to a single day meant the meeting had to be condensed and finished in half the usual time, so a lot more work had to be done in advance to make sure everything could run quickly and smoothly. And it did, thanks be to God! And, of course, thanks to Mr. Yang, the diocesan secretary and all the staff at the diocesan office. The opening service was at 10:00 am in Advent Church…..
The service was followed by group photos and lunch, then after a short break, we started at 12:30 pm for 3 sessions, each of about 1-2 hours. During the breaks, locally famous snacks from the Tamsui area were provided by Advent Church for everyone to enjoy. The meeting finished about 5:30 pm and everyone was given a box of sandwiches and cakes to eat on the journey home. All delicious!
Advent Church was sparkling for the occasion – church members and clergy had worked really hard to make sure everything was ready, including cleaning everywhere inside and out. Each visitor was presented with a small handmade bag, individually decorated with buttons and designs – this was a wonderful team effort led by Marge Tan, chair of our ladies group, using materials from their Tan T-shirt company and helped by talented members of our student fellowship – a 2-day project. I loved mine! Inside was a set of postcards of Advent Church, designed by our student fellowship graduates as part of their final-year project in the SJU Dept. of Creative Design. Beautiful!
On the day itself, all the Advent Church vestry members came along to help, plus a team from the student fellowship – they were there all day – thanks to them all!
For our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this was his first diocesan convention as bishop, and in his sermon, he was clearly delighted to be back in his old home of Advent Church for his first convention…
He started by showing his appreciation to the current leadership team at Advent Church, our lovely retired priest, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, SJU Chaplain Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and churchwarden Mr. Chen Ming-Chuan. All 3 are really great at encouraging church members to get involved and be part of the church ministry. Bishop Chang commented on how, as the regular cleaning person is sick, the church members have taken over the cleaning of the church, giving up their free time and spending hours and hours polishing, dusting, sweeping, washing and cleaning. He said how moved he was to hear that Ms. Shiao-Chien is bringing to the church the high standards she has at home for cleaning the church toilets, scrubbing the floors tile by tile, while 85-year-old Rev. Peter D. P. Chen is dusting and polishing the pulpit and choir chairs, while other church members and the student fellowship spent a whole Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago using high-pressure hoses to wash the white walls around the building, and clean all the windows.
Bishop Chang said that this year, 2020, 3 of our churches in the diocese celebrate their 50th anniversaries: St. James’ Church, Taichung, which celebrated on July 25, St. Timothy’s, Kaohsiung, which has postponed their celebration to September 19, and Advent Church. St. James celebrated the 50th anniversary of the actual church building, while St. Timothy’s and Advent Church are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment or official naming of their churches.
He said that for Advent Church, this is a very special 50th anniversary. Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) was bishop for only 5 years, and yet in those 5 years, he accomplished so much, including the foundation of St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) in 1967 (now SJU). On March 6, 1970, at the 10th annual diocesan convention, held in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, Bishop Wong formally announced that the new church / chapel to be built at SJSMIT would be named ‘Advent Church’. Only 3 weeks later, on March 28, at the Easter Eve Vigil at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, Bishop Wong was taken ill and admitted to hospital. He died on April 27, 1970, so he never lived to see Advent Church be built. Bishop Wong was buried on the highest plot of land at SJSMIT, and over the next few years, the new Advent Church was constructed over and around his grave, which became the site of the altar. The new church building was consecrated on February 17, 1973. Bishop Chang said that it was almost as if, as Bishop Wong died, so Advent Church was born.
Fast forward 50 years, and while Advent Church is thriving, unfortunately SJU is possibly at its lowest point in all those 50 years. Our new SJU president, Dr. Huang Hung-Pin, who took over on August 1, 2020, is determined to turn things around and has already implemented huge cuts to faculty and staff, and is introducing many new ways of working. The priority is to stabilize the financial situation, increase student enrollment and improve academic standards. The finances are desperately low, and Bishop Chang announced that he has started a big fundraising campaign for SJU. He said that, after discussion with the Advent Church leadership team, that Advent Church would be celebrating their 50th anniversary, not by spending money on a big celebration, but by raising money to present as a gift to SJU. His goal is NT$ 500,000 (about US$ 17,000); to be presented to SJU on St. John’s Day, December 28, 2020, and he has invited all clergy, churches and church members to contribute. He also said that for SJU alumni and friends in the USA who would like to contribute, we are grateful to The Episcopal Church for their help in channeling donations to the Diocese of Taiwan. This is SJU President Huang giving his speech at the convention….
Bishop Wong was a true disciple of Christ, who saw the great importance of reaching out through his life and witness to share the Gospel, so fulfilling his motto of ‘Transforming lives through Christ’. Bishop Chang encouraged everyone to follow Bishop Wong’s example ~ not to just sit there in church waiting for people to come, but to go out into the world ~ and share the good news of Christ!
The Taiwan Episcopal Church has 8 kindergartens, and in his sermon, Bishop Chang also said very strongly that the purpose of the kindergartens is to help and support the local community, and for outreach among the kindergarten children and their families. He emphasized that our kindergarten ministry is not just for making money, and the church must stop relying on them for income – and must rely on the church members instead. Later in the meeting, Mrs. Liu, chair of the kindergarten committee talked about how a group of our kindergarten principals, supervisors and teachers had visited church kindergartens in the Province of Hong Kong last year and how moved they had been to see so many Bible verses decorating their buildings, and how they have resolved to do the same here in Taiwan. Children will now learn 5 Bible verses a semester, and small cards with the verses have been printed out and distributed to all our kindergarten children. Mrs. Liu produced statistics that show, in total, our 8 kindergartens have 1,103 children, of whom 94 (8.5%) come from Christian homes. We have a total of 140 full-time teachers and staff, of whom only 30 (21%) are Christians; and 101 part-time teachers and staff, of whom 19 (18.8%) are Christians. So we have a huge amount of work to do sharing the Gospel with the teachers, children and parents. Bishop Chang also emphasized the importance of the kindergarten supervisors being church members of that particular church, and being active in outreach to the parents, getting to know them, inviting them to events and sharing the Gospel with them. This is Mrs. Liu (second left) with the delegation from St. John’s Cathedral, including her son, standing next to her…
Much of the actual meeting-time was taken up with procedural matters, discussions of financial reports, elections to the different committees etc. However, a few other items of note:
1) Rev. David Chee, assisted by Rev. Antony Liang, is now officially starting work on re-establishing the Trinity Hall Theological Center, based at the diocesan office, but running primarily online to all our different churches. This ministry will include developing theological courses for church members, interns, seminarians and clergy. They will focus on strategic planning for each of these groups, which will then help the diocese to have a clearer long-term plan and set realistic goals. This is Rev. David Chee – with Ms. Shiao-Chien, they’re great friends, both involved in the music ministry at Advent Church and though not related, both have the same surname…
2) St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung has a church building that, when it was constructed in 1964, was considered an amazingly innovative design for modern church architecture – it is shaped like a tent with a roof that goes down almost to ground level. However, that same roof leaks very badly and the other church buildings on the site – which house the kindergarten and meeting rooms – are also in a bad state of repair, and becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. The vision of the church is that the whole site could be re-developed, with a new church built. However, the local government is now assessing whether the church should be classified as a historic building, in which case, there will be huge restrictions on what can be done on the site in the future. The vicar, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang asked for prayer and for any legal experts who might be able to offer their assistance.
3) The newly elected chair of the Diocese of Taiwan Standing Committee is the Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, Rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung. Please pray for her, and all the different committees as they continue the work of the diocese. This is Rev. Lily Chang below, with newly-ordained deacon Rev. Stoney Wu and the delegation from St. James – with and without their face-masks!
4) The next diocesan convention will be – as originally planned for this year – hosted by St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, possibly over the first weekend of March 2021 – to be confirmed.
Thank you for your prayers for the convention. And to all those involved in the running of the event, thank you! Special thanks to the churchwarden of Advent Church, Ming-Chuan and his wife, Meng-Chen who have spent months preparing for this great occasion – and posed especially below. We love them to bits, and are truly grateful that everything went so smoothly under their care and direction.
And thanks be to Almighty God ~ and please do continue to pray for Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and all in the Diocese of Taiwan!
Wonderful visitors, wonderful friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ these last 10 days we’ve really enjoyed a feast of music welcoming Bill Lawing and his wife, Cynthia from Davidson College, N. Carolina, USA, and Cynthia’s sister, Gloria from Rollins College, Florida – and some of the younger ones in their family too!
The Lawings are passionate about their music and just love performing. And smiling for the cameras. And talking and meeting everyone. So natural – yet so experienced, so professional – yet so down to earth, so talented – yet so humble and modest. Everybody in Taiwan loves them, and from what they said, seems like they love everybody here too!
Here’s Bill, Cynthia and Gloria after their concert last night at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei with Bishop and Mrs. Lily Lai, Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, Rev. Philip Lin and Ms. Linda Lin, and Ms. Amy Lin…
Anyway, on to the music – we had Bill on his trumpet, Cynthia and Gloria on the piano ~ and away we went! This was their concert finale and my overall favouritest piece, This Little Light of Mine ~ recorded at St. Timothy’s Church…
While they’ve been here, they’ve performed a whole range of music at 2 concerts, 2 church services and 2 kindergartens. What an honour it was to welcome them and listen to their music and watch them play.
This is a very short excerpt from ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’….
After a 16-hour non-stop flight from New York last Thursday, May 24, they arrived very early in the morning in Taipei, and after a traditional Taiwan-style breakfast, they went straight into practicing at St. John’s Cathedral. Their stamina and enthusiasm were amazing. And not just for music ~ Cynthia’s other great passion in Taiwan is the food. The more local the better. Street food expert extraordinaire! So after practice at the cathedral, off we went straight to their welcome lunch with cathedral clergy and friends. Ah, it was a busy morning!
Cynthia and Gloria were brought up in Hong Kong, where their family were members of St. Paul’s Church, whose rector was Rev. James T. M. Pong – he was also their close family friend. He left St. Paul’s in 1971 to become Bishop of Taiwan, and in 1974, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop Pong invited Cynthia to come and give a concert tour all round Taiwan. Those were the days of no a/c, just windows open and fans blowing – and just think, it was high summer! This is Cynthia and Gloria at the diocesan office outside the room named in memory of Bishop Pong, and his photo.
One of those concerts that Cynthia gave in 1974 was in Tainan Theological College, where Bishop Lai was then a student, and he remembers attending – and shaking her hand! Fast forward 37 years to 2011 – and then 2014, and Cynthia was so pleased to be able to come back to Taiwan, along with Bill, offering their musical talents and skills to perform in a series of concerts. So this is their third trip together and this time, they’ve brought some of their family too. Ah, how we loved them all!
Their first concert was at 2:00 pm on Saturday May 26 at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, the second a week later, at 7:00 pm on Saturday June 2 at St. John’s Cathedral. Both concerts were co-sponsored by the Taiwan Episcopal Church and the Christian Tribune 基督教論壇報 – and were on the theme of ‘Love and Peace’ 愛與和平感恩音樂會, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Bombardment, part of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, which saw about 480,000 artillery shells dropped on Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen. It is some of these artillery shells, that, through Bishop Lai’s vision, have been made into artillery shell crosses, symbolizing the transformation of objects of war and hatred into objects of love and peace, hence the ‘P’ in the middle of the crosses. This is Bishop Lai and Bill holding one of the original artillery shell crosses, and Cynthia holding the piece of marble that she picked up in Taroko Gorge when they visited in 2014, and which Bishop Lai has faithfully watered every day, and is now blooming with small green ferns. In 2014, Cynthia promised that when it bloomed they would come back to Taiwan to perform again ~ and so here they are!
The artillery shell crosses were on sale at each concert – here is Gloria and Daniel selling them at the cathedral…
Bishop Lai and Mr. Luo from Advent Church have composed a hymn, ‘Raise High, the Transformed Artillery Shells Cross’ which we sang at the beginning of each of the concerts.
At St. Timothy’s Church, the first 2 verses were sung as a solo by Ms. Lynn Liu, and accompanied by Cynthia on the organ, then in the final verse by Bill and Gloria too. This is the hymn, sung in Chinese.
This is Lynn with the Lawings afterwards…. so great!
St. Timothy’s rector, Rev. Richard J. C. Lee shared Cynthia’s story with us, he also welcomed us all and Mr. Timothy Cheng, Christian Tribune CEO to speak. Then the concert started, and we all relaxed, and enjoyed the variety of music on offer. It was beautiful!
I videoed some excerpts of their concert in Kaohsiung. Ah, I loved it! A few I’ve put on You Tube. Two short excerpts are here for you to enjoy ~ though I have to admit, I don’t know what pieces they are excerpts of, but hey, I like ’em. Listening to music is a bit like enjoying nature, you can appreciate all the flowers and trees around you without needing to know the names of ’em all ~ well, that’s my idea anyway!
The concert at St. Timothy’s Church welcomed all our clergy from southern Taiwan, and many church members, some from every church. In fact after the concert, each church group came up for photos together with the Lawings. Everyone was so appreciative, and especially the youth group who’d come all the way from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, 2 hours drive north!
And a group photo of everyone at St. Timothy’s Church concert…
Then off to dinner later that evening, hosted by Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang and the leaders of St. Paul’s Church, it was so so so delicious! On the right is Mr. Di, who provided so many photos and live broadcasts throughout the concert and service. Really appreciative of his help!
On Sunday May 27, Bill and Cynthia also played 4 pieces during the service at St. Paul’s, starting with a prelude on the steps of the church. This is St. Paul’s Church before the service ~ that guy on the bike just happened to appear at the right moment!
This was the Lawing’s main piece, played after the creed, I think it is also my most favourite of all!
They were also presented with small gifts in appreciation…
And of course, we all had a group photo after the service!
Then off they went to Taiwan’s southernmost tip, Kenting, with Rev. Richard Lee and his family, and I went back to Taipei. Seems like they had a great time there – then to Tainan where they played at the kindergartens and had a fun time with Rev. Philip Ho and his wife, Nancy at Grace Church. By Saturday, they were back in Taipei and we went to visit Bishop Lai for tea-drinking, always one of the highlights of their visits to Taiwan!
And so to St. John’s Cathedral concert, held last night, and a similar programme to the one at St. Timothy’s Church. So I got to hear them twice, ah, a double blessing!
We finished with presentations – Bishop Lai gave Bill, Cynthia and Gloria a small artillery shell cross each. Then a group photo, as always!
Today the Lawings were playing at Good Shepherd Church, and then leaving Taiwan to go on to the next stage of their travels. For us, we have many wonderful memories of their visit, and especially their music. It was great to welcome the younger members of their family too, they enjoyed exploring Taiwan. Hoping they’ll all come back again soon, but in the meantime, we say goodbye with hearts filled with gratitude and love.
Every city needs some colour, especially if the city concerned is famous for being a city nobody wants to visit. Or live in. Or work in. Kaohsiung is exactly that city. It may be the southern capital of Taiwan and a major metropolis. But it is also THE city in Taiwan that everybody loves to hate. Far too hot in summer, far too polluted in winter. Full of industry, oil refineries, factories and vehicles pumping out fumes all day and all night. An ugly, horrible, industrial, polluted, over-heated and under-cared-for metropolis, frequently listed in the Top Ten Most Polluted Cities of the World. My impression has always been that it has almost nothing going for it other than half the country seems to come from Kaohsiung, been educated there or worked there at some time. So they kinda feel loyal to their ‘home town’. But then again, most couldn’t wait to leave, from what I had always heard. Ah, poor old Kaohsiung!
But y’know, Kaohsiung is changing. Being transformed no less. By colour! And not just any old colour. Walls and buildings are being painted with huge and very attractive murals. Not just painted with cartoon murals or indecipherable graffiti, though there are plenty of those. But painted with REAL art. Really beautiful, stunning, colourful and amazing high-quality works of art in fact.
Walls are divisive, not just by their nature, but by their utter ugliness. Plain walls are so boring, but coloured walls, if painted the wrong colour or covered in abusive graffiti may be worse. But now the walls in Kaohsiung are turning heads, and turning the world upside down by their beauty. This wall mural is the most recent, dated 2018!
Much of this transformation is taking place in the area around Weiwuying MRT Metro Station 衛武營 on the MRT Orange Line (exit 5, turn right onto Jianjun 建軍 Road). Opposite is the Kaohsiung Armed Forces General Hospital, and a bit further along is the Kaohsiung Mosque …
Across from the hospital and mosque is a large housing estate / apartment complex, housing military dependents, and it is on these walls that the murals have been painted.
And right next to the MRT Station is the wall of the bus station, and that mural is perhaps the most famous ~ painted to look like a huge bookcase….
The walls around the side of the bus station are also painted too….
The murals are mostly painted by the Wallriors (for more information see here and their facebook page here), and they are really talented. Real artists. Working from cranes and scaffolding. Supported by the Kaohsiung City government and the local community. Not only have the walls been painted in that area, but the local community have planted flowers all over, and it’s beautiful! The old people sit out and chat to each other, and talk to visitors. Such a friendly place. You must must must go!
And if it’s a sunny day, then so much the better. We went there last Thursday afternoon, and the light was perfect. It is by far the most amazing place to visit in Kaohsiung!
But Weiwuying is not the only place with street art in Kaohsiung, there’s plenty more, scattered around, but information offered on the internet is virtually all in Chinese, so get some help if your Chinese language skills are not up to scratch! And so it was that me and my good friends, Shiu-Chin and Ah-Guan headed off to the sports stadium nearby where there’s 3 wall murals, though the sun was in the wrong place for good photos….
And then we went to the Kaohsiung Cultural Center, and after a bit of walking around following Google Maps, so we found 2 more amazing murals, about 1 km apart, but well worth visiting, even though by then it was nearly dark. Daylight is required to see murals of course. But hey, a sunset on the way was an added bonus! The first one is by San Francisco-based artist, Mona Caron, part of her series on weeds, titled, ‘Outgrowing‘ (the link also shows videos of the making of the mural), and which government officials apparently claim is the biggest mural in Asia….
This second one is by Kaohsiung-based artist Bamboo Yang (楊惟竹) of the Wallriors…
And then there is the newly-famous and very wonderful area called Pier 2 駁二藝術特區. This is a huge area of old and abandoned warehouses around the Kaohsiung Port area, now all being restored and converted into art spaces, museums, shops and restaurants, with plenty to see and do. There’s lots of wall murals here too, though mostly of cartoons or weird and wacky designs. The coastguard ships are here, and there’s a good view of the Kaohsiung Skyline across the water. There’s also the light rail / tram-line too. We were there on Wednesday last week, which was a national holiday in Taiwan (228), so the place was packed. And the light rail was free, the last day. From March 1 onwards, you have to pay. But it’s not expensive. And the whole area has a great atmosphere ~ well worth visiting!
The other famous place in Kaohsiung that has undergone major transformation in the last few years is the Love River 愛河. The river flows through the heart of the city, and for years was famous as a badly-polluted (and therefore very misnamed) stinky canal. But it too has been transformed. The water has been cleaned up, parks run along the river banks with performances going on, restaurants, coffee shops, bars etc, and it is a pleasant place to spend an evening. We were there on Wednesday night last week. And Thursday night. And Friday night too! All for the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival, which finished this past weekend, but which saw thousands and thousands of people coming along to see the lanterns and the light show and the performances. It’s the Year of the Dog and the old name of Kaohsiung was ‘Takau’ in the Taiwanese language (Chinese: 打狗). The meaning of the associated Chinese characters is “beat the dog”, so there were even more dog lanterns than ever. And lanterns mean colour, colour and more colour!
And what else to see in Kaohsiung? A must-go place is the Formosa Boulevard MRT Station 美麗島站 (Meilidao) famous for its “Dome of Light”, the largest glass work in the world – designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata. I love it!
And if you still have time and energy, check out some churches. Right next to the Love River is the R.C. Holy Rosary Cathedral, apparently the oldest RC Church in Taiwan (though Wanchin Basilica RC Church in Pingtung may also be the oldest, depending on whether you date the church from when it was established, constructed, or rebuilt!) Anyway, the cathedral was first established in 1860 and rebuilt to its present dimensions in 1928. I saw it very early in the morning, and very late at night, both times in the murky darkness,so this is the best view I got ~ actually it is completely overshadowed by nearby high-rise buildings, so really unless you know it’s there, you won’t even notice it!
And the Taiwan Episcopal Church has 2 churches in Kaohsiung – the very beautiful St. Paul’s Church in the Sanmin area of the city…..
And St. Timothy’s Church, not far from Formosa Boulevard MRT Station, 30 minutes walking distance apart. Lovely clergy and very welcoming people in both churches. Well worth visiting too!
So Kaohsiung is now my new favourite city. It’s true it’s too hot in summer, but at this time of year and after a winter of terrible endless rain and cold up here in the north, well, y’know, Kaohsiung seems extra-attractive. Just look at all this colour!
And the people are so friendly. On an early morning walk around the city, everyone greets you. Nobody does that in Taipei. Or even Taichung. Only in the countryside does that happen in northern and central Taiwan.
But Kaohsiung, major city that it is, is oh so friendly! I just love it!
PS: Updated May 28, 2018 – see Part 2, revisiting Street Art locations in Kaohsiung, discovering there’s even more street art than before!
Yes, honest, I love CMS! And all those associated with CMS ~ the mission partners, CMS staff, UK Link Churches and of course all those who welcome us to serve in their dioceses, churches, organizations and communities!
CMS stands for Church Mission Society ~ I joined in September 1989, served in Tanzania for 7 years, and then in January 1999 arrived in Taiwan and I’ve been here ever since, first at St. James’ Church, Taichung for 7 years, and since early 2007 based here at St. John’s University, on Taiwan’s NW coast. My last formal CMS-UK visitors came in November 2007 when we were honoured to welcome 4 VIPs from CMS: Rev. Canon Tim Dakin, then General Secretary of CMS (now Bishop of Winchester); the Rev. Philip Simpson, then Eurasia Director, CMS; Rev. Canon Chye Ann Soh, then East Asia Director, CMS; and the Rev. Simon Na, then North East Asia Manager, CMS, based in South Korea ~ all were here for a 5-day whistle-stop tour of the country, which included the consecration of the new Education Building at St. James’ Church, Taichung.
How could we in Taiwan ever hope to follow on from such a high-level VIP delegation of such handsome and charming visitors?! Impossible! So we had a very long pause, and now, fast forward to 9 years later, we have just had the great honour of welcoming Raj Patel to visit Taiwan. Equally handsome and as charming as the other 4, of course! He’s in charge of the Asia office at CMS-UK HQ in Oxford, so definitely of VIP status!
Here he is arriving at the Taoyuan Airport last Wednesday ~ from the photo you can just sense his excitement and enthusiasm arriving in Taiwan for his first ever visit ~ YES! Just don’t mention the typhoon that delayed him for 18 hours in Bangkok on his way here!
And in case you’re wondering, yes I did take him to St. James’ Church and he saw the 4 VIP CMS visitors sitting in the front row of the photo taken after the Education Building Consecration Service on November 24, 2007 ….. Ah yes, we love welcoming CMS VIP’s!
But now, back to that typhoon…. This past summer, between July 8 and September 9, despite being a very active typhoon season, none came in this direction, all headed to Japan or Hong Kong instead. But from September 9 to September 27, in a space of 2 weeks, we had 3 typhoons, 2 of them direct hits. Raj was supposed to arrive on Tuesday September 27, but it was not to be. Typhoon Megi was big, and brought widespread devastation ~ thousands of trees, electricity poles, scaffolding and signboards were blown down, and there were power and water outages and major flooding in some areas. Fortunately the authorities called a Typhoon Day (work and classes cancelled) on Tuesday and extended it to Wednesday, so although it was bad, it could have been a lot worse. As it was, 7 people were killed and over 600 injured, with zillions of dollars of damage, particularly to agriculture.
So Raj was stuck in Bangkok and we were stuck here. But good news came early on Wednesday September 28 when Raj arrived in the very early morning, and at 7:00 am there I was to welcome him at the airport – but unfortunately minus welcoming balloons (couldn’t get any cos of the typhoon) and minus tinsel (discovered on the day before that the termites had eaten it all) so we had my yellow Mauritius scarf instead ha ha!
So we had to pack Raj’s already packed 6-day itinerary into only 5 days, and non-stop it was! First stop upon arrival was to a very grey and overcast St. John’s University (SJU) and Advent Church where the maintenance staff were busy cleaning up after the typhoon, and students and faculty all absent (all work and classes cancelled), except for SJU President Peter Herchang Ay 艾和昌, Advent Church Rector, Rev Lennon Chang Yuan-Rung 張員榮牧師 and SJU Acting Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang 吳興祥牧師 and his wife, who all came along for the Grand Welcome Coffee Reception ~ yes, great coffee and then lunch!
Raj had brought photos on his iPad to share with everyone about his family, life and background covering his early life in India and East Africa and then in the UK so he was much in demand at every place we went….
Second stop was St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung, on Taiwan’s NE coast, and about an hour’s drive from here. Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang kindly drove us there. Rev. Julia Lin Shu-Hua 林淑華牧師 had phoned up the children in the church-run after-school classes to ask them to come to meet Raj and to perform some music and welcome songs – the children were all at home as it was a Typhoon Day, but the typhoon was gone – so lots turned up and we had such a warm welcome! Raj told his life story by getting people of different ages to stand up to indicate the age at which something significant had happened to him, starting at the age of 6 when his family left Kenya to move back to India. We also heard all about St. Stephen’s history and ministry and their recent mission trip to Sabah, and all followed by yummy yummy soup and fruits. Such a moving, fun and happy afternoon, and they were all so lovely – thank you!
And so to Taipei City to stay overnight in the diocesan guest house and to meet Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai, who had just come back from the USA early on the Tuesday morning, landing just before all flights were cancelled by the typhoon. Most importantly we had tea-drinking and sharing in the theology of tea ~ Raj called it Bishop Lai’s ‘tea-ology’!