Tag Archives: Taiwan Episcopal Church

Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮 consecrated and installed as bishop of Taiwan!

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang (center) at his consecration as bishop of Taiwan on Feb. 22, 2020, with Bishop David J. H. Lai (left), bishop of Taiwan 2001-2020, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (right), chief consecrator. Photo: Mr. Yei Yung-Xian for the Diocese of Taiwan

“Hello, Taiwan! It is a blessing to be with you on this glorious day, and I know that I speak for all the archbishops and bishops that this is a glorious day!” With that joyful introduction, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry began his sermon to an expectant crowd of over 400 people gathered inside and outside St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei on Feb. 22 to witness the ordination, consecration, installation and seating of the Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as the sixth bishop of Taiwan.

Whole congregation photo by Warren Chuo

Despite growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, it was considered safe to continue with the consecration service, although the evening’s consecration banquet was canceled and travel restrictions meant that the archbishop and bishops of Hong Kong were unable to participate. The service was performed in Mandarin Chinese and English, and Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The co-consecrators were Bishop David J. H. Lai of Taiwan, Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick of Hawaii, Archbishop and Primate of Japan Nathaniel Uematsu, Bishop Haruhisa Iso of Osaka (Taiwan’s companion diocese) and Bishop Greg Rickel of Olympia. Archbishop and Primate of Korea Moses Yoo, Bishop Todd Ousley of the presiding bishop’s staff, Bishop John Smylie of Wyoming, most of the Province VIII bishops and a group of 15 clergy and church members from the Diocese of Osaka gave the service a special international flavor. Clergy stoles, flowers and decorations were all in traditional Chinese red, while firecrackers and a taiko drum performance enlivened the celebrations during the service, as did the combined choir from three Taipei churches.

Flower arrangement by Ms. Susan Shih, Good Shepherd Church

Chang, 64, is married to Hannah Fen-Jan Wei and has two daughters and three grandchildren. He graduated in 1975 with a diploma in industrial engineering from St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology, the predecessor of St. John’s University, Taipei, where he was also baptized in 1970. As associate professor of mathematics at St. John’s University from 1983 to 2016, Chang was ordained a deacon in 1995 and a priest in 1999. He served as chaplain of St. John’s University (1997-2016) and vicar, later rector, of Advent Church on the St. John’s University campus, which serves as both university chapel and parish church.

Bishop Chang, his wife Hannah and 2 daughters

In his acceptance speech after his election as bishop on Aug. 3, 2019, Chang said, “Building on the work of Bishop David J. H. Lai over the past 20 years, I will continue to go forth in the name of the Lord.” His inspiration and role model is Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and founder of St. John’s University, whose motto was “Transforming lives through the life of Christ.” Chang sees himself as inheriting Wong’s legacy, and in his sermon Curry referred to Wong’s life and witness, exhorting the congregation, “I want you and your bishop-elect to claim this high calling, to transform lives through the life of Christ, through the love of Christ, through the goodness of Christ. Bishop Wong was right! I hope you are as excited about this as I am!” He ended his sermon with some personal encouragement to Chang: “Help us to follow Jesus, help us to find our way to God and to each other, and may the legacy of Bishop Wong be your ministry in the future!”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry encouraging Bishop-elect Chang in his sermon

At the end of the service, Curry paid tribute to Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Episcopal Church in Taiwan, which was established in 1954 and is now a member diocese of Province VIII.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry with Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma

The above article was our official account of the consecration, published on the Episcopal News Service (ENS) website here.

Photos of the Consecration Service

Part 1: Before the service – checking temperatures and preparation…

Part 2: The Consecration Service…

And some of the group photos…

We give thanks to God that everything went so smoothly, and we thank you all for your prayers, concern and support.

It was particularly moving for us that so many bishops decided to come to Taiwan, despite the coronavirus situation, to join in the consecration service.  As you know from the ENS article above, the archbishop, bishops and visitors from Hong Kong, and also the Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock from the Episcopal Church sadly had to cancel because of travel restrictions.  Many Taiwan people chose to stay home and watch on the livestream instead, a wise move particularly for those sitting outside.  It was sunny in the morning but in the afternoon a cold wind blew and it started to rain – definitely chilly and wet! 

Archbishop and Primate of Japan Nathaniel Uematsu and Bishop Haruhisa Iso of Osaka are escorted back into the cathedral in the rain after distributing Holy Communion to the congregation outside

Fourteen bishops signed and sealed the ordination certificate, those mentioned in the article above, plus other Province VIII bishops: Bishop Megan Traquair of N. California, Bishop Gretchen Rehberg of Spokane, Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah, Bishop Mark Lattime of Alaska and Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce of Los Angeles, who is also secretary of the House of Bishops and who read one of the testimonials in the service – in Mandarin Chinese!  The Province VIII bishops had arrived earlier in the week to hold a meeting from February 19-21.  For Bishop Greg Rickel’s account of his visit to Taiwan for the consecration, see his blog post here. These are the bishops who were at the consecration service, along with the retired RC Archbishop of Taipei and bishops from the Methodist and Lutheran Churches in Taiwan… 

photo by Mr. Yei Yung-Xian

The first of the US bishops to arrive in Taiwan was Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea from Hawaii who came especially early in order to meet with Bishop-elect Chang as his ‘coaching bishop’. They met all day on Tuesday, while Bea spent the day with Hannah, and I went along too.  Yes, they’re all such lovely people!…

Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea, with Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and his wife, Hannah

The official events of the consecration weekend started on Friday February 21, when Presiding Bishop Michael Curry met with the press, namely the Christian Tribune (whose report is here) and the Christian Daily (here) and I was there too.  The first question was from the Christian Tribune, about how Presiding Bishop Curry responds to the fear created by the coronavirus situation.  He answered with the words of 1 John 4:18, ‘Perfect love casts out fear’ and described how, for him, that meant trusting in God through prayer, following medical advice about what precautions to take, caring for others, and working to making sure that everyone has access to good healthcare.  He was also asked about how he balances ancient traditions with a changing modern society, how to encourage young people in their faith, and the importance of being involved both ecumenically and internationally. 

This was followed by a meeting with the diocesan clergy and spouses, then lunch together.  In the afternoon, there was a rehearsal for the consecration service, and a welcome dinner in the evening, with gift presentations and speeches. 

On the Saturday, the bishops gathered in the morning for the signing and sealing of the ordination certificate, then a meeting with the Presiding Bishop…

The completed ordination certificate, ready for framing….

And the bishops are ready!

The consecration service went so well! One special mention must be made of 13-year-old Samuel Z. W. Liu, grandson of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, former dean of the cathedral. Samuel did the the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 42: 1-9, in English, and we were all really impressed. He spoke clearly with beautiful pronunciation, and he was calm and confident; a real credit to himself and his grandfather!

Samuel Z. W. Liu reads the lesson

That the consecration service went so well was in part due to a team of key people who made sure everything ran smoothly, on time and according to plan.  Ms. Sharon Jones (in red in the photos below with bishops and spouses) is Presiding Bishop Curry’s executive coordinator, and it was wonderful to find out that she comes from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  This is a very important country to Taiwan, one of the few with official diplomatic relations. Taiwan is recognized by only 14 out of 193 United Nations member states (plus the Holy See) – and St. Vincent is one of them.  We were able to share with Sharon about the 3-month training project at St. John’s University last year with a group from Latin America and the Caribbean, including 5 trainees from St. Vincent (see that blog post here). Welcome Sharon!

Mr. Tim Pan is our translator-extraordinaire!  He translated for the Presiding Bishop on his last visit to Taiwan in 2017, and he arranged his schedule to help this time too.  He has extensive knowledge of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan and in the US, he knows his Bible, and he knows how to translate from Chinese to English and back again very quickly, plus he has a really good connection with the Presiding Bishop and even coordinates his body language as he translates.  Yes, Tim was great!  Knowing he was coming to translate meant we could all breathe a huge sigh of relief – and we could relax and enjoy the whole experience!

Mr. Tim Pan translates for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Another key person was Canon Mark Stevenson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, with whom I had corresponded in a grand total of 98 emails (yes, it’s true!) since August 2019, when we started to organize the consecration.  He even came to Taiwan for a few days in October 2019 to help us with the planning.  Just amazing.  At the rehearsal last Friday afternoon, he had everyone rehearsing over and over until it all went like clockwork.  This is Canon Mark in action on the left with Rev. Lily Chang on the right…

After the consecration service on Saturday, everyone was talking about how beautiful the service was, such a grand occasion and so well-choreographed. Much of the credit for that must go to Canon Mark, but he himself said it was largely due to Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Taichung.  She was the very hard-working chair of the liturgy and music section of the consecration committee, helped considerably by the other members, Rev. Keith C. C. Lee, Rev. Simon T. H. Tsou, Very Rev. Philip L. F. Lin, Rev. Antony F. W. Liang and Mrs. Amy Chee.  The consecration booklet they produced in both Chinese and English was extremely comprehensive, and the list of all those who participated was very extensive.  The music was amazing, the combined choir from St. John’s Cathedral, Advent Church and Good Shepherd had been practicing for weeks. The choir sang from the cathedral balcony and they were wonderful! 

Mrs. Amy B. H. Lin was a key leader in the consecration committee, in charge of the reception, the welcome dinner, transport for the Presiding Bishop and his team, and the ushers at the service. Mr. Di Yun-Hung helped too.  The ushers were really well-coordinated and well-organized, keeping an eye on the congregation as well as making sure everyone had their temperatures checked on arrival, and hands sprayed with sanitizer. (The clergy had made the decision that they and all those in the procession would not wear face-masks for the service, but for the congregation, it was a personal decision).  Amy was invaluable, as always, and much of the success of the whole event was due to her organization and coordination.  This photo was taken at the welcome dinner, Amy is 4th from the left next to Linda, wife of the cathedral dean, Philip Lin.

Thanks to our photography team, Mr. Yei, Mr. Warren Chuo, Rev. Antony Liang and Mr. Derchu Chan.  I took a few photos too (2,500 in fact, and it’s taken me all week to get them sorted – hence the delay in producing this blog post!) and mostly I had to wear a purple jacket to show I was on the team.  Everyone else, those in the congregation, were discouraged from taking photos during the service so as to keep a worshipful atmosphere.  There were many other people who helped and supported, planned and organized. Too many to name – but a big thank you to all!

The photography team

The consecration was livestreamed and recorded for you to watch on YouTube here – it’s nearly 3 hours long but really worth watching!

The consecration banquet, originally arranged for the Saturday evening was cancelled, meaning everyone could go home, but for the international guests, we arranged a small dinner.  During the dinner, Archbishop Moses of Korea asked to sing a song, and that led on to all the other groups of bishops and visitors standing up to perform.  For the Taiwan group, Hannah led a children’s action song in Taiwanese.  I am sure that not many new bishops, on the night of their consecration, find themselves standing up in front of other bishops performing an action song for children!

Among all the international visitors was a group of 15 clergy and church members from our companion diocese of Osaka, Japan, led by their bishop, Bishop Haruhisa Iso.  One of their very lovely clergy, Rev. Akira Iwaki and his wife were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary that very day. Rev. Iwaki has been to Taiwan many times, and the last time he came, it was his 70th birthday. This time he was celebrating 50 years of marriage.  Many congratulations to them both!  He led the Osaka ladies in a lively song at the dinner….

Bishop Lai generously gave everyone a prize for singing, either a teapot or some tea!  He and Lily have now retired, and on Sunday they left Taipei for Tainan, where they will live.  We have really appreciated Bishop Lai’s leadership in the diocese, and particularly in developing the international friendships and relationships that have helped our diocese to be more outward-looking and with a broader vision that goes way beyond this small island of Taiwan.  Presiding Bishop Curry and Bishop Lai are House of Bishops classmates, meaning they became bishops in the same year.  As the Presiding Bishop said at the welcome dinner, now that Bishop Lai is retiring, he is the last one from his class still in the House of Bishops.  Bishop Lai will be much missed and we wish him and Lily a happy and healthy retirement! 

Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai with Lily’s sister and her husband at the consecration

On Sunday morning also, the Presiding Bishop and his group went to Christ Church, Chungli, Taoyuan for the service there and Archbishop Moses from Korea was preaching at the English service at St. John’s Cathedral, while the Osaka group visited Good Shepherd Church, Taipei. Our brand new bishop, Bishop Chang and his wife, Hannah were at Good Shepherd Church too, and I also went along.  Bishop Chang wore his new green stole, a gift from Bishop Iso at the welcome dinner.  I just love this photo of Bishop Chang and Bishop Iso, taken at Good Shepherd Church.

For Bishop Chang it was most appropriate that he should start his new ministry as bishop at Good Shepherd, as that was the church where he was ordained deacon in 1995. Bishop Iso preached and the rector, Rev Keith C. C. Lee translated.  The Gospel was read in Japanese by Rev. Kiyomi Semmatsu from Osaka, and in Chinese by Keith Lee. Keith is able to preach in 4 languages, Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, English and Japanese; so he’s a really valuable person to have around!  At the end of the service, Bishop Chang presented gifts to Bishop Iso, Rev. Iwaki and his wife, and Ms. Chao Wen-Yi, our former colleague in the St. John’s University Chaplaincy for many years, whose 70th birthday was on Sunday – and what a special way to celebrate!

All the Osaka group with Bishop Chang, Hannah and Rev. Keith Lee…

And everyone in the congregation at Good Shepherd Church…

Then followed the most exquisite and delicious Japanese-style lunch, prepared by the ladies of Good Shepherd Church.  It was just beautiful, with special place mats too, welcoming everyone to Good Shepherd Church – printed in Japanese, with the Good Shepherd cross…

Ms. Susan Shih, the very talented wife of Good Shepherd’s senior warden, Jake Hung was in charge of the lunch.  She was also in charge of all the beautiful flower arrangements for the consecration service at the cathedral, all in stunning Chinese-style, with a lot of red. And she sang in the combined choir too. Thank you Susan, a really special lady!   

On Monday morning, I went with Bishop Chang to take the Presiding Bishop and his group to the airport for their departure.  They were flying via Seoul, and their flight was full of boys from a Korean youth baseball team, all in uniform with identical jackets, bags and all wearing face-masks and white gloves.  The coronavirus situation in Korea is extremely serious, and later on Monday, the Taiwan government announced travel restrictions to be imposed from Tuesday onwards.

Taiwan is still holding its collective breath, and we are still hoping and praying that the coronavirus situation will improve.  Taiwan currently has 32 confirmed cases; so far they remain contained and there has been no big community outbreak. Schools started their new semester this week and so far all is well, St. John’s University starts its new semester on March 3. All around us, in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, the situation is very serious.  The Taiwan government continues to be very vigilant, and yesterday announced the cancellation of big gatherings, including temple events, which would bring together large numbers of people in close contact, which probably would also have included our consecration service.  President Tsai Ing-wen announced that she has suspended preparations for her inauguration ceremony, due to be held on May 20. We have also cancelled (or possibly rescheduled for next year) the World Anglican Chinese Clergy Fellowship conference in Taipei that was to have been held in April. 

And what next? Well, on Tuesday, Bishop Chang was elected as the new chair of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees, succeeding Bishop Lai who was chair for the last 2 years. The challenges ahead are many.

Please do pray for him and Hannah as they settle into the new role, for wisdom, grace and strength. 

To end with, some photos with my favourite people!

And finally a special prize goes to this charming young man for sitting through the whole consecration service outside in the cold and rain, and who was still smiling to the end!

Please do continue to pray for us, for the coronavirus situation, for the Diocese of Taiwan and our new bishop.

Thank you, and thanks be to God!

News from Taiwan of Consecration and Celebration in a time of Coronavirus

The consecration and installation of Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮 as the new Bishop of Taiwan will take place this coming Saturday, February 22, 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, starting at 2:00 pm Taiwan time (UK time: 6:00 am). You can watch it on this live stream, via YouTube …

CMS (Church Mission Society) asked me to write a short article about the Coronavirus situation in Taiwan, how it affects daily life and an update about the coming consecration. This is the CMS article here, published today. They asked for only 300 words, but it grew to over 500, and I’ve now added a few updates from today’s news, so bear with me….

“Taiwan holds its collective breath. We hope and pray that the coronavirus situation improves and that a community outbreak does not occur. The Taiwan government is being cautious and vigilant, schools have an extended 2 weeks’ holiday, many people are working from home and others are driving rather than using public transport. After panic-buying of face-masks caused a major shortage, the government wisely urged that healthy people wear them only in crowded places, on public transport and in hospitals. So far, Taiwan has 22 (now 24) confirmed cases and one fatality, a 61-year-old taxi driver in central Taiwan, thought to have been infected by transporting infected passengers recently returned from China. The passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship (currently quarantined in Japan) visited Taipei’s famous tourist sites on January 31, and the government had a busy time following up all those in Taiwan who might have been infected. The all-clear was given a few days ago, and tourist sites are open, along with hotels and restaurants, though all are seeing far fewer visitors.

This coming Saturday, February 22, the Taiwan Episcopal Church will hold the consecration and installation of our new bishop, Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, succeeding Bishop David J. H. Lai, who has faithfully led the diocese for almost 20 years. As the coronavirus so far remains contained, we will go ahead with the welcome dinner for international visitors on Friday night and the service on Saturday, but we have cancelled the consecration banquet, originally scheduled for Saturday evening. Travel restrictions mean that the archbishop and bishops of Hong Kong have had to cancel their visit; we hope there will be no further such cancellations. Fortunately the group of 16 from our companion diocese of Osaka, Japan led by Bishop Haruhisa Iso, arrived safely this afternoon. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be the chief consecrator, and we are expecting 13 other archbishops and bishops from Japan, Korea and the USA, plus church leaders from within Taiwan (including the RC Archbishop of Taipei), and over 300 in the congregation, many of whom will have to sit outside in the cathedral courtyard watching by video. All who enter the cathedral compound on Saturday will have their temperatures checked, in accordance with current Taipei City Government regulations, and hands sprayed with alcohol-based sanitizer.

For several weeks now, many of our clergy and church members have been wearing face-masks for worship services, while most other church activities have been cancelled, and all those with colds or fever told to stay home. For Saturday, we are trying to be careful without being fearful. Clergy, servers and those processing into the cathedral for the service will not wear face-masks, while for the congregation it is by personal choice. There will be bowing instead of hand-shaking during the peace, and everyone will take Holy Communion by dipping the wafer into the wine. We pray for safety and God’s protection at this time, especially on Saturday, and pray that this situation will draw us closer together as the body of Christ, committed to caring for each other and striving to be tolerant, understanding and patient with others. We pray also for the Diocese of Taiwan in this time of transition, and for Bishop Lai and Rev. Chang. May God’s peace fill our hearts and minds, and may our witness be strong and courageous. Amen.”

Wall-to-wall coverage of the coronavirus situation: the 3 collages used in this post are random shots of Taiwan’s TV News Channels taken this Thursday lunchtime…

And finally, do check out the live stream on Saturday – and watch out for the celebratory firecrackers and Taiko Drum Performance immediately after ‘The Seating’ of the new bishop!

CMS Link Letter #79

Published yesterday by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below…

I wrote the original letter on January 22, just before Chinese New Year, but the corona virus situation has developed so fast since then that the letter is already vastly out of date. So I have sent a prayer request to CMS for this week’s Prayerspace email, as follows:

“Catherine Lee requests prayer for the consecration of the new Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, on Saturday February 22 at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. Taiwan has 18 confirmed cases of the corona virus, and fortunately so far all are contained. The Taiwan government is being cautious and vigilant. So far there has been no community outbreak, and as long as it remains this way, then the consecration service will go ahead as planned, although we have cancelled the consecration banquet on the Saturday evening, and travel restrictions mean that the archbishop and bishops from Hong Kong will not be able to come. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (of Royal Wedding fame) will be chief consecrator, and we are expecting archbishops and bishops from Japan, Korea and USA, VIP church leaders from Taiwan and a congregation of over 300 people.”

Your prayers are much appreciated, thank you – and please continue!

陳銘佑傳道按立會吏聖職典禮 Congratulations to Rev. Chen Ming-You on his Ordination as Deacon!

A brand new deacon for the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ YES!

The Rev. Chen Ming-You 陳銘佑 was ordained deacon by the Rt. Rev. David J. H. Lai, Bishop of Taiwan, at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Saturday January 18, 2020, the day the church remembers the ‘Confession of St. Peter’. It was certainly a special day for Ming-You – and for us all!

Ming-You took the long route towards ordination, fitting in studying around his work, and we’ve all been looking forward to this day for a very long time! This is the last ordination before Bishop Lai retires, so it was extra-special. Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop-Elect preached, and the service was attended by nearly all our clergy, clergy spouses, family, friends and church members from all over Taiwan. It was all very moving!

Ming-You was born in 1975, and studied here at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT), Taipei, the predecessor to St. John’s University (SJU), on the 5-year program in electronic engineering. While he was here, under the SJSMIT chaplain, Rev. Samuel Y. C. Lin, Ming-You joined the student fellowship and towards the end of his studies, he was baptized in Advent Church. Many of his friends in the student fellowship are now serving in the Taiwan Episcopal Church as clergy, church members and diocesan staff. Here they all are!

These days, Ming-You, his wife and 2 young sons live near his parents in Longtan, Taoyuan, where they run a computer business. At weekends, they serve at St. Stephen’s Church. Keelung – from where a large group came to the ordination service to sing and to show their support…

Ming-You will serve as a non-stipendiary deacon. In his sermon, Rev. Lennon Chang shared about the ministry of deacons in the New Testament, particularly in taking care of the disadvantaged and poor ~ and he reminded Ming-You, as a graduate of SJSMIT, of Bishop James C. L. Wong (first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan, 1965-70, and founder of SJSMIT / SJU), who was keen to encourage students through his motto, ‘Transforming Lives Through the Life of Christ’. It is therefore very appropriate that Ming-You should be serving in St. Stephen’s Church, where there are many families and young people in challenging circumstances – and where he finds great joy in ministry. Here is Ming-You and the group from St. Stephen’s…

And St. Stephen’s vicar, Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin and the choir….

This is Ming-You and his extended family…

And all our clergy…

And all from St. John’s Cathedral…

Plus plenty of other church groups and friends…

Please do pray for Ming-You as he starts his ministry as deacon in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and for his family. He’s a very busy man, with many responsibilities at home, work and church! We give thanks that he has responded to God’s calling, and commit him into God’s care.

Photos taken before the service, including the rehearsal….

It’s 3:00 pm and the service is ready to start …..

And off we go!

It was a great occasion, followed by a delicious reception. Thanks to St. John’s Cathedral for their warm welcome!

Congratulations to Ming-You and his family and …..

Thanks be to Almighty God!

Congratulations to Isaac Chen Wei-Chieh 陳瑋杰 and his beautiful bride 羅雅馨!

On September 2, 2019, I received a very special message, and it made my day! The message said, “Hello Catherine! I am going to get married on December 14, 2019! Our wedding will be held in St. Peter’s Church (Chiayi). We want to invite you to attend our wedding, we would be happy if you can come!”

🥳🥳🥳 YES! Of course I must go, I just have to be there!🥳🥳🥳

🥳 ISAAC IS GETTING MARRIED, YIPPEE! 🥳

And so it was that yesterday, 220 km south of here, in the lovely little church of St. Peter’s, Chiayi, a young and handsome Isaac 瑋杰 Wei-Chieh and his lovely bride, Angie 雅馨 Ya-Hsin were married.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

And, thanks be to God again, cos I was there too!

But I was not the only person to travel to Chiayi from Taipei; Isaac’s grandfather and some family members had also set off early to be there for the 3:00 pm wedding. And they were also, like me, going back the same day. Actually it took me 5 hours each way, and that included 90 minutes by High-Speed Rail from Taipei to Chiayi. But it was well well worth it! This is Isaac’s grandfather and the family….

Isaac is the young man who I got to know a few years ago through my visits to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi for a series of youth Bible Studies. He was teaching nearby at the time, was a relatively new Christian and had joined St. Peter’s Church – and was helping to lead the church youth group. In the summer of 2016, he was one of 3 delegates from the Diocese of Taiwan to take part in a CCEA Youth Forum in Malaysia, and as a result of that trip, we arranged for him to share his experiences with us all at an event at St. Peter’s, when Raj Patel, CMS Regional Manager for Asia came to visit Taiwan in October 2016 (see that blog post here). We were all most impressed. The Church definitely needs more people like Isaac! Here he is with the St. Peter’s youth group….

That event in October 2016 at St. Peter’s was held while the vicar of St. Peter’s, Rev. Simon T. S. Tsou, was away in the USA for a 3-month training program with the Diocese of Los Angeles. As Simon recounted yesterday at the wedding, it was also while he was away in the USA, that Simon’s wife informed him that Isaac had started to bring a very nice young lady along to church. That young lady was his colleague, Angie – at the time she was interested in the Christian Gospel and taking part in Bible Studies, but had not yet found a church to go to. She continued at St. Peter’s, and soon afterwards was baptized, they got to know each other better, and well, as they say, the rest is history! These days, they both work in Kaohsiung, and worship 3 Sundays a month at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, and one Sunday a month at St. Peter’s. So the wedding was held in St. Peter’s, led by Rev. Simon Tsou, but with the vicar of St. Paul’s, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang giving the marriage blessing.

The St. Peter’s Youth Group, many of whom have since moved away for university study, all returned to sing at the wedding. Isaac also sang his own song for his new wife. Ah, it was very moving!

There were lots of church members there from St. Paul’s, Kaohsiung…

And even more from St. Peter’s, Chiayi…

Many congratulations to the happy couple, may God bless them in their new life together, and as they continue to serve him and serve in the church! Thanks be to God for them both, they are so lovely. Please do keep them in your prayers.

I left for home straight after the service and refreshments – after all there was a 5-hour journey to face – but we were all given a little pack of yummy homemade cookies for the journey. Such thoughtfulness! Thank you Isaac and Angie and all at St. Peter’s Church for a great day, it was a wonderful and very special occasion!

NCCT 基督徒聯誼運動會 Sports Day 2019!

Walking, Running, Relays, Obstacle Race, Table Tennis, Frisbee, Ball Throwing and a new game called Taspony (rules similar to tennis but using bare hands and a sponge ball): non-stop action all day! All part of the annual ecumenical NCCT Sports Day, held on Saturday November 9 here at St. John’s University (SJU).

The National Council of Churches of Taiwan (NCCT) 台灣教會合作協會 is affiliated with the World Council of Churches, and in Taiwan it consists of 6 member churches – Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, Methodist and Lutheran. There’s also 11 member organizations, the Bible Society, Christian AV Association, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Tainan Theological College & Seminary, Taipei Christian Academy, Taiwan Christian Service, Taiwan Theological College & Seminary, The Garden of Hope Foundation, World Vision, YWCA and YMCA.

The Sports Day is organized by the different churches and organizations in turn; this year it was the turn of Taiwan Christian Service 台灣基督教福利會, and they asked to hold the event here at St. John’s University. Taiwan Christian Service is a relief agency, founded in 1954 by the Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief. The short sermon at the opening service of the Sports Day was given by Rev. Liu Ren-Hai of the Lutheran Church, who is also chair of Taiwan Christian Service.

The bishop of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop David J. H. Lai has always made the ecumenical Sports Day a big priority and he attends every year, competing in the Table Tennis competition, and this year was no exception. Participation by different churches over the years comes and goes ~ this year there were 6 teams in total, from the RC Church, Taiwan Christian Service, YMCA, YWCA, Episcopal Church and a small team of 9 from the Presbyterian Church. Some years, the Roman Catholics and Presbyterians choose to participate in big numbers – their indigenous church members are so strong and always win every tug of war race with one slight jolt on the rope (at least, that’s my impression of the last time the Sports Day was held here at SJU, back in 2012!) The team with the most colourful T-shirts were in bright orange – despite their name, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Organization) had almost equal numbers of men and women, and on inquiry they said that they were all working at the YMCA Hotel in Taipei – I told them we always recommend their hotel to visitors – it’s a good place!

This year the Taiwan Episcopal Church had by far the largest group of participants. St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung sent a bus of 35 church members, the teenagers and children to join the sports, the older ones for cheer-leading and singing. A group of about 20 came from St. John’s Cathedral and a similar group came from Advent Church and our student fellowship at St. John’s University. So we had all ages and all abilities…

And we had a great time! I was in the 400 m walking race, and part of the team of 20 for the relays and the obstacle race (which included a sack race, hopping, jumping through the hoops and running with the sack back to base). Ah, it was all fun!

At lunchtime, we had performances from the cheer-leading teams or songs and dances. St. Stephen’s Church senior group sang some choruses, they were so lovely!

Awards were presented to individual winners as well as to the teams. The Taiwan Episcopal Church came out as overall winners, and Rev. Philip Lin accepted the cup on behalf of the church from Fr. Mbudi Masela (CICM, based at Qidu, Keelung, originally from the Congo), and then the RC Church received the award for the most energetic team, presented to Fr. Masela by Bishop Lai.

Thanks be to God for great weather, great spirit and energy, and lots of fun, fellowship and laughter! The weather was indeed wonderful – this is the SJU campus that afternoon after everyone had gone home, looking splendid in the late afternoon sun…

And so we’re looking forward to seeing everyone again next year!

R.I.P. Janet Tan 譚瑾姊妹追思禮拜 Funeral Service @ Advent Church, Taipei

Well over 200 people gathered at 2:00 pm today, Sunday, at Advent Church to give thanks to God for the life and witness of our close friend and beloved church member, Janet Tan 譚瑾姊妹, who sadly died on June 25. Hers was a life lived to the full, she never wasted one single moment, and all of us who knew her were touched by her kindness, love, self-effacing charm, endless optimism and interest in everything and everyone. All the photos used in this post below bring back many memories, but the top photo above shows Janet with Bishop Lai in 2014 at the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and that’s how I remember her, always with a smile on her face!

The Tan family have long been the party-family of Advent Church, and until Tan Mama and Tan Baba both passed away last year (see my report of Tan Mama’s funeral here), we regularly gathered at their home to celebrate and enjoy delicious food and great company, whether it was birthdays, Christmas or other festivals, the returning home of one of the grandchildren or welcoming visitors coming – whatever and whenever, it was the Tan family who always knew how to host a great party. Tan Mama was in charge, but somehow it was Janet who made it all happen!

Janet went to high school in Taipei, and after leaving Christ’s College, Guandu, she traveled the world with Cathay Pacific for 10 years or so – she used to tell so many stories of her backpacking adventures! Later she worked in the USA, then at the family T-shirt company in Taipei City, and finally moved with all the Tan family to the coast at Baishawan, just north of Advent Church, where she and her parents took care of the Tan family pets: 7 horses, about 15 famously noisy dogs, a host of cats and a whole gaggle of geese. In their Taipei days, Janet had had a whole pack of Dalmatian dogs, all white with black spots, and she had clothes to match ~ plus the car and the family factory were all painted in white with black spots too ~ ah, she was just so special!

In the countryside at Baishawan, Janet learned how to renovate derelict houses, grow vegetables and live off the land, while also taking care of her beloved parents, and all the pets. Visitors were always welcome! And thus it was that I’ve been to the family home many times for early morning breakfast, other times for lunch, and even more times for late evening parties. Tan Mama was always just getting warmed up at 9:00 pm when most 90-year-olds were well gone to bed!

And when the party was over, often getting on for 11:00 pm, then somehow I had to get home, and that’s when the fun started ~ Janet would offer to drive me the 5 miles or so – only 5 miles but it would take absolutely ages! Tan Mama, fearing that Janet would fall asleep driving, would insist on coming too, and Tan Baba didn’t want to miss out on a car trip, so all 4 of us would then launch forth into the night, pile into the car and head down the hill and along the road in the darkness, going very slowly. The only way to keep Janet awake was to sing loudly and get her to join in too, and so that’s how we got home. Being a kindergarten teacher, I know endless children’s songs, and we sang them all, over and over again ~ ‘Jingle Bells, Happy Birthday, The Wheels on the Bus, Incy-Wincy Spider, If you’re happy and you know it’ every verse, over and over! By this time, Tan Mama and Tan Baba were both fast asleep themselves, and Janet and me were having a great singalong all the way home. It was hilarious. Visitors would join in too, ah such amazing memories!

Janet and her parents also came to every social event in Advent Church. They rarely came on time, and sometimes not even on the right day, but hey, they always came, often right at the end, just in time for the food. One time they called me and asked could they visit. When they arrived, they came with a huge plate of watermelon chunks, enough for about 20 people. The 4 of us munched our way through all that watermelon. It turned out they had thought it was a social evening at Advent Church, and had turned up very late – only to find the church closed. After a quick phone call, they discovered they were a week early, it was on the following week instead. So rather than go home, hey they just brought the watermelon to my house for a watermelon party instead!

When the then-Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori came to visit Advent Church many years ago, she also visited the Tan family and met the horses. Then when the Episcopal Church House of Bishops came to Taiwan in 2014, Janet was on hand to renew her friendship with Presiding Bishop Katharine and her husband, Richard – here they are having lunch!

And only Janet could have pulled off a group photo on the steps of Advent Church with her in the front row with all the bishops!

Today’s service was a fitting tribute to Janet’s life, and also to her witness of her deep and very real Christian faith. She always made the most of every opportunity to share her faith with others, particularly in the context of her simple rural lifestyle, depending on God to supply everything they needed – and over this past year of declining health, she has always remained grateful and appreciative of God’s grace, mercy and love. When Tan Baba died last July, Janet was not able to be at his funeral, she was already receiving treatment for cancer – however she kept as active as she could right to the end and in this last semester, she came along most weeks to my community English class, including the one only a week before she died. We loved having her, she was a real blessing to us all.

Today’s funeral service was led by our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, who was with Janet in the days and hours leading up to her death, and he also led her cremation service on July 1. Her death was a shock and the whole church has been in mourning for weeks; Janet was too young and died too soon, only a year after both her parents, and yet she would not have wanted us to be mournful – but to rejoice with her that she is now with her Lord in heaven, where there is no more suffering and pain, and where she is reunited with her beloved parents. The reading was from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15, most appropriate. The funeral service in a packed Advent Church….

After the service, we had a tea party in the church center, which the family had decorated with flowers, and Dalmatian-style tablecloths! There were gifts of memorial books and T-shirts. On the T-shirts, designed and made by the family in their own factory, were the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1, headlined with the song, ‘Turn, turn, turn’: “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” So beautiful.