Advent Sunday @ 台灣聖公會嘉義聖彼得堂 St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Chiayi

Advent Sunday is always special ~ at last the excitement of Christmas coming can officially start ~ YES!

And Advent at St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi this year is extra-special because they’ve just finished a major overhaul of the church building.  A big renovation project and big challenge for the vicar, Rev. Simon Tsou Tsai-Shin 鄒才新牧師 and all the church members ~ but thankfully it’s all finished (apart from paying the bills!) and in 2 weeks time, Bishop Lai is leading a dedication for the newly-finished building.

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St. Peter’s Church building was originally not a church at all, but part of a Japanese era house and garden – the church building was where the owner entertained guests, maybe drank tea and generally held court.  When the church bought the property, the only building worth saving was the one which was transformed into a church.  That’s why it looks so distinctive!

But while the church members were busy working on building the Kingdom of God down below, unknown to them, termites were very busy building their own termite kingdom in the roof up above! Actually, maybe more of an empire than a kingdom ~ a takeover by force.  Last year, some minor termite damage in some of the window frames was discovered, and repairs made, but then on further investigation it was found that many of the wooden roof beams and supports were much worse!  Turned out that some were completely hollow, totally eaten away by the termites.  Ready to collapse down onto the floor below at any moment!

Investigation of the church roof was considerably hampered by the discovery that there were 2 ceilings, one on top of the other – with a big gap in-between, and in that gap, the termites were found to be building a colony big enough to take over the world.  Like in a sci-fi film ~ but for real.

And so renovation work has been going on for much of the year, and many of the original wooden beams have been replaced, and it now looks really good.   The wood is a kind of Japanese cypress, and there’s now no ceiling at all – which will make it much easier to manage and check for future problems, as well as being cheaper, making the church seem bigger, lighter and a bit cooler in the summer months.  Plus of course it looks kind of cool ~ all those exposed wooden beams are really beautiful!

The bits of wood that were left over were made into holding crosses, also with strings attached, and are being sold to fund the renovation.  They are really special!

So here we all are on Advent Sunday at the 10:00am service, which included commissioning of the new church committee and worship teams, followed by scrumptious lunch, and saxophone performance!

At St. Peter’s, I was so happy to meet Mrs. Grace Chien, who with her husband, Bishop John Chien gave me such a warm welcome when I first came to Taiwan.  Bishop Chien died in March 2013, and Mrs. Chien continues to live in the Chiayi area ~ she’s invaluable at St. Peter’s Church, helping with training the young organist ~ and she lit the first Advent Candle of Advent 2015!

Actually, I spent most of the weekend at St. Peter’s Church, arriving on Friday in time for an English Bible Study for senior high-school students. It was great!  In fact, many of the young people at St. Peter’s come in the evenings after school and eat dinner with Rev. Simon Tsou and his family ~ and they all say that the main attraction is the food cooked by Simon’s very lovely mother, who lives there too. She just loves to cook ~ as do many of the church members – so there’s a constant supply of yummy things to eat at every meal!

On Saturday, I went with the St. Peter’s group to attend the 60th anniversary celebrations at All Saints Church, Gangshan, about 80 minutes drive away…..

And by thIMG_0032e time we got back to St. Peter’s mid-afternoon, the place was already full of young people arriving early for the evening’s youth group! We were also visited by Rev. Lily Chang and my good friends from St. James’ Church, Taichung, who were on their way home from All Saints Church, and wanted to see the new-look St. Peter’s Church YA!  Aren’t the roof beams amazing?!

As cities in Taiwan go, Chiayi is quite small and very spread out, but there are places where there’s crowds of people ~ and they seem to be all in the area around St. Peter’s!  Opposite the church is a park that is busy all day and all night – in the evenings there are often concerts, and of course there’s the famous Wen-Hua Road Night Market, right there, just across the park from the church.   Well, who can resist a night market?!  And so off I went – it was still early so not too many people ~ what a great place!

And by the time I got back, the church youth group was preparing to eat – another feast!

IMG_0763I just had to buy a shirt and a hat from that night market ~ and Mrs. Chien was so delighted that she took a photo on her iPad for her family – this is it! It was so nice to see so much of her over the weekend, such a great lady – Grace by name and so graceful by nature!

So please pray for St. Peter’s Church, all the young people and church members, the kindergarten and for Rev. Simon Tsou and his family ~ his mother, his wife and son, and such a great outreach to all those high school students! Praise God!

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