A Big Welcome to: 台灣聖公會第56屆教區年議會 The Diocese of Taiwan 56th Annual Convention!

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Yes, such a happening event that even St. John’s Cathedral Sunday School children came to visit us ~ on the bus, on a Saturday morning, and as part of their weekend camp ~ YES!

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Good Shepherd Church in Taipei hosted this year’s diocesan convention, and we had such a warm welcome from them all.  And such sunny weather ~ smiles all round!  We started yesterday morning, Friday, with the opening service at 10:00 am.  Representatives from all our churches were there, and we also welcomed Canon Peter Ng, Asia-Pacific Officer for the Episcopal Church – who brought greetings from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and Mr. Warren Wong from San Francisco who represented Province VIII.

And yesterday we were especially blessed to have the lovely group of 17 clergy and church members from our companion diocese of Osaka spending the day with us.  Bishop Andrew Iso and Bishop Uno (retired) and all their clergy joined in the procession and took part in the communion, and at the end Bishop Iso presented Bishop Lai with a beautiful stole and a very generous donation to help with the earthquake in southern Taiwan. Actually there were gifts going to and fro all day long, too many to count or explain ~ I had a hard time keeping up!  It so happened that yesterday was also Bishop Iso’s 61st birthday, and Bishop Uno and his wife are celebrating their Golden Wedding at this time, so there were special birthday and anniversary gifts too!

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Then we moved to the Mellow Fields Hotel 沃田飯店 in nearby Tienmu for the rest of the convention.  Quite a place, because it was founded by the farmers and fishermen associations in Taiwan, and promotes the farmers’ produce.  Our meals were in the hotel restaurant and our meetings in their conference room.  During the first session, we had presentations to the top 3 churches in the daily text exams, and then our Osaka visitors introduced themselves one by one and as a group they sang ‘Tomoni’ (‘Together’) with great enthusiasm and big smiles!  The song was written specially by one of their church members for their visit 2 years ago in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.

IMG_6905And then off I went to accompany the Osaka group on their next visit. En route we passed Chung-Shan Presbyterian Church (right photo) in Taipei which was originally built by the Japanese Anglican Church for Japanese worship during the colonial period (1895-1945), so it was of special interest to all the group – in fact Bishop Lai has preached there many times, it’s full of history.

We went to visit St. John’s Cathedral, and we couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome, it was incredible. Such a lovely surprise to see all the children!  Mrs. Liou, the cathedral kindergarten supervisor and the teachers had organized the children to sing a welcome song, and then happy birthday in Chinese, English and Taiwanese to Bishop Iso, followed by another congratulatory song for Bishop Uno and his wife.  Actually we were quite late arriving, and many of the children had already gone home, but the ones who took part were just gorgeous!  They’d made mobiles in red paper for each visitor as a little gift.  We also had a 61st birthday cake and Golden Wedding cake, both with candles, and then fruit and Dou-Hua pudding, and then more gifts. Our visitors were so happy, and so were we!

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And then to the cathedral itself for an organ recital from Cathedral Organist Joanna Fu, introductions from Rev. Elizabeth Wei and, of course, more presentations of gifts.  Oh yes and photos. Plenty of photos!  Rev. Keith Lee, vicar of Grace Church, Tainan helped with the translation, and he’s now preparing for a 3-month visit to learn and experience life in the NSKK Diocese of Osaka.  Their visit finished with Bishop Iso’s prayer of blessing and off they all went in a big blue and white coach!   We were so sorry to have to say goodbye to them all, and as I write this, they are on their flight home to Osaka.  We had such a wonderful fellowship together, despite the language barrier, and managed with translators, gestures, handshakes, bows and lots of smiles ~ ah, they are all so lovely!

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And so back to the convention – in fact, by the time we got back, well, it was time for the evening meal!  And then the evening session ~ and then many stayed overnight in the hotel, me too.

And today ~ meetings and discussions, elections and reports.  And photos!  With delicious refreshments in-between, all kindly supplied by Good Shepherd Church and others.  Oh yes, and we had lots of smiles when the Sunday School came to visit to say hello!

And so we finished after lunch today, thankful to Almighty God that things had gone so smoothly, thankful to Good Shepherd Church for their warm welcome and hospitality and thankful to all those in the diocesan office who have been preparing for this event for, yes, months and months!

And here’s to the next convention in 2017 ~ at St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung ~ YES!

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