All About Mission @ 聖司提反堂 St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung!

St. Stephen’s Church in wet and rainy Keelung is always buzzing with life and activity ~ and Saturday was no different, YES!  It may have been yet another wet and horrible day outside, but oh, so warm and inviting inside!  Yep, Keelung is famous for its rain, so on Saturday, while the sun shone over Taipei and all places south, sadly there was no sun for us.  In fact it was foggy, drizzly and damp all day long – although this was the romantic scene at Keelung Harbour as I passed by…..

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So on a rainy day ~ what better place to go, than St. Stephen’s Church?

I’d been invited there to meet their youth group for an hour on Saturday afternoon.  They have a youth group meeting midweek for fun and games.  Saturday afternoons are for those who have already made a commitment to follow Christ and are serious about their faith.  They may not yet be baptized, since such a decision is huge and best done with the blessing of their parents, but they are committed, and some of them were able to take part in a church mission trip last summer to Sabah, E. Malaysia. The group is run by the vicar, Rev. Julia Lin Shu-Hua 林淑華牧師 and their staff member, Ms. Huang Min ‎黃敏 and other church members and friends.

The last time I went to St. Stephen’s was with Raj Patel, Regional Manager for Asia at Church Mission Society (CMS) HQ in Oxford, when he came to visit last September – his visit coinciding with a typhoon. So we visited St. Stephen’s on a day when all the schools were officially closed for the typhoon, but as the typhoon had already gone and the weather vastly improved, all the children could come and meet us.  (A report of that visit is included in my blog post here). This time, my visit was to share with the group about CMS, mission and missionaries…. ah, yes, what fun we had!

For your info, I showed them this 7-minute video about CMS – it’s good, check it out!

 

It introduces CMS ministry in Tanzania, Argentina, UK and Nepal ~ and we found them on a map.  Faith, a Bible and a map are some of the essentials of mission life.  Then we looked at some photos of Tanzania and life there….

And then we had great fun making a group photo!

So please pray for these young people, their families, their faith and commitment.   After I left, they had another hour of an ‘Evangelism Explosion’ Course.   And then preparing for the Sunday service.  They are full of enthusiasm and serious about their faith.   May God bless them and all at St. Stephen’s Church!

A final thought – faith, Bible and a map may be important for mission, but in Keelung there’s another necessity required too – definitely don’t go there without an umbrella!

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St. John’s University Ground-Breaking Ceremony for New Changing Rooms 倬雲游泳池附屬建築物新建工程動土典禮!

Yes, it’s all happening at St. John’s University!

New changing rooms and fencing for the swimming pool are on the horizon ~ and yesterday the rain stopped just in time for the Ground-Breaking Ceremony ~ yippee!

Our SJU Chair of Trustees, Mrs. Cecilia Koo 辜嚴倬雲, who funded the original construction of the SJU Zhuo-Yun Swimming Pool 倬雲游泳池 (倬雲 Zhuo-Yun being the 2 characters of Mrs. Koo’s given name) unfortunately could not be with us for the ceremony, but SJU President Ay and many of the faculty, administrative staff and students joined us for the occasion.   The old changing rooms have been completely demolished and will be replaced.  The fence was blown down last year in a typhoon and will also be replaced.

Hoping to be finished in time for the new academic year in September!

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My Kinda Art @ Taichung!

Every month off I go to Taichung to do the sermon in the St. James’ Church English Service, usually on the bus or train, and occasionally, just occasionally by High Speed Rail. Saturday was a rare HSR day….

St. James’ Church is right opposite the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and even though I pass along the art museum skywalk every time on my morning exercise, actually I hardly ever go in the museum itself. Sorry about that.  Yes, the museum is all free, but still, y’know, I hardly ever go in. Except this weekend, I happened to notice that down below in the museum was a sort of street market art installation….

So yesterday afternoon in I went, and yes the street market art is really amazing.  Like the kind of thing we make for role play in a kindergarten classroom.  Except this is Art with a capital A, and you can only look and not touch.  But it’s wonderful!  Love it!

There’s also an exhibition on indigenous art, this painting is by Taiwan Paiwan artist, Etan Pavavalung titled ‘Migrate’.

Another piece, by a different artist using driftwood collected from Typhoon Morakot in 2009….

The art museum in Taichung is connected by a green walkway that goes for several miles, and ends up at the Science Museum.  Also part of the morning exercise!  At the far end is the science museum tropical greenhouse kind of shaped like a giant spider, and outside is the large horrible insect…. ha ha!

Ah yes, gotta make the most of my visits to Taichung!

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Alishan 阿里山 Sakura Cherry Blossom is out!

And looking spectacular!  If you have any free time in the next few weeks, you just must make time to go to Alishan and see the cherry blossom, it’s stunning!

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I went yesterday.  It’s only a week before the official Cherry Blossom Festival is due to start, but most of the flowers are fully out – and so was the sun, perfect!

Alishan is one of Taiwan’s most famous scenic spots, and for visitors from overseas, it is one of the must-see places.  Best to do things leisurely and stay there overnight, but if that’s not possible, go on the overnight bus, and make the most of it!

Alishan is high, over 2,000 m above sea level and much of it is now a national park. Wikipedia says:

The Alishan area was originally settled by the Tsou tribe of the Taiwanese aborigines; the name derives from the aboriginal word Jarissang. Ethnic Han Chinese settlers first settled on the plains near modern-day Chiayi as early as the late Ming Dynasty (around the mid-17th century), but did not move into the mountains until the late 18th century, establishing the towns of Ruili (瑞里), Ruifeng (瑞峰), Xiding (隙頂), and Fenqihu (奮起湖). The resulting armed clashes between the settlers and the aborigines pushed the aborigines even further into the mountains.

Following the cession of Taiwan to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, Japanese expeditions to the area found large quantities of cypress (檜木, or hinoki in Japanese). This led to the development of the logging industry in the area and the export of local cypress and Taiwania wood. A series of narrow-gauge railways were built in the area during this time to facilitate the transportation of lumber from the mountains to the plains below, part of which continues to operate as the Alishan Forest Railway.

The overnight bus (‘King Bus’ 國光客運) from Taipei Bus Station departs at 8:40 pm on Fridays and Saturdays – buy a return ticket @ NT$ 560 each way (or NT$ 620 one way). The bus stops twice on the way, and it arrives at Alishan National Park entrance (entrance fee NT$ 150 per person, plus free map) at about 3:00 am and a few minutes later at the terminus at the 7-Eleven.  There’s not a lot to do at 3:00 am at 5°C except shiver in the dark, so we found the best place to wait (in the station) and were first in the queue for the tickets for the sunrise train at 5:00 am.

The ticket office information said that 637 tickets (@ NT$ 150 each way) on the sunrise train were available. Yes!  The first of the 2 trains left at 5:30 am for the 20 minute-ride to Chushan Station, Taiwan highest train station at 2,451 m above seal level.

That’s the place to see the sunrise!  The sea of clouds and mist means that the sunrise is a bit unpredictable and may not appear at all, but hey, we’ve gone all that way so we have to go and see what’s going on!  Last year I also visited Alishan – but a bit later, at the end of April (see my blog post and photos here), and that time we went on a kind of bus tour to the sunrise place. This time I went on the train, and we sat and waited for the sun to come out.  The sea of clouds at this time of year made it a long and cold wait but there was soup and coffee and lots of other yummy things to buy and eat and drink while we were waiting, along with hundreds of everyone!  Finally the sun appeared above the clouds at 6:50 am ~ and within minutes it was too bright to stay any longer.

Back to Chushan Station, and by train on the return journey, except we got off at Zhaoping Station which is very convenient for the cherry blossom.

Walked all around and as far as the Alishan Sacred Tree – mostly on a boardwalk in the forest, so lots of steps up and down – but all good exercise, cos by then everyone was feeling a little sleepy having not had any sleep on the overnight bus!

The huge cypress trees are amazing, so so so big!

The Ciyun Temple 慈雲寺 is the place to view sunsets, but as it was only 8:47 am by then, it would be a long wait….  but anyway the gardens are beautiful!  The notice there says that it used to be a Japanese temple, built in 1919 with a side-room containing a statue of the Buddha donated by a King of Siam.

And then back to the main area to see the cherry blossoms in the sun ~ there are many varieties of cherry blossom in Alishan, but most of them are the Sakura or Japanese cherry ~ beautiful!

And so back to the main visitor centre area where the most beautiful building is the post office, Taiwan’s highest, and built more like a temple, with cherry blossoms in flower there too.  Love it!

This is the main shopping and car park area, and we were meeting the bus here at 11:30 am.  Needed a nap by then!

And so 6 hours back to Taipei with only a brief stop at Chiayi Bus Station ~ back in Taipei by 5:00 pm and home by 7:00 pm.  The bus driver was great, he was the same one as drove the bus last year.  Knew everything and everywhere and lots of advice on what to do and where to go.

A really great trip!  Highly recommended ~ and the cherry blossom is amazing!

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CMS Link Letter # 71

Hot off the press comes my latest Link Letter published by Church Mission Society ~ click on the link below…

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Enjoy!

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Welcoming Presiding Bishop Michael Curry 美國聖公會主席主教孔茂功 to Taiwan!

Such a great weekend for us all in Taiwan ~ YES!

Yes, an amazing few days welcoming The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church – and his team from New York.  Here they all are receiving gifts at St. John’s Cathedral….

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The Taiwan Episcopal Church, Diocese of Taiwan is one of the overseas dioceses of the Episcopal Church and the only one in Asia.  Bishop David J. H. Lai of Taiwan and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry were consecrated as bishops in the same year, 2000, so they are classmates in the ‘class’ of 2000, as well as being very good friends.  Before being installed as Presiding Bishop in November 2015, Presiding Bishop Michael was Bishop of N. Carolina, and he was one of the House of Bishops who came to Taiwan in September 2014.  So this is his second visit, but his first as Presiding Bishop ~ and this trip was the last leg of a 2-week visit to Asia, starting in the Philippines, then Hong Kong and China, and finally here to Taiwan.  YES!

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Presiding Bishop Michael’s team was full of our old friends, and some new ones – and all from the Episcopal Church HQ in New York.  Our dearest friend, Canon Peter Ng is retiring this month as Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific, and Anglican Relations – he came along with Rev. David Copley, Director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel, Ms. Neva Rae Fox, Officer for Public Affairs, Ms. Lynette Wilson, Editor and Reporter for the Episcopal News Service, Ms. Sharon Jones, Executive Coordinator for the Presiding Bishop, and finally the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond The Episcopal Church.  David, Neva and Chuck have all been to Taiwan before, so of course they’re old friends!  Chuck did his Theology PhD at Durham University, UK and he really loves Durham – and I just discovered that while he was there, he used to worship at St. John’s Church, Neville’s Cross ~ one of my wonderful CMS-supporting churches!  Here’s all the team at St. John’s Cathedral receiving gifts again, this time from Canon Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma….

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Their visit to Taiwan started Thursday evening and coincided with Taiwan’s coldest weather of the winter so far.  Brrrr, it was cold!  A cold front arrived and didn’t let up the whole weekend.  And the rain didn’t stop from Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon, yesterday.  Miserable was the word!   However if Taiwan is going to have a cold front passing through, then what better person to come and cheer us all up, than the Presiding Bishop?! He is so friendly, warm and personable, and on top of all that, he was just so excited to be here that the weather didn’t really seem to matter all that much after all!  It certainly didn’t dampen his spirits in the slightest, and he declared to everyone that he loved his first visit to Taiwan in 2014, but he loved this second visit even more!

The Presiding Bishop and his team were here for the Diocese of Taiwan annual convention (synod), this year hosted by St. John’s Cathedral and our new dean, Rev. Philip L. F. Lin. The opening service on Friday morning was at the cathedral ~ the rain and cold meant that there were even longer traffic jams than usual, and it took us 2½ hours to do what normally is a one-hour drive into central Taipei.  So we only just got there in time, but missed the welcome from the St. John’s Cathedral Kindergarten children greeting the Presiding Bishop on his arrival.  An extra blessing was that as it was St. Matthias’ Day, so all the clergy were in red stoles – always good for photos!  Here’s the clergy and visitors – plus choir in the second photo….

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The Presiding Bishop gave an inspiring and challenging sermon, the first of several talks and sermons of the weekend.  Bishop Lai had invited our good friend, loyal and lifelong Episcopal Church member Tim Pan to translate ~ he came home specially for the occasion from Beijing where he works for Microsoft – which got several mentions from the Presiding Bishop as a result!  Translating for the Presiding Bishop is a great honour but also a huge responsibility, and Tim rose wonderfully to the occasion.  A lot of Episcopal Church and Anglican vocabulary is translated into Chinese that is local even to the Taiwan Episcopal Church, so a lot of specialized knowledge is required ~ plus the Presiding Bishop spoke with such vigour and enthusiasm that trying to keep up with him was a great challenge.  They were a fine team together, Tim translating not just the words but also incorporating Presiding Bishop’s actions and expressions in a very natural way.  A great double act!

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After the blessing, Canon Chancellor Herbert Ma presented a gift of one of his late father’s original paintings to the Presiding Bishop, with copies for all the team, plus a book of his father’s paintings, and Bishop Lai presented him with a cross made from artillery shells, collected on Kinmen.  We hope to produce many such crosses, this is the first.  And Presiding Bishop presented Bishop Lai with a copy of the 2 icons in the Episcopal Church Center Chapel….

And there was just time for Canon Peter Ng to introduce the Presiding Bishop to Mr. Antony Fan-Wei Liang, our seminarian studying in Ming-Hua Theological College, Hong Kong ~ Antony had to leave for Hong Kong on Saturday, so a quick greeting and photo!

On Friday afternoon, while our Advent Church rector Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang and St. John’s University chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang and the rest of the clergy and delegates were starting the convention meeting in the Capital Hotel in Taipei, I accompanied Presiding Bishop and his team, plus our new trustee, Prof. Winston Yu, and Tim Pan to visit St. John’s University – where it was even colder and wetter than Taipei.  Coats, hats and scarves all put to good use.  Even the team from New York were cold!  St. John’s University President Peter Herchang Ay welcomed the Presiding Bishop, who gave a very rousing speech to 100+ faculty, staff and students ~ here they all are!

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The Presiding Bishop was speaking on ‘The Meaning and Significance of a Christian University in the 21st Century’ and started with the St. John’s University motto, “Talent serves virtue, Learning serves society” (德以輔才,學以致用).  He moved on to focus on how selfishness is behind so many of the world’s problems today, and exhorted us all to focus instead on God’s love, the love of Jesus, and in whatever we do, whether in science or law or education or whatever, to serve in love – and to change the world to make it a better and more loving place.  Gifts were exchanged and photos taken; yes, a great afternoon!

The report in Chinese on the Focus Taiwan website about the visit is here.

Actually, we had been preparing for Presiding Bishop’s visit for weeks, here’s our chaplain and students in the chaplaincy on Thursday afternoon with the posters, all ready!

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After the speech, we visited Advent Church, and our great friend and church member, Andrew Chang introduced the church, ministry and new church center. Of course, our clergy were at the convention but both our clergy wives were there, plus church members and students…

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Then a delicious dinner in the evening in Tamsui with faculty of St. John’s University, hosted by President Ay.

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On Saturday morning the convention continued in Taipei until lunch time.  I tried to get a photo of everyone in ones and twos, in-between all the discussions and debates – busy busy!  The Presiding Bishop and his team came for the last 20 minutes or so, and the Presiding Bishop gave us some words of encouragement to take away with us, ‘serving in love’ was his theme. Afterwards, the clergy and delegates of each church by turn came up for a photo with the Presiding Bishop – yes, he was very gracious and smiled continually throughout!

On Saturday afternoon, the convention over, we all gathered back at St. John’s Cathedral to listen first to beautiful organ music played by David Puckett from St. James’ Church, Taichung ~ and then for a wonderful, illuminating speech from the Presiding Bishop about the Jesus Movement and how we are all called to take the love of Jesus out to change the world for the better. He said it was summed up by the Diocese of Ohio as: “Love God, love your neighbor and change the world!” The ‘how to do it’ section included 4 things to do – prayer, Bible Study, service and Sabbath rest ~ all very good seeing as Lent is coming.   After the speech, Presiding Bishop kindly presented all our clergy with signed photos of himself – and for nearly everyone else, Episcopal Church lapel badges…

And so to Sunday morning, and the Presiding Bishop’s final official engagement of the trip, preaching at the Sunday service at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on this Sunday of the Transfiguration. In his sermon, he said, “God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way to change the world ~ to show us the way to transform and transfigure this world, from the nightmare we often make of it, into the dream that God has intended for it ~ from the mess humans make of it, into the miracle that God will make of it.  He came to change the world – and he came to show us how to do it.”

Tim Pan’s lovely wife kindly recorded the sermon and put it on You Tube, it’s well worth taking 24 minutes of your time to look and listen to…. Towards the end, Presiding Bishop comes down from the pulpit and walks around and down the nave, challenging us all to “Go out and change the world, change Taipei, change Taiwan, change this world, change this church ~ help God change this world from the nightmare it is into the dream that God intends!” and finishing with, “May God bless you, may God keep you and may God send you on his way to change this world!”

The service continued with Holy Communion, and at the very end of the service was an amazing organ-piece from Joanna Fu, the cathedral organist, which the Presiding Bishop took out his phone to record, it was beautiful!  Then more gifts and more photos, including a whole-church group photo!

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And then lunch, during which the Sunday School came and sang a song for the Presiding Bishop, and then he gave them a blessing ~ ah, they were just so gorgeous!

Sunday afternoon ~ and the rain stopped!  At last, finally.  So far, this winter has been very dry, and the Taiwan government has been very worried about a water shortage – so this rain has been a real gift.  God sends rain as a blessing, even though it may seem like a nightmare at the time ~ so just as the visit of the Presiding Bishop has transformed a wet and miserable weekend into a time of great blessing for us all, so our whole lives can be transformed from the nightmare that the world often is, and we can become a great blessing to others – and change the world!

A final photo from the visit ~ St. John’s Cathedral presenting the Presiding Bishop and his team with Taiwan scarves at the end of the service yesterday. I got one too, they are so warm, and bright – and oh so necessary in this cold weather!

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So, a big thank you to the Presiding Bishop and his team for coming and sharing and inspiring and encouraging us all in the Diocese of Taiwan, and as he said in his sermon, he’ll be back again one day ~ so we look forward to his next trip to Taiwan ~ YES!

Media reports about Presiding Bishop’s visit: 2 articles in the Christian Tribune, both in Chinese ~ the Opening Service report and interview with Presiding Bishop article

A great article from the Episcopal News Service article here  (Just to clarify, “The Anglican Church reached Taiwan in the late 1890s” as mentioned in the article, is referring to the NSKK (Nippon Sei Ko Kai) Japanese Anglican Church during the Japanese colonial era in Taiwan, 1895-1945.)

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Cherry Blossom Time @ 萬大發電廠, Nantou!

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Yes, it’s that time of the year, and up in the mountains of Taiwan, the cherry blossom is out ~ and looking stunning!

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Yesterday afternoon, after the St. James’ Church Sunday services and lunch, our good friend, Ruby took us up to the area around the Wanda Power Plant, in Renai Township, Nantou, about 2 hours drive from Taichung City – to see the cherry blossom.  Beautiful! The azaleas were looking great too. The power plant and the housing for the workers were built by the Japanese during colonial times ~ the houses still stand, and some are in use.

And here we all are!

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Thank you Ruby and all my friends from St. James’ Church for a great day – and to Guan-Hong for the group photo!

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