This past week began on Monday with an early morning flight to San Fransisco and then on to Taipei Taiwan to hold our Province VIII House of Bishops meeting. We usually hold it in January and we usually hold it on the West Coast somewhere, but as we sometimes forget, Taiwan is part of Province VIII, even though it is a 14 hour flight and an ocean away, it is still part of our Episcopal Church. One of the many such realities that make our often used reference to our “national church” so disturbing to me, and a pet peeve for which I usually cannot be quiet. When we use “national church” we belittle the reality of the Episcopal Church, and we negate all those who are not part of our nation, but are part of our church, like Taiwan, and Ecuador, and Columbia, and the Dominican Republic and Haiti and now Cuba. Anyway, a majority of our Province VIII bishops vowed to hold our meeting in Taiwan since Bishop David Lai,, our colleague ,has so often made that long trip here, to be with us, and to be part of this Province. We moved the meeting to February because that is when the Presiding Bishop could be present, in order to welcome and consecrate the new Bishop of Taiwan. So, it was a week of meetings, and then celebrating Bishop David Lai, and his wife Lily, bishop of Taiwan for the last 19 years, and then welcoming and consecrating the new (VI Bishop), Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang and his wife Hannah. ( I love that he chose his English name after John Lennon). It was a great week, if not a bit surreal. Asia is a pretty interesting, and somewhat tense place right now, due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak. If you want to fit in here, you wear a mask, all day, everywhere. You wash your hands, you think twice about where you are going to go. While we were there the entire Diamond Princess cruise fiasco was going on in Japan, and the new explosive outbreak in South Korea occurred. For now, Taiwan has about 20 confirmed cases, but as we saw this week, that can change in a matter of hours. It was especially interesting as we had the Archbishops and Primates of Japan and South Korea with us. We had hoped to have the same from Hong Kong and Macau and Singapore, but alas, travel restrictions would not allow their attendance.
We held our Province VIII meeting Wednesday through Friday. On Friday evening we held rehearsal for the Saturday consecration at St. John’s Cathedral. At the celebration dinner speeches were given, and gifts were exchanged. Province VIII gave gifts to Bishop Lai and his wife and Bishop Chang and his wife. I spoke on behalf of the group telling them that I believe Province VIII is vast and strong because of Taiwan’s presence with it, and that we vowed to do all in our power to make the ocean between us, smaller and smaller. I was honored to be one of the co-consecrators for the Saturday event. Our Presiding Bishop was his usual magnificent self, preaching and leading us. And although everyone in the building had masks on, and had their temperatures taken before they were allowed in, including all of us in the front, and then sanitizer sprayed into your hands, God was still worshiped, and the celebration, replete with fireworks and drums and laughter, and music, went right on.
Saturday night we had a thanksgiving dinner, with Bishop Lai and by then Bishop Chang, and the Archbishops, and other guests. And I was introduced to a custom that is, I found out, quite common when the Asian bishops gather, singing to each other, something from your culture and church. And so the Bishop of Osaka and his people did that, and the South Koreans did it, and the Taiwanese did it, and Bishop Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea of Hawaii sang the Queen’s Prayer, from Queen Kamehameha and then, we from the US got up and sang, “Take me out to the Ball game” which was a crowd pleaser, and then by the end of the night, all of us, sang together, “Let it be”. That along with the Taiwanese feast we were treated to was truly a grace filled experience.
Sunday morning, I got up and headed to the airport for the 11 hour trip back to San Fransisco and then finally back to Seattle.
From the left, Bob Fitzpatrick, Hawaii, Scott Hyashi, Utah, Nathaniel Uematsu, Primate and Archbishop of Japan, Andrew Haruhisa Iso, Bishop of Osaka, and then in next picture from left, Primate and Archbishop of South Korea, Moses Nag Jun Yoo, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop of Taiwan, and Nathaniel Uematsu again.
Of course we were saying good bye to our colleague David Lai. He is an expert on tea, even writing a book about the spirituality of tea and he hosted two tea ceremonies for us during our meeting. (Video just below of the singing on Saturday night!)
Temperatures were regularly taken, before you could enter breakfast each day at the hotel, at the airport, in restaurants, and even on the day of the consecration for everyone present. Wearing masks and using sanitizer is constant.
As a gift to the Province VIII Bishops who attended I gave them all designer masks!