By Kirk Petersen
The Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan will celebrate the consecration of a new bishop on Saturday, February 22 — breaking bread together while “trying to be careful without being fearful” in the face of the coronavirus contagion.
The Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, who has served as rector of Advent Church on the campus of St. John’s University in Taipei, will become the VI Bishop of Taiwan, succeeding the Rt. Rev. David J. H. Lai, who has led the diocese since 2001.
“Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (of Royal Wedding fame) will be the chief consecrator,” said Catherine Lee, a mission partner from the UK who works for the diocese. “We are expecting 13 other archbishops and bishops from Japan, Korea and the USA, plus church leaders from within Taiwan, and over 300 in the congregation, many of whom will have to sit outside in the cathedral courtyard watching by video.”
“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,” Lee wrote in an article posted on the website of Church Mission Society. CMS is a UK-based organization that has been sending missionaries around the world since 1799.
“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,” Lee added.
The coronavirus has sickened 22 people in Taiwan, including one fatality, Lee wrote. Taiwan is an island state of 23 million people, located about 110 miles to the east of China, the epicenter of the coronavirus. China is the world’s most populous country, with more than 1.4 billion people.
“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 sanitiser,” Lee wrote. “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.”
She said clergy will not wear face masks during the consecration, and communion will be served by intinction — dipping the wafer into the wine — rather than by sipping from the common chalice.
The Diocese of Taiwan, established in 1954, is the only Asian outpost of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, and has 16 churches throughout the island. “The Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan was established by Chinese Anglicans escaping mainland China, and since much of the early Anglican leadership in Taiwan was provided by American military chaplains, Taiwan became linked to the Worldwide Anglican Communion through the Episcopal Church,” according to the Episcopal Church’s website.