On High in November

On High  November 7, 14 & 18

The chapel at Tainan Theological College was built in 1957 according to the basilica model of a church hall.  It has low side aisles and a high central ceiling with clerestory windows.  Dave studied those windows for a long time, imagining how to hang streamers from the sills on one side of the chapel to the other. In a chapel storage room he found lengths of cloth sometimes used for decoration, but nothing was long enough. So he got out his sewing machine and stitched things together.  On November 7th he ascended to the organ loft, went out a side window onto the roof of the south-side aisle began attempting to open windows. He had a few tools, a few banners, and a big idea.

It turns out that the windows hadn’t been opened for decades. Things were painted shut, rotted, and even nailed tight in a few instances. Scraping, prying (and cursing under his breath) he was able to get 3 of 6 windows open on the south side, and the corresponding 3 on the north.  Result, 3 unevenly spaced and not particularly well matched lengths of cloth high above the worshipers on the following Wednesday afternoon.

On the 16th he was out on the roof again, this time with more tools and a student who had liked the effect and wanted to improve it. There was more scraping, more prying, and a couple more windows were opened on each side. 5 banners met those who came to worship on the 16th. These were also rearranged from Dave’s original random pattern to one that moved from lighter colors at the front to darker ones at the back.

It was a short-lived project. Someone had rented the chapel for a wedding on the 19th, and didn’t want all that up there. So, Dave was aloft on the 18th again. Windows having been opened in previous weeks were easier to deal with this time, and stuff comes down more easily than it goes up. A new possibility has been shown. We cannot know who among the students who saw the display may want to decorate a church, somewhere, sometime in the future, in a similar way.  

Death in the Pot  November 9

Dave was in the pulpit for community worship at Tainan Theological College on November 9th. His first time to be there since beginning at the college in 2004 (he’s led morning prayers and presided at communion, but never been the preacher). It was a  communion service this time, other people were the appointed as liturgist, celebrant and accompanist. Dave’s jobs were to write the service, preach the sermon, lead the prayers, and give the benediction. He used the story of Elisha and the poisoned stew as a springboard for talking about the role that communion plays in the lives of Christ’s people. To accomplish this application  of an Old Testament story to a New Testament use, he did some things with decoration and dramatic action to demonstrate different ways to preach.

Whether it was effective or not, to quote Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”  But, the head of the worship committee promised to schedule him again before we retire.

Praying with Taiwan’s President,  November 12

Well, we didn’t actually meet her, but were in a room with about 500 other people when she attended the National Prayer Breakfast on November 12th in Taipei.  We had taken Taiwan’s high speed train after Char finished work on the 11th (the station is near Chang Jung Christian University). Arriving in Taipei, we took the subway out to the end of the line in Tamsui and spent the night at a retreat house operated by our friends Carys Humphreys and Cecelia Yeh.

The next morning we were up early to get the subway back to Taipei because the ride  would take almost an hour, and we had to be at the venue by 7AM to clear security in advance of the president’s scheduled 7:30 arrival.

The event included prayers, sermons, choirs and a short presidential speech.

Ms. Tsai, Taiwan’s president, is not a Christian. She has, however, had a positive influence on the moral character of Taiwan since her election last January and inauguration in May. Many prayers were said for her, and we certainly wish her the best as she leads this fractured and fractious nation that we are pleased to call home.

Serendip  November 12

For nearly 40 years we have thought ourselves to be residents of Taiwan, only to have found out recently that we have dwelt in Serendip, a land of pleasant surprises first told about in a 16th Century Persian folktale that has been picked up and spread in many cultures since that time.

We were in the Taipei train station, purchasing tickets for a homeward trip, when a gentleman with a pronounced Japanese accent asked us about where to board his train. Like us, he was bound for Tainan. We learned some other similarities as conversations progressed.

Exchanging name cards, we discovered that Dr. Nishimara is a professor of International Management at Meiji Gakuin University, a Christian school in Japan.  That school has a cooperative program with Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where Char got her BA degree. It turns out that Dr. Nishimara had escorted a group of students from his university to Hope College not too many years ago to help them in the initial days of their American sojourn, and he spoke fondly of his time in the city.

Because our seats were in different train cars, we parted before boarding. Eventually Dr. Nishimara made his way forward to where we were sitting, but Dave was asleep, so he sat across the aisle from Char and continued the earlier conversation. He told her of a colleague who plans to come to Taiwan and hopes to stay at Tainan Theological College while she conducts research into missionary history in East Asia.  

We look forward to further adventures in Serendip, while having our feet on the ground in Taiwan.

Midterm Project, November 10 & 17

For a midterm project In the class on theology and visual art that Dave is teaching, students were given access to his collection of scavenged picture frames and ratty bits of cloth. Each had to create something out of recycled materials that could be used to help people worship in a church setting.  The one inflexible standard of the exercise was that all submissions had to be clearly visible to Dave in the college chapel. They would be set on an easel on the platform and he would sit in a pew at the center of the church. Points were awarded or subtracted based on what he was able to discern. About half of the projects passed this test. People learned that words cut out of newspaper headlines looked good close up, but were just blurs from a distance.

Because the visibility test was only one portion of the grade, nobody failed the midterm on that alone. In fact, nobody failed the exam at all. Students’ projects were subsequently hung along the halls of the classroom building for the enjoyment(?) of everyone at the school.

Dryer Delight November 16

Dave’s office in Tainan Theological College’s General Services Building is on a floor that has meeting rooms, about 15 dormitory rooms, and 3 little apartments for married students.  There’s a large lobby where halls from the apartments and dorm rooms meet the faculty and staff offices. On the morning of November 16th a couple of appliance technicians showed up and installed a Maytag electric clothes dryer in that lobby.  To dry a load costs 30 Taiwan dollars (about $1 in US cash).  When Dave got back to his office in the afternoon, the dryer was tumbling away….. Wow! It’s noisy!.

Later that afternoon, between class and college worship, he came through just as a mother of two who lives on the floor (her husband is studying for ministry) was putting coins into the slots and hitting the start button. It was her first time ever to use a dryer, and she was all smiles. It was a real mood lifter to see her almost dance her way back down the hall to the family apartment.

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