Wednesday, September 17, 2014

LIVE FROM TAIPEI: PART I

Day 1 at House of Bishops began with the Celebration of Holy Communion specially remembering on this her commemoration date Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval eco-feminist mystic. If you are not familiar with Hildegard, you can get a thumbnail sketch of her remarkable life and accomplishments in Holy Women, Holy Men, but I recommend going a little deeper with Carol Lee Flinders’ book, Enduring Grace, which traces feminism to the teachings of Hildegard and 6 other medieval women mystics. http://www.bookish.com/books/enduring-grace-carol-l-flinders-9780060626457 Bishop Katharine preached about our need for an expanded imagination made possible by trust in God’s infinite creativity.

On the one hand, attendance is definitely down for this House of Bishops meeting. On the other, the people of Taiwan are deeply thankful to us for being here. Tonight the President of the Republic of China spoke at our opening reception saying how important our presence is to the Church here and to the country as a whole. He spoke movingly about how Taiwan, which received so much American aid for so long, has now moved from being an importer to an exporter of compassion. He told of Taiwan’s support for needy children around the world and their disaster response efforts in Haiti, Japan, and the Philippines. Taiwan’s new role in the world is indeed inspiring.

The other main event today was table check in-s. In small groups, we updated each other on our personal lives and on the ups and downs of our dioceses. It may not sound like a big deal but this is how we support each other and knit the church together.

Jet lag is still a factor; so bedtime is coming soon.




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

THE ROAD TO TAIPEI: PART II

My missed connection leaving me “stranded” in San Francisco proved to be a first class blessing. Bishop Joseph Paul Smith of the Old Catholic Church and his partner Javier took me to dinner that night. Paul is also a lawyer (and an EMT) and represented Fr. Bede Parry back during the hard times. We had collaborated on intense issues but never met in person. We compared notes and encouraged each other in our respective efforts. It was a night of good ecumenical partnership.

I then had a long restful night’s sleep such as I have not been having very often recently. The next morning was San Francisco at its best. The sun was shining through a gentle sea breeze. Then I had a coffee meeting with Shannon Eng, a postulant from Diocese of California. I met Shannon at Episcopal Youth Event 6 years ago, when she was still a youth minister. Her latest claim to fame is having actually won The Price is Right. I never expected to meet a Price is Right winner. She is a brilliant, gifted young woman who gives me hope for the future of the Church. When I hear people writing our epitaph, which I hear all the time, I think they haven’t met Shannon. As a bona fide millennial, she allows me to babble on about my view of millennial spirituality, which she then gently corrects and refines.

Shannon dropped me off at the SFO airport where there were a flock of bishops at and around the gate for the Taipei flight. The family reunion feeling started there. The flight itself was long and uneventful, broken up by occasional conversations with church friends like Canon Chuck Robertson (Canon to the Presiding Bishop) – I knew Chuck when we were both priests in the Macon Deanery of the Diocese of Atlanta, and Neva Rae Fox, the TEC Communications Officer who has held my hand through several PR ordeals and opportunities. Immigration and Customs went the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. We then had an hour-long drive in the shuttle to The Grand Hotel, which certainly lives up to its name. Red. Red. Red. All very Chinese. Even the Taiwanese refer to the architecture and interior design as being “in the Chinese style.” Elegance like the Mizpah but in a totally different aesthetic.

Sleeping last night was not so easy given that my body thought it was mid day. But I got a little shuteye. I had breakfast this morning with Alan Scarfe (Iowa), Prince Singh (Rochester), and Eugene Sutton (Maryland). I learn so much just listening to these guys. For breakfast I had turnip rice cakes, salad, and cuttle noodles (not sure if that means they are made from cuttlefish – they were green) along with assorted fruits and nuts. I hope that starting the day with culinary novelty will open my creaky old mind a bit.

HOB starts in just shy of an hour now with a group photo, then the opening Eucharist, and a welcome from Bishop David Lai (Diocese of Taiwan) – yes Taiwan is a Diocese of the Episcopal Church, not just an Anglican Communion partner. In fact, Taiwan is part of Province 8. The Rev. Elizabeth Wei sends greetings to our own Fr. Richard Henry. HOB always gives me several subjective experiences one of which is to hear “It’s A Small World” playing in my mind.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

ON THE ROAD TO TAIPEI I

Here I am at McCarran Airport waiting for a delayed flight from Chicago so I can go to San Francisco where I will miss my connection to Taipei. I will stay the night in a SF hotel and fly out tomorrow afternoon. To say the obvious, the 2nd leg of the flight will be a long one commencing over a day after the end of the first leg.

I love House of Bishops gatherings. They knit the Church together. They have inspired, encouraged, and sustained me through the years. But I have begrudged the time and expense of this one. Still, I have faith there will be something of worth in it.

My mulish resistance to this trip reminds me of St. Thomas (my patron). He was living in Jerusalem promoting the faith there, when the Risen Lord appeared to him and told him to go to India. Thomas said "no." Later the Risen Lord appeared to him again and said "go to India." Thomas said, "Hell, no."

Later Thomas saw the Risen Lord across the street talking to a slave trader. The slave trader gave Jesus some money, then crossed the street and approached Thomas. He said, "That man says you belong to him." Thomas said, "I guess I do." The slave trader said, "Well, he just sold you to me. Pack up. We're going to India."

There the slave trader sold Thomas to the Raja to work as an architect. Thomas was assigned to build a grand new palace and was entrusted with construction costs, which he gave to the poor. Months later the Raja asked how the project was coming. Thomas said it was fine but he needed more money for construction costs, which he then gave to the poor. This happened several times. Eventually the Raja demanded to see  his palace. The game clearly being up, Thomas said, "Well Raja, it's like this. There was no where on earth worthy of your palace. So I have built for you a palace in heaven." And the Raja said, "Ok, that is fine."

I find some wisdom in all the characters in this legend, wisdom that might inform my sojourn on the road to Taipei.