Friday, September 19, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #6

September 18, 2014 Today members of the HoB and their spouses were divided into four different groups to go on field-trip excursions to visit important functional entities of the Diocese of Taiwan. The group to which Carolyn and I were assigned boarded a bus this morning to make the 45 minute trek to St. John's University in Taipei. Let me tell you something about St. John's University. Founded in Mainland China in 1879 in Shanghai, development of the university was spearheaded by American Bishop Samuel Issac Joseph Schereshewsky who had arrived there in 1845. With colleges in the humanities, engineering, and medicine, the institution constantly grew to the point of being a major influence in Shanghai. However, with the revolution that began after WWII in 1949 the new government leaders were less than sympathetic to its founding faith-based principles. Consequently St. John’s was closed in 1952 and combined with another existing institution. During the next decade some of the staff and faculty moved to Taipei, Taiwan and envisioned a new start for the school in the Republic of China. Through the support and inspiration of Bishop James Wang, the first full fledged bishop of the Diocese of Taiwan, blueprints were drawn up, and construction was begun. With Bishop Wang’s encouragement TEC became financially involved. In 1970, just subsequent to Bishop Wang’s death, the University was reopened in Taipei. Ultimately accredited by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the University has produced graduates who have brought significant prominence to the institution. Not only do their graduates include a president of the Republic of China, but also world renown architect I.M. Pei. Last night when Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou spoke to us he stated that one of his four major strategic goals was economic and technological development. It was obvious to all of us that St. John’s University is producing graduates who can and will help him to achieve that goal. Now thinking about what we experienced today at St. John’s it occurred to me that though this university was founded by forward-thinking leaders of the Diocese of Taiwan and TEC, over 50 years later what should be the role of the church in the education of people at this school? I believe that this question is every bit as applicable for academies in the United States as it is min the Far East. Should we be using the university as a place to form young women and men into mature Christian adults, and if so, how can we do that? Though St. John’s University has a beautiful chapel at the very center of its campus and a full-time Episcopal priest/chaplain, all of the religious formation and instruction is optional. Short of thinking that I know more about young adult ministry than the staff, faculty, and chaplain of St. John’s, is there a better way to accomplish these goals? +Jay

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