Coronavirus: careful, but not fearful

A glimpse into life and mission in Taiwan during the spread of coronavirus, by Catherine Lee, a mission partner working at St John’s University, Taipei.

Taiwan holds its collective breath. We hope and pray that the coronavirus situation improves and that a community outbreak does not occur.

The Taiwan government is being cautious and vigilant, schools have an extended two weeks’ holiday, many people are working from home and others are driving rather than using public transport.

After panic-buying of face masks caused a major shortage, the government wisely urged that healthy people wear them only in crowded places, on public transport and in hospitals.

So far, Taiwan has 22 confirmed cases and one fatality, a 61-year-old taxi driver in central Taiwan, thought to have been infected by transporting infected passengers recently returned from China.

The passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship (currently quarantined in Japan) visited Taipei’s famous tourist sites on January 31, and the government had a busy time following up all those in Taiwan who might have been infected. The all-clear was given a few days ago, and tourist sites are open, along with hotels and restaurants, though all are seeing far fewer visitors.

This coming Saturday, 22 February, the Taiwan Episcopal Church will hold the consecration and installation of our new bishop, Rev Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, succeeding Bishop David JH Lai, who has faithfully led the diocese for almost 20 years.

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. 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.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (of Royal Wedding fame) will be the chief consecrator, and 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.

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.

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.

For Saturday, we are trying to be careful without being fearful.

Clergy, servers and those processing into the cathedral for the service will not wear face masks, while for the congregation it is by personal choice. There will be bowing instead of hand-shaking during the peace, and everyone will take Holy Communion by dipping the wafer into the wine.

We pray for safety and God’s protection at this time, especially on Saturday, and pray that this situation will draw us closer together as the body of Christ, committed to caring for each other and striving to be tolerant, understanding and patient with others.

We pray also for the Diocese of Taiwan in this time of transition, and for Bishop Lai and Rev Chang.

May God’s peace fill our hearts and minds, and may our witness be strong and courageous. Amen.

The coronavirus is just one of many things in our world worth lamenting right now. This Lent, join us in taking time out to lament with our free devotional.

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash.

Published 20 February 2020

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