Father Herb B.’s Epistle to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Taipei
(October - November 2011)
“What’s happening?” was a form of greeting in America during the 1970’s and beyond: “What’s going on?” “What’s UP? “What’s happening?”
All of these greetings emphasize the idea of “NOW”. How is life happening with you now! There was no interest in yesterday, or even tomorrow. Life was all about the present.
As I think about reporting news from the English Congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd, it is the present that absorbs my attention.
Our Lenten Study Series of Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” and our elders English Class’s study of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince” are distant memories as I come to terms with our nomadic congregation’s vicissitudes.
The ebb and flow of our foreign members transforms our hopes and focus as an English-speaking faith community at Good Shepherd. We’re aware of an endless search for identity and vision of ministry here and now.
We’re like an adolescent, who is growing in independence and self-differentiation from family, while at the same time discovering as a young adult fulfillment in integrating her needs in partnership with a life companion. In short, our congregation is challenged by an ever-present identity crisis:
Are we an English-speaking gathering of Sunday worshipers sponsored and supported by the Church of the Good Shepherd? Are we an independent, separate, global, family church congregation? Are we an international mission congregation to foreign and local English-speaking Christians and seekers in Taiwan? Or, are we an emerging church community that sees itself and its mission to host all who make a stop at our oasis spiritual well to rest, to heal, to find purpose, and to gather strength for their spiritual and physical journey through this world?
As Priest-in-Charge of the English-speaking Congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd, I have been pondering these questions during my first year with you. I have come to understand our concerns with identity are not a crisis, but rather reflections of a natural growth process in church community life. A church’s life, like a person, grows in learning cycles. We’re infants, toddlers, school kids, young people, householders, progenitors, and elder sages over the evolutions of our church life. Therefore, I have come to see that our congregation’s life calls for us to nurture its growth cycles, not to preserve or arrest it in one of its life stages.
This dynamic growth view of our congregation frames our questions of identity and guides us to ways of seeing ourselves and expressing our unique church community life. As I searched for a vision to guide our diverse Christian community,
I found it literally under my nose, in our church bulletin: “Our Vision”.
“Our Vision” is declared and propagated each Sunday on our bulletin. I have decided to commit myself to renewing our collective ownership of this vision as it is proclaimed:
X Provide spiritual grounding and oasis for English speakers in Taiwan
X Use our unique and diverse gifts in service to the Lord
X Love one another as Christ loves us
Our vision addresses our identity questions. It also works in creating responses to our natural life cycles as a church community.
With this vision as our guide we will now formulate our strategies and tactics for ministry in the coming years. It will shape how newcomers and old timers engage in belonging, believing, and behaving as “members” of the English-speaking congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Taipei.
As a first step toward renewing our commitment to this vision of our congregation as an oasis and spiritual way station for sojourners, I’m posting this invitation on my blog and on our website [englishepiscopalchurchintaiwan.org], and here I share it with you:
Welcome to the Church of the Good Shepherd’s English Congregation in Taipei!
We understand our community to be an oasis
that hosts hope in the abundant and eternal life of Jesus Christ.
I’m happy that you’ve found us in your cyberspace wanderings. I hope to meet you personally when you visit us at worship.
For us, “greening” is a way of speaking of life’s vitality and growth in harmony within nature and God’s love. You’re invited to come, belong awhile with us. Allow us to accompany you for a way as you journey through life’s adventures.
Our doors, minds, and hearts are open to you all. Whoever you are, wherever you find yourself on the journey of life and faith, you’re welcome to share in all that we do here---our worship, our prayers, our learning, our service, and our table that is set before us by Christ himself.
We believe that the Holy Spirit calls us to be a place of greening of the heart, mind, and soul. Therefore, in becoming alive in Christ, we come to live in harmony, understanding, peace and love.
Please continue to explore our website to learn how you can find us on a Sunday morning, or any time of the week.
Come and consider how you may wish to belong, believe, and behave within a spiritual oasis community that transforms strangers into spiritual companions and friends of God.
For now, this is what’s happening for me and for you at the English-speaking Congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
The Holy Spirit is “happening”! As with all revelation from God, what is happening is His calling and sending of individuals and a people to be an oasis for our neighbors. Our neighbors sometimes come as strangers calling on us for spiritual conversation, a cup of coffee, directions to the nearest western shopping, for urgent care of their heart and soul, or for renewal and reunion with Christian life.
As an oasis in Taipei, we at the English-speaking Congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd seek to be a good neighbor to all. Therefore, learning and practicing “heavenly hospitality” to all comers is our hope and vision. Heavenly hospitality is God’s eternal grace alive and working in us as the Holy Spirit who is Christ with us. It is His everlasting graciousness, welling up and giving life to our spiritual character and religious practices.
What’s happening? God’s oasis is greening the desert of all souls who wander into our courtyard and rooms at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Taipei. It’s happening now! Come and drink at Christ’s oasis well. Its waters restore your heart by faith to be God’s beloved children eternally, now.
Father Herb B.
The Rev. Dr. Herbert J. Barker
Priest-in-Charge of the English Congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.