Mission through service was a recurring theme as the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) celebrated their 150th anniversary. In 1865 Dr James L. Maxwell of the Presbyterian Church of England began the mission that has grown into the confident church of today. Maxwell was joined by George L. Mackay from the Presbyterian Church of Canada,
whose medical mission is now continued through different branches of the Mackay Memorial Hospital. Mackay was the first to introduce Western medicine to Taiwan (then known as Formosa). His philosophy of treating all equally and caring for the poorest lives on in the hospital core value: ”Loving others as ourselves, actively caring for minorities and the disadvantaged”Again and again representatives of the world wide Reformed family were reminded that the work of the church is to love unconditionally. Assembly representatives were asked if they were ready to serve the needs of others rather than their own and urged to do the work in society that nobody else would do. That didn’t stop the Assembly falling into the trap of devoting more energy to procedural matters than to matters of substance. We have all been there!
]The example of self-giving is of course enshrined in the nearest that the Reformed family gets to a canonised Saint, Dr. C.M. Kao. The former General Secretary spent four years in prison because of his commitment to the cause of freedom and his refusal to compromise his faith. He spoke movingly to the International guests of that time in prison as a God-given opportunity to witness to his fellow prisoners. We were awed by the outflowing of grace from this man of God but also impressed by the enthusiasm and passion from the young pastor who answered questions on church growth. “Tell people that they don’t have to do anything; God loves them 100%” was his advice, “’Give God the glory and don’t dwell on the negative”. ‘ He observed that it helped that the elderly eight people that comprised his congregation on arrival had told him that the future of the church was not within the building but outside of it. Today the church he leads has a regular attendance of sixty-two adults and eighteen children.
The PCT has accepted the challenge to “make our Church the sign of love through hope and suffering”. That is not without risks in a country that lives in tension with powerful neighbours and where the struggle to be recognised as an independent nation is politically controversial. But the Israel of the Bible had a similar challenge. My URC heart was gladdened to hear that the Church should not be eager to share power with governments, that we fear only
God and that our role is to love the people of the land. The theme of sharing not only the past but the future is captured in the art work created by Elizabeth Gray-King and present as a gift at the 60th Assembly of the PCT. We are challenged to think less of the church and more of the Christ that heals and inspires us.David Grosch-Miller
Taipei April 2015