Well today, apparently, a coupla’ kids are getting hitched at Westminister Abbey. That pales in comparison to last week’s events here in Taiwan.
Last Sunday was a ‘three-fer’: Easter Sunday, for sure, but also my new BFF, Rev. Sidney Chang’s 69th birthday – AND he also decided to get married! Sidney’s first wife died many years ago and he has raised his two boys solo, in Canada as well as here in Taiwan. Of late, he has become smitten with a certain “Sherry” who works at the offices of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Easter Sunday was the big day, and I was one of the privileged guests.
The venue was the Lee Chhun-Seng Memorial Presbyterian Church, located near the Tamsui River in central Taipei. The church founder was a tea merchant, one of several wealthy entrepreneurs who lived and ran their businesses in this area. As I walked into the church it was the usual busy Sunday morning, with lots of people milling, arranging and getting ready for the service. This day featured the preparation of a special banquet in honour of Easter Sunday and the Chang nuptials.
As I was sitting in the pews waiting for the service to begin, I looked at the very simple cross standing behind the pulpit. It was draped in the usual dark shroud that symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the older members of the congregation introduced himself to me as a former pupil of my grandfather, Hugh MacMillan, but as he talked with me he looked more and more agitated. “Excuse of me, please,” he said and tottered down the aisle toward the Cross. He reached up and yanked off the shroud, rolled it up in a ball and tossed it into one of the pews. Apparently he was ticked that the shroud hadn’t been removed from Good Friday (even though my limited liturgical knowledge says that it’s okay to leave up the shroud until after Easter Sunday). One of the church’s Elders looked like he wanted to admonish the old man, but decided better. So, no shroud. And no big church imbroglio on Easter Sunday.
The service proceeded as usual with plenty of prayer, preaching and singing. Then, as the pastor gave his benediction, the choir processed down the aisle with a garland of toile and flowers that they installed into the ends of the pews. The message was simple – church is over; time to start the wedding! Sidney moved up to the front, looking reserved and maybe a bit nervous, bedecked in a dark suit and a tie festooned with red maple leaves. The choir began to sing Mozart’s “Panis Angelicus” and we all rose as the bride processed toward the altar. It was a relatively short but merry ceremony, and there were many smiles amid the lightning storm of camera flashes.Then, it was time for post-wedding photos, where everyone in attendance gets their pic taken with the happy couple (a Chinese tradition, I’m told).
The buffet lunch that followed featured many delicacies, including egg salad sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off (because, after all, it’s a church lunch). My other new BFF, Rev. Jen Li Tsai, gave the blessing and toast to the bride and groom. All in all it was a happy occasion, and I’m glad I was able to be part of it.