Taiwan Church News
6 Feb ~ 12 Feb, 2023
Reported by Chiu Kuo-rong from Taipei
Translated by Peter Wolfe
A set of extraordinary mission history tomes, “Working His Purpose Out: The History of English Presbyterian Mission, 1847 – 1947 “, was book-launched at the Taipei International Book Exhibition in 2023. Weighing about 3 kilograms, it is published by the National Taiwan Museum of History (abbreviated as THM) on February 2. A symposium was also held in the afternoon on Feb 1st, with Rev. Lu Chi-ming, director of the Archives of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, and the co-host Dr Liu Wei-ying, an assistant Fellow of the THM Research Unit.
THM said Rev Edward Band, who had been the principal of Tainan Presbyterian Middle School (now Chang Jung Senior High School) for a long time, sorted and edited a missionary-correspondence book (Working His Purpose Out: the History of English Presbyterian Mission 1847-1947 ) written by church ministries in various places. In addition to commercial progress driven by industrial development, readers could learn from the book that the expanding movement of Christianity in Britain led a group of missionaries to Asia since the beginning of the 19th century. The original book was published by the Presbyterian Church of England, based in London, in 1947. Divided into five parts, the book is currently a rather comprehensive and important material on the history of Christian missions. It was often referenced and cited by scholars in the last century and it is now available in the Chinese.
The book details how the Presbyterian Church of England, based her ministries in southern Fujian, preached Christian gospel and culture via medical and educational ministries, into Chuanzhou, Changzhou, Taiwan, and Chaozhou under the rule of the Qing Empire as well as areas in India, Taiwan. Malaysia and etc. The book records what many missionaries had seen and heard. Through their perspectives, footprints, and prayers, they gained insight into the aspects of world history that few people had ever known before.
Lu Chi-ming pointed out that the importance of historical studies lies in exploring the mystery of past, solving the present challenge with evidence and inspiring the direction of future. Professor Lai Yong-hsiang, a well-known church historian, exhorted that historical research must work hard on materials, so if people could directly study historical materials, expand research materials, and advance methods and tools, historical research will make progress for sure. Lu Chi-ming said that this set of books, which is now available in the Chinese and worthy of readers’ regular reference, contains a large number of letters, reports, working diaries, personal travel notes, clergy meeting minutes, photos and etc.
Lu Chi-ming said that the book covers a wide range of themes and contents, such as language and culture, ethnic studies, contemporary politics, social human rights, political identity, legal system, economic wealth, religious beliefs, social changes and other important issues in the British Empires which the sun never set. In addition to the archives of the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church in England, there are also materials available from the United Christian Literature Association, the China Inland Mission, the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Japan and etc. These historical materials are long-term and wide-ranging, and are very suitable for comparative research. Mr Lu expects readers to learn Taiwan’s church history and modern history from a global perspective, explore the changes brought by the missionary missions with local care, and deepen Taiwan’s local historical awareness. “Perhaps these history records can awaken our own responsibility and passion to proceed a significant chronicle in history”, he said.
Dr Liu Wei-ying pointed out that the foreign relations in Taiwan’s history, as well as the distinctive elements that moved in and moved out on this island, were the focus that THM paid most attention to. This book enable people to understand that missionaries have their own ministry concerns, whether it is medical care, school education, or evangelical movement, and there were indeed challenges in their missions everywhere. In addition, the visible or invisible culture of the Presbyterian Church in England has remained on the land of Taiwan to develop further. Through cultural relics, readers could discover that the Presbyterian Church is still alive and doing well in Taiwan. She said, during her participation in editing process, she was much closer to the Taiwanese and Chinese who were contacted by the missionaries about a hundred years ago. More than one-fifth of the content of these new tomes describes the church in Taiwan, highlighting the influence of Christianity on the local people. Through this set of book, we can see the process of a dynamic multiculturalism brought by the missionaries into the beautiful Taiwan!