What Does Grace Mean To You? -- A Story of TAFPC
“In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed, an apple tree; In cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring that waits to be, Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.“
It has been 30 years now. So it helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view of the history of TAFPC. This enables us to recall our heritage, to reaffirm who we are, much of what we believe, and what God calls us to do, and contemplate our future.
“This is what we are about. We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the God's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are prophets of a future that is not our own. “
--Archbishop Oscar Romero, San Salvador
It all began in a humble beginning when seeds were planted.
In late 1960s and early 1970s, numerous Taiwanese immigrants came to America in search of higher standard of living and education, pursuing a better life for their children, or seeking freedom from political prosecution. Many felt there's a sense of spiritual absence amid the daily challenge of adapting to a new life in a different political, social, economic, and cultural environment. Scattered Taiwanese-speaking Bible study groups organized by Christians from Taiwan sprouted up to provide fellow Taiwanese immigrants with an opportunity of making friends, finding support, and developing a relationship with Jesus Christ through singing, prayer, Bible study, and sharing foods and life experiences. In December 1971, Taiwan Christian Fellowship in Central Jersey, led by Rev. Englaam Hsieh, started in United Millstone Presbyterian Church, Perrineville, NJ. Monthly gathering had an attendance of 10-15 people. A family Bible study groups, led by Rev. Andrew Kuo, started at the time in Kendall Park, NJ area.
And the little moments, humble though they may be. Seeds were watered. In 1973, the two Bible study groups were combined. The attendance increased to 20-25 people. Then on April 14, 1974, Formosan Christian Fellowship of Central Jersey was formed. The Fellowship held service in the afternoon of the second and fourth Sunday of the month at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, NJ. The foundation was laid. The yeast was provided.
Later in November, 1974, meeting was relocated to Kingston Presbyterian Church. The Fellowship maintained twice per month gathering schedule. It started a Sunday school program, a choir, and a youth symphony orchestra as well as sports activities such as ping-pong and tennis to outreach to Taiwanese immigrant community. A children music program was added in 1975. The Fellowship even took on the responsibility of managing the 1975 Taiwanese American Conference East Coast (TACEC) to further strengthen the tie with various organizations within Taiwanese immigrant community. By 1977, the Fellowship started weekly Sunday service program. By God’s grace, the number of members increased to 60-70 people by 1978. The feasibility study of organizing a church was initiated. The Church Organizing Committee was formally organized on October 15, 1979.
By God’s grace and hard works of numerous people from Taiwanese immigrant community as well as New Brunswick Presbytery, on July 20 1980, Taiwanese/American Fellowship Presbyterian Church (TAFPC) was established. Rev. John Heinsohn of Kingston Presbyterian Church was appointed by New Brunswick Presbytery as moderator of the session because there was no church pastor at the time. It joined The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and became a congregation member of the New Brunswick Presbytery.
A Pastor Search Committee (PNC) was formed in July 1980 to start searching a church pastor. Rev Ying-chi Kuo was installed as first church pastor on April 17, 1983. But he left five months later. During the years between 1980 and 1986, TAFPC, an young immigrant church trying to learn how to walk, faced a tremendous amount of challenges of calling a permanent pastor who was fluent in Taiwanese and understood its unique cultural heritage as pool of available pastor at the time was very limited. It was a long period of waiting and full of uncertainty. During those challenging years when TAFPC was in its early years, by God’s grace, Rev Te-hsiung Chang, Rev. Wu-Tung Huang, and Rev Martin Wang frequently came to minister by serving as temporary supply for a period of time until November 2, 1986 when Rev. Ben Hsieh was installed as second church pastor.
On July 16, 1989, TAFPC moved to New Brunswick to share the facility with First Reform Church of New Brunswick because of the need of a church location that was geographically central to where majority of church members and friends lived. It also could accommodate growing numbers of church attendance,
By early 1990s, anticipating the need to minister and nurture the growing population of high school and college aged second generation Taiwanese Americans who were assimilated into mainstream American culture and adopted English as their primary language, the English Ministry was established. Rev. Angela Ying, a second generation Taiwanese American, was called and installed as first Associate Pastor on August 25, 1991 to focus on developing and then ministering the English Ministry. She left on July 19, 1993.
In the second half of 1990s, Rev. Kenneth Liu arrived to serve as Director of the English Ministry. Rev. Jimmy Huang came to serve as Student Assistant Minister. Later on, Rev. Tony Lin, was called and installed as second Associate Pastor, on March 26, 2000 to continue the development and transformation of the English Ministry. In subsequent years after Rev. Tony Lin left on July 31, 2003, Princeton Theological Seminary students, Erica Elsdon/Mark Elsdon from 2003-2004, and Erik Wiebe from 2004-2006, served in a capacity as part-time Directors of the Ministry before Samson Tso from 2006-2009, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary took over the Directorship of the Ministry.
Then On April 4, 1999, TAFPC established a Slackwood branch in Lawrenceville, NJ to better serve people who lived in south of Princeton NJ and eastern Pennsylvania areas. The Slackwood branch subsequently became Grace Taiwanese American Presbyterian Church in 2001 and became a member congregation of New Brunswick Presbytery.
On August 26, 2002, to facilitate the growth, TAFPC moved again to the Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick to share the facility with New Brunswick Presbyterian Church.
On August 21, 2005, Rev. Ben Hsieh retired from TAFPC after serving 19 years as senior pastor and 45 years as devoted God’s servant. He was honored and elected as TAFPC Pastor Emeritus.
Then on October 10, 2006, the senior pastor, Rev. Chun-Lan Tung, was called and installed as third church pastor. He left at the end of 2012 after 6 years of serving as senior pastor. A Pastor Nomination Committee (PNC) was formed in early 2013 to begin calling a new church minister.
Today, with God’s blessing, TAFPC has transformed itself into a congregation with Sunday worship attendances of about 100 -110 in Taiwanese service, 40-50 in English service, and 5-10 in children Sunday School.
Since 1980, TAFPC not only has been continuously providing spiritual needs to many Taiwanese Americans in central New Jersey, but also active in community services and serving as a social and cultural center for the Taiwanese American community.
Church here isn't just for Sunday worship and Sunday school. We have
Bible studies in English for junior youth, senior youth, and college students, young adults as well as in Taiwanese for adult and seniors (Evergreen).
Christian education, theology, and culture seminars to strengthen our belief and to broaden our worldviews.
Adult Choir, junior youth choir, and children choir that praise through voices as well as hand bell choir that celebrate through bells. And our second generation praise team weekly leads the English Ministry worship.
Fellowship groups for women, men, families with children (Full House), families with empty nets, and seniors (Evergreen); vital and growing Taiwanese Christian Young Adult (TKC) fellowship (in Taiwanese) group as well as English Ministry Youth Fellowship (in English) group.
Taiwan Students Ministry supports Rutgers Taiwanese-speaking students by providing activities and services. Campus Ministry outreaches to English–speaking Taiwanese American college students through Bible study and fellowship.
Spiritual retreats for adults, women fellowship group, Taiwanese Christian Young Adult (TKC) fellowship group, and English Ministry.
Sunday morning prayer services for healing and for peace.
Taiwanese language school
Church mission and community outreach programs
Church-wide sports and hiking recreation events.
It has been 30 years. The journey of TAFPC has been long and winding. It had its twists and turns. We could not look into the seeds of time and say, which grain would grow, and which would not when seeds were sown. We never know what will be our next destination either. Indeed, from the past will come the future, what it holds is a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. The journey of TAFPC looked metaphorically like:
“Little drops of water, little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean and the beauteous land.
And the little moments, humble though they may be,
make the mighty ages of eternity.
Little deeds of kindness, little words of love,
make our earth an Eden, like the heaven above.
So our little errors lead the soul away,
from the paths of virtue into sin to stray.
Little seeds of mercy sown by youthful hands,
grow to bless the nations far in heathen lands.
Glory then for ever be to God on high,
beautiful and loving, to eternity.” -- Julia Carney
The story of TAFPC is a witness of God’s Grace.