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The 150th Anniversary of George Leslie Mackay’s Arrival in Tamsui
  By the Rev. Peter Bush, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Fergus, Ont., and editor, Presbyterian History
It was 150 years ago, on March 9, 1872, when the Rev. George Leslie Mackay, Canadian Presbyterian mis- sionary, arrived in Tamsui, Taiwan. That Mackay was in Tamsui was the result of a series of circumstances over which he had little control. He regarded his being in Tamsui as a sign of God’s providence.
Mackay, growing up in Zorra Town- ship, Ont. (near Woodstock), had been drawn to follow his hero, Alex- ander Duff, the Scottish Presbyterian missionary, to India. Plans changed and Mackay was sent to China, but following his arrival on the Chinese mainland he was encouraged to con- nect with the English Presbyterians working on the island of Formosa (as Taiwan was called at the time). James Maxwell had arrived in For- mosa in 1865, starting a mission in the south part of the island. When Maxwell and Mackay met in early 1872, Maxwell encouraged Mackay to focus his energies on the north- ern part of the island. Following that advice Mackay arrived in Tamsui, his unexpected mission field.
Nicknamed “the black-bearded barbarian,” he is frequently called a son-in-law of Taiwan for his mar- riage to a Taiwanese woman, Tiun Chhang-miâ. Mackay’s willingness to immerse himself in the life of the people of Taiwan was matched by a willingness on the part of the people of northern Taiwan to allow him to do so.
Mackay is remembered for his medical work and extraction of teeth, as well as for starting Oxford College (named for Oxford County in Ontario, home to the many donors who made the school possible), now called Aletheia University. In developing ed- ucational institutions and engaging in medical work, Mackay followed the missionary methods of the time. But they were not his primary passion. For Mackay, all missionary work, in- cluding medical and educational min- istry, was secondary to evangelism and disciple-making. The training of Taiwanese clergy was his single most important task. He repeatedly argued only Taiwanese Christians could nurture the growth of a church in Taiwan.
Mackay travelled widely on the island, accompanied by a group of young men with whom he discussed
life and religion, philosophy and the natural world. Blending evangelical conviction with confidence in sci- ence’s description of the world, Mac- kay used the wonders of the created world to point to God. For Mackay, creation declared the glory of God (see Psalm 19) and the study of the creation brought those who studied it closer to God.
Mackay’s purpose in travelling with these followers was not solely to see them come to faith in Jesus, but to train them as leaders for the Taiwanese church. His journeys be- came theological retreats, training pastors for the chapels being started in communities beyond Tamsui.
Mackay wrote, “Mission work in North Formosa [Taiwan] is dominat- ed by the idea of a native [Taiwanese] ministry. The purpose is to evange- lize the people... The person or the mission that supposes that a good theory must be capable of universal application, and that social forces, hereditary customs, or even climatic influences need not be taken into ac- count, makes a grievous mistake... One reason for a native [Taiwanese] ministry is that it is by far the most economical, both as to personnel and money. Native [Taiwanese] can
live in a climate and under conditions where any foreigner would die... And the cost of a native [Taiwanese] preacher and their family is such, that the contributions of the [local] churches can be made to support a very much larger staff than if foreign- ers alone were employed.”
Mackay identified with the com- mon people of Taiwan in adapting the gospel as much as possible to local patterns of thought and culture. Mac- kay selectively reshaped western ed- ucation to fit the immediate practical needs of the Taiwanese preachers.
Mackay resisted attempts by the Canadian church to send more mis- sionaries to Taiwan, concerned the new arrivals would remain distant from the people of Taiwan by be- ing unwilling to eat the food of the people and live in the same condi- tions as the people of the island. His fears were well founded. As new missionaries arrived, the Canadian Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mis- sions ordered Mackay to assist in building a mission compound, and when the houses in the compound were completed, he was instructed to move into the compound. Further, the new missionary arrivals were not willing to travel as Mackay did,
The George Leslie Mackay memorial statue in Tamsui square, Taiwan. PHO- TO CREDIT: KIM ARNOLD, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH ARCHIVES, 2005
preferring to stay more settled in the known context of Tamsui. He had lit- tle interest in spending time with mis- sionaries who did not share his en- trepreneurial spirit. His vision was for a church in Taiwan that was largely free of the missionaries and western influence. A small team of Canadian missionaries who could not cover all the ministry needs was his plan, for such a situation would create space for Taiwanese Christians to exercise leadership.
Mackay died in Tamsui on June 2, 1901. While his name is not widely recognized in Canada, in Taiwan he is still a highly regarded figure.
Grace of God. Publications of this nature are so important to our de- nomination, and I applaud Scott for his tireless efforts in bringing Zion’s past to life.”
For those interested in purchas- ing a copy of this wonderfully writ- ten publication, please contact Zion Church Administrator, Dianne White, by email to or by calling 902-566-5363. The price is $14.95 and includes mailing costs to your address.
  Zion Church Releases Comprehensive History Book
  D. Scott MacDonald.
By John Barrett, Clerk of Session, Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Historian and author D. Scott Mac- Donald has just released a new and revised edition of the history of Zion Presbyterian Church, in Charlotte- town, P.E.I., now celebrating 175 years as a congregation. Originally compiled and authored by MacDon- ald some 25 years ago, the new edition, Through the Grace of God, is a greatly expanded history of the congregation, its worship structures, ministers, elders and so much more.
Scott MacDonald is actively in- volved in Zion Presbyterian Church
as an elder and historian, serving the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island as treasurer and representative elder and ispastpresidentandcurrentmember of the Seniors Active Living Centre.
Earlier publications that he has also authored include From Humble Beginnings (a History of the Credit Union Movement on Prince Edward Island 1936 – 2016), Prince Edward Island Then and Now, and, Charlotte- town Then and Now—an award- winning book that has received both the P.E.I. Heritage Book Award and the Charlottetown Heritage Award. A member of the national Committee on History, Scott has laboured tire- lessly to bring Zion’s extensive his-
tory to life and document so many important aspects of its past that could have otherwise been lost.
The significance of this 285-page publication is perhaps best explained through the comments by the Rev. Dr. Daniel Scott, current moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada: “During my visit earlier this year to Zion Church in Charlottetown, it’s evident that this 175-year-old con- gregation is blessed with a beautiful and historic sanctuary along with a desire to honour its past and take their mission courageously into the next century. The significance of all that came before is aptly chronicled within this new book, Through the

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