by Nishikawa Akimitsu, pastor Union Japanese Church of Westchester, New York City
Union Japanese Church of Westchester began a worship service in the Japanese language in September 1989. While receiving support from the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the United Methodist Church (UMC), it was given a place to hold services at Hitchcock Presbyterian Church, where it has continued to do church work as an interdenominational church.
New York State is in the middle of the Atlantic coastline and ranks third in population among the states and 27th in area. In the United States, New York City is located in the southeast end of the state and is the city with the largest population (approximately 8 million people). Our church is located in the outlying suburbs about 40 to 50 minutes by car north of Manhattan, the center of New York City. Scarsdale, in Westchester County, is a town with abundant natural beauty and affluent families.
In general, it can probably be said that missionary work among expatriates in New York is tied to and inseparable from world economics. During the period of economic growth in Japan, many enterprises in New York expanded, and the number of Japanese resident workers increased, resulting in vigorous activity by Japanese-language churches. At present, the number of resident Japanese people is slowly decreasing and being replaced by many Chinese and Hispanic people.
The number of Union Japanese Church members has also slowly decreased for several years now, and without the aid of its support group in Japan, the continuing existence of the church is precarious. In the midst of all this, having gone through several months of waiting for approval of a missionary visa, I arrived at my post in December 2014 as the Reverend Asada Yoko’s successor.
Due to visa concerns, ministerial changes do not go smoothly in churches outside Japan, and they often experience periods of being without a pastor, as our church did for a year and had to start again. Thus, many of the meetings other than the worship service had been suspended. Soon after arriving at my post, I reopened the house meeting in the Trumbull area in Connecticut. Nearly all the participants at the Trumbull meeting are non-Christians, but because it is a very homey gathering, the numbers are slowly beginning to increase.
Following the reestablishment of the house meeting, I also reopened the Bible study. However, church members are few in number, and nearly all are working. So we hold Bible study after the “Living in America” class at Hitchcock Presbyterian Church on Thursday mornings, and I have begun an introductory Bible class aimed at the Japanese persons who attend. Fortunately, the time for it immediately follows the “Living In America” class. So a few persons have started to attend, and we are continuing to have good fellowship.
Including these kinds of meetings, there are three Japanese-language churches serving in Westchester District: Union Japanese Church of Westchester, New York Japanese Church, and Metropolitan Japanese Ministry. Since they are all small, we wondered if there was not something the three churches could do cooperatively, so they started holding an interdenominational exchange worship service. (At present, Japanese-American United Church members, Japanese Christian Church of Greenwich members, and Japanese Christians from the Queens area are attending).
Japanese-language churches on the outskirts of New York State, with the exception of Manhattan Japanese American Church, are struggling with membership and financial hardships. The reason is that the majority of participating families reside in New York for a short period and then return to Japan. Likewise, those permanent residents who have ties to the church (and house meetings) are also beginning to attend English worship services.
At the same time, many of the U.S. denominations are proposing to cut their support because there is little result from evangelism among Japanese people. That alone would cause a crisis among the Japanese-language meetings that are also struggling to continue while facing membership and financial issues.
However, looking back at history and realizing that many of the Christians of the Meiji Era who came in contact with Christianity while studying abroad in the U.S., did wonderful work following their return to Japan, I feel that the evangelistic work mainly done here should definitely not be stopped, even if it does not substantially connect with church development. I request you, by all means, to please remember to pray for our church and for each of the Japanese-language churches outside Japan and to join with us in supporting them. (Tr. RT)
ユニオン日本語教会Union Japanese Church of Westchesterは、１９８９年の９月に日本 語による礼拝を始め、米改革派、米合同メソジスト派の支援を受け