by Tachibana Mitsuyo, pastor Yonezawa Church
From the year 2003, Kaminoyama and Yonezawa churches in Ou District’s Yamagata Subdistrict have been supported through the Cooperative Mission Solidarity Fund by being served as “yoked churches.” This is a way of supporting small-scale churches, moving from the idea of one church supporting one pastor to joint support by the subdistrict and the district. In this way, within Yamagata Subdistrict, we are afforded many opportunities to discuss the issues of solidarity fund churches as we have regular reports in such venues as the subdistrict assembly, the subdistrict council, and the ministerial association. I feel that the emphasis is starting to move from what has heretofore been mainly district-level leadership to a system of support centered in the subdistrict as a whole.
Concretely, up to last year, the religious affairs teachers of Yamagata Gakuin High School served as guest preachers twice a month at Kaminoyama Church. The subdistrict officers and subdistrict women’s society members also visited the Yonezawa and Kaminoyama churches to participate in their worship services, nurturing good interactions. Through this, both the laity and pastors avoided isolation and accordingly were encouraged. From this year, subdistrict pastors as well as lay members are taking part in the services at Kaminoyama Church, where there had been only a small number of worshippers and in this way giving support. Thus to the present, the weekly worship services of Yonezawa Church and Kaminoyama Church have been covered.
However, there are various issues involved with serving small-scale churches as a charge. Unavoidably, there is a bias in the priority of ministerial care for the church near where the pastor resides. Where the number of persons is few, due to the weakness of the latent energy of the church body, the fact that both churches might fail together cannot be denied. I think, at that point, the solidarity of the backing of the entire subdistrict and the accumulation of prayers is important. While looking for a form of solidarity that is fitting to that subdistrict, I think the entire subdistrict needs to continue its joint ownership of the issues of small-scale churches. And I think the stance of churches receiving financial aid must be to grapple seriously with the goal of financial independence.