【April 2019 No.402】Atami Church’s 100 Years of Witness and Ministry

As Atami Church celebrates its centennial anniversary year, the current pastor shares its history and present ministry, and a long-time member remembers its nurturing role in his own life.

A Church Built in a Resort Area

by Noguchi Kei, pastor

                                       Atami Church, Tokai District

The Atami Church, located on the Izu Penninsula, is believed to have begun as a house meeting at the home of Morimura Ichizaemon, an entrepreneur who was a Christian. In 1919 the location was changed, and it was formally established as Japan Christian Alliance Association (Nihon Domei Kirisuto Kyokai) Atami Church. In 1941, it was incorporated within the Kyodan, and when several of the former Alliance churches withdrew after World War II, Atami Church decided to remain in the Kyodan, as it is today.

Over this period of 100 years, Atami Church has survived several trying periods, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923), World War II, and the Great Atami Fire (1950), while continuing to shine the Gospel light. Atami (meaning “hot ocean”) is a rural hot springs area that rode on the wave of economic growth after World War II and was transformed into a town of buildings standing in a row, flourishing as a tourist area. But in the 1990s, it was adversely affected by the collapse of the bubble economy and other factors.

At present, Atami is a small town with a population of 37,000 people. The trend is toward a decrease in population, with signs of few births and an aging society. There are very few colleges in the area, and since there is limited work outside of tourism and service occupations, many young people are leaving for Tokyo or other large cities. The present condition of the town also directly impacts the vitality of Atami Church. Due to the aging of its members, every year there is a decrease in the number of believers who frequently attend church. And since this is a tourist area, believers cannot take off work on Sunday, so many are unable to observe Sunday worship.

However, the resurgence of activity in Atami in recent years is a very hopeful sign. Tourism has revived in the shopping area where there were many closed stores, and with the restoration of the town’s business condition, tourists and newcomers to the town are attending worship frequently. The baptism of four persons at Christmas in 2017 and one person at Christmas in 2018 were great blessings for us. We have done nothing special. We have only spoken the Word in a slow but sure way, observed worship services, and entrusted everything else to God. I think the seed sown, after the passing of many years, now at last has borne fruit.

The people of Izu Peninsula have been raised in a scenic region. On the one hand, they are gentle and affectionate, and on the other hand, they love freedom and have a thriving spirit of independence. Enrolled together as members at Atami Church are many who were reared in Atami as well as more recent arrivals from Tokyo and elsewhere. To become one in heart, believers with different personal histories, personalities, and church backgrounds have made the Word of Jesus Christ their foundation and are intentionally developing a worship-centered corporate body structure.

The year 2019 is the 100th anniversary of our church’s establishment, and in January we held a founding celebration worship service. The sanctuary was built 20 years ago and now needs repair. For a small church, we are fortunate to have a splendid sanctuary. Repairs are not an easy thing, but as a witness to our faith, we plan to tackle a “2020-and-beyond” goal. (Tr. RT)

 

「観光地に立たされた教会」

熱海教会牧師 野口 敬(Noguchi Kei)

 熱海教会の始まりは、実業家の信徒であった森村市左衛門宅での家庭集会だったと言われています。1919年に場所を変え、日本同盟基督協会熱海教会として、正式に発足しました。1941年、日本基督教団成立の際に編入、戦後に、旧同盟協会の幾つかの教会が教団から離脱する中、熱海教会は教団に残る決断をして、現在に至っています。

 この100年の間に熱海教会は、関東大震災、太平洋戦争、熱海大火などの数々の試練を乗り越え、福音の灯をともし続けています。ひなびた温泉地であった熱海(直訳すると、熱い海)は、戦後の高度経済成長の波に乗り、高層ビルが立ち並ぶ街に変貌し、観光地として賑わいましたが、1990年代には、バブル崩壊などの影響を大きく受けました。
 
 熱海市は現在、人口3万7千人の小さな町です。人口は減少傾向にあり、少子高齢化も顕著です。周辺に大学も少なく、観光・サービス業以外の仕事も限られているため、多くの若者は東京など大都市へと巣立って行きます。この町の現状は、熱海教会の教勢にも直結しています。高齢のため、教会から足が遠のく信徒が年々増え、観光地ゆえに、日曜日の仕事が外せず、聖日礼拝を守ることができない信徒もいます。

 一方で、近年、熱海の街が活気を取り戻しつつあるのは、大きな希望です。閉店した店が多かった商店街に観光客が戻り、町の景気回復に伴って、観光客や新しい移住者が足繁く礼拝出席するようになり、2017年のクリスマスには、4名の受洗者が与えられました。今年2018年のクリスマスにも、受洗者が1名与えられます。何か特別なことをしたわけではありません。ただ地道に御言葉を語り、礼拝を守り、後は全てを神様にお委ねしてきました。蒔かれた種が何年もの時を経て、今ようやく実を結んだのだと思います。

 風光明媚な(scenic)風土に育まれた伊豆の人たちは、温和で人懐っこい一方で、自由を愛し、独立心旺盛な一面があります。熱海教会には、多数の生粋の熱海っ子と東京や地方からの移住者が、共に在籍します。経歴も性格も教派のバックグラウンドも異なる信徒たちが心を1つにするために、イエス・キリストの御言葉を土台とした、礼拝中心の共同体形成を心掛けています。

 2019年は創立100周年で、1月には、創立記念礼拝が予定されています。会堂は築20年たち、改修工事が必要となってきています。小さな教会には身に余るほどの立派な礼拝堂です。改修は容易なことではありませんが、私たちの信仰の証しとして、2020年以降を目途に取り組む予定です。

*               *               *

The Sown Seed

by Fujima Takao, member

                                      Atami Church, Tokai District

Now 87 years old, I am healthy and continue to attend worship services every week and do various church jobs. However, for a long time my life of faith was one of continual twists and turns.

I remember going to Sunday school sometime before World War II, but when I became a fourth grader, education became militaristic. The dream boys had of the future was to become an army general. After the war, the church gate that had been locked was opened once again. Many young people seeking culture with a foreign fragrance gathered at the church, and I myself was also among them.

Mukoyama Jisuke, Atami Church’s pastor at the end of the war, had not yet returned from the war-front, and every Sunday, Pastor Matsumoto Hiroshi of Ito Church preached at Ito Church in the morning, Atami Church in the afternoon, and Usami Church for evening worship. I went to church half-heartedly, attending worship services while hoping that the sermon wouldn’t be long. One day, while surrounded by other young people, the subject of baptism was raised. Not even understanding what it was, I thought, “Well, if we all receive it…,” and was baptized together with a group of five or six persons. When the service was over, members of the church said “Congratulations” and gave words of blessing. I still was not understanding this very well, but when we went to the parsonage on the second floor and I saw that a meal had been prepared, at last the meaning of “congratulations” became real. (At that time there was little rice to eat each day, and it was distributed according to a rationing system.)

Atami is a town of hot springs and rest and was not an object of B29 bombing; we only experienced a few times the deafening roar of the Grumman F6F Hellcat planes on strafing runs. But following the war, in 1950, the central part of the town was almost totally burned by a great fire. Atami Church was also in danger, and as we prayed a parting prayer at the church, thinking the church would soon be burned, a fire truck from another town rushed in, and it was saved. After graduation from high school, I became a salaried
worker for a short time, but as being “self-employed” had become a trend in Japanese society, I dared to begin my own business.

The life of faith for me has been like a single thin stake driven into the current of a river, and every day like constantly fighting the current. Isn’t what I am today the product of the Sunday school of my boyhood, and before that the single seed sown in the church kindergarten, being nurtured over a long period of time in the midst of weeds, having come into bud?

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them…..” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

(Tr. RT)

「播かれた種」

熱海教会員 藤間孝夫

 私は今、満87歳になり、元気に毎週日曜礼拝に出席し教会の色々な奉仕を続けております。しかし、私の信仰生活は長い間、紆余曲折の繰り返しでした。

 戦前に、当時の日曜学校へ行った記憶はありますが、小学校4年生になった時、教育はすべて軍国主義となりました。少年たちの将来の夢は陸軍大将になることでした。戦後、閉ざされていた教会の門は再び開かれ、多くの若者が外国の香りがする文化を求めて教会に集った、その中に私の姿もありました。

 終戦当時の熱海教会は、向山自助牧師が戦地からまだ戻らず、伊東教会の松本廣牧師が、毎週日曜に朝は伊東教会、午後は熱海教会、夕拝は宇佐美(Usami)教会を廻り説教しておりました。遊び半分に教会へ行っていた私は、早く説教が終わればいい、と思いながら礼拝に出席しておりました。ある日、青年たちに取り囲まれて、洗礼の話が出ました。何のこととも分からず、皆が受けるならと思い、5~6名の方と一緒に集団で受洗しました。式が終わって教会員の人たちから、おめでとうございます、と祝福の言葉を受け、良く分からないまま二階の牧師館に行くと、お膳(食事)が用意されているのを見て、ようやく「おめでとう」の実感がわいてきました(その頃、日常の食べるお米も少なく配給制度でした)。

 熱海の町は温泉と静養の町なので、B29の空爆対象ではなくグラマン戦闘機(The Grumman F6F Hellcat)の雷のような轟音で機上掃射が数回あっただけでしたが、戦後の昭和25(1950)年に大火で町の中心部がほとんど焼けました。熱海教会も危険となり、もはやこれまでと会堂でお別れの祈りをしていた時に、よその町から応援に駆け付けた一台の消防車によって類焼は逃れたのでした。私は、学校を卒業後しばらくサラリーマンになりましたが、世の中に“脱サラ”の掛け声が広がり、思い切って事業を始めました。

 信仰生活は私にとって丁度、川の流れに細い一本の杭を打ち込んだようなもので、絶えず流れに逆らっているような毎日でした。今日の私があるのは、子供時代の日曜学校、その前の教会幼稚園で播かれた一粒の種が、長い時間をかけて、雑草の中から、芽が出てきたものでしょうか。

 「青春の日々にこそ、お前の創造主に心を留めよ。苦しみの日々が来ないうちに。『年を重ねることに喜びはない』と言う年齢にならないうちに」(コヘレトの言葉12章1節)。
(東海教区報No. 167, 18.11.2)

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