Churches Damaged by Chuetsu Earthquake Celebrate Reconstruction

Reconstruction of two churches damaged by the Chuetsu earthquake in October 2004has been completed. Two related services were held on Jan. 14, 2008: at 11:00 a.m. a service of celebration and thanksgiving for the reconstruction of the Tokamachi Church parsonage and at 3:00 p.m. a dedication service for the parsonage and sanctuary of Mitsuke Church. With the prayers and support of churches throughout the country, these two points of evangelism have been reestablished.

Tokamachi Churchユs Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving. The snow that had been falling all night stopped as the service started. Tokamachi Church Pastor Arai Jun began his sermon by saying, “There was a moment I cannot forget,” then spoke about the annual assemblies of Niigata Subdistrict and Kanto District. “A motion that Kanto District raise 75 million yen, half of the total nationwide goal, was presented. When, after a tense moment of silence, it was overwhelmingly approved…” His voice broke; then, after a few minutes he continued: “the feelings I had been holding back just overflowed. When everyone offered their blessings and encouragement after the assembly, I could only prayerfully give thanks. I cannot tell you how much we were comforted and encouraged by the fact that members of churches far away were accepting our damage as their own pain. We were not alone. I felt clearly that we were not isolated. Many episodes since the earthquake have borne witness that the Lord is with us and living in our midst.”

In his congratulatory message, Kanto District Moderator Hikita Kunimaro commented, “Rebuilding a church is not just reconstructing a building; this building embodies power and courage from nationwide prayers and support. I hope Kanto District will be a district that continues to stand with all those who may suffer any kind of damage in the future.”

When structural evaluation of the former parsonage was officially changed from “partial destruction” to “virtually complete destruction,” it was decided to rebuild. Work that was begun on the light-steel frame, two-story parsonage in September 2007 has been completed. The cost of the 131 square meter building was 40 million yen, 30 million of which was aid raised by the Kyodan and 10 million raised locally. The building was used as a center for volunteer workers immediately after the earthquake.

Mitsuke Church’s Dedication Service: A sudden change of weather in the afternoon brought biting cold and heavy snow. In his greetings, Mitsuke Church Pastor Yanagida Takeyuki said,
“Rebuilding this church has been a heavy task for parishioners whose homes also suffered earthquake damage and flooding along with the church. But with the Lord’s guidance to change a pinch to a chance, and supported by the prayers of people throughout the country, we have been given a new vision.” Then he continued: “We have felt that God is alive and at work. Now I am struck with fear and trembling. I want to speak about two points. The first is the meaning of a service of dedication. We give back to God what is God’s. I think this is the meaning of a service of dedication. Today we give this church building back to God, and then we ask to borrow it again. The second is the purpose of a service of dedication. It begins with saving the soul of just one person of the 43,000 citizens of Mitsuke. Through repentance, a loser is resurrected. Today is the beginning of losers being resurrected through evangelism. In his words of congratulation after the service, Kyodan Vice-moderator Kobayashi Makoto stated:
“As I rejoice with you in the service of dedication, accomplished despite numerous difficulties, there is one more thing I want to say. As reflected in the words ‘holy catholic church’ in the Apostles’ Creed, the church is not just a building but the object of faith. There is confusion and lack of faith within the Kyodan, but the present offering of more than 170 million yen from peopoe throughout the country who believe in the church has great meaning.モ Kumae Hidekazu, moderator of Kanto District’s Niigata Subdistrict, remarked: “Standing here in this new church building 40 months after the earthquake is like a dream, but it is not a dream. Our vision of communicating the gospel to all people takes shape here. This new church building is a witness to the solidarity of our subdistrict, district, and the Kyodan as a whole. This day witnesses to the fact that the church truly is alive and working together.” Mitsuke Church suffered flood damage in 2004 and three months later the Chuetsu Earthquake caused a liquefaction phenomenon that caused the foundation to disintegrate, so rebuilding on that location was abandoned and a site was purchased in the Hanamizuki (Dogwood) housing development, about a five-minute walk from the former building.

The phrases “God is alive,” “One church,”and “Witness to solidarity” were weighty and filled with deep meaning. The face of every person there radiated with gratitude and joy, We would like to convey the blessings of that day to churches throughout the country. (Tr. WE)

─Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)

Churches Damaged by Chuetsu Earthquake Celebrate Reconstruction
The 2007 Missional Planning Conference was held on March 10-11 at Fujimicho Church. The main topic was “Kyodan’s Evangelism and Cooperative Efforts in that Endeavor” and the subtitle was “150 Years Since the Beginning of Protestant Evangelism in Japan.” The 72 participants were able to delve deeply into the topic at hand and significant insight and learning were achieved as they fellowshipped together.

Takahashi Jun, chairperson of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, stated that “although the question has been raised as to whether it is even possible to have a missional planning conference without a plan, we all agreed that without the delegates coming together to deliberate, there would be no progress.” In his greeting the host said, “It is important to have representatives from all the districts gather together to reach a mutual understanding of the present circumstances unique to the various Kyodan districts and churches and to learn lessons from history as we plan for the future.” Korean Christian Church in Japan General Secretary Park Sookil expressed his prayer that a fruitful harvest would come out of this conference as he shared greetings filled with humor.

Three lecturers made presentations. In his presentation entitled “Reflecting on the History of the Kyodan,” General Secretary Naito Tomeyuki stated that the 150-year history of the Protestant Church in Japan can be divided into three 50-year periods. The first period focused on ecumenism. There was a great emphasis on church unity as opposed to the sectarianism and denominationalism that was prevalent in Europe and America. The second period was a time of militarism and war. It must be acknowledged that the church was unable to escape this influence while attempting to protect its confessional beliefs. At the same time, although political and military pressure cannot be denied, it was this conviction of the ideal of ecumenism that played an important role in the formation of the Kyodan.

In his discussion of the third period, Naito shared vivid recollections from his own experience of the Kyodan General Assembly and other events and examined them through the paradigm of the ecumenism of the church. Given his historical perspective and ecclesiology, Naito was critical of some of the events that have occurred since the 16th (1969) General Assembly. However, he concluded by referring to the hope that lies ahead.

While all three presenters dealt with very deep subjects, Yamaguchi Takayasu particularly did so in his lecture. Just as he promised, he condensed the contents of his book into one hour. The lecture was entitled “Evangelism from the Viewpoint of the (Kyodan’s) Confession of Faith and Constitution.” Organizationally independent from the government, the Kyodan is founded on its own constitution and confession bec
ause ecclesiology is the cha
racteristic of a church and not of an association. Yamaguchi’s boldness was persuasive as he went against what is often considered to be common-sense understanding of the meaning of the Kyodan’s Constitution and its Confession of Faith.

Tomisato Church Pastor Uchida Hiroshi presented the third lecture, which was entitled “Cooperating in Evangelism.” From his background in church planting and cooperative mission, Uchida gave a very practical and well thought-out presentation. His first example was of how Shikoku District is working together cooperatively to do church planting. He emphasized how Shikoku District’s cooperative system has created the fellowship that exists between pastors and supporting churches. The second example was “church planting with the cooperation of a parent congregation.” The parenting church congregation organized a loose union to found a church located on the Hokuso train line. There are three reasons that were offered for why Chiba Hokusou Church was able to be established: responsible people, trust relationships, and the vision borne out of home gatherings.

Ou District Moderator Ohara Muneo, Tokai District Executive Council Member Nishinosono Michiko and Higashi Chugoku District Vice-moderator Miyakawa Tsunenobu gave their reports. All three seemed to be eagerly working at the task of finding concrete solutions. (Tr. AK)

─Takezawa Chiyoshi, chief editor
Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)

Reconstruction of two churches damaged by the Chuetsu earthquake in October 2004 has been completed. Two related services were held on Jan. 14, 2008: at 11:00 a.m. a service of celebration and thanksgiving for the reconstruction of the Tokamachi Church parsonage and at 3:00 p.m. a dedication service for the parsonage and sanctuary of Mitsuke Church. With the prayers and support of churches throughout the country, these two points of evangelism have been reestablished.

Tokamachi Church’s Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving. The snow that had been falling all night stopped as the service started. Tokamachi Church Pastor Arai Jun began his sermon by saying, “There was a moment I cannot forget,” then spoke about the annual assemblies of Niigata Subdistrict and Kanto District. “A motion that Kanto District raise 75 million yen, half of the total nationwide goal, was presented. When, after a tense moment of silence, it was overwhelmingly approved…” His voice broke; then, after a few minutes he continued: “…the feelings I had been holding back just overflowed. When everyone offered their blessings and encouragement after the assembly, I could only prayerfully give thanks. I cannot tell you how much we were comforted and encouraged by the fact that members of churches far away were accepting our damage as their own pain. We were not alone. I felt clearly that we were not isolated. Many episodes since the earthquake have borne witness that the Lord is with us and living in our midst.
In his congratulatory message, Kanto District Moderator Hikita Kunimaro commented, “Rebuilding a church is not just reconstructing a building; this building embodies power and courage from nationwide prayers and support. I hope Kanto District will be a district that continues to stand with all those who may suffer any kind of damage in the future.”

When structural evaluation of the former parsonage was officially changed from “partial destruction” to “virtually complete destruction,” it was decided to rebuild. Work that was begun on the light-steel frame, two-story parsonage in September 2007 has been completed. The cost of the 131 square meter building was 40 million yen, 30 million of which was aid raised by the Kyodan and 10 million raised locally. The building was used as a center for volunteer workers immediately after the earthquake.

Mitsuke Church’s Dedication Service: A sudden change of weather in the afternoon brought biting cold and heavy snow. In his greetings, Mitsuke Church Pastor Yanagida Takeyuki said, “Rebuilding this church has been a heavy task for parishioners whose homes also suffered earthquake damage and flooding along with the church. But with the Lord’s guidance to change a pinch to a chance, and supported by the prayers of people throughout the country, we have been given a new vision.” Then he continued: “We have felt that God is alive and at work. Now I am struck with fear and trembling. I want to speak about two points. The first is the meaning of a service of dedication. We give back to God what is God’s. I think this is the meaning of a service of dedication. Today we give this church building back to God, and then we ask to borrow it again. The second is the purpose of a service of dedication. It begins with saving the soul of just one person of the 43,000 citizens of Mitsuke. Through repentance, a loser is resurrected. Today is the beginning of losers being resurrected through evangelism. In his words of congratulation after the service, Kyodan Vice-moderator Kobayashi Makoto stated: “As I rejoice with you in the service of dedication, accomplished despite numerous difficulties, there is one more thing I want to say. As reflected in the words ‘holy catholic church’ in the Apostles’ Creed, the church is not just a building but the object of faith. There is confusion and lack of faith within the Kyodan, but the present offering of more than 170 million yen from peopoe throughout the country who believe in the church has great meaning.” Kumae Hidekazu, moderator of Kanto District’s Niigata Subdistrict, remarked: “Standing here in this new church building 40 months after the earthquake is like a dream, but it is not a dream. Our vision of communicating the gospel to all people takes shape here. This new church building is a witness to the solidarity of our subdistrict, district, and the Kyodan as a whole. This day witnesses to the fact that the church truly is alive and working together.” Mitsuke Church suffered flood damage in 2004 and three months later the Chuetsu Earthquake caused a liquefaction phenomenon that caused the foundation to disintegrate, so rebuilding on that location was abandoned and a site was purchased in the Hanamizuki (Dogwood) housing development, about a five-minute walk from the former building.

The phrases “God is alive,” “One church,” and “Witness to solidarity” were weighty and filled with deep meaning. The face of every person there radiated with gratitude and joy, We would like to convey the blessings of that day to churches throughout the country. (Tr. WE)

─Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)

First Christian Education Seminar Held in Kochi

The first Christian Education Seminar sponsored by the Kyodan Committee on Education was held March 3 at Nankoku Church in Kochi Prefecture. The purpose for which the committee planned this seminar was to learn and pray together with pastors and church school teachers who are engaged in Christian education. These days, the number of children attending church schools is decreasing. Therefore, the committee thought that this kind of seminar would be helpful. The theme of the seminar was “The Joy of Being Called to His Ministry.” Kishi Norihide, pastor of Chiba Honcho Church and chair of the Committee on Education, led the opening worship service, using Mark 3:13-19 as his text. A conference of leaders of Christian education in the districts was held both before and after the seminar.

About 70 persons, including participants from 14 districts, gathered for the seminar from 7 p.m. Some participants came to the seminar by car after more than a four-hour drive from neighboring Ehime Prefecture. Hirata Kazuko, director of Christian Education at Handago Church and a member of the Commission on Education, was the lecturer. The lecture began with her self-introduction. She studied Christian education at Seiwa College in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. Then, she was called as a director of Christian education, a status authorized by the Kyodan as a special ministry of Christian Education. Under the Lord’s guidance, she was sent to several churches as a director of Christian education. Handago Church is located close to Mt. Kongo near Yoshino, which is famous for its cherry trees. She said that the Handago area was once called Handago Village, and the scenery of Handago is still like an agricultural village. Nevertheless, about 35 children are coming to the church every Sunday morning. Hirata stressed two points. First, God desires children to be invited to our church schools. Second, church school education contributes to the building up of the church. She said that without giving up and without getting impatient, we should expect God’s blessing on the church school each Sunday. She finished her lecture with a reading of Mark 4:30-32. Her lecture was based on the situation of not only Handago Church but also the other churches that had sent representatives, so it gave great encouragement to the participants. She passionately related how happy she was to be called to Christian education by Jesus.

The second day, after the closing worship service, we were given an optional tour of Seiwa Junior and Senior Girls’ High School and Geisei Church. Seiwa is located at the eastern edge of Kochi City. Seiwa is the smallest private junior and senior high school in Kochi, as it has only 120 students. The 20 teachers, including of course the principal, are all Christians. We learned that they had been called to Christian education at the school. Their honest attitude about education gave us hope and encouragement.

Kato Makoto, secretary
Committee on Education

Church’s Monthly Birthday Party Celebrates God’s Gift of Life

Every third Sunday, our pastor introduces persons who have birthdays that month.He presents birthday cards he has made, then offers prayers of blessings. Afterwards, a birthday party is held under the theme “Let us celebrate together!”

“When we were very young, we used to have very happy birthdays, but people close to us do not celebrate our birthdays anymore, and we have forgotten the joy of these days.” “I wish I could celebrate my birthday with joy and gratitude because it is ‘the anniversary day’ of the life God has given me.” These sentiments expressed by members of the congregation prompted the organization of the monthly birthday party project. Each person shares how it feels to have a birthday, and we all sing each one’s favorite hymn together. Our worship service every Sunday is observed by people of all ages together, including kindergarten children, teachers, and mothers. We come to worship “as children who are like adults and as adults who are like children.” Since our motto is to do every activity together, we celebrate our birthdays together, and everyone is invited to come to the party table, too. “We are all God’s family!” (Tr. HL)

Iizuka Takuya, pastor
Ryugasaki Chruch, Kanto District
Shinto no Tomo (Believer s’ Friend)

Church's Monthly Birthday Party Celebrates God's Gift of Life

Every third Sunday, our pastor introduces persons who have birthdays that month.He presents birthday cards he has made, then offers prayers of blessings. Afterwards, a birthday party is held under the theme “Let us celebrate together!”

“When we were very young, we used to have very happy birthdays, but people close to us do not celebrate our birthdays anymore, and we have forgotten the joy of these days.” “I wish I could celebrate my birthday with joy and gratitude because it is ‘the anniversary day’ of the life God has given me.” These sentiments expressed by members of the congregation prompted the organization of the monthly birthday party project. Each person shares how it feels to have a birthday, and we all sing each one’s favorite hymn together. Our worship service every Sunday is observed by people of all ages together, including kindergarten children, teachers, and mothers. We come to worship “as children who are like adults and as adults who are like children.” Since our motto is to do every activity together, we celebrate our birthdays together, and everyone is invited to come to the party table, too. “We are all God’s family!” (Tr. HL)

Iizuka Takuya, pastor
Ryugasaki Chruch, Kanto District
Shinto no Tomo (Believer s’ Friend)

Catholic-Protestant Fellowship Addresses Educational Issues

by Hanajima Mitsuo, general secretary
Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan

The Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan, an organization consisting of about 100 Protestant schools, has in recent years strengthened its cooperative ties with the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools. In 2002, the president of the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools’ Board of Trustees made a presentation at the General Assembly of the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan. Subsequently, an official of the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan gave a presentation at a meeting of the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools. Fellowship between the two organizations progressed, and as some people wished to continue the fellowship on a regular basis, the Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship was formed.

The first thing that the Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship Committee did was to plan a lecture and a symposium. Participants realized anew that both Catholic and Protestant schools are facing the same issues and challenges. However, there are differences in the ways that Catholic schools and Protestant schools perceive and deal with these issues. It is very meaningful that both parties are exchanging ideas with each other, and when both parties understand and are concerned about each other, this plays a part in the development of each. At the beginning, the theme of the lecture and symposium was “Women’s Education.” The first lecture was held in 2004 and featured Tokyo Woman’s Christian University President Minato Akiko, who spoke on “Why Women’s Education Now?” In 2005, University of the Sacred Heart President Yamagata Kiyo presented a lecture entitled “Is Women’s Education Behind the Times?” At the symposium, teachers and graduates of women’s schools shared their own experiences, gave reports about their employment in the field of education, and talked about the meaning and importance of women’s education.

In 2006, Tohoku Gakuin Chancellor Kuramatsu Isao’s lecture dealt with “Catholic Schools and Christian Schools” (schools related to the Education Association of Christian Schools); in 2007, Koso Toshiaki, president of Sophia University’s Board of Trustees, lectured on “The Possibilities of Christian Education”; and in 2008, Rikkyo University Professor Nishihara Renta gave a lecture entitled “Christian Education Living in the Present World.” Each lecture was about issues facing all Christian educational institutions. At the symposiums, many teachers from several schools reported on their experiences, but there has been no difference in content yet between the reports of Catholics and Protestants. These events have mostly been attended by school teachers. Many participants were from Catholic schools, many of whom were nuns dressed in black. The events have been held in Tokyo at Aoyama Gakuin, University of the Sacred Heart, Meiji Gakuin, the Shirokane campus of Sacred Heart Girls’ School, and Rikkyo Junior and Senior High School in Ikebukuro. The contents of the lectures and symposiums are printed in a booklet each year and published by the Don Bosco Publishing Company.

At the planning meetings of the Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship Committee, the presidents of the boards of trustees and other representatives from both the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan and the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools have had opportunities to meet together. As a result, participants have actively engaged in many kinds of fellowship. Information about all the educational research gatherings held by the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan is also sent to the Catholic schools, and teachers from Catholic schools always participate.

All Catholic schools in Japan are founded and run by a religious order. At many of the schools, few teachers are Catholic believers, and the religious education is handled by the priest and the nuns. Recently, fewer people are entering the religious orders, so the number of ordained clergy able to take care of the schools is extremely low. It is said that the shortage of teachers available to run Christian education programs is even more critical in Catholic schools than in Protestant schools. Because the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools sponsors few activities of any kind, many Catholic teachers rely on the educational research gatherings of the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan. In turn, schools related to the Education Association get a lot of fresh stimulation from the participation of the Catholic schools, so both parties learn much from each other. This year, the regulations of the Education Association are expected to be revised, and a new provision has been added about continuing cooperative relationships with the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools.

The Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship Committee consists of the following members: Kuze Satoru (Meiji Gakuin), Tanaka Hiroshi (Joshi Gakuin), Fukamachi Masanobu (Aoyama Gakuin), Nonomura Noboru (Kwassui Gakuin), Hiratsuka Keiichi (St. Margaret’s College), and Ruth M. Grubel (Kwansei Gakuin). The Japan Federation of Catholic Schools is composed of Kawai Tsuneo, president of the Salesian Boys’ Home Board of Trustees, and six other members. (Tr. KT)

New Telephone System Enables Worship Participation from Home

Today in many churches, aging of the membership has become a matter of concern. Especially noticeable is the absence of church members who cannot attend worship services due to age or sickness. Various ways are being attempted to provide care for members who earnestly desire to attend but cannot.

Until recently, the simplest means of providing access to sermons and church information has been the use of printed matter and recording tapes. But these methods have not enabled everyone to worship at the same time. The least expensive way to enable simultaneous participation in the Sunday worship service is use of the Internet; but adoption of its use for the elderly is difficult because many older adults are not accustomed to computers and bedridden persons are unable to sit in front of the apparatus. A simpler method that enables participation in worship and is adaptable by older people is use of a telephone circuit, and several churches have adopted this.

Takacom Corporation’s “service-phone” (a multiple-circuit voice-receiving device) provides multiple receive-only circuits. The basic monthly cost of 2,700 yen (under $30) is less than that of usual telephone circuits. Because it is designed only for reception, there is no call fee for the church to pay. Having decided that the system’s ability to receive several calls at once is advantageous for ministry, a number of churches have adopted this system.

Nakashibuya Church introduced the system in 1993, starting with five circuits. Feeling that some provision should be made for elderly persons who were unable to come to church, it was decided to install adequate speakers and amplifier equipment and to introduce the service-phone. The original cost, including microphone and amplifiers, was 660,000 yen (about $6,400). In 2006, due to an increase in the number of users, the order was changed from five to nine circuits. When an application is received from someone for whom coming to church has become difficult, the pastor gives the applicant the telephone number. The person in his or her own home can take part in the worship services being held in the church sanctuary. It is reported that offerings from the users are adequate for covering the telephone fees.

In prayer times during the worship service, these participants are remembered through the use of such expressions as “for those coming to worship by telephone.” Also during the worship service, a committee member checks a counter so that the number of persons taking part by telephone that day can be included in the attendance report. Thus, a ministry not just for those who gather in the sanctuary was born. Pastor Oikawa Shin says, “When I came to Nakashibuya Church, it was so good to have this equipment. Really, it would be good for any church to have. It would be good even now to get it. It would greatly strengthen a church.”

Chitose Funabashi Church introduced the system in 1996, beginning with three circuits. At one time, the number of users decreased, and the order was reduced to one circuit; but now there are two as there are always one or two pregnant women or elderly persons to use them. In order to improve the sound absorption, the number of microphones was increased and special ones installed for the worship leader, the preacher, and the organist. It is possible to listen by telephone not only to the weekly worship services but also to special Christmas music worship and organ concerts.

The worshipers too appreciate these opportunities as “times of blessing.” Above all, the ability for everyone to take part in worship at the same time has become a major element of the church’s fellowship. Many of the telephone users say simply, “Changing to the system for joining in worship was most suitable for ‘me as I was at that time.’” A woman who died recently had switched from usual worship attendance to worship via the telephone and is an example of one person who was able to take part in worship even after becoming bedridden.

Other problems remain, such as the difficulty of churches with limited financial resources being unable to meet the initial cost and being unable to use the service-phone in places like hospitals. However, it is true that with this system, there are people who can be blessed by joining with others in worship. (Tr. RB)

Tsuji Junko, pastor of Shitaya Church
East Subdistrict, Tokyo District

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