【December 2020 No.408】From the General Secretary’s Desk: Kyodan Churches and the Corona Virus Crisis

The entire world has been suffering with the Corona Virus pandemic, and Kyodan churches are no exception. Our ability to meet together to sing praises, preach the Word, and share Holy Communion has been severely curtailed. This situation can even be described as a threat to the very existence of our churches. The Kyodan General Assembly has been postponed until the fall of 2021, and various activities like committee meetings have, for the most part, been limited to virtual gatherings via the Internet. Likewise, district assemblies were limited to making required decisions based on written documents alone, so for almost a year now, the various organizations have been barely functioning.

During this time, our understanding of the situation and the handling of this crisis in each district has come through the newsletters and other communications received from each of the districts. Practically all of the local churches have either suspended in-person worship services all together or considerably restricted them and have resorted to online services that families view from their own homes. This has involved creating resources for in-home worship services and sending out church bulletins together with sermon manuscripts prepared in advance, which has resulted in extra duties for already busy pastors.

A few churches have been able to maintain services while taking extraordinary precautions to prevent infections, but churches having online services alone are inevitably experiencing decreasing membership and financial pressure. However, many also report that it has caused them to realize just how important a blessing it is to be able to gather together for corporate worship. Pastoral care, particularly for elderly persons, has suffered greatly during this time when visitations to those who are hospitalized or in care facilities has not been permitted. Funeral services too have been limited to family members only, greatly accelerating a trend towards smaller and simpler funerals. Many churches have reported that not being allowed to fulfill their calling, due to these circumstances, has been very painful.

While this virus has raged on, many pastors and churches have questioned whether or  not their own decisions were right in this time of difficulty. Nevertheless, we are reminded that when the prophet Elijah heard the still small voice of God, following the violent wind and fire, he was led out of that cave into a vibrant faith and hope in the Lord. Likewise, as we feel the loneliness of “social distancing,” we also learn from the example of the Lord Jesus, who separated himself from the crowds for a time in order to pray alone. We too are being afforded this time for prayer. May it be an opportunity for the Church to awaken through God’s Word and live in God’s timing as we see God work even through this crisis. (Tr. TB)

Oct. 28, 2020

—Akiyama Toru, Kyodan general secretary


世界中がコロナ・ウィルスによるパンデミックで呻吟しています。教会も例外ではありません。共に集って讃美し、み言葉を宣べ伝え、聖餐に与る礼拝に大きな制約が課せられています。教会の存立に関わる危機と言わなければなりません。日本キリスト教団の活動も、教団総会は来年秋まで延期、各委員会の働きもほとんどがネット会議、各教区の総会も法定議案だけを書面で決議して、かろうじてその機能を維持しているといった状態が、ほぼ1年間続いています。この間に、各教会ではどのようにこの危機を受け止め、対応し、思いを巡らしているか、北から南まで各教区から届けられる「教区通信」その他によってその様子を垣間見ることが出来ます。 ほとんどの教会がこの時期に教会に集って礼拝する形を停止したり縮小して、それぞれの家庭で礼拝できるようにネット配信をする形が急速に広がりました。そのために家庭礼拝の手引きを作成したり、週報を事前に説教原稿もそえて各家庭に配付したり、牧師はこの時期、普段よりも忙しい時が続きました。感染予防に極力努めながら礼拝を続ける教会もありますが、オンライン礼拝が続く中で、全体に教勢低下、教会財政の圧迫の現実は避けられません。しかし、いつものように礼拝に集える恵みがどんなに大きいかを実感するといった感想を聞くことも少なくありません。この期間に、病院に入院していたり、施設に入っている教会員を訪問・面会することが禁じられ、特に高齢者の牧会的な配慮が行き届かなくなったことや、葬儀となった場合に家族以外ものが集うことも出来ず、教会の大切な時と務めが果たせなかったという痛みを覚える教会もあったことが伝えられています。葬儀の小規模化・簡略化が一挙にすすんででいます。このような「分断」ウィルスが猖獗を極める中で、各教会も牧師も、それぞれの決断がこれで良かったのか、試練の時を正しく受け止めているだろうかと怯え不安になりながらも、嵐や激しい火の後に静かに囁く神の声を聞いた預言者エリヤのように、やがて御声に導かれて洞窟の中から引き出されて歩ませてくださる主に希望を託す信仰、このソーシャル・ディスタンスの寂しくて厳しい、また、消極的で無意味な時間に思える時間も、群衆からしばし離れて一人祈る主イエスの姿に倣って、今しばし与えられた人々のために祈る時間としたいと、この時をとらえて歩む姿勢に学ばされます。この危機は、確かに、神の御業の現されるとき、この時こそ、教会が御言葉によって目を覚まされ、神の時に生きる時なのです。秋山徹総幹事


【December 2020 No.408】Remembering Missionary Kihara Yoko (1964-2020)

Yoko was very grateful for the life she lived in Japan and in Canada and for all of the opportunities she was given by the United Church of Canada. Moving to Canada with her family was a major turning point in her life. She was 41 years old at the time. The first few years were especially tough, consisting of learning English and studying at Vancouver School of Theology while serving UCC’s Fraser Valley Japanese Church and raising two children. However, Yoko thoroughly enjoyed her new life in Canada and was ordained as a minister of the United Church of Canada in 2010.

Yoko served two UCC Japanese-speaking congregations, Vancouver Japanese Church and Fraser Valley Japanese Church, for seven years. During that time, she also taught Japanese at Guildford Japanese Language School in Surrey and worked to strengthen the network within the community of Japanese-Canadian children and families.

In 2012, Yoko was called to UCC’s Gilmore Park Church as the minister of Christian development and outreach. In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent several treatments, then left Gilmore Park due to cancer recurrence in 2017. She passed away on Feb. 20, 2020 at age 55.

Yoko was especially passionate about intercultural ministry, healing ministry, and the young adults’ exchange program that she organized in partnership with the Kyodan. Moreover, her drive for social justice never ceased to lose fire. With a passionate but humble heart, she touched the lives of many students, congregants, community members, and colleagues through her love, hospitality, honesty, sense of justice, and thoughtfulness.

—Rev. Mita Tabito, Yoko’s husband





葉子はとりわけ多民族多文化の背景をもった人々への宣教、癒しの宣教、そして日本キリスト教団と連携した日本とカナダの青年交流プログラムに情熱を注いでいました。また社会正義に対する強い使命感を持ち続けていました。情熱的かつ謙虚な心をもち、多くの学生と会衆そして地域や同僚の方々の人生に、愛ともてなし、誠実で正義感をもった思慮深い働きで影響を与えました。 三田旅人牧師(木原葉子宣教師のご夫君)

【December 2020 No.408】Hiroshima Church Shares War’s Realities to Promote Peace

As a church damaged by the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima, we have endeavored to preserve and communicate the reality of war. By teaching the public this history, including the negative parts of wartime cooperation, we desire to contribute to the realization of peace.

In August 2020, Hiroshima commemorated the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombing. Those who experienced and know first-hand of that event are becoming few indeed. Of the 45 people who participated in drafting the “Peace Commemorative Questionnaire,” which was compiled in 2005 by Hiroshima Nagarekawa Church to solicit input from those who had experienced the nuclear bombing, 15 are no longer alive, and the others are of advanced age. It is in the midst of this situation that Hiroshima Nagarekawa Church has been displaying artifacts from the bombing and sharing the reality of exposure to the blast for the purpose of working towards a peaceful world without nuclear weapons.
Placing of the Cross that Was Exposed to the Blast
The church building of that time had been designed by the famous architect John Voorhees and was located about 800 meters from the center of the nuclear explosion. The remains of the wooden cross that had been in the building was preserved, and in 1995, 50 years after the bombing, it was placed on the wall in the front of the sanctuary.  That blackened cross was something that survivors of the bombing found very difficult to look at, as it reminded them of Aug. 6, the day when in an instant, their city of Hiroshima had been turned to ash and so many people were burned to death. However, for the generations of people afterwards who had not experienced the nuclear bombing, it is a symbol that causes them to think about what happened that day. When our present building was rebuilt in 2013, we carefully placed that cross in the center of the sanctuary again. In 2017, we celebrated the 130th anniversary of the founding of the church, and as a special tribute, we placed the cornerstone of the bombed-out church next to the cornerstone of the new building (see picture at http://www.hiroshimapeacemedia.jp/?p=71512). On display in the sanctuary, we also have pictures of Hiroshima and the church from shortly after the bombing and have produced an explanatory pamphlet for people to view anytime.
Video Recordings of Eyewitness Accounts
During 2010 and 2011, we recorded on video the testimonies of seven of our members who directly experienced the nuclear bombing (of whom four have since died). Beginning last year, we decided to show one of these videos every year following the worship service on the second Sunday of August. During these last ten years, our membership has been increasing, so many people are hearing these stories for the first time. The testimony of a woman who went to be with the Lord in 2018 ends with the following statement. “As I think back on it, I was so focused on just escaping from that tragic situation that I tried not to look around at the destruction. But I feel regret now that I ran away without taking it all in. I feel that we must avoid war in all situations….I always thought that I didn’t want to talk about my experience of the bombing, but as many eyewitnesses as possible must tell the children who haven’t experienced war so that we will never go to war again.” It is our goal to continue to listen to these eyewitnesses who feel the same way and who speak to us through their pain.
Facing Up to the History of War Cooperation
While it is true that Hiroshima experienced nuclear destruction, we must also keep in mind that our church did not resist the war effort but instead participated in it. We have been digitalizing the church bulletins that remain from that era, and they include statements of cooperation with the war effort. For instance, the Jan. 31, 1943 bulletin records that following the prelude, the church performed a wartime ceremony called the “Kokumin Girei”, a very formal ceremony that included deep bows and the singing of the national anthem (to the Emperor). The announcements section includes the following: “Let’s all cooperate with the program to collect metal.” “As you can see, our church has delivered every possible metallic object to the government….Let us resolve to bear up under every circumstance until we greet that day of glory.” Likewise, the Nov. 7, 1943 bulletin states, “The purpose of the ‘Prayer Meetings for Victory in this Holy War’ (a week-long event of the churches in the city) is to ‘pray for the victory of our soldiers under the Emperor and that on the front lines, our soldiers will receive luck in the fortunes of war, and also that through the strong support of all of us at home, they will be able to fight this holy war to the finish.’” We challenge the people who come to visit from various churches and church-related schools to think about what prayer means, when you consider that the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the nuclear bomb, was sent on its mission with a “prayer” by a military chaplain, while at the same time, the Hiroshima churches were offering their “prayers for victory” in the “holy war.” Prior to the decision to preserve the famous “A-Bomb Dome,” which is now a World Heritage Site, many people thought it should be torn down. Thus, we are endeavoring to preserve every site that contains a record of the war and the nuclear bombing in order that as many people as possible can experience what it was like. We believe this will help to promote the path towards peace. (Tr.TB)by Mukai Mareo, pastorHiroshima Nagarekawa ChurchFrom Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend), August 2020記憶を引き継ぐために被爆教会の役割 被爆教会として、戦時の事実を伝えるものを積極的に保存し、公開してきた。戦争協力という負の側面も含めた歴史を多くの人に知らせることで、平和の実現へとつながっていくことを願っている。 向井希夫 広島流川教会牧師 今年8月、広島は被爆75年を迎えます。先の戦争、被爆を直接知っている人が少なくなってきました。広島流川教会が2005年に実施した被爆体験などについての「平和記念アンケート」に回答した45名のうち、すでに15名が天に召され、存命の方々も高齢です。そのような中、広島流川教会では長年、被爆の事実を語り継ぎ、史料を展示することで核なき世界、平和を実現するための努力を続けています。 被爆十字架の設置ヴォーリズ設計の当時の会堂は、爆心地から800メートルの地点で被爆しました。その会堂の木材で作られた十字架を保管していましたが、被爆50年にあたる1995年、会堂の正面に設置しました。黒く焦げ、ほぼ炭化している十字架は、被爆者の方々にとっては見るに堪えないものです。8月6日、一瞬で黒焦げになった広島、黒焦げになり亡くなっていった人々を思い起こさせるからです。しかし、経験していない世代の視覚に訴え、実際の出来事を思い浮かべる入り口となっています。2013年に献堂した現会堂でも、正面に掲げています。2017年には創立130周年記念事業として、被爆定礎板を現会堂定礎板の横に設置しました。また、被爆直後の広島の街、会堂の写真を会堂ロビーに常設展示しています。パンフレットも作成して、いつでも見てもらえるようにしています。このような取り組みが平和学習の一環にもなっていることに大きな意味を感じます。全国のキリスト教学校から地元の公立小学校まで、多くの子どもたち、若い世代が当教会を訪れます。そして、被爆の事実を伝えるこれらのものを実際にその目で見て、平和について考えるのです。 被爆証言の映像記録2010年から2011年にかけ、教会員7名(内4名は既に召天)の被爆証言を映像で記録しました。昨年から年に1名ずつの被爆証言を8月第2主日礼拝後に見始めました。この10年で新しい教会員も増え、初めて聞く人が多くいます。2018年に召天された女性の証言は、「今、思えば、あの惨状の中で一刻も早く逃げたいばかりに、悲惨な現状を見ても、その場を横目で見ながら立ち去ったことが残念でたまりません。どんなときであっても戦争だけはしてはいけないと思いました。……原爆の体験は言いたくない、語りたくないと常に思っていましたが、一人でも多くの人が語り続けることによって、戦争を知らない子どもたちのために、また二度と戦争を起こさないために……」と締めくくられています。多くの被爆者が同様の思いで、痛みを抱えながら語ってくださったことを受け止め続けたいと思います。 戦争協力の歴史に向き合う広島は原爆被害を受けた地ではありますが、教会が戦争に対し否を唱えなかった事実も避けて通ることはできません。残されている戦争中の週報を整理しデータ化していますが、その中に教会が戦争に協力していた記録があるのです。1943年1月31日の日曜礼拝次第を見ると、奏楽(前奏)の次に国民儀礼があります。報告欄には次のような記述があります。「金属回収運動に協力しませう」「御覧の通り当教会は供出しうる全ての金属を供出致しました。(中略)栄光の日を迎ゆるまで一切の事を忍びませう」。また同年11月7日には、「聖戦必勝祈祷報国会」(市内の教会が集まり1週間開催)の目的として「国土防衛皇軍の必勝、前線将兵の武運長久、銃後生産の増強熱願し以て我が聖戦の完遂を祈り抜き……」とあり、戦争協力していた様子がわかります。訪れる教会・キリスト教学校関係者には、原爆投下した爆撃機エノラゲイが従軍牧師の「祈り」によって飛び立ったこと、広島の教会では「聖戦必勝の祈り」がされていたことを話し、祈りとは何であるのかを考えてもらうようにしています。世界遺産の原爆ドームでさえ、保存が決まる前には取り壊しの意見がありました。私たちは、それぞれの場所に残されている戦争、被爆に関わるもの、記録を残し、それをできるだけ多くの人に触れてもらう努力を続けなければならないと思います。それが平和を実現することへとつながっていくと信じています。(信徒の友2020年8月号より)

【December 2020 No.408】Korea-Japan Youth Programs and COVID-19 Pandemic

Annyeong-haseyo!  (A Korean greeting meaning How are you or Hello.)

I am a mission coworker sent by the Kyodan to the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK). I came to Seoul in February 2015 and currently work at the PROK headquarters and in one of its congregations, Seoul Jeil Church (Seoul First Church).

I have particularly focused on Korea-Japan exchange programs for teenagers and young adults. We hold these exchange programs at the denominational level, the district level and the local church level. However, all these programs for this year had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Korea-Japan Joint Summer Retreat for Teens, which is co-hosted by the PROK Seoul Presbytery and the Kyodan’s North Subdistrict of Tokyo District was postponed, which is especially regrettable because this retreat draws many repeat attendees. Once teens participate, they say, “I definitely want to attend again next year!” But if you are in your first year of high school, and if it’s your first time to participate in the program, you only have two more opportunities. Moreover, the “exam war” for entering university, which is so severe in both South Korea and Japan, often makes it impossible for high school seniors to join the program. So one year is very important for teenagers. That is why this retreat is held annually, even though we had discussed several times whether we should have this program only once in two years due to budget restrictions. It is very disappointing that we had to cancel it due to COVID-19.

However, even in this situation, the young adults who participated in an exchange program last summer are planning to hold a reunion, using ZOOM. In both Japan and South Korea, college students were unable to attend classes in their regular school buildings this year because of COVID-19, and they often took classes online. Whether that experience should be thought of as “unfortunate” or “fortunate,” it seems to be no problem for them to meet online, but it is difficult to create the same “atmosphere” as when meeting face-to-face and to become friends through thinking together about the history between Japan and Korea, eating together, and playing cards and other games together at night. But both teenagers and young adults have been using technology to communicate with each other even during face-to-face programs. Although most of them do not speak their friends’ languages, they tried to communicate with each other by using Google or LINE translator. I am always moved by how earnestly they try to understand their friends and explain their own feelings at a deep level. Now they are trying to do what they can during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it encourages me a lot.

From last year, it has been said repeatedly since last year that the relationship between South Korea and Japan is at its worst since Fifteen Years War. That is why I support young people who really want to see the friends they met last year. Since I believe that this is a way I can help to create peace, I want to keep up my efforts.

by Nagao Yuki, Mission Co-woker from Kyodan to PROK   Seoul, South Korea

アンニョンハセヨ?基督教長老会(PROK)に派遣されている長尾有起です。私は2015年2月からソウルに派遣され、現在は PROKの総会(事務局本部)と、PROK所属のソウル第一教会での奉仕を中心に活動しています。




【December 2020 No.408】Horikawa Aiseien Group Home for Children

Horikawa Aiseien, incorporated as a social welfare group home for children, was founded in 1945. Pastor Yamakita Takihiko of Misakicho Church, together with Kagawa Toyohiko, had procured land in Hokkawa, a forested mountain area in the town of Tanagura, Higashishirakawa district in southern Fukushima, to provide a safe and peaceful living space for children who had lost their parents and homes during the air raid of Tokyo in March of that year. Kobe Shuhei, who was introduced through the Kyodan and would become the first director, began living there with the children from October 1945, together with his family and young adult women from Misakicho Church. But even saying that, it is recorded that life in the wood cabin built in one section of the mountain forest was continually difficult. Mr. Tani Masatsune, who also worked at Hokkaido Family School, joined the staff several years after Horikawa Aiseien was established, and in 1948 the home was approved as a welfare institution for children based on the Child Welfare Act. It moved to its present location in Maruuchi in 1951. From the time it was founded, the town of Tanagura has promoted Aiseien’s work by not only providing land, food, and materials but also to the point of becoming like a relative of the children through its support and cooperation.

Following Mr. Tani, Iida Susumu became the director in 1965 and continued in this position for 46 years, establishing the theoretical basis of the work that Aiseien continues today. From the beginning, Aiseien adopted a type of cottage-style format, in which a guardian lives with a small number of children (6-7) in each group home. It is not an overstatement to say that Mr. Iida established the foundation of cottage-style childrearing. Times have changed from that of  economic recovery to a period of fast economic growth, and the situation of the children coming to the facility has also changed greatly. Beginning with the so-called “bubble” period from the year 2000, the greater number of cases of children entering the facility involve protection against child abuse. Actually, from the start of the 21st Century until now, the number of cases of child abuse counseling in the more than 200 child counseling offices throughout the nation has reached 200,000 annually.

Aiseien experienced double hardships resulting from the Great East Japan Disaster on March 2011 in Fukushima and the accompanying radiation pollution due to the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear energy plant. The building was damaged by the earthquake, and due to anxiety about the aging of the over 40-year-old structure, it was completely rebuilt in 2012. For this undertaking, we received the kind support of the Berliner Missionwerk through the Kyodan. And in 2013, representatives from Germany came to visit, saw the facility after its reconstruction, and also had fellowship with the staff. Since then, we have been receiving support from Berliner Missionwerk every year to pay off the loan for the reconstruction. We are also receiving help through funding from many Kyodan churches.

My staff and I are grateful for the support from many places and grateful that the work begun in a corner of northwestern Japan has been continued for over 75 years due to that support. (Tr. RT)

by Ito Nobuhiko, director, Horikawa Aiseien Children’s Home, Higashi Shirakawa, Fukushima Prefecture


社会福祉法人 堀川愛生園, 施設長 伊藤信彦

堀川愛生園の創立は1945年に遡る。三崎町教会の牧師であった山北多喜彦先生が3月の東京大空襲により親を失い、住む家を失った子どもたちが安心、安全に暮らせるようにと、賀川豊彦先生と共に福島県の県南地域東白川郡棚倉町堀川(ほっかわ)の山林に東京で保護した子どもたちと生活するための場所を得る。そこに、教団を通して紹介された初代園長となる神戸周平氏とそのご家族、三崎町教会の女子青年有志が参加し、同年10月より子どもたちとの生活が始まった。と言っても、材木を切り出す山林の一角に掘立小屋を建てての生活は苦難の連続であったと記録されている。創立から数年後に、後に北海道家庭学校の働きもされた谷昌恒氏も加わり、1948年に児童福祉法に基づく児童養護施設として国の認可を受け、1951年に現在の丸内(Maruuchi)に移転する。愛生園は創立以来、棚倉町(Tanagura machi)がこの働きを理解し、土地、食料や物資だけでなく労働力の提供に至るまで親身になって協力してくれている。


2011年3月の東日本大震災での被災に加えて福島県は、福島原子力発電所の事故により放射能汚染災害という二重の苦しみを経験してきた。震災後の2012年に震災によるダメージもあり、それ以上に築40年強という老朽化の不安により、園舎の全面改築を行った。事業に当たっては、教団を通してドイツのBerliner Missionswerk より厚い支援をいただいている。また、2013年にはドイツより園を訪問していただき、改築後の園の様子を見ていただき、職員とも交流することができた。その後も、改築事業による借入金返済のため毎年ご支援をいただいている。多くの教団の諸教会からも募金にご協力をいただいている。


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