by Kusachi Daisuke, pastor of Hofu Church Nishi Chugoku District
The city of Hofu is located about halfway along the coast on the Seto Inland Sea side of Yamaguchi Prefecture, with a population of about 120,000 people. There are a number of Christian churches in the city, but fellowship among these churches in different denominations has been nonexistent for over ten years, and so has not flourished very much. However, starting about a year-and-a-half ago, due to their shared concern for the homeless, pastors of the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, and Kyodan churches have been sharing information regularly. In addition, we began a service for people who want to settle down by negotiating with the city on their behalf and are also cooperating to provide for persons in need of food.
Members of the various churches had been in contact with each other, but until recently partnership among the churches had only been business-like at best. However, since their first ministerial meeting, the pastors and priests have been gathering at the respective churches about once every three months, with discussion centering on support for street people. Now, under the shared awareness of “shouldering the propagation of the gospel among all the churches in the area,” they are enjoying a fellowship that crosses denominational lines and a deepening experience of grace.
None of the churches has a large membership, but when they are working jointly to support the homeless, the churches are given new wisdom and a new perspective. Of course, there are denominational differences, but they are all led by the same Lord and, through implementation of the spirit of love shown by Christ, the overcoming of those differences is being realized. It was discussed that “when there are persons in distress, persons seeking aid, we must transcend denominational differences.”
The other day, there was a baptismal service for a man and his two children at the Roman Catholic Church. His wife was already a member there, so they wanted to be together as a family in the same church. He had also been attending our Kyodan church and, during the development of his desire to be baptized, I had a chance to meet with him personally and have fellowship with him. The family was closely related to both churches, and since we had already been in a deepening relationship, I was able to discuss with the Roman Catholic priest the question of how to lead them to faith.
As the churches had once again begun to cross denomination lines to offer support, the discussion went very smoothly for all those living in Hofu. As a result, it was decided that the “service would be done together” and we would participate as officiating pastors together in the service at the Roman Catholic Church. That day, members of the Hofu Church and the pastor of the Baptist Church attended the baptismal service at the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to this being a joyous “carrying out of a ‘cooperative work’” that crossed denominational lines, the smiling faces of that family, who were able to share their common faith together, left a very radiant impression.
We are hoping that the solidarity of the area churches, which began with the discussion about supporting persons facing difficulties, will only deepen further. There are homeless persons who are seeking concrete help. How to care for such people now, and from here on, is being discussed not only by pastors but also by lay people.
Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church is appealing to persons throughout the city every year by holding an Advent concert during which the priest says, in his message: “By all means go to a church near the various places where each of you live for the Christmas worship service.” Appeals to attend the various church gatherings are also made freely, and actually the various believers take part in one another’s meetings and are deepening their interaction. As the pastor of a Christian church built in this same area, I hope to continue the “cooperative work” from now on as a witness to the Lord. It is my great desire that in this way the grace of the gospel will reach as many persons as possible.(Tr. RT)
—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), October 2013 Issue