Foreign Missionaries from the early period of modern Japan who contributed to the establishment of Sendai Theological Seminary (currently Tohoku Gakuin University)
The Tokugawa clan ruled Japan for almost 250 years, a period marked by the exclusion of Christianity and the promulgation of edicts banning its practice. The period came to an end when U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry led several U.S. ships into Japanese waters and demanded that Japan open itself up to the West. This led to the establishment of the Meiji government, and that soon resulted in the removal of the edicts banning Christianity, thereby allowing missionaries to begin public ministry. Many promising Japanese youth gathered around the evangelistic centers that were formed around Japan.
At one of the mission centers, later referred to as the “Yokohama Band,” a 22-year old student named Oshikawa Masayoshi became a Christian. With his sights set on becoming an evangelist to the Tohoku district in the northern part of Japan, Oshikawa became actively involved in evangelistic work in Sendai. In 1886 Rev. William Edwin Hoy, a missionary from the German Reformed Church in the United States of America, arrived in Sendai and teamed up with Oshikawa to launch a small seminary for training Japanese pastors. The school was named Sendai Theological Seminary. Hoy and Oshikawa also helped start a school for girls, Miyagi Women’s School, which eventually became Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University.
Hoy was born in Pennsylvania in 1858. After graduating from Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary, Hoy was appointed as a missionary by the German Reformed Church in the USA and sailed for Japan in 1885. After founding the seminary in Sendai, Hoy and Oshikawa were joined by a new arrival the following year, Rev. David Bowman Schneder. Hoy was immediately burdened with numerous and varied responsibilities but was involved in many evangelistic activities, including publication of the English bimonthly magazine “Japan Evangelist” from 1893. But he also suffered from asthma, a condition that led him to leave Sendai for a three-month health furlough in Shanghai in 1898. After traveling up the Yangtze River to Hankow, however, he decided to begin mission work in Hunan Province. Resigning from his work with the Japanese mission, Hoy eventually settled at Yochow in 1900. For 25 years Hoy was at the center of a rapidly developing program of schools for boys and girls, evangelistic outstations, and medical work. His life as a foreign missionary came to an end at the age of 69 while he was on his way back to the USA.
Sendai Theological Seminary began with two staff members and six students. The school grew the following year, with the additions of Schneder and several more students. At that point (1891), as it added junior and senior high schools and continued to expand into a full-fledged school, the name of the school was changed to Tohoku Gakuin. A new school building constructed of red bricks provided a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for both students and staff. (Appropriately but also affectionately, the building was later referred to as the “red brick school building.”) A library was also established in the new building and named after Rudolf Kelker, a treasurer of the German Reformed Church.
Oshikawa was actively involved in evangelistic activities in several places, so he decided to hand over administration of the school to Schneder, who became the second principal of the school. A few years later, following Hoy’s departure for China, Schneder devoted himself fully to educational work at Tohoku Gakuin, a work to which he dedicated himself for the next 35 years as he transformed a small private school into a Christian college. Furthermore, that Christian college eventually became the large Christian university it is today, a school with the highest number of students of any Christian university in northern Japan. It presently has 12,000 students, ranging from kindergarten through graduate school.
David Bowman Schneder was born in 1857, one year earlier than Hoy. Like Hoy, Schneder graduated from Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary. After serving as a pastor for four years, he was appointed as a missionary by the German Reformed Church in the USA. He sailed for Japan with his wife, both arriving in Sendai in 1887. Schneder began as a co-worker with Oshikawa and Hoy. His long term of service had its difficulties, not the least of which included the resignations of two of his colleagues. However, no doubt the severest trial he faced was the disastrous fire in Sendai in 1919, a fire that raged widely throughout the city and destroyed many school buildings. Though the situation may have looked hopeless to many, Schneder never gave up his attempts to rebuild the school. He successfully raised funds (especially from USA donors) that made possible the rebuilding of the school’s facilities within three years following the disaster. The three English words “Life, Light, and Love,” are carved prominently on the front and make up the motto of the school.
Rev. and Mrs. Schneder remained in Japan for almost 50 years. During this period, they returned to the US seven times, never ceasing in their labors to build international goodwill and to raise money for the expansion of the school. One of Schneder’s later concerns was the need for a college chapel, a dream that was finally realized in 1932 through a large contribution of $50,000 from one woman. The new structure was named the Lahauser Memorial Chapel in her honor. The structure was beautifully designed and is still used daily for university worship services. While numerous other buildings were damaged in the East Japan Disaster of 2011, it was unscathed.
—Professor Nomura Shin, Dean
Department of Religious Affairs Tohoku Gakuin University
ここでW. E. ホーイについて触れておこう。米国ペンシルベニア州で1858年
D. B. シュネーダーの生涯についても、ここで触れておこう。
東北学院大学 宗教部長 文学部教授 野村 信