【October 2015 No.384】The New Sanctuary of Fukushima Church

The New Sanctuary of Fukushima Church

 

The sanctuary of Fukushima Church was destroyed in the East Japan Disaster of 2011. On March 31, 2015, the dedication of its new sanctuary was attended by 143 guests from near and far. The ceremony began with the ringing of the “New Creation Bell” (II Cor. 5:17) from the bell tower.

 

In his sermon, entitled “Children are here,” Nitada Kenji, the pastor of Fukushima Church said: “When I began my ministry at this church following the East Japan Disaster, there were no children’s voices to be heard, nor children’s faces to be seen, in the city of Fukushima.”

 

“We had no choice but to close our church school for a year. Even when we started the church school again the following year, our only student was the grandchild of one of our members. When I saw a gradual increase in the number of children in the city, I remembered the words of John 6: ‘There is a boy (child) here…’ When we demolished the sanctuary, one of our neighbors said he thought that was the end of our church, but God has given us this new sanctuary.”

 

Fukushima Church, founded in 1886, is now entering 129 years of ministry. The sanctuary was built in 1909, the first church to be designed and built in Japan by William Merrell Vories, who at that time had been in Japan three years. In 2001, it was classified as a registered tangible cultural property by the Japanese government. The sanctuary was severely damaged by the earthquake, and the city and prefecture declared the property off-limits. Immediately following this declaration, the sanctuary was demolished.

 

The new sanctuary is a Japanese-style single-story wooden building of 251 square meters. In April 2013, two years after the destruction, the church conference authorized the building of the new sanctuary. Construction began in July 2014 and was completed in December, first being used that Christmas Eve.

 

The sanctuary designed by the Vories Architectural Firm brings natural light to the sanctuary from windows on the left and right, as well as from the ceiling, and the bell tower leaves a semblance of the old sanctuary. The total cost of construction was ¥126,730,000. This was covered by the support of 50 million yen from the Kyodan, 5 million yen from Tohoku District, and domestic and international contributions; 20 million yen was borrowed from the Kyodan to cover the remainder.

 

The “New Creation Bell,” which sounded the beginning of the ceremony, was cast in 1914 with contributions from churches in the U.S. and had become a symbol of the church. During World War II, it was part of a compulsory donation to the war effort, but it was not melted for use. Instead, it was sent to the U.S. as booty. Once it was recognized as a church bell, it was returned to Fukushima Church in November 1946. Although now operated by an electric motor in the new sanctuary, it is an important inheritance from the old sanctuary designed by Vories.

 

At the reception following the dedication, Kyodan Secretary Kumoshikari Toshimi said: “Following the earthquake I had an opportunity to attend one of Fukushima Church’s prayer meetings. I was moved when one of the women of the church prayed, ‘Enable us to build a house of prayer.’ God looked over you in the midst of your hardships and heard your prayers.”

 

Tohoku District Moderator Konishi Nozomi shared the feelings of the district. “Among the 86 churches in Tohoku District, 70 percent experienced some kind of damage, of which 19 were forced to rebuild or repair their facilities. It has been four years since the East Japan Disaster, with mixed feelings of ‘already’ four years and ‘only’ four years.” (Tr. JS)

 

—Nagai Kiyohiro, Kyodan Shinpo editorial member

From Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), No. 4819・20

 

福島教会献堂式

東日本大震災で被災した福島教会の新会堂献堂式が3月21日、県内外から143人が出席して行われた。  鍾楼の「作新人の鐘」を鳴らして献堂式は始まり、「ここに子どもがいます」と題した説教で、似田兼司牧師は、「大震災の 年の末に着任した時、福島市には子どもの顔が見えず、声が聞こえなかった。日曜学校も1年間休校せざるを得なかった。翌年再開したが、生徒は会員の孫1人だった。ようやく、市内に多くの子どもを見かけるようになり、『こ こに子どもがいます』という聖書の御言葉(ヨハネ6・1~15)を思い出した。取り壊した時、近隣の人は『もう教会は終わりだ』と思ったそうだが、神がこの新会堂を与えて下さった」と 語った。

福島教会は、1886年創立、129年目を迎える由緒ある教会で、旧会堂は1909年、来日3年目のヴォーリズが日本で最初に設計した教会建築。2001年、国の登録有形文化財に指定されていた。大震災で煙突が崩落し、鍾楼が傾き、会堂に傾斜と亀裂が生じたことから、県・市 から「立ち入り禁止」勧告が出て、同月、会堂は取り壊された。

新会堂は、木造平屋建251㎡。震災2年後の13年4月の教会総会で再建が承認され、昨年7月、工事を開始、12月竣工し、クリスマス・イブから使用していた。ヴォーリズ設計事務所設計の礼拝堂は、左右の窓と天井から光が差し込み、鐘 楼に旧会堂の趣を残している。 総工費1億2673万円、教団支援金5千万円、教区支援金500万円、教団借入金2千万円と内外からの献金でまかなった。

献堂式開始の合図となった作新人の鐘は、1914年、米国の教会からの献金で造られ、旧会堂のシンボルとなって来た。第2次大戦中、供出させられたが、溶かされることなく終戦を迎え、米軍の戦利品として米国に送られた。米国で教会の鐘であるこ とが判明し、46年11月に教会に送り戻されたという経緯がある。会堂が新たになった今、電 動式となったが、鐘は、ヴォーリズ設計の旧会堂から受け継がれた。

感謝会で、雲然俊美教団書記は、「震災後、福島教会の祈祷会に出席した時、『祈りの家を建てさせて下さい』という女性信徒 の祈りに胸が熱くなった。会員の労苦と祈りを神が見守って下さった」と語った。  小西望・東北教区議長は、「東北教区86教会のうち、7割の教会が何らかの被害を受け、19教会が再建・補修を余儀なくされた。大震災から4年、もう4年という思いと、まだ4年という思いがある」と被災教区の心情を吐露した。(永井清陽教団新報)(教団新報4819・20 号より)

 

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