One Sunday evening late last fall, I attended the dedication ceremony for the new facilities of Eifukucho Church in Tokyo. The church had decided to close the kindergarten it had run for years and sell the land in order to build an elegant building to house its sanctuary, meeting rooms, and an upstairs parsonage. The fact was that the number of children in the area had precipitously declined, so it was becoming difficult to finance the operation of the kindergarten. There were, however, many voices of protest from the community, as more than 3,000 signatures of parents and former graduates of the kindergarten were gathered to appeal the decision. As a result of this difficult situation, there were also a few members of the church who left.
The church has had a long and complicated history of more than 130 years, including a move from its original location in central Tokyo to its present site to rebuild after World War II. In its almost 70 years of operating the kindergarten, the people of the area knew the church more by the name of "Kohitsuji (Lamb) Kindergarten" than as Eifukucho Church, and the successive pastors, who also served as the kindergarten principal, worked hard to provide a good foundation for education of the local populace.
While I personally have never served a church with an attached kindergarten, I have heard the reports of many who have, and so I have a few thoughts on this topic. First of all, it is the church that operates the church kindergarten and not the other way around. Nevertheless, such a kindergarten cannot be considered separately from the church, and often it is a symbiotic relationship that requires each to help the other to survive. That, however, necessitates there being a large number of young children in the area. As that was no longer the case, the pastor's role as head of the kindergarten could no longer maintain sufficient influence and respect in the community. Now the church is faced with a different task, that of operating only as a church to serve the spiritual needs of the people. (Tr. TB)
—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary
晩秋の或る主日夕、東京・永福町に幼稚園の持続を断念して、その敷地を売却し、瀟洒な会堂・集会室・牧師館のみを新築をした永福町教会の献堂式に出席した。教会は、地域に次第に少数化する幼児の実情と教会幼稚園としての経費に徒ならぬもの有りと判断して廃園の決断をしたのだ。ところがそれに異を唱える保護者と卒園者ら 三、〇〇〇余名の人々 の猛烈な反対署名運動が起こった。それらの動きに呼応して教 会を離れた信徒も数名 はいた。教会に戦後都内から現在地に移転した経緯があり、合 わせれば一三〇年を越す重厚な教会史と格式を有しつつも現在地で七〇年近く継続さ せた幼稚園経営によって、地域は教会というよりも、「小羊幼稚園」の呼称で親しまれたのも確かだ。そのために、歴代の牧師・園長は相当の努力をもって必要な教 育を 些かも恥じることなく 行った。わたしは、幼稚園付教会に赴任したことはないが、それらの報告を聞きながら、思うことが幾つかあった。教会幼稚園の経営主体は教 会に あり、幼稚園あっての 教会ではない。だが、この伝統の教会にも幼稚園とは切り離せ ない繋がり、場合に よっては互いに助け合わずにはいられない相互依存の時代もあっ ただろう。それは押し 並べて地域に子どもたちが大勢いてのこと。牧師も牧師だけで は、園長の名をもって する影響力や尊敬も集めることは不可能だった。今や教会は、 教会一本で人々の心に どんな痕跡を残すのか、新たな戦いが始まった。