【December 2016 No.390】Karuizawa Church: Its Unique Community and Ministry

The city of Karuizawa is a famous summer resort in Nagano Prefecture where people go to escape the heat. Nowadays, Karuizawa is invaded by shoppers looking for outlet shopping malls and by tourists from overseas. No one can deny that the center of the bustle is Karuizawa Ginza, a street lined with many famous stores. Karuizawa Church is located on that street. Many famous tourist attractions, such as Karuizawa Tennis Club and St. Paul’s Catholic Church, are concentrated in one small area. Karuizawa Church itself is set back away from the street, so perhaps that is why the building is wrapped in a quiet tranquility—quite the opposite of the hustle and bustle of the street in front of the building. In June 2016, the Reverend Matsumura Saori began serving as the interim pastor of the church.

 

Well over a century ago, the church was started by Daniel Norman, a missionary sent by the Methodist Church of Canada, later the United Church of Canada. The church building was finished in 1905, and the kindergarten was founded in 1916. Architect William M. Vories, who also founded The Omi Brotherhood, Ltd., designed the buildings.

 

Alexander Croft Shaw of the United Kingdom’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts is believed to have laid the foundation for Karuizawa’s development as a summer resort, but it was Daniel Norman together with William Vories who built on Shaw’s work to develop the church. The front of the sign at the entrance to the church says, “Kyodan Karuizawa Church.” However, the back of the sign says, “Karuizawa Union Church of Christ.” Just like the Union Church that is next door to Karuizawa Church, the name “Karuizawa Union Church of Christ” speaks of the fact that since the time the church was established, it has been an interdenominational church and has opened its doors to missionaries and Christians from several different denominational backgrounds.

 

This interdenominational tradition has continued until the present time. When summertime comes, there are people who cross denominational lines to attend worship, such as Hoshino Tomihiro, who sojourned for a long time in order to compile collections of art and poetry. Some members say things like, “Because our child is sick, we really like the abundance of natural beauty in Karuizawa, so we bought a villa and have started living here,” or “I was baptized when I was a student, but I have had to relocate so many times because of my husband’s work, so I have been away from church for such a long time. My husband likes the mountains of Nagano, so we chose Karuizawa as our retirement home.” There are also many people who say that they transferred from another church because they were drawn to the environment of Karuizawa.

 

Among the people here, there are some like Masaki Ryuji. He left his job in Tokyo and became the leader of Karuizawa Symphonic Chorus, which performs joint concerts with another chorus group from Ishinomaki, a city that was devastated by the East Japan Disaster. Of course, there are also those who have lived in Karuizawa all their lives. “A long time ago, many middle school and high school students were coming. I have been involved in Karuizawa Church since I was a student,” recalls Ichimura Naoko, who served as the director of Karuizawa Kindergarten until seven years ago.

 

The Reverend Furuya Hironori, who at the time of the interview was the pastor of Karuizawa Church, commented, “Many people visit our church, some for a short time and others for a long time. Our church is located in a summer resort, so I think it should be a place of spiritual rest for pastors and members of other churches.”

 

Karuizawa Kindergarten has cooperated for many years with nearby Kutsukake Gakuso in order to take on the important mission of child education. It has been almost 100 years since Karuizawa Kindergarten first opened. Kutsukake Gakuso is a group home for children from ages 2 to 18 who, for one reason or another, are not able to live with their families. The children can live with the staff members. The home was founded during World War II and has been cooperating with Karuizawa Church ever since the end of the war. The management of Kutsukake Gakuso is carried out by Kobokan, which has the official status of social welfare corporation. Kobokan was founded in 1919, and its purpose is to put into practice social welfare based on the teachings of Christianity. The headquarters are in Sumida Ward, located in Tokyo.

 

“These days there are more and more parents and children who have difficulty forming relationships because of psychological problems. There are more children who cannot live in their own homes due to a variety of circumstances. This is a home for such children. I hope that it can be a place of healing for family relationships,” says Nohara Kenji, director of Kutsukake Gakuso, about its mission. “There are more and more cases that cannot be handled at child consultation centers. We work together with the church like the wheels of a car work together,” says Uno Aogu, a staff member.

 

A childcare professional takes the children to church every Sunday. This activity is part of the Christian nurturing program that is in line with the ideals of Kobokan. The staff members also testify of having been supported by the church. Ando Miwako, who formerly worked at Kutsukake Gakuso, says, “A long time ago, the Reverend Takamori Shigemitsu used to come from the church to Kutsukake to lead a Bible study on Wednesday evenings. Listening to him was like rowing a boat while exhausted. But that experience led to my baptism.”

 

Because Karuizawa is a summer resort, there is a big difference between the number of worship service attendees in the summer and the number of attendees in the winter. At the same time, as mentioned earlier, the size of the church is also affected as people move into the area and transfer membership to Karuizawa Church from other churches. Such unique circumstances mean that this church faces unique challenges. Through education, Karuizawa church is involved in mission work that is targeted to match this unique local community. (Tr. KT)

 

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), April 2016 issue

       (Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko)

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北陸新幹線が開通してから便が増え、首都圏からの足が一層便利になった軽井沢。日本を代表するこの避暑地に、近年では大規模なアウト レット目当ての買い物客や海外からの観光客が押しかけるようになった。そのにぎわいの中心はなんといっても名店が軒を連ねる「軽井沢 銀座」通り。教会はその道沿いに建つ。一帯には軽井沢テニスクラブや聖パウロ教会などの有名観光スポットが集中する。

取材に訪れたのは紅葉の名残りがまだ美しい昨年の晩秋。人混みで通り過ぎそうになったが、小さな看板が教会の場所を教えてくれた。会 堂は一歩奥まっているせいか、表の喧騒とは逆に静寂に包まれていた。近江兄弟社の創立者であり、建築家でもあるウイリアム・M・ ヴォーリズの設計である。

この日はたまたま幼児祝福礼拝の日。教会学校の生徒や隣接するダニエル・ノーマン記念学園「軽井沢幼稚園」の園児、長年協力関係にあ る児童養護施設「興望館沓掛学荘」の子どもたちが元気な姿を見せる。

説教に立った古屋博規牧師はその子どもたちに、「今から百数十年前に神さまはノーマン先生をこの地に送って教会を建ててくださいまし た。その神さまによって愛されていることを忘れず、心も体もしっかりと守っていただきましょう」と、教会の歴史を振り返りつつ語る。

ノーマン先生とはカナダ・メソジスト教会(のちのカナダ合同教会)派遣のダニエル・ノーマン宣教師のこと。同師の手によって教会は 1905(明治38)年に、幼稚園は1916(大正5)年に創設された。

軽井沢発展の基礎を築いたのはイギリス海外福音伝道会のアレキサンダー・クロフト・ショーだと言われるが、その後に続いたノーマン宣 教師や前述のヴォーリズもまた功労者である。

教会の玄関に掲げられた看板の表には「日本基督教団軽井沢教会」とあるが、裏には「軽井沢合同基督教会」とある。隣接するユニオン チャーチもそうだが、軽井沢教会も設立の当初から超教派の教会として、さまざまな教派的背景を持った宣教師や信徒に開かれていたこと を物語る。

実は、この伝統は今に引き継がれている。詩画集の製作のために長期逗留する星野富弘さんのような人が、夏場ともなれば教派を超えて礼 拝に訪れる。また、会員の中にも、「子どもが病気のため、緑が豊かな軽井沢が気に入って別荘を買い、住むようになりました」「学生時 代に洗礼を受けましたが夫の仕事の関係で転勤が続き、かなり長く教会から離れていました。山が好きで信州が気に入っている夫と、終の 住処として軽井沢を選びました」と、軽井沢の環境にひかれて他教会から転会してきたと語る人も多い。

中には真崎隆治さんのように東京に仕事を残しつつ、軽井沢シンフォニックコーラスの団長となり、東日本大震災の被災地・石巻市の合唱 団と合同演奏会などをしている人もいる。もちろん、地元出身の信徒も。「昔は中高生がたくさん来ていました。学生のころから軽井沢教 会との関わりがありました」と語る市村直子さんは7年前まで軽井沢幼稚園の園長を勤めていた

こうした教会のあり方について古屋牧師は、「教会には短期・長期でいろいろな方が訪れます。避暑地にある教会として、信徒や牧師のた めの魂の静養の場所になればと思っています」と語る。また、開園100年を迎える軽井沢幼稚園と、近隣にある沓掛学荘との協力を通し て長年取り組んできた児童教育も大事な使命と考えている。

沓掛学荘は満2歳から18歳までの、家族と一緒に生活できない子どもたちが職員とともに暮らす子どもの家。戦時中に創設され、戦後 は軽井沢教会と協力関係を持ちながら歩んできた。運営主体の社会福祉法人興望館は1919年に福祉実践のために、キリスト教主義に基 づいて設立され、東京の墨田区に本部がある。

施設長の野原健治さんは沓掛学荘の使命をこう語る。「最近は心の問題で関係がうまく結べない親子が増え、いろいろな事情で自分の家で 暮らせない子どもが多くなりました。ここはそんな子どもたちの家として、家族とのつながりが回復される場となることを願っていま す」。また、施設のスタッフ宇野仰さんは「児童相談所では対応できないケースが増えています。教会とは車の両輪の関係です」と語る。

事実、毎週日曜日に保育士が子どもたちを引率して教会に通うのも、興望館の理念であるキリスト教保育の一環としてである。かつて沓掛 学荘に勤めていた安藤美和子さんは、「昔、教会の高森茂光牧師が水曜日の夜に沓掛で聖書研究会をしてくれました。疲れて舟をこぐ状態 で聞いていましたが、受洗へとつながりました」と、職員も教会に支えられてきたことを証しする。

軽井沢は避暑地ゆえに夏と冬の礼拝出席者数の差が大きい。他方、前述のように転入会者もいる。こうした特有の課題を負いつつ、教会は 教育を通して地域に密着した宣教を行っている。(信徒の友2016年4月号)

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