日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【December 2020 No.408】From the General Secretary's Desk: Kyodan Churches and the Corona Virus Crisis


The entire world has been suffering with the Corona Virus pandemic, and Kyodan churches are no exception. Our ability to meet together to sing praises, preach the Word, and share Holy Communion has been severely curtailed. This situation can even be described as a threat to the very existence of our churches. The Kyodan General Assembly has been postponed until the fall of 2021, and various activities like committee meetings have, for the most part, been limited to virtual gatherings via the Internet. Likewise, district assemblies were limited to making required decisions based on written documents alone, so for almost a year now, the various organizations have been barely functioning.

During this time, our understanding of the situation and the handling of this crisis in each district has come through the newsletters and other communications received from each of the districts. Practically all of the local churches have either suspended in-person worship services all together or considerably restricted them and have resorted to online services that families view from their own homes. This has involved creating resources for in-home worship services and sending out church bulletins together with sermon manuscripts prepared in advance, which has resulted in extra duties for already busy pastors.

A few churches have been able to maintain services while taking extraordinary precautions to prevent infections, but churches having online services alone are inevitably experiencing decreasing membership and financial pressure. However, many also report that it has caused them to realize just how important a blessing it is to be able to gather together for corporate worship. Pastoral care, particularly for elderly persons, has suffered greatly during this time when visitations to those who are hospitalized or in care facilities has not been permitted. Funeral services too have been limited to family members only, greatly accelerating a trend towards smaller and simpler funerals. Many churches have reported that not being allowed to fulfill their calling, due to these circumstances, has been very painful.

While this virus has raged on, many pastors and churches have questioned whether or  not their own decisions were right in this time of difficulty. Nevertheless, we are reminded that when the prophet Elijah heard the still small voice of God, following the violent wind and fire, he was led out of that cave into a vibrant faith and hope in the Lord. Likewise, as we feel the loneliness of “social distancing,” we also learn from the example of the Lord Jesus, who separated himself from the crowds for a time in order to pray alone. We too are being afforded this time for prayer. May it be an opportunity for the Church to awaken through God’s Word and live in God’s timing as we see God work even through this crisis. (Tr. TB)

Oct. 28, 2020

—Akiyama Toru, Kyodan general secretary


世界中がコロナ・ウィルスによるパンデミックで呻吟しています。教会も例外ではありません。共に集って讃美し、み言葉を宣べ伝え、聖餐に与る礼拝に大きな制約が課せられています。教会の存立に関わる危機と言わなければなりません。日本キリスト教団の活動も、教団総会は来年秋まで延期、各委員会の働きもほとんどがネット会議、各教区の総会も法定議案だけを書面で決議して、かろうじてその機能を維持しているといった状態が、ほぼ1年間続いています。この間に、各教会ではどのようにこの危機を受け止め、対応し、思いを巡らしているか、北から南まで各教区から届けられる「教区通信」その他によってその様子を垣間見ることが出来ます。 ほとんどの教会がこの時期に教会に集って礼拝する形を停止したり縮小して、それぞれの家庭で礼拝できるようにネット配信をする形が急速に広がりました。そのために家庭礼拝の手引きを作成したり、週報を事前に説教原稿もそえて各家庭に配付したり、牧師はこの時期、普段よりも忙しい時が続きました。感染予防に極力努めながら礼拝を続ける教会もありますが、オンライン礼拝が続く中で、全体に教勢低下、教会財政の圧迫の現実は避けられません。しかし、いつものように礼拝に集える恵みがどんなに大きいかを実感するといった感想を聞くことも少なくありません。この期間に、病院に入院していたり、施設に入っている教会員を訪問・面会することが禁じられ、特に高齢者の牧会的な配慮が行き届かなくなったことや、葬儀となった場合に家族以外ものが集うことも出来ず、教会の大切な時と務めが果たせなかったという痛みを覚える教会もあったことが伝えられています。葬儀の小規模化・簡略化が一挙にすすんででいます。このような「分断」ウィルスが猖獗を極める中で、各教会も牧師も、それぞれの決断がこれで良かったのか、試練の時を正しく受け止めているだろうかと怯え不安になりながらも、嵐や激しい火の後に静かに囁く神の声を聞いた預言者エリヤのように、やがて御声に導かれて洞窟の中から引き出されて歩ませてくださる主に希望を託す信仰、このソーシャル・ディスタンスの寂しくて厳しい、また、消極的で無意味な時間に思える時間も、群衆からしばし離れて一人祈る主イエスの姿に倣って、今しばし与えられた人々のために祈る時間としたいと、この時をとらえて歩む姿勢に学ばされます。この危機は、確かに、神の御業の現されるとき、この時こそ、教会が御言葉によって目を覚まされ、神の時に生きる時なのです。秋山徹総幹事


Kyodan News
〒169-0051 東京都新宿区西早稲田2-3-18-31
Copyright (c) 2007-2024
The United Church of Christ in Japan