My Office Bible Study Group: Encouragement for My Work, Stronghold for My Faith

by Oshikiri Minori, member
Higashi-Nakano Church and
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Study Group
Last November, the “Friends of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office” Bible Study Group published a small booklet. A year earlier, Ichijo Hitoshi, a member of the group who had struggled with illness for four years, passed on to his heavenly reward while clutching his beloved Bible close to his heart. He exuded love, always had a smile, and had been a hard worker on behalf of the Bible study group. His death led other members to reflect on his contribution to the group and to declare clearly God’s grace and salvation by publishing the booklet.
My understanding is that this Bible study group was established right after World War II, in 1947, by a small number of Christians who were working for the Tokyo government. Tokyo had been burned to the ground, and these Christians prayed for the restoration of Tokyo as a place of peace and sought to provide comfort and encouragement to coworkers through the words of the Bible. The first leader was Isomura Eiichi who believed “We are civil servants, and as servants who serve God, we seek to serve the people of Tokyo.” This belief was the starting point for the Bible study members. In the beginning, a pastor by the name of Hirai was sent by the Kyodan to assist the group and following him, Pastor Kitamori Kazo became the group’s spiritual guide. Kitamori had been recommended by Watanabe Zenda, a former pastor of my church when it was Futaba Independent Church. I heard that he valued what the Bible study group was trying to do and felt that God had been at work to bring him there.
Later we were guided by Hayashi Tadayoshi, an elder of Fujimicho Church. As time passed, the group went through a low period, with decreasing numbers, but was somehow held together by Higuchi Toshiaki and other members. They kept “a dimly burning wick” alive and prayed for new workers. It was during this time that Ichijo was “given” as God’s gift to the group. Membership started increasing, and the flame began to burn brightly again. Members studied the Bible, shared meals, planned special study programs in summer, and celebrated Christmas together. To me, this Bible study group is an “ecclesia,” an ecumenical gathering, where each person, as a person of faith, is called to seek who God wants him/her to be in her/his various organizations and workplaces.
My first contact with the group was while I was working at a city-run nursery school. I was invited by my friend Kano Takeshi and started attending a monthly evening meal. Meeting in the Fujimicho Church building, I felt wrapped in history. The meal began with a prayer by Ichijo and then, I recall, people shared how God was working in their various places of employment. People who worked in very different fields shared concretely about their situations. I felt encouraged in my own work, and the group became a stronghold for my faith.
My active church involvement began with this Bible study group, and I was baptized by Kitamura Soji of Higashi Nakano Church. I was busy with work and raising a family, but since retiring four years ago, I have had more time to devote to church activities and find that a source of joy. Thankful for God’s grace, I want to continue to serve God along with my husband and other members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Bible Study Group. (Tr. RW)
From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)
仕事の励み、大事な拠点
押切 稔
東京・東中野教会員
都庁聖書研究会会員
 昨年十一月、『都聖研の仲間たち』という小冊子が刊行されました。その一年前、仲間の一條仁兄が四年間の闘病の末、愛用の聖書を胸に抱き、召天されました。一條兄は、「都庁聖書研究会」(都聖研)の大きな働き手で、愛と笑顔に満ちた方でした。この死を契機に、一條兄と都聖研の働きをまとめて、主の救いと恵みを明らかにしたいとの思いが高まり、出版に至りました。
 都聖研は、敗戦直後の一九四七年に都庁に勤めるキリスト者数名が、焼け野原と化した東京に平和な街の復興を願い、職員の精神的な拠り所を求めたのが始まりだったそうです。初代の会長は磯村英一氏が担い、「われらは神に仕える僕のように公僕として都民に奉仕する」との理念の上に始まりました。中心となる聖書の指導者は、教団派遣の平井牧師、その後は北森嘉蔵牧師でした。北森牧師の推薦者は、私の所属教会が二葉独立教会であった時代の元牧師、渡辺善太先生でした。都聖研の良き理解者だったと聞き、この繋がりに神との絆を感じました。さらに続いて、富士見町教会長老の林忠美先生に導かれました。ところがその後、衰退期を迎え、樋田利明兄等少数で「ほのぐらい灯心を消すことなく」会を守り、良き働き手を祈り求めました。そして一條兄等が与えられ、会員も増し、灯の光も再燃したそうです。主な活動は、聖書の学び、晩餐会、夏の研修会、クリスマス祝会等。都聖研は、組織や仕事と、信仰者としての自分の関わりを自問する、教派を超えたエクレシアであるように思います。
 私が都聖研と出会ったのは、保育園に勤めてまもないころで、知人の加納武兄に導かれて、月に一度の晩餐会に出席しました。会場の富士見町教会はツタに包まれた歴史を感じる建物でした。一條兄の祈りから始められ、仕事を通して信仰の証しをする場であったと記憶しています。さまざまな職種の方の証しは具体的で、私自身の仕事の励みになり、大事な拠点となりました。
 私の教会生活は、都聖研に出会ったころから始まり、東中野教会で北村宗次牧師より受洗しました。仕事と子育てに慌ただしく過ごしてきましたが、四年前に退職し、時間的に余裕もでき、教会の奉仕にも加わり、小さな喜びを感じています。この恵みに感謝し、都聖研の仲間の夫と共に、神さまに仕えていきたいと思っております。

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