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)