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

【December 2022 No.411】Kashiwagi Church’s Food Pantry(4)


Shinto no Tomo’s Special Feature: Drawing Close and Being Drawn Close

Kashiwagi Church’s Food Pantry
How a service begun by three members of a lonely aging church,
separated from local community fellowship, spread.

                                                                                                         by Fujimori Yoshimitsu, member
Kashiwagi Church, Church of Christ in Japan


Kashiwagi Food Pantry was begun in 2016 as one of the food pantries operated by Second Harvest Japan (hereafter, 2HJ). This was triggered by Kashiwagi Church’s establishment of a Diaconia (service) Committee in 2011, with the aim of serving the area as a group based on a traditional Reformation Church “band.”

Previously, the church had also operated a nursery school, and some church members lived in the vicinity of the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. However, by that time only a handful of members lived within walking distance of the church. The church had become a place where people from far away gathered only on meeting days, so there were almost no ties with the neighborhood. These members were aging, and the church had, so to speak, changed into a solitary gathering of seniors who had no relationship with the neighborhood.

At the time when the committee was started, about 150 people were attending worship. Their average age was above 70, and the generation of those who could actually work were all employed and busy nurturing children, so it was difficult to find human resources. There were also various types of resistance within the church regarding any activity that wasn’t directly related to evangelism. In the midst of that kind of status quo, how could service aimed toward people outside the church be done? The church board session decided to start by gaining know-how through taking part in the work of NPO corporations and various other groups in the area.

As I was working in a Christian-related agency at the time, I cooperated with the 2HJ representative, Charles McJilton, aiding in the extension of the pantry’s base. Charles, who was a Catholic believer, was troubled that few churches in Japan supported the food pantry, so he appealed directly to churches. That overlapped with the period when Kashiwagi Church began to consider such service.

The church was able to start its pantry due to 2HJ’s gracious offer to allow the church to begin with what it was able to provide. In the beginning we persuaded the church board to offer the church building as the venue, to allow the participation of three members, myself included, and even to leave the operation and search for volunteers up to 2HJ.

Although there were only a few people when the pantry began, members of the church joined in the work. And once people began to join in, they realized its significance and were then willing to continue to participate. That circle slowly widened, and from three years ago, in 2018, almost all the work, other than procuring groceries, is now being conducted by church members.

Only 4 to 5 groups of people were served when the pantry was open once a month, but now the pantry is serving over 50 groups. About 10 volunteers do the advance distribution sorting and 5-6 work with food distribution. Since last year, 2-3 persons living in the neighborhood have joined in the work of the pantry, one of whom is not Christian. I‘m glad to think there is a lonely aging church that is becoming a place open to the community.

Personally, it is my dream that volunteers from the area will increase and that this pantry will become a community work based in the church. The standard is Tohoku District’s Center “Emmaus,” which aided survivors at the time of the East Japan Earthquake Disaster.

Emmaus consists of Christians, volunteers from outside the church, and victims from the local area who come together on the same level, joining their strengths, listening to the voices of people in need of a helping hand, and valuing life together. We continue our activities in prayer so that we might be the fragrance of Christ, not by proclaiming the gospel loudly but through serving the area as Christ humbled himself to serve us.


Getting Involved as a Volunteer
by Sachiko from North Shinjuku in Tokyo (age 72)

Corona Virus can’t quite be eradicated, and groups and courses I joined since I retired have been suspended as most members are seniors. I couldn't go out other than for urgent needs, so I was experiencing a gloomy existence at home. Therefore, I came up with the idea last year of searching the Internet for “Shinjiuku Food Bank” and found “Kashiwagi Church.” I was surprised that it is located just ten minutes from my house. With no hesitation I called ahead to say, “ I am not a Christian,” but I was given permission to take part in the work, so I was happy.

I sense that the response of people using this service is gratitude. And staff members are exceedingly warm, so it’s comfortable working together. Starting with the pastor’s wife, and the enjoyable everyday relaxed conversation with the women’s group, I eagerly await the second Saturday of every month. I hope very much that I will be allowed to continue in the future. (Tr. RT)


“Food Pantry:” A service group that provides food for people who for various reasons have difficulty procuring food

Second Harvest Japan (2JH):  One of the first food banks in Japan, Second Harvest Japan was launched in Taito-Ku, Tokyo in 2002, and gathers groceries from various organizations for food banks.

Food Pantry Questions & Answers:
- When it began, how many staff persons were there?
    Three church members
- What funds did they have?
- Notification Method?
   The Home Page of 2HJ
- What is the first thing that should be done?
   Study and observation of work that already exists
- How are groceries procured?
   Apply to the food bank; ask local super markets for cooperation, etc.
From: Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), October 2022



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