Recently, a wide range of issues for discussion are arriving from various Kyodan churches to the general secretary’s desk from all over Japan. Among them, a common, ardent one is, “Please introduce a minister to us whom you would recommend as particularly fitting for our church.” The condition they want met is summed up in the following sentence: “As we have been faithfully keeping the tradition of the body of Christ as the holy catholic church, we absolutely do not wish to receive a minister who will offer communion to unbaptized persons.” With nearly no exception, this is the type of request received from all church consistories.?
As the general secretary, while seriously pondering the words of these pastoral search committees, I am strongly encouraged to know of these healthy, evangelical churches that have preserved the true faith coming out of the Reformation.?
If the majority of churches belonging to the Kyodan “preach the gospel grounded in the Bible, listen to the Word, correctly administer the sacraments (baptism and communion), and evangelize,” I believe that Kyodan churches will strongly be edified as “a covenant community of God and faith, which is the holy catholic church.”?
Recently, it is regrettable that while belonging to the Kyodan, there are ministers who do not take seriously the Kyodan Confession of Faith, disrupt the order of the church, and failing to respect the Rules of Church Order, administer communion to unbaptized persons. If this kind of minister wishes to be connected to the Kyodan, he/she should immediately restore order to the church, and if he/she takes seriously the unity and solidarity of the Kyodan, I would strongly recommend that incorrect practices be discontinued. (Tr. WJ)?
Kyodan General Secretary?
The Church of the Twelve Apostles, Hokkai District established in 1978, grew out of the ministry of coffee shop evangelism started at the Good Hour coffee shop in downtown Sapporo in 1971. From the very beginning of the church, the coffee shop Ecclesia/Branch has functioned as an adjoining ministry. While taking in the natural beauty of nearby Tsukisappu Park, customers can enjoy both their food and meaningful conversation. The coffee shop helps to lower barriers (in Japanese “Shikii wo Hikuku suru,” which may be translated “everybody can drop in easily”) and allows people to get closer to the church in an unthreatening way. Although some consideration is being given to taking a regular day off each week, there are presently two paid staff and a number of volunteers from the church who keep the coffee shop operating every day, including Sunday afternoons. (Tr. RW)
by Himukai Kyoji, pastor, Teine Hakobune Church
interim pastor, The Church of the Twelve Apostles
From Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend)
Worship at Kakogawa Higashi Church, Hyogo District always begins with the singing of Hymn 162 in the Kyodan’s hymnal Sanbika 21: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity”. The catch phrases on the church’s website introduce it as “a fun church” or “a church where you can relax as if you were in a tea room”.
In fact, until 1989, the initial church sanctuary actually was a coffee shop called Again. The church bought and renovated the shop and, at first, all church activities were held in the one building. In 1996 the church acquired the neighboring clothing factory, which later functioned as a preparatory school, and joined the two buildings together, shifting the sanctuary to the factory. The part that formerly was a coffee shop is now used for tea and coffee, for conversation, and for pot luck parties. It is well known, and even today, people come in off the street, thinking that it is actually a commercial coffee shop.? (Tr. RW) ?
by Takasaki Hiroshi, pastor, Kakogawa Higashi Church?
From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)
by Matsumoto Toshiyuki, pastor?
Kyodo-midorigaoka Church, Southwest Subdistrict, Tokyo District
The year 2008 marks the passing of 100 years since the first Japanese immigrants went to Brazil. To celebrate this anniversary, 2008 was designated “The Year of Japanese-Brazilian Exchange”(Ano do Interc?mbio Jap?o-Brasil) by the governments of both countries, with commemorative stamps and coins being issued and various celebratory events being held. Since 1908, a large number of Japanese people have immigrated to Brazil, and their descendants have spread throughout the country. So Brazil today has the largest ethnic population of people of Japanese descent in the world: over 1,500,000. Immigration has also taken place in the opposite direction, as since the 1980s Brazilians of Japanese descent and other Brazilians have been coming to Japan to work and study. So there are currently more than 300,000 Brazilians living in Japan.?
Christians have also held celebrations of this anniversary. In Brazil, the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Brazil sponsored a series of ten evangelistic concerts by Mori Yuri, a Christian singer known for her involvement with the children’s television program “Uta no onei-san (Big Sister Singing Songs),” broadcast by NHK (the national television network in Japan. These concerts took place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 14 in various areas of Brazil. In S?o Paulo, over 1,000 Japanese Brazilians gathered to hear hymns and nostalgic Japanese songs. ?
In Japan, to mark the Year of Japanese-Brazilian Exchange, an ecumenical bilingual service was held at the Kyodan’s Harajuku Church, which is situated next door to the Brazilian embassy. This service, sponsored jointly by Harajuku Church and the Catholic Tokyo International Center, was also supported by the National Christian Council’s Committee on Human Rights of Foreigners in Japan, the Music Department of the Kyodan Tokyo District’s Southwest Subdistrict, Brain corporation with the backing of the Brazilian Embassy.?
I led the singing at this ecumenical service, with guitar and percussion accompaniment by professional Brazilian musicians who are working in Japan. We sang three hymns from Brazil (from both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions), in Portuguese and Japanese. The Japanese versions were translations I had done myself.?
During the seven years that I worked as a missionary in Brazil, I encountered many typical Brazilian hymns with their wonderful rhythms, beautiful tunes, and strong social messages. As I really wanted to make it possible to sing these hymns in Japanese, I translated more than ten of them in order to introduce them to Japan. One of them, “Momento Novo (New Time),” which we sang at the ecumenical service, is included in the Kyodan hymnal Sambika 21,” published in Japan ten years ago.? The English words are as follows:?
?? ? ? ? God calls his people now to a new life,
? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? walking along together hand in hand;
? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? the time is ripe for changing, the moment is now.
?? ? ? ? Let’s walk together; no one can go alone!
?? ? ? ? So, come and join! Get in a circle with all the people,
? ? ? ? ? ? ? your hands and hearts are important!?
Father Olmes Milani, a Brazilian missionary working at the Catholic Tokyo International Center, gave a powerful ecumenical message. “In spite of the many cases of division, war, exclusion, and prejudice, we hold on to the same vision that God has the hope of building a new kingdom, both for God and for ourselves. This is a kingdom founded not on legal, social, or political systems but on the power of love for one another, where differences of language, culture, and religion are not obliterated, but where, united as one body, we can build a world of peace and love, to the praise and glory of God.” We pray that the next 100 years will bring a bountiful new harvest for the churches of both Japan and Brazil.
by Maruyama Motoko, head piano teacher
Toyo Eiwa Educational Institution, Tokyo ?
The boys camp with the longest history in Japan, Nojiri Gakuso, is held every summer at Tokyo YMCA’s Lake Nojiri Campground. The 73rd session was held this year. The camp songs sung there are called “Tomi-songs,” and there are more than 100 of them. The man who compiled the songbook is my father, Tomioka Masao.? From 1937 until he died in April 2008 at the age of 98, “Tomi San” (Mr. Tomi) spent his life as a song leader and songwriter. My father was born in Gunma Prefecture in 1909. His father, a dedicated Christian, died at the age of 37. As his father had willed, my father began to board at the age of 14 at the home of Noguchi Suehiko, pastor of Yumicho-hongo Church. There he heard organ music and the four-part harmony of hymns, and this experience set him on his life’s course as a musician and music teacher with a deep Christian faith.?
The interesting point about the Tomi-songs is that they capture the accent and intonation of spoken Japanese. They make the songs as enjoyable as conversation. Because the melodies and verses are so natural, no one can keep from smiling. In addition, there are a variety of other Tomi-songs: some like traditional Japanese melodies, others like the folksongs of countries like the United States, England, Finland, and India. Some verses are even set to melodies from the hymnal and from Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”.
After he turned 43 years of age, my father taught music for 20 years at the junior high and senior high school of Toyo Eiwa Educational Institution. During this time he rearranged many pieces of religious music for women’s voices, which were sung during the school worship services and on ceremonial occasions. He also directed all the students in a great chorus. Among his arrangements for women’s voices are Handel’s “Messiah,” Rossini’s “Faith, Hope, and Love,” and a collection of Christmas music published by the Ongaku no Tomo Sha (Friends of Music Company), all of which are still used across Japan.
My father put into song Bible stories like the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Parable of the Sower, and Noah’s Ark as well as the names of the Books of the Bible and the names of the 12 Apostles, so learning the songs results in learning the Bible stories, the books of the Bible, and the names of the 12 apostles. My father often said that if we learned these as children, we would understand their meaning as adults. A Toyo Eiwa Educational Institution graduate said that these songs were very useful when she took the entrance exam for theological seminary.?
My father was also a member of the committee that created the new children’s hymnal.? He wrote many hymns for adults, children, and even kindergarteners, including the hymn usually sung at church school birthday celebrations. A Catholic priest who was transferred to Brazil took my father’s Christmas pageant “Jesus’ Birthday” there, and it is being used in Japanese classes for third-generation Brazilian-Japanese living in that country.
My father always ended his work with the words “Glory to God,” and now he must be at peace, resting with his Father.
Note: Maruyama Motoko (born in 1949), the eldest daughter of Tomioka Masao, was a student of Toyo Eiwa Educational Institution’s elementary, junior high, and senior high schools and graduated in 1968. She majored in piano at Musashino College of Music, graduating in 1972, and is presently the head piano teacher at Toyo Eiwa Educational Institution in Tokyo, which has schools for kindergarteners through graduate students. (Tr. JT)
Next year, 2009, will be the 150th year since evangelism began in 1859 in Yokohama. The Kyodan considers this to be an appropriate year to regard with special remembrance. Of course, celebrations are being planned not only by the Kyodan but also by the wider Japanese Christian community, such as a gathering under the theme “Commemorating 150 Years of Mission” being planned by the Japan Evangelical Association and the National Christian Council in Japan and the “150 Years of Protestant Evangelism” event to be held by Kyodan volunteers.
“The History of the Founding of the Kyodan,” which was released on Oct. 26, 1956, records that “evangelical Christianity in our country originated with the evangelistic activities of a foreign missionary who arrived in 1859 (the sixth year of the Ansei Era); and on Feb. 2 (according to the old calendar) in 1872 (the fifth year of the Meiji Era), the Nihon Kirisuto Kokai was founded in Yokohama as the first Christian church.” One opinion held is that the evangelism done in Okinawa by an Episcopalian missionary, Bethelhiem, should be regarded as the “beginning of evangelism in Japan,” but at that time Okinawa was the Ryukyu nation and not part of Japan, so this date was not adopted. Also, in the past, 100 years of evangelism was celebrated in 1959; and the fact that many churches celebrated the 50th year and the 100th year of evangelism, recognizing 1859 as the beginning date, requires a like appraisal of history.
The Kyodan Executive Council, at its third meeting of the 35th General Assembly period, approved the establishment of a “committee on preparation of events commemorating the 150th year of evangelism in Japan” and elected Kobayashi Tadao, a member of Kusakabe Church, as chairperson and Fujikake Junichi, pastor of Yokohama Shiro Church, as secretary. In subsequent Executive Council meetings, reports from that committee have been received and approved.
In naming related events in the past, the word senkyo (missionary preaching and teaching) has been used, but it would seem that this word indicates consciousness of “unfolding teachings” through the work of missionaries sent by overseas mission bodies. However, as we approach the 150th year of commemoration today, most of the foreign mission organizations have withdrawn; and it has become an age of independent dendo (communication of the way) by Japanese people. So deliberately and with an awareness of these developments, it has been decided to hold the events as a commemoration of “the 150th year of evangelism (not mission) in Japan.”
The main plans are for the following:
?? (1) The theme of the events:? “Christ Indeed My Savior”
? ? ? ? Scripture:? I Corinthians 1: 18~25
? ? ? ? The aim:? To affirm that our salvation is in the forgiveness of sin through the cross of?
?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? our Lord ?
?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Jesus Christ, and to stand firmly in that salvation and develop a new evangelism
? (2) Commemorative events:?
?? ? ? ? ? ? 1. A 150th year of evangelism in Japan ceremony on ? Nov. 23, 2009?
?? ? ? ? ? ? 2. A 150th year of evangelism commemorative worship service on June 24, 2009,?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? celebrating the foundation of the Kyodan
? ? ? ? ? ? 3. The publication of a “150th year of evangelism in Japan” commemorative book?
?? (3) Commemorative fundraising.? Goal amount:? 5,000,000 yen? (Tr. RB)
Katsuyama Ken’ichiro, executive secretary