【April 2016 No.387】Welcoming Newcomers to the Church

As Christians in Japan are small in number, churches are devising ways to welcome newcomers, such as through a church’s website and an Introduction to Christianity class. The following are excerpts from an article on this subject in the Kyodan’s monthly periodical Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), which included some examples the opinions of persons who were once outside the church. (KNL Editorial Staff)

 

Utilizing the Church Website to

Appeal to Society

 

by Miyakubo Masahiro, member

Toyama Kashimacho Church, Toyama Prefecture

 

Toyama Kashimacho Church in Toyama Prefecture, located in a residential area, has 131 members and an average worship service attendance of 92. About 15 years ago, at the request of the church board, an associate member launched the church’s website. This website, which centers on the worship service sermon, is updated nearly every week and has come to be used as the window through which the church widely appeals to society. In March 2007, the minister and several believers created a Website Committee. The committee analyzes the viewing and while carefully structuring the worship service sermon page, which is central, includes revisions of the contents in such a way that even a person who knows absolutely nothing about Christianity can easily peruse it and become interested in visiting the church. A newly created page features “Christianity: Questions and Answers,” which thoroughly introduces the Bible and the Church, as well as providing an introduction to the building, an introduction of the minister, and a worship service guide, etc., including many photographs.

 

A new brochure for church visitors entitled “An Introduction to the Church” has also been developed. With this improvement, the number of website viewers has increased by 3,700 compared to last year. We even had one person who saw the website while overseas begin to attend the church after returning home. Eventually a professional website developer received baptism and joined the committee, and so many new pages have been added. Newcomers visiting the church for the first time typically view the website beforehand. I pray that these people will sense God’s calling, so I want to continue to serve in this way.

 

* * *

 

Introduction to Christianity Class

 

by Tanaka Ryoichi, pastor

Katsutadai Church, Chiba Prefecture

 

It has been 32 years since Katsutadai Church was begun here through pioneer evangelism. Within commuting distance of Tokyo, the church has about 30 people who attend worship, although believers are advancing in age. One of the things I do as pastor is to hold an introduction to Christianity class at special times when newcomers or seekers after truth desire it. With a desire to deepen ties to the worship service, I hold it after the church service. We study while I talk about the meaning of the cross, or about God, at the level of understanding of those present. I mention the class on the church’s website and in the church’s introductory brochure, seeking to broaden the scope so anyone can attend. When I teach the class, there are usually two or three attendees. A husband, who came to church for the first time when his wife was baptized, began to attend church school a few years later with his grandchildren. He also joined the introductory course and was led to accept baptism. Each year we hold seasonal events, most notably “Open Church” in the fall, when we feature a music concert. Many people in the neighborhood of the church attend—20 to 30 new persons every year. To those who have attended even once, the pastor and the concert organizer send out a letter of invitation, announcing the event. After the worship service, we greet those around us, and when there are newcomers, all of us endeavor to be aware and speak to them in a welcoming manner.

 

* * *

 

The Miracle of having a Place to

which to Return

 

by Shimizu Yoshihiro, University student

Church school teacher,

Member, Koshigaya Church, Saitama Prefecture

 

I was born into a Christian home, and my church life continued from church kindergarten to church school but was interrupted by club activities, beginning in middle school. As there were school activities on Sundays, my life was disconnected from church for six years until graduation from high school. However, I failed the college entrance exam and while pondering how to proceed, the East Japan Disaster became a turning point for me. Several days afterwards, I received an invitation from the pastor, asking if I would go with him as a volunteer. This volunteer experience was a chance for me to be in relationship with the church once again. At that time, I took part rather with the thought of wanting to have something changed in myself. What I saw there in the midst of that unbelievable scene was the figure of a minister in prayer, trying diligently to embrace the pain of the disaster victims. I came to think that I too would like to try to believe what this person believed. I began to recognize some things precisely because I had left the church. It is difficult to enter the church casually by yourself. For people outside, Christianity seems to be a very remote existence. People feel vigilantly self-protective towards this unknown. I wish church people would also respect the various values of such persons. Nevertheless, in my situation, I am grateful that they warmly welcomed everyone. At present, when many persons cannot find even one place of reality for themselves, I think it is a miracle that I have a place to which I can return. (Tr. RT)

 

 

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)

January 2016 issue

Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

 

クリスチャン人口の少ない日本で、新来者を迎えるための工夫がなされている。ホームページ、キリスト教入 門講座。そして一度教会を離れた人の意見を、信徒の友誌から紹介する(KNL編集部)

「ホームページの活用」宮窪正博 みやくぼまさひろ 富山鹿島町教会会員

富山県にある富山鹿島町教会は住宅地にあり、現住陪餐会員131名、礼拝出席は92

です。教会のホームページは、15年あまり前に長老会の要請を受け、客員だったある信徒の奉仕により開設されました。礼 拝説教の掲載を中心としたこのホームページはほぼ毎週更新され、教会を広く社会にアピールする窓口として活用されてきました。牧師と 数名の信徒からなるホームページ委員会が立ち上げられたのは2007年3月。委員会では閲覧状況を分析し、礼拝説教ページを中心とす る骨組みを大切にしつつ、キリスト教を全く知らない人でも気軽に閲覧でき、教会を訪問してみたくなるような内容へと改良を加えまし た。聖書や教会について詳しく紹介するキリスト教Q&A、施設紹介、牧師紹介、礼拝の手引きなどのページを新設し、多くの写真を掲載 しました。「教会のご案内」という新来会者用のパンフレットも誕生。この改良で、閲覧数が前年比で3700件増加しました。ホーム ページを海外で見た方が、帰国時に礼拝に出席されるという珍しい出来事もありました。やがて仕事でホームページ作成を手がけるプロの 方が受洗なさり、委員に加わってもらい、さらに新しいページを公開する運びとなりました。初めて教会へ来られる方は、訪問前にまず ホームページをご覧になります。そんな方々に神さまの招きが確実に届くよう祈りつつ、今後も奉仕したいと思います。

「キリスト教入門講座」田中良一 たなかりょういち 勝田台教会牧師 千葉県

勝田台教会は当地で開拓伝道を始めてから32年となりました。東京への通勤圏内にある教会で、礼拝出席は平均30名、信徒の高齢化も進んでいます。牧師 の私が行っているのが、キリスト教入門講座です。新来会者や求道者が希望したとき随時開催します。礼拝へのつながりを深める架け橋と したいとの願いから、礼拝後に行っており、十字架の意味や神さまについて参加者の目線に立った語らいの中で学びをしています。教会の ホームページや教会案内のリーフレットにも講座のことを明記し、間口を広くして誰でも参加できることを目指しています。開催時にはお よそ2~3名の参加者を得ています。妻の洗礼式で初めて教会に出席した夫が数年後、教会学校へ孫たちと一緒に出席す るようになり、入門講座にも加わり、受洗へと導かれました。また伝道の機会として季節ごとに集会を開催し、特に音楽演奏を中心とした 秋のオープンチャーチには、教会の近隣の方々が多く参加しています。新来会者は、毎年数十名は与えられます。一回でも出席された方に は牧師と担当者のお誘いの便りを同封し、集会の案内を発送しています。私たちは、礼拝後しばらく座ったままで周囲とあいさつを交わし ますが、新来会者の出席時は、歓迎の思いを自覚した上で声をかけるようみんなで心がけています。

「帰ることができる場所があるのが奇跡

清水義尋 しみず  よしひろ/埼玉・越谷教会員 CS教師、学生

 クリスチャンホームに生まれ、教会の幼稚園から教会学校へと続いていた教会生活は、中学の部活の始まり によって中断されました。(日曜日に活動がある)高校卒業までの6年間は教会と関わらない生活が続きました。しかし大学受験に失敗し、進路を決めあぐねているときに起こっ た東日本大震災が転機となりました。数日後、牧師より、被災地ボランティアに一緒に行かないかとの誘いを受けたのです。このボラン ティア経験がきっかけで、再び教会との関係ができました。当時の私は、むしろ自分の中の何かを変化させたいとの思いで参加しました。 そこで見たのは、信じられない光景の中で被災された方々の痛みを懸命に受け止めようとする牧師の祈りの姿でした。この人が信じている ものを自分ももう一度信じてみたい、そう思えるようになったのです。

教会を離れていたからこそ見えたものがあります。教会はふらりと一人で入るのは難しい場所です。外の人に とって、キリスト教はあまりに遠い存在です。知らないものに対する警戒感があります。教会の方もそうしたいろいろな人の価値観を尊重 してほしいと思います。とはいえ私の場合は、誰もが温かく迎えてくれたことがありがたかったです。自分の居場所が一つも見つけられな い人が少なくない現代において、帰ることのできる場所があるのは奇跡的だと思います。川上善子KNL編集委員長まとめ (信 徒の友2016年1月号より)

【April 2016 No.387】Three Missionary Commissioning Services Held in January

On Jan. 7, the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries held a missionary commissioning service for the Rev. Koinuma Makiko in the Kyodan Conference Room. Executive Secretary Kato Makoto officiated, with the Rev. Akiyama Toru, chair of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, delivering the sermon.

 

Koinuma had served at Alto da Bondade Methodist Church in Olinda City in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil until June 2015. From February 2016, she has been serving at the United Presbyterian Church in Salvador City in the state of Bahia. This church is located in a slum area where, like her previous assignment, there is no Japanese presence.

On Jan. 17, a missionary commissioning service for the Rev. Sasaki Yoshiko was held at Komatsugawa Church, where she is serving as pastor. Akiyama officiated, with the sermon being delivered by Kato. She will serve the Cologne-Bonn Japanese Protestant Church, located in Cologne, Germany, from April of this year.

 

On Jan. 29, a missionary commissioning service for the Rev. Chibana Sugako was held at the Kyodan headquarters. Officiating was the Rev. Yoshioka Mitsuhito, secretary of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, with the Rev. Nishinosono Michiko, a commission member, delivering the sermon. Chibana had earlier felt a call to serve in Paraguay and, in February 2015, went alone to Paraguay. Starting in the capital of Asuncion, she looked into the possibility of evangelism in areas where Japanese are living. She then moved to Pirapo, where the largest number of Japanese live, and since August has been serving at Paraguay Pirapo Free Methodist Church. Pirapo Church has since received her as a missionary.

 

The first missionary assigned by the Kyodan following World War II was to Brazil in 1957. Of course, at that time, there was no organization like the current Commission on Ecumenical Ministries in the Kyodan. With the assignment of two new missionaries to South America, we give thanks not only for the succession of God’s continued mission there but also for the renewal of mission that Christ has enabled. (Tr. JS)

 

 

—Kato Makoto, executive secretary

 

1月7日、教団会議室において 世界宣教委員会主催の小井沼眞樹子宣教師の派遣式が持たれた。司式は加藤誠幹事、説教は秋山徹世界宣教委員長が担当した。

小井沼宣教師は2015年6月までブラジルのペルナ ンブコ州オリンダにあるアルト・ダ・ボン ダージ・メソジスト教会へ派遣されていたが、2016年2月から新たにバイーヤ州 サルバドール市の貧困地区にあるヴァレ リオ・シルヴァ合同長老教会に協力牧師として赴任す る予定。前任地同様、教会周辺には日本人は住んでいない。

 1月17日、小松川教会礼拝堂を 会場にして、同教会主任担任教師である佐々木良子教師の宣教師派遣式が行われた。司式は秋山徹委員長、説教は加藤誠幹事。佐々木教師は本年4月よりドイツのケルン市 にあるケルン・ボン日本語キリスト教会に派遣される予定。

 1月29日、教団会議室において知花スガ子教師の派遣式が行われた。司式は吉岡光人世界宣教委員会書記、説教は西之園路子委員が担当した。同教師は以前よりパラグアイ宣教の幻を与えられていたが、2015年2月に単身パラグアイに渡り、首都アスンシオンを初めとして幾つかの日系人居住地での宣教の可能性を調査した。

その後、知花教師は8月来、日系人が一番多く住むピラポ居住地に移り住み、ピラポ自由メソジスト教会での説教奉仕を開始し、同教会は知花教師を宣教師として受け入れる決断をするに至った。知花教師は2月中旬、パラグアイ国ピラポ自由メソジスト教会に派遣される予定。  日本基督教団が戦後最初に宣教師を派遣したのは、南米ブラジルで1957年のことであった。勿論今日のような世界宣教委員会の体裁が整っていなかった時代であるが、今回2名の宣教師を南米に派遣するにあたり、歴史を継承しつつも新たな宣教の業を主が始められることを感謝した。 (加藤 誠報)

【April 2016 No.387】Message from the General Secretary: Prayers to Cherish, Strengthen, and Support Each Other

The Kyodan Administrative Office, the Board of Publications, and the Board of Pensions start each day together with worship. The worship service begins by reading the scripture passage in “Higoto no Kate” (Daily Bread), a column written in Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend). Then, the leader of the day prays about the daily prayer focus of the local churches. The leader of the day also remembers in prayer the Buraku Liberation Center as well as each facility in the disaster areas. After each day’s worship service, I make it a practice to write a “prayer letter” to each church that is remembered in prayer.

 

However, I have never heard such a prayer request that sinks so deeply into my mind with its tangible weight as today’s especially urgent Kyodan prayer focus: Not only the pastors and administrative board members but also all the church members of each and every church should cherish each other, strengthening the unity of the fellowship and, by supporting each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord, should try to overcome any predicament the church finds itself in. I was very impressed with this.

 

Recently, a member of a certain church was worried about the interim pastor of the church and prayed, “The pastor commutes from so far away, so please keep him from having a traffic accident.” In many of the Kyodan districts, there are churches with no pastor, pastors who are serving more than one church, and churches with an interim pastor. As this problem is becoming more noticeable, there are a multitude of churches that have to use wisdom and imagination just to ensure the continuation of worship services and to enrich the church. Certainly the era is over in which a single church competes against others over membership statistics.

 

Although one’s local church may be composed of a small number of believers, one can work together with neighboring churches to prepare to evangelize an entire region. Together, with a strong will, we all can unite to form a bold organization in order to bring to fruition the positive results of our solidarity. We must be careful to take into consideration the realities of each other’s churches and to manage activities carefully. Rich joy will come when the local churches cooperate with one another. The church is in a struggle, and the goal is to ensure that worship can continue. (Tr. KT)

 

—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary

 

総幹事室より

教団事務局・出版局・年金局の一日は、礼拝から始まる。礼拝は、信徒の友「日毎の糧」の聖書を読み、その日祈る教会・伝道 所の課題と共に解放センタ-や被災地各センタ-をも覚えて司会者が祈る。礼拝と相まって、わたしは当該教会宛「祈りのたより」を書い て送るのを常とするが、特に、今日の教団各教会ほど祈りの課題の切なること、願いの具体的な重みを身にしみて知らされることはない。

各教会とも、牧師・役員はじめ信徒一人一人が互いを大切に思い合い、同志的結束の強化と主にある兄弟姉妹の支え合いをもっ て教会の苦境を乗り越えようとしているかには目を見張るものがある。

最近ある教会の信徒が代務の牧師を心配して、「先生が遠くから来られるので交通事故に遭われませんように」との祈りがあっ た。多くの教区に無牧、兼牧、代務の教会が目立つ中、礼拝の確保と教会の充実のために知恵と工夫をこらす群れがある。確かに一教会の 教勢を競う時代は終わっている。

だが、自らの教会自体が少数の信徒によって成るにも拘らず、近隣の教会との共同で地域伝道のために備え、その連帯の実を結 実させようと強い意志を持って果敢な体制を組む。此処でも互いの教 会の現実への配慮や運営には心を使い合う。地域教会の共働の豊かな喜 びも沸き上がるだろう。教会の戦いの目標は、「礼拝の確保」にあるのだ。長崎哲夫総幹事

【April 2016 No.387】Retrofitting of Japan Christian Center Completed

Construction on the earthquake-resistance upgrade to the Japan Christian Center building began in June 2015 and was completed by the end of February 2016.  The three boards of the Kyodan moved back from their temporary quarters in another part of the city and began operations again on March 14.  The general office of the Kyodan occupies the third floor, while the Board of Publications is on the fourth floor, both just as before.

 

However, the Board of Pensions, which was previously on the fifth floor, has been relocated to an area behind the main office room on the third floor.  The cost of the retrofitting totaled approximately 300 million yen, the funds coming from a joint fund that had been set aside for that purpose, bank loans, and apportionments from the individual organizations occupying the building. (Tr. TB)

 

日本キリスト教会館耐震工事完了

15年6月より着工した日本キリスト教会館耐震工事がこの2月末で終了、3月14日から改修の成った西早稲田の会館で三局の業務が再開した。再移転は事務局(3階)、出版局(4階)が従来どおり入居、5階にあった年金局は事務局奥に移設となった。耐震工事費ほぼ3億円を、会館組合積立金、貸付金、入居オーナー分担金によって賄う。