Hiroshima Nanbu Church "Cosmic Meeting" Ministers to Troubled Hearts

by Hamada Yuzo, pastor
Hiroshima Nanbu Church, Nishi Chugoku District
No wonder the present age is called “the age of depression.” An increasing number of people, approximately three million throughout the nation, are suffering from psychological disorder. People caught by depression find themselves maladjusted to their environment and alienated from society. They are desperately groping after a base on which they can rely. How can the Church respond to the mute cry of those troubled hearts burdened with the sense of isolation? How can we Christians identify ourselves with suffering people and live together with them? The following is an example of the effort to meet this urgent issue: the program of Hiroshima Nanbu Church in Nishi Chugoku District, as reported by the pastor, Hamada Yuzo, in Shinto no Tomo (Believers’Friend).
Hiroshima Nanbu Church holds its Cosmic Meeting every Wednesday afternoon from three to five o’clock. Around eight to ten people from within as well as outside the church get together and have a roundtable talk about illness, handicaps, and many other burdens we find difficult to cope with in our daily life.
In November 2005, soon after I was installed as the pastor of this church, my spouse, two other young church members, and I began a meeting in the parsonage with the intent of “establishing a place where we could express our troubles and weaknesses.” We named our group “Cosmic Meeting ” after the name of the church site, Ujina. The first Chinese characters of both Ujina and uchuu (“the universe” in Japanese) are the same “u,” which means “universe” or “cosmos.”
The name of the meeting suggests that when we are too much concerned about immediate actualities around us, we often find it difficult to maneuver, but when we regard ourselves from a cosmic viewpoint, we find it easier to look at ourselves more objectively. Though we may think we know about ourselves best, there are many things we do not really know about ourselves and cannot express completely to others. During our meetings, we explore each individual’s microcosm from the larger, macrocosmic perspective. We gradually rediscover ourselves with the help of our fellow participants and engage in the process of retelling our own stories.
The procedure for conducting the meeting is simple and easy. Anyone can do it. According to the manual sheet, the chairperson gives greetings and explains the procedure. The basic rule is that anyone can say anything without being interrupted and everyone listens without interrupting. (While someone is talking, we do not question or interrupt.) We do not repeat outside what we hear in the meeting. Then we start talking about ourselves according to the following four topics, one at one round: 1) our physical/psychological condition of the day or the week, 2) what was good during the week, 3) what was difficult during the week, 4) what can be improved. Each of us talks on the theme, making four rounds. We clap our hands each time the speaker finishes speaking. The meeting is closed after the sharing of any reports and information, if there is any. When there is extra time, we work on the program of SST (Social Skill Training). This is an exercise for improving human relationships through the exchange of information about difficulties concerning relationships and through the help of the participants and the dynamics of the meeting. The meeting, which first started with a small circle in the parsonage, has grown in just half a year to be an official church program.
The Cosmic Meeting does not aim to solve or remove the participants’ troubles and weaknesses. The meeting is an occasion to experience the richness of sharing each participant’s daily life of coping with his/her problems. Rather than problem-solving, the purpose of the program is to establish the church as a place where you can let down your guard as people from the larger community interact with church members and share together the various issues they face in life. I myself have certainly enjoyed being a member of this group. (Tr. FK)
–Summarized by Nishio Misao, member
Suginami Church, Nishi Tokyo District
KNL Editorial Committee
Based on an article in Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)
Hiroshima Nanbu Church’s Cosmic Meeting Manual
Chairperson: Let us begin today’s (date) meeting. I am
Chairperson __________.
Chairperson: We take turns talking on the following
topics, one topic at each round:
1.One’s physical/psychological condition of today or
this week
2.What has been good during the past week ( either
about ourselves or of our family members)
3.What was difficult during the week (about ourselves)
4.What can be improved
If you do not have anything to share, you can pass. This
meeting is just talking and listening without any
comments. Each person takes his or her turn. When
someone is talking, please listen quietly. Please be
careful not to repeat outside what you hear in this
Chairperson: Shall we begin our meeting? Would you
begin, _____san? Please tell us about your physical and
psychological condition today or during this week.
Chairperson: Would you tell us about what was good
during the past week?
Chairperson: Would you tell us about what was the most
difficult during the past week?
Chairperson: What is something you can improve?
Chairperson: Is there anything any of you would like to
report on or tell us all about?
Chairperson: We now conclude today’s Cosmic Meeting.
 現代は「うつの時代」といわれるほど、うつの人が増えています。日本全体では300万人存在すると推定されています。心を病むと、人々は社会の中で行き場を失い、孤立して、心のよりどころを求めます。教会は、心の病をはじめ、さまざまな生きづらさを抱えた人々と共に、どのように歩んでいくことができるのでしょうか。次に、具体的な取り組みをしている教会、西中国教区広島南部教会の濱田裕三(はまだ ゆうぞう)牧師が「信徒の友」で書いている一つの実践例を紹介します。
 この集まりは、私が赴任してきて間もない2005年11月に、私のパートナーと教会の二人の青年と四人で「苦労を語り、弱さを表現できる場を作ろう」と牧師館を会場にミーティングを始めました。教会所在地の地名「宇品(Ujina)」にこだわり、「宇宙(Uchu in Japanese)ミーティング」と名づけました。(宇品の
 ミーティングの内容と方法はきわめて単純簡単です。どこでも誰でもできるものです。ミーティング用シートを基にまず司会者が挨拶をし、進め方を説明して、このミーティングが言いっぱなし、聞きっぱなしの会であること(人が話しているときは質問や突っ込みを入れず黙って聞く)、話の内容を口外しないなどの最低限のルールを説明します。その後、①一週間か今日の体調と気分、②一週間よかったこと、③一週間苦労したこと、④さらによくする点、 以上のテーマを一つずつ順番に語り、四周します。一人が語り終えるたびに拍手をします。最後に連絡や報告をしてミーティングは終了です。時間があれば、SST(生活技能訓練=Social Skill Training)というプログラムを行います。SSTは、人間関係で困っていることを情報交換し、仲間の応援や場の力を借りてよりよい関係を築いていく練習方法です。牧師館でささやかに始めた会も、半年後には教会公式行事の一つに加えられました。
西尾操 杉並教会員、KNL編集委員(信徒の友より)
宇宙ミーテイング 広島南部教会
1, 一週間か今日の体調と気分
2, 一週間よかったこと(自分のことでも家族や友人のことでもかまいません)
3, 一種運間苦労したこと(自分のことです)
4, さらによくする点