Introducing The National Federation of Kyodan Women's Societies

by Go Kashiko, NFKWS Ecumenical Relations Committee chair
Pastor, Hachioji Eiko Church, Nishi Tokyo District

When the church restructured in 1969, the National Federation of Kyodan
Women’s Societies was organized as an autonomous body within the Kyodan.
As our 40th Anniversary National Assembly is held June 2-3 in Makuhari,
Chiba, the theme, “Salt of the Earth, Light of the World, Connected to
the Church as the Branch to the Vine, Bearers of Mission for Tomorrow
–Learning from Mathew’s Gospel,” will surely inspire and challenge us.

The NFKWS’ membership includes both lay women and women pastors, with
the opinions of each considered equal. It supports the mission of the
Kyodan but determines its own leadership, program, and budget as it
functions on three levels: national, district, and subcommittee. The
main goals and activities of the NFKWS are as follows.

Rainbow Haven, located near the sea in the southern part of Chiba
Prefecture, was built as a residence for retired women pastors and
pastors’ wives in 1973. The building is also used for church school
summer camps, seminars, and meetings. In November 2007, an advisory
committee was formed to consider the merger of Rainbow Haven and
Shin-ai-soo (a home founded in 1959 for retired pastors in Tokyo
District). Construction of a new building, to be called Rainbow Haven
Shin-ai-soo, is now underway in Tokyo, with completion scheduled for
June 2010.

The Ecumenical Relations Committee strives to strengthen ties between
NFKWS and women’s organizations in other denominations, both domestic
and international. Members attend meetings of the Asian Church Women’s
Conference’s Japan Committee, the National Christian Council in Japan’s
Women’s Committee, and other international gatherings to broaden and
deepen relationships with churchwomen in Japan, Asia, and other parts of
the world. The committee also cosponsors youth mission programs with
partner churchwomen abroad, such as the Germany and Japan Youth Exchange
Program, and for over 35 years has run a home-stay program for
participants at Asian Rural Institute (ARI), which trains agricultural
leaders mainly from Asian and African countries. Through the home-stay
program, ARI participants learn about Japanese family and church life,
and Japanese churches and families learn about the realities of life in
other countries.

The Committee to Study the Bible as Canon continues the emphasis on
Bible study and prayer that the NFKWS has had since its beginning. It
holds a monthly Bible study that is open to the public, organizes a
National Bible Study event every two years at different locations in
Japan, publishes a Bible Study Series, and assists many small Bible
study groups throughout Japan, providing leadership as well as literature.

The Literature Committee publishes Church Women, a four-page monthly
periodical with a circulation of roughly 7,300 that informs women of our
mission tasks and aims to create a sense of solidarity in Christ. Church
Women carries sermons that coincide with the church calendar, essays,
symposium papers, up-to-date reports, and information from the NFKWS’
Central Committee and other committees, as well as articles concerning
fellowship with ecumenical groups. The page allocated to reports on
local and district church events helps churchwomen learn about the
ministry and prayer requests of other districts.

The Committee to Study the Situation of Women Pastors publishes an
annual paper and holds annual seminars for women pastors.

The Pastor’s Wives’ Committee was established in 1975 to identify
problems faced by churchwomen, including pastor’s wives. Members consist
of pastor’s wives, women ministers, and lay women. The committee
publishes an annual newsletter, supports church mission activities, and
holds biennial nationwide seminars. The theme of a recent seminar was
“Joy in Walking Together with Peaceful Hearts.”

The Education Based on the Dignity of Life Committee recently published
a book entitled Consider Human Beings based on Education for Children,
after six years of research. The reports included are 1. Environment of
children; 2. Issues of school education reformation; 3. On handicapped
children; 4. Passing the torch of faith to younger generations; 5.
Church and children; and 6. What the Bible teaches about education.

The main purpose of the NFKWS is to help churchwomen recognize ways to
serve in the local church and to help build up the church as a whole. In
the face of issues like the aging of NFKWS members and the serious
decline in the number of youth in the church today, we must strengthen
our solidarity and find ways to transmit our faith to the next generation.