【June 2016 No.388】The Beginnings of Shunan Church

by Ando Akiyoshi, pastor

Shunan Church, Ou District

Martin Mosser Smyser (1875-1955), who came from Pennsylvania and had been invited by Yokote Middle School to be an English teacher, began the evangelistic work of Shunan Church, starting with an English Bible class for neighborhood children in his home. Smyser, who believed that “evangelism in Japan should be done by Japanese,” chose two baptized youth from that class and sent them to Meiji Gakuin High School, then on to the seminary there. Following graduation, these two men, Seya Shigeji and Suzuki Kozo became as Smyser’s right and left hands. They moved ahead to promote the evangelization of southern Akita Prefecture. The unique characteristic of Smyser’s evangelistic work was his non-affiliation with any denominational body. Smyser’s support of the two young men covered not only their educational expenses but all their living expenses as well. To do that, he continued his work as a missionary, receiving financial support from his friends in his homeland.

 

As a band of believers was born in one region, they extended their work to another region. Spreading the gospel through the southern area of the prefecture was their priority. When there was no pastor present, the believers maintained the meetings with testimonies. The meetings did not have any particular building but continued their existence as “house churches.” This method of evangelism also appeared among those that were called the ”Fukuin Kyodan” (Gospel Band). Before the band became a “church,” they identified themselves by saying, “We are a brotherhood led by the Reverend Smyser.” I think this style was a breakthrough for rural evangelism in Japan, which had been frustrated so many other attempts by various churches.

 

However, in this brotherhood, the waves of history beat upon the shore. Under the “Religious Organizations Law”(enacted in 1940), the Smyser band, as a religious association, changed its name to “Shunan Christ Church,” and in the midst of these difficulties, it became a part of the Kyodan. Concurrently, the church itself was also making decisions that were greatly changing its character, namely, Smyser’s retirement. He had initially resisted returning to his country, but the thought-control police made that a precondition. Seya Shigeji was ordained and became the head pastor. At the same time, Suzuki Kozo left Shunan Church.

 

Seya was sent to Indonesia during World War II. When he returned to Japan, the meetings in the region were reopened and new churches in the bands formed after the war were also added, but the “house church” base did not change. The Reverend Murakami Eiji was invited as Seya’s successor, and the gatherings planned to build meeting halls in each area respectively. All the believers gave offerings, and in turn six meeting halls were dedicated. Formerly, there were more home meetings but only six remain that were able to construct meeting halls and one place where a house meeting is still being continued. This is Shunan Church at present.

 

Missionary Choi Jang-Soo and I are partnering and serving in rotation. Worship services at Yokote sanctuary and Asamai sanctuary are on Sunday from 10:30 a.m.; Uenodai sanctuary and Obonai sanctuary worship services are on Sunday afternoon from 2:00 p.m. Worship at Kakumagawa sanctuary is from 7:30 p.m. on Monday, and Omonogawa sanctuary worship is held twice a month at 7:00 in the evening. The house meeting is held in the home of a believer in Kakunodate on the third Friday afternoon of every month at 1:30. The board of trustees meeting is held each month on the second Sunday from 2:00 p.m. at Yokote sanctuary. Yokote was Smyser’s beginning base of evangelism and continues presently as the center. Naturally, in order for the minister and the missionary to be present at the board of trustees meeting, the afternoon worship services are held with the support of neighboring area pastors.

 

As a matter of principle, both Choi Jang-Soo and I attend worship services together on days other than Sunday. The meeting halls are shelters for the protection of the believers’ faith, but as believers age, maintenance of the meeting halls is presently becoming a burden for Shunan Church. But even so, believing that our active evangelism will contribute to a revitalization of the evangelization of our nation, we continue to move forward. (Tr. RT)

秋南教会の成り立ち

日本基 督教団 秋南教会牧師

安 藤 昭 良

 秋南教会の伝道は1914年、 に英語教師として招かれた米国ペンシルバニア州出身のマーティン.M.スマイザー牧師が、近隣の子どもたちに自宅 で聖書を教えたところから始まります。「日本の伝道は日本人の手で」と考えていたスマイザーは、そこから生まれた受洗者から二人を選 んで明治学院中等部、そして神学部に送り出しました。卒業後この二人(・)はスマイザーの右左の腕となって、秋田県南の伝道を進めて いったのです。スマイザーによる伝道の独自性は、彼が教派的伝道団体に所属しなかったことに起因します。二人の少年に対するスマイ ザーの支援は、学費だけでなく生活費全般に及んでいました。そのために彼は教師の仕事を続け、本国の友人たちからの経済的支援を受け ていたのです。

ひとつの地域に信者の群が生まれる と、彼らは他の地域へ足を伸ばしていきました。県南全域で、福音が広まることを優先したのです。牧師の不在時に、信徒は証をもって集 会を支えました。集会は固有の建物を持たずに「家の教会」としての歩みを続けました。このような伝道姿勢は、当初掲げられた「福音教 団」という名称の中にも現されています。地域の群が「教会」である以前に、「自分たちはスマイザー牧師に導かれた教団なのだ」という アイデンティティーがあったのです。これらは、幾多の教会が試みては挫折してきた「日本の農村伝道」に、突破口を開くための方法だっ たように思われます。

しかしこの教団に、歴史の波が打ち 寄せます。「宗教団体法」(1940年施行)の下、スマイザーの群は、一宗教結社として「」を名のるようになります。それでもなお続く困難に 直面して、日本基督教団に加入します。この時期、教会は自らを大きく変質させる決定を他にもしています。それはスマイザー牧師の隠退 (帰国を拒む彼に、特高警察が突き付けた条件だった)であり、瀬谷重治が按手を受け、主任牧師となるということでした。同時に、須々 木光三は秋南教会から袂を分かちました。

戦時中インドネシアに派遣されてい た瀬谷牧師が帰国することによって、地域集会が再開され、戦後生まれの新しい群も加わりましたが、「家の教会」がベースであることは 変わりませんでした。後任として招かれた牧師は、各地域集会がそれぞれの会堂を建てることを計画しました。すべての信徒が献金し、順 番に六つの会堂が献げられました。かつてはもっと多くの集会がありましたが、会堂建築をなし遂げて生き残った集会が六つ、家庭集会を 守っているのが一箇所、これが現在の秋南教会なのです。崔宣教師と私、安藤がローテーションを組んで奉仕いたします。礼拝時間は、横 手会堂、浅舞会堂が聖日午前10時半から。上野台会堂、生保内会堂が聖日午後2時から。角間川会堂は月曜日の夜7時半から。 そして雄物川会堂は月2回午後7時から行っています。家庭集会は角館の信徒のお宅で毎月第三金曜午後1時半から持 たれています。役員会は毎月第二聖日午後2時から横手会堂で開催しています。横手はスマイザー伝道の最初の拠点であり、現在でもセンターの意識が共 有されています。牧師・宣教師は役員会に当然出席するため、この日の午後の礼拝は、近隣の牧師たちの支援を受けています。聖日以外の 礼拝は原則、安藤と崔の両名が出席いたします。会堂は信徒の信仰を守るシェルターですが、信徒が高齢化した現在、会堂を維持すること が、秋南教会にとっての重荷となりつつあります。それでも、私たちが元気に伝道することが、この国の伝道を活気づけることにつながる と信じつつ、次の一歩を踏み出していきたいと思います。