【October 2016 No.389】Komyo-en Kazoku Church’s Unique History and Ministry

Komyo-en Kazoku Church is located in a national Hansen’s Disease Sanatorium. Of the 13 national Hansen’s Disease Sanatoriums, two are located in Okayama Prefecture – Nagashima Aiseien and Oku Komyo-en. Although Nagashima Aiseien is the more well known of the two, Komyo-en is actually 20 years older.

 

With only 13 such institutions in the whole nation, one might wonder why two are located in Okayama Prefecture. Oku Komyo-en was originally located in Osaka and was known as Sotojima Sanatorium. Likewise, the church was originally named Sotojima Kazoku Church. According to the Reverend Fukuda Arataro, visiting pastor of the congregation, the word kazoku, which means “family,” was added to the name of the church because the members had been separated from their families and many had entered the sanatorium under assumed names to avoid bringing shame to their families. Thus, the church opened its doors to them as a family.

 

When the sanatorium was destroyed by the Muroto typhoon in 1934, 187 patients, staff, and family members perished in the disaster. The government made plans to rebuild in the Senri District of Osaka but was unable to do so because of strong opposition by local residents. At the back of the 60 acres that made up the grounds of Aisei-en in Nagashima, an unused plot of about 20 acres was available where the sanatorium could be rebuilt. Four years after the 1934 typhoon, those patients who had survived were being housed in five sanatoriums across the nation as they awaited the opening of Oku Komyo-en Sanatorium.

 

According to records, in May 2015 there were 1,718 residents of the sanatoriums nationwide, with 132 residing at Oku Komyoen. (Currently there are fewer than 130 at Komyo-en, among whom 23 are members of the congregation). Roughly 80 residents pass away each year nationwide, and currently the average age is 84 years.

 

On Nov. 11, 2012, Komyo-en Kazoku Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding. The small church was crowded with over 100 people who came from as far away as Kanto and Kyushu areas to join in the celebration. We did not think that many would come to such an event, but on second thought it was a 100th anniversary, and there would likely not be another such celebration. So the event far surpassed our expectations.

Our congregation is different from an average parish church because one day its ministry will come to an end. When the sanatorium is closed, the church will be closed along with it. Until that day comes, as long as we are physically able, we desire to continue our worship services and prayer meetings.

 

Currently, there is a pastoral vacancy at our church. The Reverend Otsuka Shinobu is serving as the interim pastor. Our Sunday morning worship services are led primarily by retired pastors and the mid-week prayer meetings have been led by Aioi Church and congregations in the central region of the Okayama District, for which we are very grateful. Since the spring of 2015, Kurashiki Church has been holding its prayer monthly prayer meetings at Komyo-en Kazoku Church, which has been truly an unexpected blessing.

 

For the past several years the Kansai Choir League of the Korean Christian Church in Japan has been visiting Komyo-en annually, and along with sharing their beautiful music, the members have joined us in playing games and other fun activities. Given that recently only four or five people have been able to attend the performances of their beautiful music (and last year there were only three), we sent word that perhaps this should be the final year for their visit. We began the event, thinking it would be the final one. But as we enjoyed our time together, something happened that changed it all. One person said, “I remember years ago when the folks from Komyo Kaikan sang and the folding chairs were all set up in rows. The names of the donors are written on the backs of those chairs. I was surprised to find my father’s name written on one of those chairs. He was a pastor and had donated that chair. That shows just how many years we have been coming.”

 

The Church member Hanamura Keiko, who had kept repeating, “This is the last year,” said, “Let’s do this again next year,” and everyone laughed out loud in agreement. So we concluded the gathering with a round of applause, agreeing to meet again next year. So they will continue to gather to rehearse and to perform. What a wonderful thing indeed! (Tr. AKO)

—Nanba Satsuya, member and Komyoen Kazoku Church From Higashi Chugoku District News, No. 160

教会紹介;光明園家族教会

光明園家族教会はご存知のよう に、国立ハンセン病療養所内にある教会です。全国に国立ハンセン病療養所は13あります。そのうちの2つが岡山県にありま す。長島愛生園と邑久光明園です。長島愛生園が有名ですが、創立は光明園の方が20年古いのです。全国に13しかないのに、なぜ岡山県に2つあるか。邑久光明園 はもともとは大阪にあり、当時は外島保養院と言っていまし た。ですから教会は外島家族教会でした。「家族」と命名したのは、家族と離れ、家族に迷惑がかからないように縁を切り、偽名で生きる 人の多い病者を気遣って、伝道に通って下さっていた福田荒太郎先生だと聞いていま す。

1934年の室戸台風で療養所は壊滅し ます。患者と職員とその家族を合わせて187名の人々が亡くなりま した。再建を千里など大阪府内で考えたのですが、地元の反対などがあってできませんでした。そこで当時長島の75万坪を使用していた愛生園の後ろに、25万坪まだ余裕があると いうことで長島での再建となりました。1934年の台風から4年間、生存者は全国の5個所の療養所に振り分けられて邑久光明園での開設を待ちまし た。

全国の入所者は15年5月の調べで1718名です。(因みに光明園は132名でしたが現在すでに130名を割っています。その中で家族教会の現住陪餐会員は23名です。)年間80名余亡くなっていきます。平均年齢約84歳です。

光明園家族教会は、創 立100周年の記念会を2012年1月11日に持ちました。狭い 教会に入りきれないほど、100名を超える方々が神奈 川や九州からもお祝いに駆け付けて下さいました。「どうせそんなに集りゃあせんよ。でも一応100周年だし、もう次はな いからやっておこうか」という私たちの思いをたしなめるかの如く集まって下さいました。

私たちの教会が、いわ ゆる教区内教会と違う所は、やがて閉教するということです。療養所がその任務を終える時家族教会も閉じます。それまで体力気力が続く 限り礼拝と祈祷会を守りたいと願っていますが、明日にでも「もうやめよう、これ以上できんよ」と弱音を吐いてみたり、「週報、また間 違ったけどまあいいか」と開き直ってみたりの現状です。

そして無牧(大塚忍牧 師が代務)の私たちの教会は、現在1か月に礼拝と祈祷会の説教者8~9名の牧師に来て頂いているのですが、日曜日の礼拝は隠退牧師を中心に、祈祷会は長く相 生(Aioi)教会や岡山中部地区の先生方が来て下さっています。感謝なことです。2015年の春から倉敷教会は「毎月最後の祈祷会は光明園で」と決めて下さったとのことで、信 徒のみなさんが沢山来てくださいます。嬉しい驚きです。

そんな中で、在日大韓 基督教会(KCCJ)の関西聖歌隊連合の方々が毎年来てくださり、美しい賛美と説教、そしてゲームなどをし て楽しんでいます。今年面白いことがありました。来て下さるのは嬉しいのですが、なんせお聞きする方が4~5名(昨年は3名)で、「あまりに申し訳ないから今年を最後にして下さい」と言いました。そのつもり で関聖連の方々もいらっしゃいました。それなのに、ゲームが楽しかったり、それぞれの一言発言の中で「以前は光明会館の方で歌ってい ました。パイプ椅子をみんなで並べました。それで驚いたのは、その椅子の背中に、寄贈した人の名前が書かれていて、牧師をしていた私 の父親の名前だったんです。そんなに昔から訪問していたんですよ。」と言う方がいたりで、「今年で終わりに」とイチバン言っていた花 村慶子さんが「来年もお願い します」と言ってしまって皆さん大笑いとなりました。みんな同感!という感じで、嬉しい拍手が鳴りやまず、互いに背中を撫であい、来 年を約束してお別れしました。仕事のある人たちが遠くから一つの教会に集まり、練習を重ね、遠いところを来て下さる。なんという嬉し い事でしょう。本当に勿体ない事です。

光 明園家族教会 長老 難波幸矢

東中国教区ニュース 160号より