【June 2017 No.393】Prayer Meetings ‡U. Lay Leadership of Church Prayer Meetings

by Taino Keiko, member

                                                                                                              Kawakami Church, Ehime Prefecture

Kawakami Church was founded by a U.S. missionary in 1909 as a place for the Japan Methodist Church to hold lectures. At the time of its founding, there were already many Christian farmers. Pastor Matsuda Suzuo, appointed in 1947 just after World War II, got involved by providing land for the establishment of Galilee Home, which is part of Airin-en Special Nursing Home for the Elderly. This facility is a social welfare corporation, which at that time was still rare in farming towns. For a long time, he operated a kindergarten named “Olive Garden.” It closed ten years ago, but until then it had contributed greatly to community welfare and education. After his death in 1983, there were intermittent periods in which there was no pastor, and then the baton was passed to Pastor Mori Kenshiro, Pastor Imai Makio, and Pastor Hirosawa Mikio. Since 2015 the church has been experiencing its third period without a pastor. At present, Pastor Ota Tatsuo of Matsuyama Eiko Church in Ehime Prefecture is overseeing the church, which is a small congregation of 17 resident communicant members. He comes to hold worship services and attend church board meetings. Kawakami Church is also assisted by other pastors in the subdistrict.

I was baptized when I was 22 years old at Iimorino Church in Hyogo Prefecture. I transferred to Kawakami Church when I got married 54 years ago. I thought, “I want to marry someone with whom I can go to church.” That was the reason I married a Christian man. However, his family operated a dairy farm with 40 to 50 cows. It was all we could do to observe Sunday worship. It was about ten years ago when I was finally able to go to the prayer meetings. I am now 79 years old. Even during periods when there was no pastor, Kawakami Church maintained its prayer meetings, never once canceling them. Prayer meetings used to be held on Wednesday nights; then about 50 years ago it was moved to the afternoon, and now it is held from 10 to 11 a.m. There have been fewer attendees as time has passed because members have died or stopped coming for other reasons. Including myself, there have been three people who have always attended. Even so, there is never any talk of discontinuing the prayer meeting. We are continually encouraged by the words of Ueda Noriko, who is now 92 years old and still active as a Sunday school teacher. She says, “As long as there are people who can gather together, even if it is only one or two people, I want to continue the weekly prayer meeting.”

When Pastor Ota took on the role of overseer of the church, we considered moving it to the afternoon so that he could also participate. However, because there would have been someone else who could not attend, we decided to continue holding it in the morning, as a prayer meeting for the laity. For the first half of the prayer meeting, we study the Bible. We are presently studying the books of the Chronicles. The person whose turn it is to lead reads the Bible passage ahead of time, and then comes and shares his or her thoughts with everyone. Though there are many sad things happening in today’s world, as we study this subject, we think about what Jesus is saying to us now, and we all discuss it together. After that, we follow a booklet issued by Shikoku District called “Inoro Shikoku no Kyokai” (“Churches of Shikoku, Let’s Pray as One Body”). We pray for Kawakami Church, for the people connected to it, for the many children who gather in the facilities related to the church, and for each other.

Whenever I think, “Today there is a prayer meeting,” it is very encouraging for me. In life, there are many unpleasant things, but if you go to church and pray, God will listen to everything. Since my husband died I have been living alone, but it is reassuring to realize that God is with me so I am not really alone. Whenever all three of us look at each other and feel the same way about something, we are thankful and say, “It is so good that we were able to come to the prayer meeting today.” Our prayer meeting is also a place to confirm such blessings from God.

Although Kawakami Church is small, in 2014 we were able to construct a new building. The old church, built in 1934, was a two-story wooden structure that had badly deteriorated. It was also inadequately retrofitted to withstand earthquakes. It had reached the limit of how much repair could be done to stop the rain from leaking in. The church was on a mountainside, where transportation was definitely inconvenient. A long time ago, the road in front of the church building was also the main road that ran through the center of town, so there was a lot of traffic. However, since then a bypass and a highway have been constructed, and the circumstances are completely different.

We decided to rebuild, using our fund of 20 million yen that had been saved by the church for 40 years, adding donations from churches all over the country. We relocated to level ground. We had prayed for this for 40 years, and it became a reality. We were blessed because when the church was founded, missionaries had prepared for us a large sanctuary for worship and a parsonage. Proceeds from the sale of the large plot of land and the buildings could be used for covering the cost of repaying the debt. We are thankful for God’s wondrous guidance. (Tr. KT)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), January 2017 issue. Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

受け継がれる教会の業

無牧教会で信徒が担い続ける祈祷会

愛媛・川上教会  田井野圭子(Taino Keiko)  たいの けいこ/川上教会員

川上教会は日本メソヂスト教会の講義所 として、アメリカ人の宣教師により1909年に創立された教会です。創立時は農業を営む信徒が多くいました。戦後の1947年に赴任 した松田鈴雄(Matsuda Suzuo)牧師は、まだ農村では珍しかった社会福祉法人愛隣園特別養護老人ホームの ガリラヤ荘設立に土地提供などをとおして関わりました。オリブ園という幼児園も長く営み、こちらは10年 前に閉園しましたが、地域福祉と教育に貢献してきました。松田牧師が83年 に亡くなってからは、無牧の時を挟みながら森研四郎(Mori Kenshiro)牧師、今井牧夫(Imai Makio)牧師、廣澤幹夫(Hirosawa Mikio)牧師とバトンが継がれ、2015年 よりは3度 目の無牧を経験しています。現在は代務の大田辰夫(Ota Tatsuo)牧師(愛媛・松山栄光教会牧師)が来て礼拝の御用をし、役員会に出席して くださっています。分区の先生方にも支えられています。現住陪餐会員(resident communicant members)17名の小さな教会です。

私は、兵庫県の飯盛野教会で22歳 のときに洗礼を受け、54年 前に結婚と共に川上教会に転会しました。「一緒に教会に行ける人と結婚したい」という理由でクリスチャンである夫と結婚したのです が、婚家は牛40~50頭 を飼う酪農家。日曜日の礼拝を守るのが精いっぱいでした。祈祷会に出られるようになったのは10年 ほど前からです。今は79歳 です。川上教会の祈祷会は無牧のときも含めて、一度も休むことなく続けられてきたそうです。水曜日の夜に行われていましたが、50年 ほど前に昼に移動し、現在は午前10時 から11時 までです。会員が亡くなるなどして年々出席者が少なくなり、常時出席しているのは私を含めて3人です。しかしそれでも祈祷会をやめる という話にはなりません。92歳 で、今も現役のCS教 師をしている上田倫子(Ueda Noriko)さんの「1人でも2人でもいいから、集える人がいる限り、祈祷会を続けて いきたい」という言葉に励まされ続けています。

大田牧師が代務になったとき、午後に移 せば牧師も参加できるということで検討しましたが出席できなくなる人が出るために、信徒だけの祈祷会として午前に続けることにしまし た。祈祷会の前半は聖書の学びです。今は歴代誌を学んでいます。当番が事前に読んできて皆と感想を分かち合います。悲しいことの多い 時代ですが、この学びをとおしてイエスさまが今の私たちに何を語り掛けてくださっているのかを考えながら皆で話し合っています。その 後は、四国教区が発行している小冊子『祈ろう四国の教会』に従って教区の教会のために祈り、また川上教会とそれに連なる人たちのた め、関連施設に集う多くの子どもたちのため、お互いのために祈ります。

私にとって、「今日は祈祷会がある」と いうことは大きな励みです。人生、いろいろと大変なことがあります。でも教会に行って祈れば、神さまが全部聞いてくださるのです。夫 を亡くして今は一人暮らしとなりましたが、一人ではない、神さまがいてくださるのだと思うと心強いのです。同じ気持ちの3人が顔を合 わせるたびに、「今日も祈祷会に来ることができて本当によかった」と感謝しています。祈祷会とはそのような恵みを確認する場でもあり ます。

川上教会は小さな教会です。しかし2014年 に新会堂を建てました。1934年 に建てられた木造2階建ての旧会堂は劣化が激しく、耐震性もありませんでした。雨漏りの補修も限界を迎えていました。山の中腹にあ り、交通の便も決してよくありません。昔は会堂の前を通る道が村の中心道路で往来も多かったのです。しかし、バイパスや高速道路がで きて事情がすっかり変わってしまいました。

そこで、教会では40年間蓄えてきた資金2000万 円に全国の教会からの献金を合わせて建て替えることとし、平地に移転しました。40年 来の祈りが実現しました。幸いに教会創立時に宣教師により広い礼拝堂、牧師館が備えられ、その土地建物の売却金を借財の返済費用に充 てることができました。不思議な神さまの導きに感謝しています。(インタビュー・文=信徒の友編集部)