【June 2019 No.403】From the General Secretary’s Desk: The Inspiring Visit of RCA’s General Synod President and His Wife

The Reformed Church in America’s General Synod President James Nakakihara and his wife Lisa recently visited the Kyodan office. Nakakihara is a third-generation Japanese-American elder in the RCA. Elected for a one-year term of service in June 2018, President Nakakihara is the first person of Japanese descent to be elected to this position in the RCA’s long history. Within the church, there is now a difficult conflict regarding the LGBTQ issue, so Nakakihara is responsible for the important task of steering the church through this political situation.

 

The RCA was formed by immigrants to the USA from the Netherlands and previously was referred to as the Dutch Reformed Church. It is a well-known fact that the church has an especially deep relationship with Japanese churches. In the middle of the 19th century, the country of Japan emerged from isolation. When the door was opened to several foreign countries, the RCA was the first church to send missionaries to spread Protestant Christianity in Japan. Among those missionaries were Samuel Robbins Brown, Guido Herman Fridolin Verbeck, and James Hamilton Ballagh. Later, the RCA planted many churches in Japan and was deeply involved in the establishment of schools, such as Meiji Gakuin and Ferris Jogakuin. Dr. I. John Hesselink, who had served as a professor at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary for 20 years, returned to the United States and, after serving as RCA vice-president, became its president.

 

Nakakihara is a lay member and elder at Rancho Community Reformed Church in Temecula, California. He has served as a special education teacher and as an IT engineer who participated in product development and a variety of other activities. While he was working briefly in Utsunomiya in Japan, his wife Lisa, a Buddhist at the time, encountered the gospel and was converted. Although he had been baptized when he was in high school, Nakakihara had become inactive, but his wife’s conversion influenced him to come back to church. Because this happened in Japan, he is especially interested in—and prays especially for—the church in Japan. Now he is very active at his church as a small group leader and webmaster and also takes a leadership role at gatherings of the churches in the region. He says that although being chosen as the president of the RCA General Synod was completely unexpected, he accepted the job because he believed it was God’s calling. Lisa is also of Japanese descent and is also active in the church. However, around the time when James became general synod president, she contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, which limited her mobility to a wheelchair. Even with this disability, she came with James on this trip to Japan.

 

While talking with both of them, one of the things that impressed me was the church that they belong to, Rancho Community Reformed Church. Although it is located in a city of around 100,000 people and began with only seven families, in nearly 20 years it has grown to become a church where about 2,000 participants gather to worship. The secret of this growth is that when church members really wanted to do something as Christians, they would simply gather together some like-minded people and do it. One group began a private school, and another group formed a women’s work group. Nakakihara started a website for young people that now has 4,000 followers. By making sufficient use of the gifts God has given to each individual, a living church was born and grows, seemingly with things naturally becoming what they are. Through this time of close fellowship in faith, I feel even more familiar with the RCA. (Tr. KT)

                              —Akiyama Toru, general secretary

 

アメリカ改革教会総会議長夫妻をお迎えして

 先日教団に、アメリカ改革教会の総会議長Mr. James & Mrs. Lisa  Nakakiharaさんご夫妻を、お迎えしました。ナカキハラさんは日系の3世で、アメリカ改革教会の長い歴史で初めての日系の総会議長に、2018年6月に一年任期で就任なさり、LGBTQをめぐる厳しい対立がある同教団の政治状況のなかでかじ取りをする重要な働きを担っておられます。

 アメリカ改革教会は、かつてはダッチ・リフォームド教会と呼ぼれていたように、オランダからの移民によって形成された教会です。日本の教会とは特別に深い関係があることはよく知られています。19世紀の半ば、日本が鎖国を解き、諸外国に向かって門戸が開かれるようになったとき、最も早くプロテスタントのキリスト教を伝えるためにS.R.ブラウンやフルベッキ、バラーなどの宣教師たちを送り出し、その後の日本の数多くの教会形成、および明治学院やフェリス女学院などの学校の設立にも深くかかわっています。かつて、20年間東京神学大学で教鞭を執られたDr. I. John Hesselink先生は、帰米後に、RCAのVice-Presidentを経てPresidentになられました。

 ナカキハラさんはカリフォルニア州のTemeculaという街にあるRancho CommunityReformed Churchの長老です。Special educationの教師やITの技術者、商品開発など、多方面に活躍され、しばらく宇都宮で働いていた時代に、仏教徒だったLisa夫人が、福音に触れて回心なさいました。それがきっかけで、高校時代に洗礼を受けたものの、教会からは離れていたJamesも、教会に復帰なさったのです。ですから、日本の教会のことについては特別な関心と祈りをもっておられます。現在、教会ではsmall group leaderやwebmasterとして生き生きと活躍しておられ、地域の教会の集まりでも責任のある役割を果たしておられます。RCA総会で議長に選ばれたのは青天の霹靂だったそうです。でも、神様の呼びかけがあると信じてこの職に就いたと言っておられました。リサ夫人も日系で、教会で活躍しておられますが、Jamesが議長になるころにギラン・バレー症候群にかかられ、車いす生活を余儀なくされています。今回の日本旅行も不自由な中で、お二人で来られました。

 お二人との話し合いの中で、印象的だったことの一つは、彼らの所属しているRancho Community Reformed Churchのことです。10万人ほどの町の中にあって2000名ほどの礼拝参加者が集まる大きな教会ですが、はじめは7家族だけの教会で、ここ20年ほどで大きく成長したというのです。その成長の秘訣は、教会員がそれぞれにキリスト者としてぜひやりたいことがあれば、何でも仲間を集めてやるというところにあるとのことです。そのなかからプライベート・スクールや女性の仕事会があり、ナカキハラさんが始めた若者のためのWeb-siteには4000人のフォロワーがいるとのこと。一人一人に与えられた神様からの賜物を十分に生かすところに生きた教会が生まれ、成長する、当然のことが当然になっている姿を見る思いがします。今回の、親しい信仰の交わりによってRCAの教会が、さらに身近に感じられました。 (秋山徹総幹事)