Reverend Hollis Hamilton Corey, who contributed deeply to the founding of Okaya St. Barnaba’s Church, was originally from Quebec, Canada, and worked in the continental region of Labrador in the northeastern area of Canada before coming to Japan.  This area has a harsh climate being close to the Arctic Circle, but Reverend Corey provided pastoral care over a wide region even under harsh conditions using dog sledding and other means.  Through a letter, Reverend Corey had reported his situation to the bishop, and in the past diocesan bulletin of the Diocese of Quebec contains detailed situations of his work.

 In April 1919, just before coming to Japan, spring had arrived about half a month earlier than usual, and there was no knowing when it would become possible to travel on sled.  He had been apart from his family since he had left home at the end of January.  Such hardships of a missionary lifestyle can be seen.  He and his family had come from such a place for mission in Japan which would accompany further difficulties.

 After arriving in Japan, Reverend Corey and his family first lived in Gifu and then in Nagoya, but not being able to tolerate the climate change, their older child suffered a serious illness.  The child was in critical condition for a time, but fortunately survived though left with a severe brain damage.  At the same time, their younger child also had fallen ill, but preoccupied by the care of their older child, they failed to notice and the younger child passed away at the age of seven.  The reason why Priest Kori was assigned to Okaya via Takada and Matsumoto was partly because of the relocation treatment of his older child. He was able to build the church in Okaya at the cost of such a sacrifice.

 Reverend Corey’s wife, Constance, is the sister of a priest colleague Reverend Spencer, but one of the family morals of the Spencer family was devoting themselves to overseas missions, and his sister Florence also came to Japan as a missionary, and the three members of the family took up work together in the Diocese of Chubu.  Reverend Spencer stayed in Japan until the year of the return of foreign missionaries in 1941 and worked for 27 years, but he fell sick and passed away the year after his return at the age of 55.

 I would like to remind you of the history that the church in Okaya and the Diocese of Chubu were built by the desperate work of the missionaries.  And, I also come to wonder how people in the future will read as historical records of our activities during the COVID-19 which started last year. 

 In an unprecedented situation, I have been working hard, but when I think about the work of these missionaries, I cannot but think that my work has not been enough.  I have to admit that I lacked in seriousness and diligence.

 When church service had to be suspended, when travel was not possible from Tokyo and giving worship ceremony or sermon through the internet, when only Distribution of the Communion was not possible even during the Holy Eucharist.  Honestly, there was a kind of emptiness and feeling of loneliness.  Now that church situation is returning to how it used to be, I have come to realize the greatness of what had been lost. 

 Paradoxically, it seems as if the church may have offered this emptiness and loneliness to us for the past year and a half.  There may be what we call our “desperation” in this age and time.  I would like to share this with you all without having to hide it from anyone.    

Revd David Shintaro Ichihara
Okaya St. Barnaba’s Church
(seconded to Diocese of Tokyo)

Asking for Gender Identity is a Violation of Human Rights

On April 18th of this year, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare announced a resume “format example” that no longer requires gender indication, and the specification of gender is optional. 

Gender indication leads to gender discrimination by potential employers, and it has been a subject of discussion that has finally reached to the point where it will be optional. 

Globally, it is generally recognized that the act itself of inquiring, to prevent discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, age, and appearance, is a violation of human rights and an illegal act.

The thought that there is no problem in leaving the gender indication if specification is optional is very Japanese.  This can be seen in “The Global Gender Gap Report 2021” released this March which shows the gender gap index that measures differences in men and women, ranking Japan 120th, the lowest level among developed countries.  However, it goes without saying that the gender column itself should have been eliminated, for the act of inquiring is a violation of human rights.  It is clear that discrimination will not end if the gender column remains, even if indication is optional. 

In July 2020, the “JIS format example” with a conventional gender column “male/female,” which needed to have either one circled, was deleted.  The understanding that the male/female gender inquiry itself is the problem has been spreading gradually, but in order to generalize the understanding that the inquiry itself is the problem, the gender column should had been deleted from the “format example.”  Let’s just hope that the remaining “optional gender column” will not continue to be used to justify the violation of human rights.

In this way, it may be a general recognition in Japan that “if there is not a recognition of discrimination, then it’s not discrimination.”  However, such thoughts show our low awareness of human rights.  

Gender columns have been present on various Anglican application forms for some time.  The overwhelming majority of such inquiries based on gender dichotomy as “male/female” has been pointed out that such is not suitable for a comprehensive formation of church.  However, even though gender mentioning has been deleted from statistical reports and the necessity to inquire on gender has lessened, church worship attendance register still separates male and female, even on visitor attendance forms.  The fact that there are gender columns that ask to check either male or female indicate that our church is not an “open church.”   

Inquiring about gender on an event application form may be for room assignments for lodging or some type of insurance.  In Japan, insurance contracts such as life insurance and chronic illness insurance have different insurance premiums and coverage depending on gender, but there is no need for gender inquiry for recreation insurance. 

As a first step aiming toward an open, comprehensive church where everyone can feel at ease, why not consider dropping gender inquiries?

Revd Ambrosia Kaori Goto
Nagoya St. Mark’s Church
Aichi St. Luke’s Church

Prayer and Support a Hundred Years Ago and the Struggle of Ministry

It was during the visit the other day to Takada Advent Church.  I noticed there was a small picture frame of an old document hanging on the wall inside the vestry.   It was dated December 4, 1910, and it read that a third of the startup costs for “Nippon Sei Ko Kai Takada Outstation” was a donation by will from a devoted female minister of St. George’s Church of Toronto, Canada and the rest was from the theological students of Trinity College in the University of Toronto.  

It was this church in Takada that Revd. Hollis Hamilton Corey, who came to Japan in 1919 and later founded Okaya St. Barnaba’s Church, was first dispatched in Japan.  When researching the General Synod Archives of the Anglican Church of Canada, I found a handwritten letter from Revd. Corey to the then Bishop Hamilton, which said:

“Takada, Monday, February 6, 1922.  To my dear Bishop.  I thank you for your kind letter from the bottom of my heart.  I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Mrs. Hamilton for sending me the genuine Canadian cheese.  It was if I could hear the sound of my nostalgic hometown.  Until now, we have been able to live on our salary, debt-free.  However, our monthly salary has always been running out 10 days before our next salary since we have been here.  For instance, we have not been able to buy any clothes since we came here.”  

In this letter is addressed the wholehearted attitude of the missionaries taking on the mission given to each in an unfamiliar land with a never-rich life.  I would like to keep in mind that we are here now because of the prayers and support of everyone from the Anglican Church of Canada one hundred years ago, and the “struggles” of these missionaries.   

The Rt Revd Francis of Assisi Renta Nishihara

Blessing of Praying for Each Other

There must be many who are at a loss from the weariness of self-restraint due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.  Since last year, we have been tossed about by the unknown virus called COVID-19, and churches within the Diocese of Chubu have been repeating suspension and resumption of their public worships following the judgment standard declared by the national and local government.  Despite wondering if this was the right decision and with much pain in our hearts, we took thorough preventive measures by limiting the number of people, listening hymns only to the sound of the organ, and live streaming to somehow keep our worship and religious life.  Unfortunately, this unstable condition will most likely continue for another few years and we may become despondent, but we hope to keep moving forward without losing hope and believing there are God’s will and blessings that are beyond human understanding.

The other day, it suddenly hit me looking at my colleague who was worrying “if there was somehow a way to at least put subtitles in the church live streaming” for the hearing impaired.  I strongly realized that, as the necessity of creating a good internet environment at church becomes unavoidable similar to society, we had solely been preoccupied by its convenience and the necessity of spreading it, and the most important attitude of giving consideration to those who are unable to deal with the situation due to various reasons was insufficient.  Many people have no choice but to give up even if they want to participate in the live streaming or refrain from worship because of their age or underlying illness even if church worship resumes.  It is essential to improve the internet environment for post-pandemic mission, but I feel it is more important to thoughtfully respond to those who are confused by the sudden changes.

According to the Gospel of Mark, finishing his ministry in Galilee, Jesus along with his disciples headed to Jerusalem where the crowd became larger as the days went by.  In the final phase of the journey, as they were setting off from Jericho onto Jerusalem, a blind man, Bartimaeus, shouted “have mercy on me!”  As the people rebuked the man, Jesus was the only one who stopped, and he demonstrated his work of healing.  (Mark 10:46~)  As described, Jesus was a person who put the presence of one single person before his own accomplishment.  He treasured the presence of the individual, especially the socially vulnerable, and tried to walk together with those who were suffering and grieving.

I have been attending various meetings lately and feel that negative opinions tend to dominate due to the uncertainty of the future.  It has been pointed out that the call for “physical (social) distancing” has led to disconnection between people and promotes separation and disparity.  However, because it is a time of anxiety, we must not forget that we have been given the blessing and the power from God to pray for each other.  By thinking about the presence of each person whom we have not been able to see in person for a while and praying more than ever, we will be encouraged to form a deeper and richer community.  For that, I feel that the church is willing to continue asking what they can do specifically.

Revd Timothy Hirozumi Doi

“I Want to be an Absolute Doting Parent on This Matter.”

Below is an article written by Junya Tsuzuku, the Mayor of Hida City, for the Gifu Shimbun dated February 11, 2018. 

“My second son has autism with the highest level of severity.  He is a seventh-grader at a special education school and is receiving help from many supporters.  We found out about his disorder when he was two years old.  Signs of delayed language skills were seen, and in sheer anxiety, we visited a doctor, and he was diagnosed with autism.  Although he still faces many difficulties, he’s a dear child.” “As I was looking at him every day to find his good points, I happened to notice that I was doing the same thing with my co-workers in the office and started managing an organization which develops its strengths.  I grew aware of the socially vulnerable, not only the disabled children, but the sick, the financially difficult people, and single-parent families, and felt strongly in wanting to help those in difficult circumstances.  Around this time as a prefectural official, I had my wish come true and was able to work for the disabled children and people’s support.  I devoted myself to the work supporting the severely mentally and physically disabled from a medical aspect. 

“Even now as I have become mayor, the support for the socially vulnerable is the highest priority of the city administration.  Working in these fields is for my own child, to be honest.  If a public servant like myself could provide sufficient support, many people will be saved.  It is my son who made me accomplish this, and it means he is the one who did the good in the world.  I want to be an absolute doting parent on this matter.”

Certainly, the words Lord Jesus Christ heard from Heaven when baptized by John on Jordan River was “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well please.”  Luke 3:22) Jesus Christ also loved each and every one of us as “dearly beloved son.”  With this love, we are asked to love our neighbors conditionally as if we are absolute doting parents. 

The Rt Revd Francis of Assisi Renta Nishihara

This Cross is Heavy, but…

The Gospels tell us about the many people who met Jesus.  Among them was Simon of Cyrene, who just happened to meet Jesus.  “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24) Simon of Cyrene carried this cross on his back and became the first person to obey Jesus.  But it was not the case where he himself took the initiative in doing so. 

To Simon, Jesus had nothing to do with him, and in common with other people, Simon had just come to see Jesus the prisoner.  Jesus just happened to stumble and fall in front of Simon.  The angry voice of the Roman soldier was directed toward Simon, “Hey you, carry this cross on your back.” “What an unlucky man I am. Of all things, I have to carry the cross of a man who is going to be executed.” (Just imagining)

The other day, the third “state of emergency” was issued in Aichi Prefecture.  In our daily lives, there may be times when things go smooth and accordingly, but the global spread of COVID-19 and the more contagious mutant strains which cause severity, have brought to us an unprecedented situation that had never been imagined.  There are some cities and even people who have had to endure the extension of the declaration since the beginning of the year.  It is a painful, frustrating everyday life that we must endure.  Those who are experiencing anxiety and fear, leaving no room to even think about what is so painful; those receiving medical treatment, and those who cannot receive medical treatment; those who have passed away; family members and friends who are mourning and regretting; those working hard in treatment and nursing; those who have been exposed to discrimination and prejudice; I pray that the situation come to an end as soon as possible, and may we find hope and joy in overcoming it.

Legend has it that Simon was later counted as one of Jesus’ seventy disciples, and it was of his own free will to be martyred for Jesus.  He was forced to carry the cross, and for that reason, he mentioned the scene of Jesus’ death on the hill of Golgotha, and was led to encounter with the resurrected Jesus.  Upon his own initiative he carried the cross this time, and overcoming hardships, he was able to walk the road to glory. 

During Paul’s evangelism, there was a series of unfavorable situations such as persecution and imprisonment.  However, every time he encountered situations which he did not hope for or were the exact opposite of what he had wanted, the gratitude and praise to God empowered him. 

We were not only the successors to this faith that Paul had passed on, but also tellers and witnesses.  Paul’s conviction is also our conviction.  In this difficult time, let us unite our thoughts, strengths, and prayers with all people throughout the world, regardless of nationality or faith, in order to overcome and put an end to this. May each of us be made to live within the grace of God and be strengthened as those who live within this grace.

Revd Eliezer Shiro Nakao
Ichinomiya Holy Light Church

A New Theology in the COVID-19 Era

I participated as a panelist in an online streaming event, “Theology + Education 2.0 in the Corona Era,” hosted by Kirisuto Shimbun, Co. Ltd., on March 20th, along with my valued friends Professor Katsuhiro Kohara of Doshisha University and Professor Motoo Nakamichi of Kwansei Gakuin University.  Each panelist discussed about the current state of the university they serve on, and going beyond discussing the alternative of online or on-campus learning, we talked about the way of life in “post-COVID” Christianity, schools, and churches.  Prof. Kohara and Prof. Nakamichi made me aware of various discoveries.

Prof. Nakamichi pointed out that “Online learning has made us question the meaning of gathering at church and the essentials of church services, and at the same time, priests who had been busy until now, were able to set aside more time for learning with the congregants.  Perhaps it might have led to ministry opportunity for those who have difficulty in going to church on Sundays due to work.”  Prof. Kohara states, “Worships are not just about listening to sermons, but a place to reconfirm that the church is the body of Christ and that everyone is connected to the body of Christ.  When thinking about this, we need to wonder if the online system is enough.  We purposely give up our freedom and gather at church every week.  We must continually show that in inconvenient churches are things not available out in the world.” 

From an Anglican point of view, I had the privilege of introducing the pastoral practice of Bishop Makoto Uematsu of the Diocese of Hokkaido.  I stressed the importance of having that specific connection through a respectful, one-on-one, face-to-face communion. 

For all of us having experienced the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we came in accordance with the fact that it is the missionary and social responsibility of the church as to how we are going to relate new theology in socially applicable terms. 

The Rt Revd Francis of Assisi Renta Nishihara

The Wheat Field (2021.04)

I am grateful for being able to visit each church within the diocese as a bishop.  During Advent, I was given an opportunity to visit Ichinomiya Holy Light Church for the first time in 30 years.  Currently, the new chapel under construction, but we were able to hold our last Holy Eucharist with the bishop’s ceremony at the old chapel with the congregation. 

Before the service, I had found a slightly rusty dinosaur object placed in the shrubbery in front of the church.  When I asked a parishioner about it, I was told it was a graduation work made by Mami Kataoka, the daughter of Reverend Ken Kikuta who had pastored for quite some years, and someone I had known since I had worked as a chief staff at Nagoya Youth Center.

Mami is now a world-class curator, and currently works as the Director of Mori Art Museum in Roppongi, Tokyo and President of International Committee for Museum and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM).  Just the other day, I had visited the special exhibition at Mori Art Museum under the direct guidance of Director Kataoka.  A full-page interview article was published in the evening edition of Asahi Shimbun dated January 5, but what I was impressed about from the article was that “her name ‘Mami (meaning truth) is derived from a passage in the New Testament.” 

At the end of last year, it was announced that Mami has been appointed as the Artistic Director of “Aichi 2022” (formerly Aichi Triennale), an international festival to be held in 2022.  At a press conference, she emphasized the importance of confronting the current issues to shed light on the history of various mankind not only of the future but of the past, the novel coronavirus, and discrimination and inequality against racial, gender and ethnic differences, and further went on to say that “to live is to continue learning.  It is to meet the unknown world, diverse values, and the overwhelming beauty.”

I believe this is surely her “prayer.”  Here it is, a message that should be sent out from us the church.

The Rt Revd Francis of Assisi Renta Nishihara

“I’ll Come Again!”

Together with the work of church, there is also work at the kindergarten.  “Good morning!,”

“Long time no see, dad,” and “Thank you mom for coming to pick up your child up,” are scenes of children when arriving and leaving from the kindergarten.  We enjoy the chatting with family members and do our best to be at the gate as often as possible.  Among them are families who come to pick up their children a little late.  These are within ten minutes, and children call this a “chat time with the principal!” and it has become the usual pattern for the two of us to sit on the bench and chat.  The topic of the chat is based on what we like; one day will be on the kind of animals; another day will be on food, TV programs or movies, and so on.  Then we expand on our conversation from there.

Then one day, the child said to me, “I’m so anxious.”  And said the same thing for consecutive days.  So, I asked the child, “Why are you anxious?” and the child answered, “Because mom is coming to pick me up soon.”  The child feels this way because the child believes the mother is coming no matter how late it will be.  Even if the child has to wait by oneself, I feel the reason the child can keep waiting with a smile is because one believes the mother will come.  It has become standard and widespread that people have mobile phones and smartphones.  Even if we are meeting, it is now a time where we do not have to be definite about the meeting place and time.  It was never this way before.  We needed to check the meeting place and time beforehand, and if we still could not meet up, we either gave up or there was a message board at the station.  The content of the messages on these boards were often funny.  It also said that these messages would be erased as time passes.  In this way, just taking the case of meeting up shows a drastic change with the times.  However, the only change is just the way of meeting up, and the feeling of wanting to meet probably has not changed with the times.    

There is a season of waiting within the church year as well.  Not only Christmas, but Easter also awaits Jesus to come.  And we continue to wait for Jesus to come to this world again.  With what kind of feeling do we wait?  I wonder if we would be waiting anxiously just like this boy, or somehow just waiting?  When I was in elementary school, I remember being nervous and restless at home alone because my parents would come home late.  As I got older and in cases where I had to stay home alone, there were times when I would go to sleep early thinking that my parents would be home soon or at least in the morning.  I would fall asleep trying to escape from anxiety.  I feel that this child has taught me once again the joy of waiting.  I was also taught to believe in being able to meet.

Then, the child waves one’s hand when leaving and say, “See you” and would hop into the car with mom.  Believing we would see each other again tomorrow morning, I wave back saying “Come again.”  I cannot help smiling.  I would like to be a person, who is able to say “Come again” to Jesus and continue to wait anxiously.

Revd. Francis Kazuaki Enatsu
Ueda St. Michael and All Angels’ Church