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

“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

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

The Wheat Field (2021.02)

Allow me to introduce the title of the new bishop’s column, “Mugi-batake (Wheat Field).”  The bimonthly newsletter I had been sending out to everyone of the diocese while I was a student at the Central Theological College was titled “Mugi-batake (Wheat Field).”  (The title had been teased by Bishop Hoyo as “doku-mugi (poisonous wheat).  I appreciate your kind support.

With that aside, at the bishop’s consecration and installation held on October 24 of last year, I gave a greeting in Japanese, English, and Korean.  Each content was different, but I received many questions about what I had said in Korean, so I will introduce an outline below.

“I myself have learned a great deal from the relationship with the Anglican Church of Korea and the ecumenical youths, whom I met about 40 years ago.  The Diocese of Chubu has also concluded a sister-diocese relationship with the Anglican Diocese of Seoul in 1995 and has since supported its deep mutual relationship.  In 1996, the Anglican Church in Japan adopted the ‘Declaration Regarding War Responsibility of the Anglican Church’ during the General Synod, in which it confessed to its crime by admitting the responsibility of supporting and consenting tacitly to the colonial rule and war of aggression.  Afterwards, the Anglican Church in Japan welcomed many priests from the Anglican Church of Korea, who have made significant contributions to missionary activities throughout Japan.  Even in the Diocese of Chubu, Revd. Yoonsic Jung and Revd. Sunhee Kim are putting their hearts into offering pastoral care.  I do hope that Diocese of Chubu Anglican Church in Japan, Anglican Church of Korea, and the ecumenical will be able to further deepen various exchanges.”

Currently, missionary activities and pastoral care are not possible within any of the dioceses of Anglican Church in Japan without the presence of priests from Korea.  However, we would like to, at all times, be aware of the meaning of its realization and history.

The Rt Revd Francis of Assisi Renta Nishihara

“Heading into Something Hesitant”

The words of the opening worship at last Ministers Council was given by Reverend “J.”  At first, Reverend “J” had wanted to be at a church where there was no connection with kindergartens or nursery schools.  Actually, the minister was not sure how to handle kids.  However, the circumstance of the diocese could not avoid granting this minister’s wish, and so it happened that the adjacent kindergarten management be under this minister from a certain point in time.  Naturally, the post of chaplain was also appointed.    

Still feeling reluctant, he began to interact with the children.  Regardless of his thoughts, the children loved him for he was kind and strong.  This all changed him; he came to love children.  After a certain service, it seems that the children came to him and said, “Father, we loved your story today!”  He seemed a little happy when saying, “I don’t hear those words so often at church.”

We, too, sometimes feel reluctant about doing something.  There are times we run away from the cause of it.  However, if one plans to stay there even feeling reluctant, there is an unforeseeable realization and blessing just like Reverend “J.”

Just before the cross, the Lord Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, …Take this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36) We are not saying that Jesus is hesitant of the cross, but it is still a bit of a relief to know that there was some hesitation in Jesus due to its size.  I believe it is because he is Jesus that when we are hesitant, he encourages us that it is safe to move forward.

Preparations are underway for the consecration and installation of The Reverend Dr Renta Nishihara.  He will hold posts concurrently as faculty of Rikkyo University and Central Theological College.  Your understanding and cooperation are needed in order to serve as bishop.  Please pray for Revd. Nishihara.

The Rt Revd Peter Ichiro Shibusawa

The 100-Year History of the Diocese

My sincere congratulations on the publication of “The History of the Diocese of Chubu II: 100th Establishment Anniversary.”  I greatly appreciate the time, effort, passion, and perseverance of all members of the Record Archive Department who took part in the editorial work.   

This publication started being discussed in 2007, as written in the editorial note.  In 1962, there was a publication of the 50th-year issue of “The History of the Diocese,” but taking the opportunity of the centennial of the Diocese in 2012, we felt a need to properly put together our history after our 50th year.  So, the preparation began for the next centennial issue.        

In October 2012, with many participants from within and outside the country, we were able to hold our 100th anniversary service for the establishment of the diocese as well as occasions related to those.  Even if the centennial issue may not be completed in time for the anniversary year, the goal was to keep an accurate record, and editing was proceeded taking time.        

In the editorial note of “The History of the Diocese” says, “In this History, it only tells about the members of the clergy, and nothing is mentioned about the lay people.  This can not be stated as the true history of the diocese.”  “The History of the Diocese of Chubu II” tells not only about the lay people, but also widely depicts the history of the Diocese, churches, and related facilities.  However, the writing was done mainly by the lay people of each church and facility employees.

Speaking from that point of view, if the first was a publication edited mainly by the members of the clergy, the second is a one which was written and edited by the collaboration of the lay people and members of the clergy.  This may be said to be the “true history of the diocese.” 

The book binding is firm, so it will sufficiently endure the many years to come in preserving its condition.  I do hope many people will take a moment to read this publication, and hopefully, it becomes of encouragement and power for missionary work. 

The Rt Revd Peter Ichiro Shibusawa

“Ryujo Women’s College Aiming Higher”

 Ryujo Gakuin (St. Mary’s) marking its 121st year of establishment this year has been approved for a four-year college, “Nagoya Ryujo Women’s College (Department of Child Studies).”  Currently, it consists of St. Mary’s College, Nagoya and three affiliated kindergartens, and this new four-year college will be joining anew.   

The plan for the four-year college started to be taken into consideration two years ago, and through board meetings and councilors meetings, made a formal approval request to the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) last October.  The application had been accepted, and examination was underway.  It was approved through paper works, interviews, and on-site examinations on the aptitude of the college as an organization, detailed examination of the contents of the education, the faculty system, and maintenance of facilities.  I myself also went to MEXT several times for interviews by the college council, and there was also an examination by the committee member at the junior college as well.  I am relieved it was approved and finished smoothly.  

The present-day social needs for child nursing and education have become diversified and complex.  Childcare workers are required to have not only a high degree of specialization, but also a broad, social perspective and a sense of mission as someone who holds the lives of many.  Furthermore, nursing from the point of view of multicultural coexistence is seen as necessary in Aichi Prefecture. 

In order to meet such needs, the existing junior college, on top of nursery teacher trainings, organized a new curriculum and improved the campus environment to address the four-year nursery teacher trainings.  I hope this further heightens the childcare teacher training on top of the existing achievements and experiences at Ryujo.  

Student recruitment will be starting soon.  In order to secure the number of students, the student supporting system is being organized including scholarship enhancements.  I hope the new Ryujo can provide more students the opportunity to learn, and I sincerely ask all people within the diocese for your understanding and support for the further development of Ryujo.

The Rt Revd Peter Ichiro Shibusawa

“Workers are Few”

The other day, I visited the Central Theological College and had an opportunity to meet with the seminarians.  The principal of the College had long hoped to have the bishops from each diocese to interact with the seminarians, and several bishops have been visiting the school until now.  This time they have asked me from the Chubu Diocese.  It had been a while since I last had stepped inside the dorms.  They had changed quite a bit, but I felt very nostalgic.     

Arriving in the late afternoon on the first day, we offered our evening prayers together, ate dinner in the cafeteria with the seminarians, offered our morning prayers on the following day, had breakfast, and then was given about an hour and a half during the morning to talk bout the Diocese of Chubu as well as about myself.   

Currently, there are 5 seminarians enrolled at the Central Theological College.  All are Candidates for the Holy Orders, and four out of the five are women.  Recent seminarians who enter theological schools have gone through various social experiences, and when they are actually sent to a church, I believe those experiences will be extremely useful in the fields of missionary and pastoral care.  What is most important is that they are getting along with each other.   In my days, there were times when seminarians would get into fistfights.   

However, the current 4 seminarians will be graduating or completing their courses next March, and if there is no other enrollment, there will only be one seminarian.  The same goes for The Bishop Williams’ Theological Seminary. 

In the Diocese of Chubu, since Mr. Taro Aihara, a Candidate for the Holy Order, finished Theological College in March, there has been no seminarian (a Candidate for the Holy Order.)  In the next two years, there will be three clergies retiring including myself.  Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  (Matthew 9:37-38) Let us pray so there will be workers who will be sent to us.

The Rt Revd Peter Ichiro Shibusawa

The Order of Transfer

I have once mentioned about this two years ago.  The “Exhibition to Tell about Peace to Children” was held again this year at Gifu Media Cosmos.  The exhibition theme was “Even shrines and temples engulfed in fire:  Shrines, temples, and churches during the Gifu Air Raids” and references regarding the pre-war Gifu Sei Ko Kai building evacuation were also exhibited.   

Actually, John Taro Aihara, a candidate for Holy Orders, found an order for forced evacuation at the time, the Order of Transfer, and the copy of it was displayed at this exhibition.  It is said to be very rare that such and order remains, and it seems that Gifu Shimbun and even persons concerned of Kyoto University are interested.          

Which reminds me, during those days when I was a rector in Gifu, I had heard from Bishop Ogasawara about the forced church evacuation.  Back then, the church in Kanda-machi was forced to leave in preparation for an air raid and evacuated to Mino-ota.  I recall him saying not a penny was paid for the eviction since it was an order from the prefecture.    

The Order of Transfer was in the name of the Governor of Gifu and said, “The building (related to Sei Ko Kai in Gifu) is needed in order to execute the air raid evacuation.  Ought to transfer to Gifu Prefecture.  This is an order under the provisions of the Law of Air Defense.”  It was dated April 25 and said the church was to be transferred by May 5.  It was an order on such a short notice.  Soon after on July 9 the central part of Gifu City was burnt to ashes due to an air raid, and the lives of approximately 900 people were lost.      

When it comes to war, not a single personal situation is taken into account, and everything is sacrificed for “the country.”  The situation probably will not change even with the times.  It has become an era where over 80 percent of the population has not experienced war.  We need to think about the consequences of war to its greatest, and do our best in preventing that from happening.

The Rt Revd Peter Ichiro Shibusawa