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)