Church of England Findings from the Church Growth Research Program

I would like to introduce the “Church of England’s Findings from the Church Growth Research Program 2011-2013,” (hereafter “report”) which was translated through the collaboration of the Diocesan Missionary Council’s Ministry Department and Educational Department in 2017.  The report is titled “From Anecdote to Evidence 1.0,” a good reference in studying the case on growing churches even in Western Europe where there tends to be a decline in Christian churches in general. 

The reason the word “growth” is being used is that the current situation of decline is so rapid that it cannot be helped but to demand for growth.

When speaking about church growth, it is largely divided into numerical and contextual growths.  Since the time of European imperial colonization, churches for a long time have been using the Great Commission from Matthew Chapter 28 and believed numerical growth to be as a high priority value.  Granted, the increase in number has a direct relation to church operation and therefore, difficult to lump together, but alongside numerical growth, contextual growth (glorious life) has been mentioned as a keyword more serious, and internal, holistic, and social growths have come to be valued. 

Especially in England, this report tells about how it has now become an era where churches must come closer to the people who have left traditional churches, and with the young generations and multi-cultural residents.  And with the start of the new era with rapid changes, not churches just waiting and making themselves familiar to the people by saying “welcome,” but churches must listen to the words of the people by stepping outside.  The report tells how Western European churches who had never faced such huge changes with passing of time have overcome those circumstances.    

Of course, this is not saying that growth will be seen in our Japanese churches imitating in such a way.  I would like you to read this from a standpoint of not how to convey Christianity, but how to relate the values of God’s Kingdom.  

Looking at the story of the “Good Samaritan” in the bible, the thinking of the Jews in those days did not include Samarians as neighbors.  (A thinking that will not be broken.) However, repeating questions and answers to “Who is our neighbor?”, it is important to find our new neighbor in this era.  (A thinking that there is not a thinking that can’t be broken.) 

I feel present churches with traditional faith may grow together through the working of aggressively finding their new neighbor.  Of course, there is a certain distance between churches in Japan, where England and Christian culture are not the mainstream, but there are similar points in the circumstances of missionary.  Due to the shift of younger generations, the existing local community is falling apart, and an increase in the elderly population has been greatly proclaimed.  The commonality is the phenomenon that the church itself is losing power of address from the younger people. 

The church missionary work will be targeted not only to the member attendants of the church, but to the whole living area where the church belongs to.  It is important that common awareness is present in the whole body of the congregation.  And, not only the laity securing the religious calmness, but the purpose of the church is for all people of the society to live a glorious life. (To be able to feel God’s Kingdom). 

Please take a moment to read this report in that sense, and have a chat about it.

Revd Ignasio Yoonsic Jung
Sanjo St. Mary’s Church; Nagaoka St. Luke’s Church

“Take care” “I’m back” “Welcome Home”

I moved to Niigata from Nagano at the end of March.  As of April 6, I am unpacking my belongings and settling in here at the rectory in Niigata St. Paul’s Church.  I will be living in Niigata, and have jurisdiction over Sanjo St. Mary’s Church and Nagaoka St. Luke’s Church.  I am also involved as a chaplain to Sei Ko Kai St. Mary’s Children’s Center. 

It has been ten years since I have been in this church in Niigata.  “That’s right.  I used to use this room as an office and there were such and such things placed in this spot;” such memories are coming back to me.  In certain places you can tell that I had been there, and it struck me as a surprise.  I will get to see those from Niigata and am looking forward to it.

We offered a resurrection service on the first Sunday in April in Sanjo, and I offered a sermon on the story about the women who were talking in front of Jesus’ tomb about who is going to roll the big stone.  I talked about the possibility of this story being not just a simple chat but a prayer saying, “Lord, please open the stone door.  Please rise from the grave and lead a life full of freedom as you have taught us and make us be able to live freely as well.”  I relayed a message that it meant that the members of the congregation, who shared hearts in their everyday lifestyle, are working together by praying together.   Everyone must have some kind of problem, so when you hear someone hollering, “please move the stone,” let us be prepared to be able to help each other.

I am planning to go to Nagaoka St. Luke’s Church next Sunday.  I usually keep in touch with Mr. Masaaki Higuchi to talk about the how the congregation is doing, the condition of the rectory, and about the repair of the vestry roof.  I am hoping for a service at Nagaoka where people’s troubles are shared with everyone through the prayers that Nagaoka church people have been giving until now.  

In the gathering room at Sanjo St. Mary’s Church, there is a painting on the wall drawn by one of our congregation members, Ms. Aiko Nishihara.  A young girl is alone sitting in a vast prairie, setting free the birds from its cage.  The girl is sitting in the prairie full of clover not just simple green but with white and pink flowers, and other plants are also drawn in detail.  The expression of the girl in the picture, not only depicts happiness from setting free the birds, but also sadness from parting.  Maybe from the regret of separating from the girl, there are birds on the girl’s shoulder and on her palm.

However, the birds will probably soon fly away into the sky, and farewell with the young girl is inevitable.

The goodbyes I received when I left from Nagano were meant as “see you soon.”  The girl, who is trying to set free the birds must be full of sorrow, on top of wanting to cheer on their setting out on journey.  Upon arriving in Niigata with that in mind, I will say in front of the Niigata congregation who have become my brothers and sisters, “I’m home!”  You can see the top part of the church in the picture, but I feel as though I can hear the “welcome back” voices.