So first, my apologies for the long silence on the Messenger front! There are many reasons, and the accumulation of them was simply too much. I’m so sorry!
There is much to report, and then finally, a reflection.
First, the Japanese Convocation met in NYC, and I was your representative to that meeting. The Metropolitan Japanese Ministry hosted us. There were representatives from St Mary’s, Los Angeles, Good Shepherd, Honolulu, the MJM, and SKK. We also had the priest from the Japanese congregation in Vancouver, Canada join us. No one came from St Peter’s, Seattle.
We had a lot of time to talk with each other. One of the things that became very clear was that although we have some similarities, there are significant differences in our situations.
St Mary’s is in a neighborhood that is now predominately Hispanic. While there are still quite a few of the old Japanese-American families attending St Mary’s, almost none of them live in the neighborhood any more, and no one speaks Japanese. There is now a Spanish service in addition to the English service, and it is clear that the direction of St Mary’s is to serve the neighborhood.
St Peter’s seems to have already passed over that threshold. They have not sent anyone to participate in the Japanese Convocation for some years, and on their website, there is no mention of their historic ties to the Japanese community.
Good Shepherd is still a functioning Japanese community church, separate from the white church right down the street. However, financially they are not able to offer very much to a priest. They have raised up a candidate for the priesthood, Malcom Hee, who is co-chair of the Convocation. However, it is not clear that the Bishop will appoint him to Good Shepherd. They currently have a retired priest who supplies on a regular basis.
The MJM is not a church, it is more like an association that worships together. The members of MJM all belong to other churches, and they meet once or twice a month for Bible study and worship. They were having a very difficult time getting clergy to do their services, but then a Korean man who speaks Japanese felt the call to come be their minister. He is in the process to become Episcopalian at this point, if I understood correctly, and then will probably apply to the ordination process.
The priest from Canada is Korean, has lived in Japan most of his life, and speaks both Korean and Japanese. He is new in his position, but is not a new priest. He had lots of questions for us!
What I came away with from this Convocation was a great appreciation for all of the members in their different situations. Everyone seems to be working hard, willing to learn from each other, and willing to ask some difficult questions. It was well worth my time.
The second conference I went to was the Wild Goose Festival. This was continuing education for me. The Festival is billed as a place where liberal Christianity, justice issues and the arts/music come together. This year there was a rather large Episcopal presence, and I knew a lot of people. Several other clergy from Diocal were there. There were a lot of workshops – from early morning until late at night, there were usually 4-8 different workshops each hour to choose from! I learned a lot. One interesting workshop looked at how the difference between how Western and Eastern Christian understandings of sin affected the recovery process for alcoholics.
Since coming back, I have been working on three areas: the Festival, the small basement kitchen and the Soko Bukai joint education program.
The pre-school got a grant from one of their parents to redo the pass-through kitchen area that the school uses. So the director used the grant to get new cabinets and countertops, install a dishwasher and microwave, redo some of the electrical work in order to do those installations, and paint the room. The grant was not quite enough to do all of that, and so the church is helping by paying for the paint. When you come to coffee hour, you now see beautiful new cabinets and countertops, a built-in dishwasher, a built-in microwave and off-white walls that match the cabinets. It is now a very pleasant space.
The Asian Music Festival organization is well underway. You should have gotten your tickets by now. You can also encourage people to go to the website to buy tickets online, if that is easier for them than a check. The performers are all lined up, and the program is in the process of being translated. One thing that I find very exciting is that this really is an “Asian” festival this year. We have people from Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Filipino heritage performing this season. The person that I worked with at the Cathedral for the previous years has retired, so I had to go talk to the new person about what we needed. She said if we got her the program early enough, they would print it for us. That is wonderful, and will help offset the cost of our advertising in both the Nichi Bei weekly and on Tokyo TV. Mary Vargas has been working very hard on getting these and other advertising handled, and thanks also to Kei Nagai for working with Tokyo TV with Mary’s help. Speaking of advertising, please take or make copies of our flyer and hand them out or forward them in your email. We want lots of people to come to the concert, and we also want donations for our project as well. The ReFresh Program that we are supporting helps children that still live in the Fukushima contaminated area go to safe areas during the summer months with their families. While they are at home, they are never allowed to go outside because of the danger. This is psychologically damaging. Giving these children and their families a chance to be in another environment is very helpful to their development.
Education: During July, we went over to Christ Presbyterian (CUPC) after our service to have a joint education program with the Soko Bukai. Pastor Grace led two of the weeks and I led two of the weeks, and then Hiroko Suzuki, the Japanese lay pastor at CUPC, led the Japanese-speaking group during our break-out sessions. We were also joined by members of Pine UMC. Their pastor was in the Philippines during July, so she could not participate. We were well represented each week. During the last session, Pastor Grace asked for feedback, and the Soko Bukai will use that feedback to consider further possibilities of doing things together. For those who do not know, the Soko Bukai meets at least every other month. We check in with each other for mutual support, and we also plan different events that happen throughout the year. The Soko Bukai is composed of CUPC, Pine UMC and SKK.
Reflection: I have been in many different environments over the past few months, and in places where any number of people have asked me about my church. It is easy enough to say that we are a small Japanese-heritage Episcopal church in San Francisco, but then I want to add more description. I want to say that you are a group that has endured, a group that is open to new ideas and concepts, a group that appreciates good music and good food, a group that takes care of its members, and last but not least, that I feel very loved by you. Thank you.
To Chris Webber and John Murphy for covering my absences, and to everyone who is working together on the Festival.
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