Reflections about Life, Love, Light, and Liberty (the 4-Ls) by Leroy Seat.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
The End of a Wonderful Visit
June and I are nearing the end of our last full day in Japan, and I am posting this in the hotel near Tokyo International Airport (Narita) where we are spending the night before boarding the airplane to return to the States tomorrow (Monday) morning.
Today we had an very enjoyable time worshipping and fellowshipping with the pastor and people of the Mejirogaoka Church in Tokyo. That was our first church home in Japan, as we attended there regularly during our years in Tokyo, from the fall of 1966 to early summer in 1968.
We didn’t realize what an historic building we were worshipping in during the time we attended there in the 1960s. (I mostly remember how cold the building was in the winter time.) As I have recently learned, the church was designed by Arata Endo in 1950. Mr. Endo (1889-1951) was a close associate of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Mejirogaoka Church was his final project. (You can read more about him here, and in addition to the picture on the right you can see more pictures of the church building here.)
When we were members at Mejirogaoka, the pastor was Rev. Kiyoki Yuya (1890-1971), an elderly man who came from a samurai family—although a 75-year old person doesn’t seem nearly as old to me now as it did in 1966 when we first met him.
After the close of the feudal era with the Meiji Restoration in 1868, many former samurai became Christians, but Rev. Yuya’s parents were not Christians. He was baptized, though, in 1907, and from 1922-24 he studied at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
After teaching a few years in the theology division of Seinan Gakuin, in 1932 Rev. Yuya became pastor of the Koishikawa Church in Tokyo; in 1944 the church moved and the name was changed to Mejirogaoka. That was a very difficult time during World War II, and the church met mostly in the pastorium until the new church building was finally constructed.
The current pastor of Mejirogaoka Church is Rev. Koichi Koga (b. 1956), who not only took my Introduction to Theology class in the Department of Theology, Seinan Gakuin University, but who during his student days also attended the Fukuoka International Church, about which I wrote in my previous posting.
It has been wonderful to be back in Japan again for these three weeks, and I was most gratified to see the current condition of Seinan Gakuin, as I wrote in my May 15 posting. And I was quite happy to hear about and to see the vitality of some churches, such as the Hirao Baptist Church about which I wrote in my May 20 posting and the Mejirogaoka Church we were at today.
Unfortunately, though, many churches seem to be in stagnation with an aging and declining membership. As with many churches in the United States, many churches here in Japan also seem to have trouble retaining the children who grow up in the church and reaching youth and young adults.
Some Christian critics say that the problem is partly because of the churches being too involved in social/political issues and too complacent about evangelism. There may be some truth to that criticism. Thus, in my message at the seminary chapel service on May 24, I emphasized the need of seeking what in my forthcoming book I call the “radiant center,” a theological position between the one-sidedness of either the conservative (fundamentalist) right or the liberal left.
* Born in Grant City, Mo., on 8/15/1938
* Graduated from Southwest Baptist
College (Bolivar, Mo.) in 1957 (A.A.)
* Graduated from William Jewell College
(Liberty, Mo.) in 1959 (A.B.)
* Graduated from The Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ken.)
in 1962 (B.D., equivalent of M.Div.)
* Received the Doctor of Philosophy
degree in theology from SBTS.
* Baptist missionary to
Japan from 1966 to 2004.
* Full-time faculty member
at Seinan Gakuin University (Fukuoka,
Japan) from 1968 to 2004.
* Chancellor of Seinan Gakuin from 1996 to 2004.
* Adjunct professor at Rockhurst
University 2006 to 2014.
USPS address: 1307 Canterbury Lane, Liberty, MO 64068