Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Schedule January and February


We join Unitarians and people of good will of all faiths (and none)  in our hopes that the  new year in 2021 will  bring about an end to the pandemic.  

We look forward to happier days of  less restricted movement and unfettered ease in coming together for singing, worship, and live performances, schooling or business, shared meals and human touch.   And we hope that Humankind will be able to re-focus on  other dire problems like  systemic violence,  climate change, and  world-wide suffering (too often based in inequality and unequal access to life's resources).

Even small actions by each of us can bring about  change.


UFT plans to continue to meet thru zoom for the next several months. 

Contact us at Unitarianfellowshipoftokyo@gmail.com if you need the ZOOM link especially if you are not on our list of attendees in December.



Regular Meeting: Sunday January 10   3:00 to 5:00 (Tokyo time) on ZOOM.


Topic: (Discussion) What do you wish you had known when you were 20?


January is typically a time to reflect about the past and to make resolutions (usually soon broken) for the coming year. 

As a twist  look back on your younger self and  what advice now would you give yourself  in your early twenties? Different goals or a different identity and roles? Insights you might pass on to your students, children or grandchildren? 



An INVITATION  For February 6,  

James Hagy, a  member (and past president) of North Shore Unitarian Church in suburban Chicago USA (www.nsuc.org) has sent us  this invite.


We are planning a series of fun, international, informal social gatherings via Zoom , and we would love to have  representatives from UFT join us. 


These programs Across Continents Coffee, are structured as an informal opportunity for members of our congregation to chat and learn more about UU congregations and their friends outside the United States. Our plan is for each session to include our members plus representatives from several UU congregations across Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America. 


We have scheduled one program to match best with your time zone. This program will be held on Saturday, February 6 TOKYO time (Friday night , Chicago time), starting at 11 a.m. your local time. 



Let me ( moderator Peggy Kanada) know and i will send further details. I plan to attend.



Our December UFT meeting had a lively discussion about our various childhood Christmases/Holidays. 

Original  love songs in Spanish  and then familiar carols (for a sing-a-long)  were beautifully performed by Roderigo Leija on guitar aided by his wife Konno Rieko.  Roderigo originally from Mexico came to Japan first in 2008 and is an IT specialist. They have a three year old daughter.


Your moderator,   Peggy Kanada



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo Dec 13 (2020) 3:00-5:00 on ZOOM

 Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo Dec 13 (2020) 3:00-5:00 on ZOOM

Dear friends and members of the Fellowship,
We trust you and loved ones are well.
Let's join together this year (how your moderator wishes it could be in person with refreshments and libations) to talk and think about Christmas and this holiday season.
Regular meeting: 3:00-5:00 Sunday Dec 13 on ZOOM.
Contact us at unitarianfellowshipoftokyo@gmail.com if you did not attend last month or otherwise need the ZOOM link (which we will send out around Dec 12).
Do you know some of the details of the history of Christmas in English speaking cultures?
This year Dec 13 is the third Sunday in Advent--the preparation period of waiting and hope.
What do UU's believe and practice about Christmas?
How do humanist Unitarians (that is many if not most Unitarians) who do not believe in the Trinity or that Jesus was uniquely " God made man" (many U's think he was a special teacher, but would say we are all made with the light of God inside), think about Christmas?
Do you (like some UU's) follow other traditions of the winter season like Jewish Chanukah (or Hanukkah) or Solstice practices? or cleaning house and paying bills (like the Scots and Japanese) for the coming new year?
And for those of us who do not have family and community ties or traditions to bring "holiday happiness" how do we enjoy this season that often brings out the worst material excess and waste (and degrading inequality and misery) in our capitalist postmodern societies? Music may be one answer.
Please if you can --- bring to share a joke or story or memory.
We will have Reiko's husband, Rodrigo Leija, on guitar to provide some music and also lead us in singing a few traditional songs of the season.
Peggy Kanada, moderator of UFT
Here is a link to an upbeat musical animated movie of Dickens's A Christmas Carol。

And an article from the UU World Magazine about how and why Humanists also celebrate Christmas.

Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo Summary of November 2020 meeting

 Continuing with our new custom of chalice lighting Naoko gave a prayer.

At the end of our gathering we left time to talk together about the US election and Biden's win.
Main Topic: If there are no Unitarian requirements of dogma or doctrine "what do Unitarians believe and practice." We briefly touched on the history of Unitarians and our fellowship (founded in 1965).
Chuck Olson shared two videos from the Unitarian Universalist Association (in USA) website. We all liked this animated one especially.
Here are the opening points of our UFT Charter (approved 2016):
I. We are the Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo.
II. In the Unitarian tradition we have no requirements of doctrine or creed. We welcome all English speakers who seek intellectually stimulating presentations (by a broad range of speakers) and interactive discussions on topics about religion, culture, social justice and world peace.
III. We are a small group who share a common search for meaning (or truth) through the free and friendly examination of spiritual, moral and existential aspects of religion, philosophy and cultural traditions. We see ourselves as all on individual paths of inquiry (often including a spiritual search). We stress a commitment to others (and society) whatever our starting point. We encompass a range from secular humanism, Buddhism, to God-centered faith in the traditions of Judaism and Christianity (and of many Unitarians from the 15th century until today). We respect each person who comes to Fellowship and extend hospitality and friendship to all. We encourage civil and constructive engagement at our meetings. We will ask anyone who exhibits disrespectful or dangerous behavior to leave.
Unitarian Universalist congregations in North America affirm and promote seven Principles, which UFT shares, and we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as our Christian and Jewish traditions and scriptures, teachings of other Faiths, as well as science, poetry, and personal experience. (For more information see the website uua.org.)
(from UUA site) As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
From UU American friends i hear there is talk to add one more principle to reaffirm the worth and dignity of all people in light of rethinking white supremacy and the movement that Black Lives Matter.
Your moderator, Peggy Kanada

Summary of Paul McCarthy’s talk (ZOOM) at UFT on Oct. 11 2020

Summary of Paul McCarthy's talk

(Paul is a frequent visitor to our group. In addition to many years of teaching English Literature in Japan, he is a translator of Japanese Literature. He has also translated works by Atsushi Nakajima, Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, and Ryotaro Shiba. Paul McCarthy | Translators | Japanese Literature Publishing Project:JLPP

Paul talked about his spiritual journey with a big focus on his childhood and youth ( in Minnesota) and his experiences growing up as a devout Roman Catholic. He talked about Catholic devotion and articles of faith including the sacraments and transubstantiation. He spoke about sin which requires repentance, oral confession to and absolution by a priest, and the performance of a set penance. We heard about the power of prayer and the role of rosaries (prayer beads).

He talked about purgatory --a temporary middle state between heaven and hell for souls after death from which one may eventually enter heaven. He felt there was little chance of his going directly to heaven but believed that like most repentant Catholics he would eventually enter heaven after time in purgatory . From childhood he was taught to fear damnation in hell (the end for most non believers and unrepentant sinners). Catholic beliefs in purgatory resulted in prayers for the dead becoming important and efficacious for those loved ones caught in the in-between state.

We heard about the impact on his life of his pious father and home, strict Catholic school and regular church attendance where he sang in the choir and served as an acolyte. He found the rules or rhythm of Catholic practices and rituals a tremendously powerful and satisfying kind of devotion.
This was Catholicism before the reforms agreed during the discussions (1962-8) of Vatican II. These reforms included more openness to other religions or at least Christians, vernacular not Latin mass, priests facing the congregation, lay people receiving the consecrated wine as well as the host (consecrated bread). and fewer rules for daily living

He said he left the Catholic Church (and has never really returned) in college during the tumult and protests of the Vietnam war. After experiencing Soto-shu Zen and Pure Land Buddhism for more than a decade, he found a home if not a denominational label, in Anglican(called Episcopal in USA) congregations. First while teaching at the universities of Kansas and Minnesota, and then later in Japan, at Rikkyo (Anglican founded) and until retirement at Surugadai University, in Saitama. He has ended up for many years at St Alban’s parish, Shibakoen, where he supports the parish by paying annual pledges (a kind of promised dues)) and serves on various projects, but has not officially been received into the Anglican communion. He adds that he has never been in a group of any faith that he values more than St. Alban’s.

Asked what he seeks in religion in conclusion he said, fellowship, peace of mind, and encouragement to do good works of social engagement. He encouraged us to investigate the “Deeper Service Group” (at St Alban’s) where he volunteers to befriend detainees in prisons waiting for visa/refugee status approval after breaking visa regulations.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020


Dear All,


Please join us for Paul McCarthy speaking on his "Personal Spiritual Journey of a Lifetime".


Please RSVP  if you did not attend last month and want the LINK for this meeting (to be sent out a few days before Oct 11).


Your moderator, Peggy Kanada

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Sept 13 Sunday Zoom Meeting Time 1 p.m. Bonnie McClure


[Subject: Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo Sept 13 CHANGED TIME start at  1:00]


Dear members and friends of the Fellowship,


Our speaker for Sunday September 13, 2020 is joining us on ZOOM from California and has requested an earlier start of 13:00 (that is 1:00 Tokyo time). 

We plan to meet 1:00 to 3:30 on ZOOM. 

With extended time for discussion and friendly sharing.


All are welcome to join us-- please send   a request for the ZOOM link which will be  sent out a few days before September 13.


Bonnie McClure--  Japanese Medieval Linked Verse: Renga  anthologies for the modern reader.

This month is a cultural topic steeped in Japanese history: renga, or long linked sequences of short verses that were typically composed by multiple poets at all-day parties of the noble and warrior elites. Renga as a poetic form flourished in the 14th through 16th centuries (the Nanbokuchō and Muromachi periods). Navigating these sequences can be quite difficult for the modern reader (let alone anyone translating them into English), as they are built around many now-obscure conventions and allusions. But there were also anthologies of renga anthologies, which collected particularly skillful examples of individual renga links, categorized by topic. Reading these anthologies (in English translation) is an easy way for us to enjoy renga as a modern reader, and to see the best of the fun twists and turns that skillful poets liked to use. Renga give us an entry into a very different world but one with concerns and emotions that are often remarkable resonant for contemporary readers.

Bonnie McClure has been a  Fellowship member at various times, and has spoken to us before. A native of Georgia, she is a fine pianist.  She worked in Kanagawa  and then  studied Japanese literature  at the University of Washington, coming back to  Aoyama Gakuin for graduate work , and is now in the Ph.d program at UC Berkeley. 


I trust you and all your loved ones are well in this time of the Covid19 pandemic and the extreme heat and rains this summer.


Your moderator,

Peggy Kanada

Friday, June 12, 2020

Dear members and friends of the Fellowship,

 We trust you have been well, but especially those of us who are older (or with health problems/susceptible family members )  will be very cautious about resuming travel and meetings even though Tokyo is loosening restrictions and schools have resumed here in Shinjuku and Minato-ku.
UFT on  Sunday June 14 (3:00 to 5:00) will meet online with a Zoom meeting.
Please contact Peggy Kanada or Chuck Olson or Jeffrey Bruce for Zoom details

June Speaker:   Dominick Scarangello (scholar and translator of Buddhist texts and commentaries) 
 Topic: Ontaki Mountain Religion: the largest Japanese religious movement you may not have heard much about.

Mt. Ontaki is a volcanic peak  in the Alps of Nagano (about 5 hours from Tokyo by  road or train thru Yamanashi into Nagano and beyond Matsumoto). It  is the center of a religious movement or cult (御嶽信仰)  where tens of thousands of men and women still make annual pilgrimages every summer  in groups or confraternities mostly from central Japan (Shizuoka,  Aichi, Gifu, Nagano prefectures). On any summer day while traveling on the Chuo expressway you might see tourist buses full of people wearing white ceremonial religious clothes.
As Dominick writes it is interesting to explore  its inception and development from the mid-Edo period because Ontake illustrates  changes in the faith and practices  of ordinary people over the past several hundred years of modernization, while showing  how shamanistic traditions of Japanese religion are  still alive in the 21st century.
Dominick Scarangello has joined us at Fellowship and spoken to us before.
He obtained his PhD from the University of Virginia in 2012. His interests include Lotus Sutra Buddhism in East Asia, Japanese religions, and religion and modernity. Dr. Scarangello has taught at the University of Virginia and was the Postdoctoral Scholar in Japanese Buddhism at the University of California, Berkeley (2013-14). Presently, he is the International Advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai and coordinator of the International Lotus Sutra Seminar. 
Our member Jeffrey (Jeff) Bruce (Prof.at  Aoyama Univ) spoke last month (May)  about  Greek Mythology and its continuing influences in our modern world. There were several interesting discussion questions.
Sadly we failed to record most of the afternoon to send out to those who requested it.  We will try again to record in June!
Jeff told us how the Greeks gave the world a religion like no others that came before or came later.  For the Greeks, the gods were entirely human in their appearance and behavior in both good and bad ways.  They had every fault and every attribute of humans.  They lived in generations and fought with their parents.  They married and were either faithful or had affairs as their hearts and minds led them.  They were more powerful than humans, but not better.
Through three myths, we learned of the ways of the gods.  Persephone was carried off by Hades to the underworld and thus triggered endless cold and crop failure when Demeter became distraught.  The settlement through Zeus between Demeter and Hades gave us the seasons.  Echo and Narcissus showed us hopeless love and self-absorbed rejection.  The judgment of Paris was the background to the Trojan War when goddesses offered favors in a struggle of three rivals.  The Greeks favored complex stories without any clear position of good or evil.  Each god and each human could show both and as the stories unfolded a variety of lessons could be learned.

Peggy Kanada, moderator

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