Dear members and friends of the Fellowship,
On October 11 the Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo celebrated its 50th year of holding meetings (now once a month) in English with speakers, discussions and cultural events in the Unitarian tradition of inquiry, friendship and concern for social justice and world peace.
We had 30 people sign the guest book with Doreen Simmons our oldest member present and Gamini Chadrasebera (inter-faith proponent visiting from Colombo, Sri Lanka) as the participant who had come the farthest.
After opening remarks by the moderator Peggy Kanada, we enjoyed two pieces played wonderfully by the young cellist Chris Gibson.
The Rev. Yoshinaga Kazumasa, of the International Buddhist Congregation ( Rissho Koseikai) offered the opening invocation prayers, and daimoku blessing in the Buddhist Lotus Sutra tradition.
We followed with remarks about the life of Betty Parker (who had just died in July 2015). She with her husband Bill had supported the fellowship for decades. While passing around photos we shared memories including of our moderators: microbiologist Mary Louise Robbins (left in 2002) and William Parker (chair for a second time 2003-8) as well as long time contributors like Chuck Roberts (d. 2013), We observed in memorial a moment of silence.
The Rev. Gene Reeves (Unitarian minister/teacher and former dean of Meadville-Lombard Divinity School at U of Chicago, long time participant in the Fellowship, as well as scholar and translator of the Lotus Sutra and one of the founders of IBC) spoke about the history of the Fellowship.
He talked about the fellowship's first chairperson, Kenneth S. Woodroofe (1909-1993), whose memorial service he helped to lead at Ikkoen, Kyoto. He mentioned about the ties of the fellowship to the few active Japanese Unitarians (now gone) like "Free Religion" Imaoka Shinichi (d.1988) and Universalists like Chiyozaki-sensei (d.2003) and the Dojin (Universalist) churches, at Meijirodai (where the fellowship met for a couple of years while Int House was rebuilding) and Kitazawa.
The MC added Robert Manley's story of meeting his wife to be Yoko at his first Fellowship meeting back in 1975 (they were unable to attend from Yokohama).
She also related some of the information that the Rev. Nezu Masuo recently had written to us-- about his early memories of the fellowship and ties of the founder of Rissho Koseikai, Niwano Nikkyo, with Unitarians like American U Association leader Dana Greeley dating back to the 1970's and 80's.
These connections of inter-faith cooperation and friendship continue to enrich our fellowship to this day--and RK members joined us for the anniversary, including several who had studied under Unitarian programs in the States.
While we did not have time to dwell on the biography of our first recorded chairperson (from1968), Woodroofe, we offered on this occasion reprinted copies of his small book of essays "What is Religion About?" (also now available on our web site) which includes short accounts of him in the preface and afterword.
His motto, "Live, love,learn and laugh."
Doreen Simmons, Stan Yukevich and Chuck Olson spoke briefly about their participation in the fellowship.
Flowers were presented to thank the moderator who had (almost) no words for the surprise honor.
After some thoughts elegantly presented by Paul McCarthy we heard from several speakers at recent meetings with a social action focus.
This included Tom Eskildsen on JummaNet and his work for often persecuted tribal or minority peoples in Bangladesh/Burma and Kathy Matsui on NARPI's successful reconciliation and peace workshops this summer in Mongolia and plans for next summer in Taiwan.
Pauline Reich spoke about finding in Tokyo only our fellowship as a community to support her beliefs and activities as a progressive, feminist Jew and included memories about when she lived in NYC and knew Unitarians and Buddhists working to help refugees.
Finally, the Rev. Suzuki Katsuji talked about suddenly seeing a golden carp leap in the pond near the Koseikai Great Temple this morning on his way to our gathering. He took it as a sign of congratulations and encouragement (perhaps from Kannon Bosatsu) to our Unitarian Fellowship.
He urged us to continue to work for issues especially nuclear disarmament and led us in a prayer for world peace.
In closing, Father William Bulson from nearby St. Alban's Anglican church with little preamble gave us the Lord's Prayer, which resonated for many of us with an unexpected modernity by echoing our themes of social engagement, forgiveness, and gratitude in our individual searches for spirituality.
We all made a contribution to the event, but Takamatsu Yasuyo and your moderator made larger donations to the Anniversary fund.
Everyone is welcome to donate even now something extra, especially towards the book reprinting costs and future programs.
Peggy Kanada, moderator