On January 26, the Spring Grand Service commemorating the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, when Oyasama withdrew from physical life in order to hasten the spiritual growth of humankind, Her children, was performed in the Main Sanctuary of Church Headquarters with the Shinbashira presiding as chief officiant.
Roughly 65,000 Yoboku and followers from Japan and overseas attended the Service, filling up the four worship halls surrounding Jiba for the Kanrodai, the Corridor, and the 4,200 benches placed in the Inner Courtyard and other parts of the precincts. Many from overseas could be seen wearing headphones to listen to the Shinbashira’s prayer and sermon through simultaneous interpretation, as well as to a running commentary provided in English.
Prior to the start of the Service, the Shinbashira, his wife, and Successor-Designate Daisuke Nakayama served Oyasama Her lunch at the Foundress’ Sanctuary. At the appointed time, 11:30 a.m., the Shinbashira and the other Service performers proceeded to the Main Sanctuary after having paid their respects at the Foundress’ Sanctuary and the Memorial Hall.
The Shinbashira then ascended the upper dais, where he delivered the Service prayer. After expressing his gratitude to God the Parent for laying the path of single-hearted salvation and for continuing to lead us to the Joyous Life through Oyasama, the Shrine of God, he said: “We Service performers as well as church head ministers and Yoboku are firmly determined to listen to Your voice embodied in the occurrences we encounter as we carry out various tasks related to the work of the path, to give the highest priority to making repayment for Your blessings, and to exert our utmost sincerity in single-heartedly following the path of the Divine Model to the Joyous Life. We are also determined to take the initiative to make further progress in our own spiritual growth and, thereby, nurture the younger generation who will carry the path forward in the future.”
The prayer was followed by the joyous performance of the Kagura Service and the Dance with Hand Movements.
The occasion was blessed with a clear blue sky, and the temperature, which was -3°C (26.6°F) at 7 a.m., reached a high of nearly 8°C (46.4°F). The plum trees beginning to bloom in front of the Foundress’ Sanctuary shone in the mild sunshine as followers spiritedly sang the songs for the Service with their minds united as one.
The Service, which concluded about 10 minutes before 2:00 p.m.—the hour Oyasama withdrew from physical life—was followed by the Shinbashira’s sermon. When the daily musical siren sounded to mark the hour of Her withdrawal, he paused to offer prayer in the direction of the Foundress’ Sanctuary. In his sermon, he encouraged all followers to establish the firm conviction of faith that is single-hearted with God and convey it to others as well as to work together to ensure that our churches can fulfill their roles.
Looking back on the situation surrounding the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the Shinbashira explained that Oyasama strongly urged the performance of the Service even by pressing the followers through Her own severe physical condition, which eventually resulted in Her withdrawal from physical life, while giving instructions concerning the basis of pondering that should be maintained through what was to be many years of using expediency to conform to the law.
He then touched upon the knot of the First Anniversary of Oyasama and the effort of the followers to establish Church Headquarters.
The Shinbashira went on to say: “The great difficulties endured over many years culminating in those events that took place around the time Oyasama withdrew from physical life should not merely be regarded as unfortunate past occurrences that highlight how fortunate we are today to enjoy freedom without much constraint. Since we are able to follow the path exactly as taught by Oyasama, we should make all the more effort to establish the firm conviction of faith that is single-hearted with God, share it in wider and wider circles, and convey it to the next generation, so that the path will continue through endless generations.”
Regarding the mission of Tenrikyo churches, the Shinbashira pointed out: “The mission of our churches is to work for world salvation so as to realize the Joyous Life World. This is the reason why our churches are seen as training centers for single-hearted salvation and are expected to set a good example of the Joyous Life in their local communities.”
He further explained the roles and significance of our churches by saying: “Local churches, being training centers for single-hearted salvation, are places where their members pray for the salvation of those suffering from illnesses and other troubles. They are also places for their members to visit to offer their thanks for the daily blessings they receive. They are places for the followers of the path to gather and strive to achieve further spiritual growth. They are also facilities that provide the footing for people to go out to help save others with the joy of being saved themselves.”
The Shinbashira also stressed: “Our churches exist for the purpose of realizing that state of the world, and each of them should be like one big family with all its Yoboku and followers contributing to a friendly, happy atmosphere. Only then can the church set a good example of the Joyous Life to society at large. . . . In the meantime, I would like other Yoboku and followers to make it a point to stay connected with God the Parent and Oyasama by visiting their respective churches as often as possible.”
In concluding his address, he said: “We may have a long way to go before realizing the Joyous Life of all people throughout the world. Toward the grand goal, members of our churches should unite their minds and make steady progress along the path of spiritual growth, taking one step at a time. This done, the Joyous Life will be shared in wider and wider circles . . . . I hope that you convey the joy of faith to those around you, starting with your own family, and set a good example of the Joyous Life in your community through implementing mutual help.”