On January 1, the New Year’s Day Service marking the beginning of the 173rd year of the Teaching was solemnly performed at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters with the Shinbashira presiding as chief officiant. In the pre-dawn hours, many people returned to the Home of the Parent despite the cold weather to attend the first Service of the year, where they heightened the awareness of being Yoboku and renewed the resolution to make further progress on the path of single-hearted salvation.
At 5:00 a.m., the Shinbashira, accompanied by other Service performers, left the Staff Quarters to pay respects at the Foundress’ Sanctuary and the Memorial Hall before proceeding to the Main Sanctuary, where the elegant sound of gagaku music filled the air.
After offering his New Year’s greetings to God the Parent, the Shinbashira expressed gratitude for the blessings God the Parent provided during the past year: “Though we may have fallen short, we worked hard to carry out the tasks of the season throughout the past year. We are truly grateful that Your profound parental heart has guided us by constantly providing us with Your blessings.” He continued: “We Service performers and other Yoboku are determined to further heighten our awareness of being Yoboku and deepen our understandings of the teachings. We are also resolved to devote ourselves with a renewed mind to the construction of the [Joyous Life] world by seeking to spread the true path as we carry out missionary activities and salvation work.” Toward the end of his prayer, he said, “We humbly ask You to accept our resolve so that all Yoboku will receive the truth of Jiba and take further steps toward the realization of the Joyous Life marked by the harmonious union of God and humankind as intended by You.”
After the prayer, the first Service for the 173rd year of the Teaching—which consisted of the Kagura Service and the Dance with Hand Movements—was performed joyously. Following the Service, the Shinbashira proceeded to the Foundress’ Sanctuary to deliver a prayer to the everliving Oyasama. After extending New Year’s greetings to Her, he pledged: “Welcoming in the New Year with a heightened awareness of being Your instruments, we vow to work hard on the tasks of single-hearted salvation in high spirits by using the teachings as the standard. We are thoroughly determined to bring as many people as we can to the path of true joy so that we will be able to take further steps toward the realization of the Joyous Life World that is in accord with Your intention.”