Tenrikyo Miyakita Branch Church—located in Misatomachi, Miyagi, Japan—conducted the service for the inauguration of its new sanctuary on September 10, two and a half years after its former sanctuary was completely destroyed by the enormous earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. The new sanctuary was constructed with financial assistance from Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. Headed by Rev. Kazuo Oikawa, the church started the construction in the autumn of 2011 and recently completed it.
In July, 2011, Church Headquarters decided to financially assist churches that had been damaged by the earthquake, considering, first and foremost, the importance of restoring the places for the service performance. In the hope that the followers of these disaster-stricken churches could rise up spiritedly and engage in missionary and salvation work, a large amount of financial assistance was given to their directly supervised churches as the seed for reconstructing these churches.
“At the moment of the earthquake, I was away from my church, where my mother—then head minister of the church—was left alone. After I felt the great shock of a magnitude I had never experienced before, I thought I had lost my mother and church,” said Rev. Oikawa, describing the day of the earthquake. As soon as the quake subsided, he went to the church to look for his mother, Rev. Ina Oikawa. There were broken windows at the church, but all the shattered glass fell outside of the building. Because of that, his mother was miraculously safe and unhurt. On the same day, they temporarily relocated the church’s symbols of worship to the parent church and took shelter at an evacuation center.
It was in August, 2011, three months after they moved to municipal housing, that his mother passed away for rebirth. In the depths of despair, Rev. Oikawa did not think that he could get over his loss. However, he gradually began to feel less sorrow and despair as he saw many followers of the path—not only from his grand church but also from the diocese where his church is located—come to help remove debris from the church. The cleaning of the church premises finished in the fall of the same year. In October, the construction of the sanctuary started with financial assistance from Church Headquarers as well as with the help of many Tenrikyo followers including carpenters. The construction was completed recently. Most of the musical instruments and other equipment of the church had been lost, but replacements were donated by other churches. Hung in the sanctuary was a framed calligraphy saying, “The seeds of joy,” which was written by the former Shinbashira. This framed calligraphy survived the catastrophic earthquake without even a scratch.
Rev. Oikawa said: “It is all thanks to the financial assistance from Church Headquarters and the support of many people in the faith that the church was reconstructed. I will fulfill my responsibilities so that ‘the seeds of joy’ mentioned in the framed calligraphy will bring about a lot of joy in the future.”