On February 27, the Boys and Girls Association held its leaders’ meeting for the year 2016 in Dining Hall 2. It was attended by 1,627 participants including chairpersons of directly supervised chapters and diocese chapters as well as other members of the nurturing committees of those chapters. In the meeting, the Shinbashira, who also serves as the president of the association, addressed the audience, and the activity guidelines were announced by Association Chairman Daiichi Umetani.
The association is once again promoting the guidelines “Let us have parents and children familiarize themselves with Oyasama’s Divine Model and develop the habit of implementing the teachings.” In addition to the guidelines, the following four concrete goals for association activities were announced: (1) conducting church sleepovers and promoting parent-and-child visits to churches; (2) encouraging parents and children to participate in hinokishin activities in districts; (3) carrying out association activities intended to nurture junior high school students; and (4) handing out Ritoru magajin (the association’s monthly magazine, available only in Japanese) to children.
Moreover, aiming at a substantial increase in the number of association members who participate in the “Oyasama 130th Anniversary Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba,” the association headquarters is calling for more proactive efforts to invite children to participate.
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At the meeting, the Shinbashira first took the podium to deliver his address. He began by remarking, “As we move forward after duly conducting the anniversary of Oyasama, I would like you to promote the kind of association activities that will allow the faith to be passed on to the next generation without fail so that the path will grow steadily into the future.”
He then looked back on the history of the association, which this year is marking the 50th anniversary as it was founded in 1966—the year of the 80th Anniversary of Oyasama. He once again made clear that “the purpose of the Boys and Girls Association lies in laying the foundation for children to grow into fine Yoboku in the future. We should not simply tell them about the teachings but convey the joy of faith and provide them with necessary care and guidance so that following the teachings will become second nature.”
The Shinbashira also pointed out that it is our urgent task to develop human resources who will shoulder the future of the path and to nurture Yoboku who can work as Oyasama’s useful instruments. Noting that “the joy that children experience in faith in childhood seeps straight into their minds and will be remembered even after they reach adulthood,” he expressed his wish for the leaders to kindly guide children to help them gradually cultivate good spiritual habits through participating in association activities.
The Shinbashira went on to explain that we are what we are today thanks to a great many predecessors who always made it a point to convey the faith to their successors and devoted their time and effort to nurturing younger generations wholeheartedly and that we can trace this lineage of faith back to Oyasama. He then emphasized, “Oyasama’s Divine Model is the spiritual basis for those of us who strive to follow the path based on the teachings and to provide care and nurture to ensure that the path continues on into the future.” He explained that the manner in which Oyasama guided and nurtured people in order to help them understand God the Parent’s intention is the precious model that we should follow when we try to nurture and train children so that they will eventually be able to look at things and make decisions in a way based on the teachings. “A way of thinking based on the teachings,” he said, “can be cultivated if an honest and straightforward attitude to following the path taught by Oyasama is maintained.”
The Shinbashira then mentioned that the activity guidelines promoted by the association could be paraphrased as “Both children and those in nurturing positions should strive to follow the path of the Divine Model.” He thus encouraged the nurturers, who lead children in following the path, to study the Divine Model ever more deeply and seek Oyasama’s parental love embodied in Her Divine Model in the course of everyday life. He also asked them to promote the kind of association activities that will help make it second nature for children to recognize and appreciate God the Parent’s blessings and Oyasama’s guidance in their daily lives.
Regarding this year’s Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba, whose official title includes the phrase “Oyasama 130th Anniversary,” the Shinbashira said: “It is an opportunity for children to return to Jiba in the year of Oyasama’s 130th Anniversary. . . . I sincerely wish to bring delight to Oyasama by showing Her the enthusiasm and joy of great numbers of children who gather here in the Home of the Parent. . . . Even though they are still quite young, we must dedicate our sincerity to conveying the joy of faith, looking 10, 20, and 30 years ahead. Such joy of faith will definitely remain in the children and lay the basis for the blessings that will enable them to grow into fine Yoboku.”
The Shinbashira concluded his address by saying, “Those of you who are adult leaders should take advantage of the fact that you represent a wide age range and have a wealth of experience. You should help one another and work together in unity of mind to assist children with their spiritual growth as you continue your determined efforts to develop human resources for the path.”
After the Shinbashira’s address, Association Chairman Umetani took the podium and announced the activity guidelines for this year. In explaining the guidelines, he underlined that encouraging and guiding children’s spiritual growth requires the adult leaders’ sincere commitment to their life of faith. He said: “Oyasama taught us through Her word and Her own example that our everyday life is filled with the blessings of God the Parent. It is indeed Oyasama that we should emulate in carrying out the ‘vertical mission.’”
Chairman Umetani also announced that the Oyasama 130th Anniversary Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba will be held under the theme “Spreading Smiles! Help Each Other!” for an 11-day period between July 26 and August 5 this year. He noted, “The time children spend in the Home of the Parent, where they are warmly received by God the Parent and Oyasama, will be their lifelong treasure.” Thus, he encouraged the audience to invite as many children as possible to the event.
There was also an announcement regarding a gathering to take place on September 25 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the association’s founding. In the lead-up to the gathering, the association will sponsor “Vertical Mission Seminar Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Boys and Girls Association” at each directly supervised church between March and June and send association committee members to each diocese between April and June in an effort to ensure a thorough understanding of the purpose of association activities and raise awareness of the adult leaders so as to further promote the vertical mission.
Chairman Umetani concluded his speech by saying: “It is my hope that the vertical mission will be carried out at the levels of churches and districts in accordance with the founding spirit contained in the day of origin of the Boys and Girls Association. I also hope that you adult leaders yourselves will seek further spiritual growth as befits this important juncture of the association.”