Tenrikyo Church Headquarters conducted its July Monthly Service on the 26th in the Main Sanctuary with the Shinbashira presiding. The 26th was also the opening day of the Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba. Thus, many children in pilgrimage groups, uniformed Boys and Girls Hinokishin Corps participants, and student groups in matching T-shirts could be seen in the precincts of the Main Sanctuary.
As the elegant sounds of the gagaku stopped, the Shinbashira read the Service prayer amidst the buzzing cry of cicadas. Praying for God’s blessings for the Children’s Pilgrimage, the Shinbashira said: “Many children will be returning from all over Japan and overseas countries, looking forward to the summer in Jiba. I pray that, while enjoying the many events and activities being held very close to Oyasama, these children will savor and experience the joy of being nurtured in a splendid manner day by day so that they may attain spiritual growth, well-being, and happiness. I also pray for everything to proceed smoothly and safely throughout the duration of the pilgrimage.”
After the performance of the Kagura Service and the Dance with Hand Movements, Honbu-in Yuji Murata took the podium to deliver the sermon. Honbu-in Murata, who serves as bishop at the Mission Headquarters in Brazil, opened by quoting the Spring Grand Service sermon in which the Shinbashira discussed the slogan “Let’s visit our churches with our families.” Rev. Murata emphasized that our dedicated efforts to return to Jiba and visit our churches were a fundamental part of our life of faith, saying, “One would come to a natural conclusion that if we were truly convinced of this Teaching as taught by Oyasama, we would make firm efforts to instill it in our own children and grandchildren.” Rev. Murata then cited Anecdote no. 117, “With His Father and Mother,” as an episode where, he maintained, “Oyasama is teaching us to be mindful of instilling the joy of faith in our children and grandchildren while they are still young and on a regular basis by visiting our churches and returning to Jiba together with them.” He further stated: “I suppose that many people fear that they would cause inconvenience to others if they brought their small children to the monthly services of their churches since the children would scream and run around in the sanctuary while the service was in progress. But having such hesitancy may lead the younger generation to fail to embrace their parents’ faith. Children remember very well the delight they experienced when returning to Jiba or going to church with their parents.”
Rev. Murata next spoke about the first ever Brazil Children’s Pilgrimage Group to Jiba. He described how the then Shinbashira (now the former Shinbashira) shook hands with and said kind and encouraging words to each child and how every one of the 37 participants from this pilgrimage group later became a Yoboku. Regarding this development, he said: “Efforts to nurture Boys and Girls Association members do not show immediate results. Yet if we continue to offer our utmost efforts, there will assuredly come a time 10 or 20 years down the road when we will be delighted with what we have achieved.”
He further spoke about how the material abundance and diversification of values in modern society were undermining a sense of gratitude and indebtedness in “people who believe they are living on their own power.” He lamented: “The same goes for people who think ‘all is well if the present is well for the self alone.’ They have no sense of moderation or any willingness to practice mutual help. I speculate that our faith in God weakens to the degree our lives become materially abundant.” He then said: “I feel that people’s feelings of parental affection, not to mention simple consideration for their fellow human beings, have gradually weakened in recent times. If parental affection weakens, people will not be nurtured, and the expansion of the path will cease, will it not?” To tackle this issue, Rev. Murata made his appeal that it was important for followers of the faith to learn and put into practice even just one or two lessons as provided for us in Oyasama’s Divine Model and “keep in mind that people who come to a church are all drawn or called forth by God the Parent according to their causality.”
Rev. Murata then concluded his sermon by expressing his hope that, in anticipation of next year’s 100th anniversary convention of the Women’s Association, “members will rise to the occasion and display their innermost strength so they can receive the blessings that allow the Residence to be filled with people yearning for Oyasama.”