The 90th convention of Tenrikyo Women’s Association being held in the Inner Courtyard with a turnout of 46,000 members (Apr. 19)
In a sign of rising enthusiasm in the Women’s Association for its 100th anniversary, which is just two years away, as many as 46,000 members (according to the association), many from overseas, came to its 90th annual convention, held at Tenrikyo’s headquarters, on April 19, the day after the Oyasama Birth Celebration Service. The members took the Shinbashira’s words to heart, reaffirmed their resolve to conduct their activities befitting the season, and pledged their commitment to achieving further spiritual growth in the run-up to the landmark anniversary.
The rain that had started the previous day had let up by dawn, but a group of hinokishin volunteers especially organized for this occasion by drawing members from various branch chapters were busy wiping the wet benches in the Inner Courtyard and elsewhere before the start of the convention. Many others also joined them in preparing the venue for the convention. Registration started at 8:00 A.M., when members began arriving in groups in the Sanctuary precincts, carrying their chapters’ flags.
At 9:30 A.M., Women’s Association President Harue Nakayama escorted the Shinbashira, the former Shinbashira, and other guests into the venue to the thunderous applause of the members who had filled the Inner Courtyard. The ceremony started with the singing of the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo, followed by a pledge by a representative of new members, a high school student, and a progress report on the last fiscal year by committee member Hiroko Kasai.
President Nakayama then addressed the members, saying: “We have set aside a three-year period to prepare for our association’s 100th anniversary, due in the year 2010. Last year, being the first of the three years, I requested that you start off by inquiring into the ‘day of origin’ of your church and your family’s faith, so that you could find out what sort of resolutions your predecessors and parents made when they encountered knots of difficulty and how they used their minds to go through those knots and, based on what you learned from that endeavor, I asked you to give some thought to what is involved in following the path of spiritual growth. Now that we are in the second year of the period, I want to ask you to reflect on the efforts you made last year and then continue building on those efforts this year.”
She went on to say that the significance of the 100th anniversary lies in pondering over the way Tenrikyo churches, the Women’s Association, and women in general ought to be, as well as drawing closer to those ideals. She said that, if the Joyous Life, which is the purpose for which God created humankind, is to be realized, “our churches will first have to become the sort of churches they are meant to be, which can only come about, I believe, when we women fulfill the tasks and roles entrusted to us.” She then explained women’s tasks and roles in relation to realizing the intention of God.
She concluded by saying: “The most important thing that we want to accomplish during the lead-up to the 100th anniversary is to have every member strive to attain spiritual growth by drawing a step or two closer to God the Parent’s intention. . . . It is important for us to make steady efforts to implement our slogan for spiritual maturity and the guidelines for association activities on a daily basis.”
The Shinbashira then took the lectern. He began by speaking about the meaning of the blessings of God, saying that “blessings really refer to whatever is happening, including whatever results are shown in response to your efforts.” He said that whatever is happening–whether it conforms to our expectations or not–is a blessing being given as part of “Oyasama’s effort to guide each and every one of us with our best interests at heart.” Another thing to remember, he said, is that “blessings are given to us, not according to our prayers, but according to the shape of our heart and the state of our mind.”
The Shinbashira also stressed the need to put the teachings into practice. “Even if our mind is in accord with Oyasama’s mind, we may not be able to bring joy to Her unless we translate that mind into action,” he said. “That is to say, implementation of our resolution is, indeed, the seed that will allow us to receive the blessings we desire.”
Then quoting the Ofudesaki verse that says, “If this talk coincides sign for sign, know that everything proceeds in this way,” he cautioned against falling behind in terms of following the path of single-heartedness with God. “The Ofudesaki’s phrase ‘sign for sign,’ if applied to our present situation, refers to the endeavor of the path as a whole and the endeavor of each of us,” he said. “The present endeavor of the path is focused on spreading the Joyous Life, and each of our churches, each Tenrikyo association, and each follower is working hard to contribute to attaining that goal. We must each take this situation as our own concern and be sure not to fall behind. We must also ponder deeply over the difference between the worldly common way of thinking and the spirit of this path and, without missing the season, we need to move forward in exact accord with the Divine Model. Such, I believe, is the essential task for us to perform at the present time.”
He went on to speak about the importance of visiting churches in relation to enriching the substance of churches. “Your association is conducting a variety of activities with its sights set on serving as the foundation for the Joyous Life. I very much hope that your activities will also include helping those who are about to slip through the net. I want to suggest that you give some thought to how you can connect those people with their churches and encourage them to visit the churches.”
He added: “I hope that you will find out more about the difficult journeys your predecessors went through and make sure you understand that we owe our present splendid path to those people who devoted every possible effort to the teachings and were saved in the process. Please try not to lose the virtue that your predecessors built by sowing seeds of sincerity.”
After the Shinbashira’s address, America Chapter Chairwoman Machie Tsuji made a pledge on behalf of all members. The members then sang the association anthem in high spirits, capping this successful convention.
In the afternoon, the association sponsored five lectures simultaneously at different venues in town on the topic of “the joy of serving as a Yoboku.” Altogether, more than 11,000 members attended.
As part of its current three-year drive to promote further spiritual growth on the part of its members, the association is currently sponsoring the “100th anniversary seminar for branch chapter chairwomen” between February and July at directly supervised churches and encouraging all members to make donations in gratitude for God’s providence and guidance toward its 100th anniversary offering.