On June 20, some 1,100 people assembled at the Mission Headquarters in America, located in Los Angeles, California, to attend its 70th anniversary service, which was honored by the presence of the Shinbashira and his wife, Mrs. Harue Nakayama. In an address he delivered on that occasion, the Shinbashira expressed his appreciation for the efforts that local followers had been devoting to the path and spoke about the role of the mission headquarters. He went on to provide insight into the frame of mind they should be in and the way they should follow the path during this period leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, scheduled for January 26, 2006, and urged the congregation to implement single-hearted salvation. On the day before this event, the 50th anniversary of the America Women’s Association and Young Men’s Association was marked by a well-attended joint convention (story on page 2). Inspired with enthusiasm by these two major events, followers in North America made a renewed commitment to bring as many people as possible to attend the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama.
The preparations for the 70th anniversary formally began on October 27, 2001, when 30 members from the North America diocese, led by Bishop Toyoo Tsuji, performed a prayer service in front of the Jiba-Kanrodai in the Main Sanctuary and pledged their commitment to promote the activities leading up to the 70th anniversary.
On the 17th of the following month, 135 members assembled in the mission headquarters for a Yoboku gathering, in which they committed themselves to undertake all efforts to prepare for the 70th anniversary. In particular, they set their sights on inspiring all Yoboku to action. It was also announced that various renovation projects would be undertaken to improve the condition of the sanctuary and office and that a new building to be known as East Hall would be constructed on the premises.
Later, the mission headquarters encouraged members of the congregation to make a special effort to return to Jiba in January, April, July, and October. Those who did performed prayer services together in the Main Sanctuary. In addition, training courses were held for church and mission station heads and their spouses. Yoboku gatherings and seminars were conducted not only at the mission headquarters but also at many other venues throughout the diocese.
Moreover, the mission headquarters encouraged each church to regularly report the number of times the Sazuke was administered, in the hope that this would help Yoboku become thorough in “cultivating the mind of saving others and . . . implementing salvation work”–one of the key areas stressed in Instruction Two. At the mission headquarters itself, the bishop and directors began to conduct the Sazuke administering session following every monthly service, starting in March this year. Indeed, the 70th anniversary arrived amid growing momentum in the diocese to promote the activities appropriate for the “three years, one thousand days” period preceding the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama–a period dubbed the “season for salvation.”
The anniversary service drew followers not only from the U.S. mainland and Canada but also from Hawaii, Mexico, and Brazil. Those who could not enter the 560-capacity sanctuary were accommodated in the dining hall, where TV monitors had been set up to show the proceedings of the service.
At 10:00 a.m., Bishop Tsuji escorted the Shinbashira and his wife into the sanctuary to the strains of gagaku music. First, the Shinbashira led the congregation in offering worship to God the Parent. Then Bishop Tsuji delivered the service prayer in both English and Japanese. After thanking God the Parent for the boundless providence, he pledged to uphold the goals and aspirations of predecessors who had sowed the seeds of sincerity in the hope of spreading the teachings in North America, and he rededicated himself to the further progress of the path.
Next, the Shinbashira stood at the lectern to deliver his address. He began by expressing his appreciation for the sincere efforts the congregation had been devoting to the path each day. He then told his listeners that they could make the anniversary truly meaningful by recalling the original intention in establishing this mission headquarters and making a renewed pledge to achieve further progress and attain greater spiritual growth. Saying that a mission headquarters had two significances, he carefully explained each. “One is that a mission headquarters, like any church, is a place endowed with the �truth of a church name,'” he said. “A mission headquarters . . . should serve as a model of the Joyous Life for the local community and as a training center for single-hearted salvation. . . . The other significance of a mission headquarters is to play a core role in providing care and guidance to the region under its supervision.”
He also emphasized the importance of the unity of the local Tenrikyo community, saying: “I want to remind all of you members of this congregation to be clearly aware that living in the same region with others who share the same faith means that you have been given an opportunity to work together to carry out the tasks of the path. I want you to be fully conscious that it is by cooperating with one another, encouraging one another, and making one another spirited that you can receive the blessing of the further growth of the path in this region.” He went on to remind his listeners of the importance of making a conscious effort to grow spiritually during this special season leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama.
The seated service was then joyously performed with the Shinbashira and his wife as the core. This was followed by the Dance with Hand Movements. The service concluded with a speech by Bishop Tsuji.
In the afternoon, a reception was held, which included a variety of performances such as dance and Japanese drum music.
Prior to the events at the mission headquarters, the Shinbashira and his wife, who had flown into San Francisco on the 16th, spent three days visiting nine churches in north central California.