The Shinbashira led the congregation in the Spring Grand Service on January 26 at the Main Sanctuary of Church Headquarters, commemorating the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the day that Oyasama withdrew from physical life. The occasion brought together some 73,000 followers, including many from overseas, who filled the Main Sanctuary and the Foundress’ Sanctuary, as well as much of the Sanctuary precincts. It was to hasten the spiritual growth of all humankind, Her children, that Oyasama withdrew from physical life by shortening Her physical term of life by as much as 25 years. She thereby “opened the portals of the Shrine” so that world salvation could be brought about. The followers who attended the Service recalled that fateful day in 1887 and renewed their pledge to redouble their efforts to implement their pre-anniversary activities during the concluding year for the “three years, one thousand days” season leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, scheduled for January 26 next year.
The weather in the Home of the Parent was fairly cold, the temperature at 9:00 A.M. being 4.3 Celsius. Though there was some occasional sun later, the chill north winds blew throughout the day. The followers began to gather in the Main Sanctuary from around 10:00 A.M. In addition to pilgrimage groups, there were many families and groups of students. By about 11:00 A.M., the Main Sanctuary’s four worship halls were all full, and the corridor was also crowded with people. The 4,200 benches set up in the Inner Courtyard and in the area in front of the South Worship Hall also filled quickly. At 11:30 A.M., the Shinbashira, accompanied by the other Service performers, left the Church Headquarters Staff Quarters to pay respects at the Foundress’ Sanctuary and the Memorial Hall before proceeding to the Main Sanctuary. Upon arriving in the Main Sanctuary, the Shinbashira went on to ascend the dais to deliver the Service prayer on behalf of all followers. He began by offering thanks for God’s profound parental love and care. Then he said: “In the final year of the ‘three years, one thousand days’ season, all of us Service performers as well as church head ministers and Yoboku, ever more braced as we are, are determined to build upon the progress we have made over the past two years and to make further efforts befitting this concluding year.” He then expressed the resolve of the Tenrikyo community, saying: “True salvation cannot be brought about in the world except by sharing the truth that God the Parent taught us with more and more people throughout the world so that they may join in the effort to reconstruct the mind. We have only one more year remaining before the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. All of us will be decisive in devoting our utmost efforts to every matter in order to respond to Oyasama, who is constantly hastening to bring about salvation throughout the world.” The Kagura Service was then performed, followed by the Dance with Hand Movements. The followers took to heart the profound significance of the Service–whose performance Oyasama had strongly urged despite the risk of arrest involved in it back then–and they returned their thoughts to how their early predecessors had eventually brought themselves to perform the Service, setting aside all worries. The followers’ united voices as they sang along to the Mikagura-uta–the songs that accompany the Service–resounded through the Sanctuary. The Dance with Hand Movements came to an end shortly before 2:00 P.M., and the Shinbashira began his sermon. When the musical siren sounded at two, marking the moment of Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, he paused for a minute to pay respects to Oyasama, facing toward the Foundress’ Sanctuary. Resuming his sermon, the Shinbashira explained the stance of mind that all followers ought to maintain throughout the concluding year of the three-year pre-anniversary activities drive (see full text on pages 2 and 3). According to the Overseas Department, more than 210 people from 13 countries and territories returned to Jiba for the Spring Grand Service.