On April 19, the day after the Oyasama Birth Celebration Service, the Women’s Association held its 88th annual convention in Church Headquarters’ Inner Courtyard. According to the association, the event drew 57,000 members, including many from overseas, who pledged to make further spiritual growth as the “foundation of the path” so as to respond to the parental love of Oyasama, who, everliving, is working constantly to lead all humankind to salvation. The proceedings in the Inner Courtyard were followed by the seated service performed together by all participants, with all chapter chairwomen in the Main Sanctuary.
Blessed with pleasant spring weather, members were already arriving at the venue when the start of registration was announced over the public address system. Some 130 members–who had volunteered to spend three days helping to make preparations for and manage the convention–welcomed and ushered in the participants. About 160 Young Men’s Association members helped with the ushering. Soon, all the 9,375 benches set up in the Inner Courtyard and in the areas in front of the South, East, and West Worship Halls filled up.
This year, being the year of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, over 1,000 members from overseas attended the convention, and simultaneous interpretation was provided in seven languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai.
The convention began at 9:30 A.M., when Association President Harue Nakayama ushered the Shinbashira and the former Shinbashira, as well as other guests, onto the stage as the members welcomed them with resounding applause.
After a few moments of prayer and opening remarks, all participants joined together in singing the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo. This was followed by a pledge by a new member, Tenri High School first-year student Ayano Kobayashi, who represented those who had recently joined the Women’s Association. “Always grateful for God the Parent’s boundless blessings, which enable us to be alive day after day, we will join our hearts in walking the path together,” she said. “On behalf of all new members, I pledge that we will make efforts to become attractive young women of the path, without forgetting to keep a humble, warm, and spirited mind.” After that, a committee member presented a progress report.
President Nakayama then addressed the members. Referring to the attitude she wants them to maintain this year, she said, “Taking advantage of this juncture represented by the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, let us reflect upon the way we have been performing our tasks, improve whatever can be improved, and set out on the path with a fresh mind.” She stressed the importance of implementing the association’s activity guidelines on a daily basis and thereby making progress toward achieving the goal expressed in their slogan for spiritual maturity. The president went on to say, “We need to purify our mind by sweeping the dust from it and bring our thoughts and actions into accord with God the Parent’s intention.” She urged the members to be straightforward in following the Divine Model and enthusiastic in conveying the teachings to people who have yet to know them.
The Shinbashira then stepped up to the lectern to deliver his address. Among other things, he spoke about the significance of designating this year as the year of the 120th Anniversary. “I consider this year as an important year that should lead on to the next stage,” he said, “and indeed I said on the day of the Anniversary Service that I would like this year to be a significant year that will provide a springboard for a new departure. . . . Concerning how we ought to spend this year, one important thing is for each of us to reflect on his or her own ‘three years, one thousand days’ season. . . . Only when we engage in such self-reflection can we create a basis that will enable us to correctly understand Oyasama’s guidance as we continue following the path from now on.”
The Shinbashira went on to offer his thoughts on the duties of women of the path and the way they ought to fulfill them. Telling the members that he would like them to put ever more effort into nurturing, he explained the role of nurturing from the perspective of the natural abilities with which women are endowed. He added that children grow and develop their personalities while imitating their parents’ behavior.
Quoting a Divine Direction that says, “There is no path but the path of the Divine Model,” he told the audience, “Let us make every effort to notice Oyasama’s guidance as we ponder over things, make decisions, and act on them, so that we can nurture our minds and walk the path of the Divine Model without taking any wrong steps.”
After the Shinbashira’s address, Chairwoman Junko Nakadai of Nihonbashi Chapter presented a pledge on behalf of all members. Then all present sang the Women’s Association Anthem and the Oyasama 120th Anniversary Song.
Immediately after that, all chapter chairwomen entered the East, West, or North Worship Halls, and, led by President Nakayama, all members attending the convention performed the seated service together to thank God the Parent for guiding them through the pre-anniversary activities and to express their commitment to continue on along the path toward the next milestone. Their voices as they sang the songs for the Service resounded through the Main Sanctuary and indeed throughout the Sanctuary precincts.