The new Tenrikyo UK Centre at Hendon in north London is now fully operational, and a ceremony was held on June 18 to mark its official opening. The occasion brought together about 80 people mostly from the London area and other parts of the United Kingdom but some from as far afield as France and Japan. The guest of honor from Tenrikyo’s headquarters in Tenri, Japan, was Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi, who delivered an inspiring address.
The UK Centre was originally established in May 2000 at Wembley in northwest London to meet the growing needs of Tenrikyo followers in Britain in terms of providing care and guidance and supporting their efforts to spread the teachings. Prior to that, there were three fellowships and about 40 Yoboku in the United Kingdom, and besides these fellowships’ own monthly services, the local Tenrikyo community as a whole had been performing its service together each month for more than 10 years. A fourth fellowship was established in London shortly after the center was opened. The UK Centre was officially registered in January 2001.
Although it was obvious from the beginning that the UK Centre’s original facility was of an inadequate size, the center was not in a position to search for a larger site until 2004. The new Hendon property, purchased in December that year, was extended and refurbished over several months before a carpenter with his two assistants–all followers–came from Japan to start work on the altar. The Japanese men spent about three weeks working on the project. The property, located some 13 kilometers (eight miles) from the center of London, is equipped with a sanctuary on the ground floor–with a seating capacity of about 50–and a dining kitchen, two bedrooms, and three guestrooms upstairs.
The opening ceremony commenced with a prayer delivered by Rev. Tomoharu Matsui, head of the UK Centre. Then the seated service and the Dance with Hand Movements were performed to the accompaniment of musical instruments as well as the singing of the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo and the Twelve Songs.
Rev. Iburi then addressed the congregation. He began by reviewing the history of Tenrikyo’s mission in the United Kingdom–which goes back almost a century–paying tribute to the first missionaries, who made courageous efforts in the face of immense difficulties.
He then mentioned the fact that Tenrikyo had designated this year as the year of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. Rev. Iburi explained the meaning of Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life and spoke on how to perform the tasks of the path as befits this anniversary year. He said that one of the things She was demanding from the followers by confronting them with Her serious physical condition and Her ultimate withdrawal was true sincerity. Rev. Iburi went on to say that the Divine Direction delivered shortly after Her withdrawal told the followers that She had withdrawn from physical life because of Her parental love for all humankind, Her children, and Her desire to save all people. The same Divine Direction also stressed that Her withdrawal marked the beginning of a wholehearted and proactive endeavor to advance world salvation and that Oyasama, remaining everliving, was continuing to work for world salvation.
He went on to tell the listeners that the purpose of the UK Centre is to help unite the community of Yoboku living in the same region. “This facility is meant to be a center where those of you residing in the U. K. can discuss and share ideas about how this path can be better understood and accepted by the people in the local community and society at large,” he said. “This center is a place where you can exchange ideas about how to spread the teachings more effectively, how to transmit the stance of the mind taught in this path to your children and grandchildren, and how to draw closer to the Joyous Life of all humankind. This place is a center where all of you can join together in discussing these things and help advance appropriate activities in unity of mind. The UK Centre has been reborn, so to speak, in the middle of an extremely important year, the year of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. I pray with high expectations that all of you will let the UK Centre further strengthen your unity of mind as you make ever more powerful strides forward in the British mission.”
While acknowledging that even the new Hendon facility offers only a modest amount of space, he concluded his remarks by emphasizing that “it represents a huge symbol of hope for the entire Tenrikyo community.”
Rev. Matsui then made a speech, thanking all present for coming to take part in the celebration. Later, the participants posed for photographs and then enjoyed one another’s company at a tea party given in honor of the occasion. After a while, speeches were made by two followers, Mr. Ronny Morgan of Kyokushi London Fellowship and Mr. Damon Smith of Leeds Fellowship, who shared their experiences with Tenrikyo. The speeches were followed by questions, answers, and comments. Several members of the audience shared their own experiences, as well.
The UK Centre performs its monthly services on the first Sunday of each month and offers programs such as weekend seminars. Although the space may be limited, the UK Centre hopes to be able to use ingenuity to plan and develop a good range of appropriate activities for spiritual growth involving ever wider sections of the Tenrikyo community in Britain. The members are determined to build the strength to make the teachings accessible to more and more people in their country.
Tenrikyo UK Centre is located at 60 Foscote Road, London NW4 3SD, and it can be visited online at http://home.btconnect.com/tenrikyo/.