The weekend of June 24 and 25–coming at the “halfway point” of this year of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama–saw waves of various sized pilgrimage groups return to Jiba. Some of the participants in these groups were followers who had been drawn by the warmth of the Home of the Parent. Others were visiting Jiba for the first time at the invitation of followers. Still others were coming to pray for salvation from illnesses and other troubles. Together they contributed to the lively atmosphere being maintained at the Home of the Parent throughout the year.
For Church Headquarters’ morning service on the 25th, which began at 5:00 A.M., the four worship halls quickly filled up, requiring many followers to perform the service on the benches set up outside in the Inner Courtyard and in front of the South Worship Hall.
From around 9:30 A.M., the major roads started getting congested with buses and vans. From the various parking areas and drop-off spots, continuous waves of followers headed toward the Main Sanctuary.
Among the followers heading toward the Main Sanctuary was Mission Station Head Y. Tanaka with his group of 18 followers. He told a reporter, “I’m delighted that I was finally able to assemble a pilgrimage group to return to Jiba during this significant year.” A member of his group excitedly added, “For the first time this year, I have been able to return to Jiba to offer words of gratitude to God the Parent and Oyasama for the daily blessings I receive.”
Prayer services are being performed at the Main Sanctuary every day throughout this year at 11:00 A.M., noon, and 4:00 P.M. for the benefit of pilgrimage groups. On June 25, an additional prayer service was performed at 1:00 P.M. As the times for the services neared, the four worship halls and corridors quickly filled up. After the services ended, the bustling of groups leaving the Main Sanctuary as other groups were arriving added to the liveliness.
Mrs. S. Kawaguchi of Hyogo Prefecture, who had already brought more than 20 people back since the anniversary year began, was able to return with 10 more people. Three years ago, her four-year-old grandchild was hospitalized due to a rare cancerous tumor in the liver. Out of her desire to receive a miraculous blessing for her grandchild, she started praying at her local church daily. The daily worship also led her to exert herself in helping other people suffering from illnesses and troubles. Her grandchild was discharged from the hospital last November after undergoing two operations, and her prognosis looks very good. The other people she is praying for have also received blessings one after another and wish to return to Tenri to offer their gratitude. “What gives me the greatest joy is seeing everyone’s enthusiasm to return to Jiba,” said Mrs. Kawaguchi, who was all smiles in anticipation of the October pilgrimage. “I hope to share the truth of the Jiba that I have received today with all those whom I have been trying to help, so that we will be able to bring even more people back to Jiba.”
There were also many groups returning to attend the Besseki lecture. At the Besseki Lecture Hall, registration starts at 8 A.M. and noon; however, on this day, there were long lines stretching outside the hall one hour before the registration times.
There were also large turnouts of families and relatives. Mr. K. Ushijima from Fukuoka Prefecture returned with 21 family members and relatives spanning four generations. When his church head minister was encouraging the followers to return to Jiba, Mr. Ushijima was reminded of his father, who passed away for rebirth five years ago and had been the first in the family to enter the faith. He recalled his father saying, “How nice it would be to return to Jiba one day with all our relatives!” Mr. Ushijima explained, “Together with my siblings, we invited all our relatives including those who had not kept closely connected with the path. We couldn’t get everyone; however, with the members we managed to bring back, I hope that, in some small way, we were able to make my late father happy.”
There were also groups flying in from faraway places. Mr. and Mrs. Sakuma, an elderly couple from Hokkaido, were part of one such group. Mr. Sakuma had rarely visited their church until recently. In January last year, due to his chronic battle with rheumatism he was hospitalized for half a year. During that time, he had no choice but to quit his job. Later, he began to attend the monthly services of their church after much persuasion from his wife. In March, when the church was planning this pilgrimage, he readily accepted his wife’s suggestion that they join it. Unable to walk easily as a result of his illness, he started walking long distances every day in preparation for this pilgrimage. On the 25th, he attended his first Besseki lecture. His wife was especially moved by seeing her husband walking energetically over the gravel in the sanctuary precincts. “We are overjoyed at having been able to return to Jiba as a couple during this season.”
During the period between the 24th and the 26th, a total of 3,522 people attended the Besseki lecture, of whom 782 were first-timers.
During the three days, a total of 14,144 people visited South Right Wing 2, where the Tenrikyo Basics Course and commemorative exhibitions are being held. The number of people who attended the Basics Course totaled 1,323.