The new Head Ministers Seminar in Oyasato was held between June 26 and 28, drawing 319 church head ministers, 95 of them with their spouses. The three-day program, expected to take place periodically, is designed to provide an opportunity for head ministers to refresh their minds, deepen their understanding of the teachings, gain knowledge useful in salvation work in contemporary society, and take a fresh look at their own faith so that they can conduct ever more vigorous church activities.
The seminar is part of the instructional system that has been developed by Tenrikyo’s headquarters since 1998, when Rev. Masahiko Iburi became the Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs and identified strengthening the headquarters’s instructional capacities to promote spiritual growth as one of its main areas of focus. Five years ago, the Education and Nurture Department was established, and the Basics Course and the Three Day Course were launched in 2003 and 2004, respectively. The new seminar seeks to help head ministers enhance their ability to respond to increasingly complex issues and needs in their salvation work.
The first seminar was intended specifically for those with three- to five-year experience as head ministers. Organized around the theme of “Mind for Salvation Work,” the seminar included plenary lectures, section meetings, and discussions in groups of seven to eight people. Those who helped run the event included 83 head ministers and spouses of head ministers who had been recommended by their directly supervised churches. These staff members had undergone four preparatory training sessions since last December.
On the afternoon of the 26th, the seminar began with group discussions on the topic of “Importance of Listening in Salvation Work.” The session included working in pairs to learn about postures, attitudes, and other factors that facilitate listening. The participants also watched a video of imaginary conversations between a church head minister and followers troubled by problems and discussed how head ministers should respond and how they should set about conveying their message. The group work was followed by a presentation on the power of listening by Clinical Psychologist Shinichiro Miyazaki, who also serves as head minister of Umemitsu Branch Church. “Those who can listen can also speak in a way that encourages others to say what is on their mind,” Rev. Miyazaki said. “Good listeners, moreover, are able to wait until the people they are working with start expressing themselves in words.”
The evening of day one saw a lecture on “The True Path That Will Settle This World” by Honbu-in Takanori Nagao (former head minister of Nishijin Grand Church). He stressed that Tenrikyo is a teaching provided by God, the true Parent who “made the origin,” in order to save God’s children, all humankind. “It is through God’s intention that you became head ministers,” he said. “The joy you can experience as head ministers comes from sharing in your followers’ emotions and feelings and doing whatever you can to help them so that they may feel delighted to be part of your church. Such efforts will also lead to enhancing the actual substance of your churches and bringing joy to God.”
Day two began with a lecture entitled “Attitude to Be Adopted in Salvation Work,” which was delivered by Rev. Yoshio Ueda, head minister of Koshoka Branch Church. He first presented a video on the work of his late younger brother, who, despite his cerebral palsy, managed to establish a church after years of unassisted missionary work. Rev. Ueda then shared a story of how his brother devoted himself to saving an old, bedridden woman. “My brother visited her every day although her condition got steadily worse,” he said. “Yet, one day when he took his leave, she crawled out of her house in her pajamas and, gazing at Takao’s back as he went away, put her hands together as if worshiping him in gratitude. I sincerely hope that all of you will also exert your full measure of sincerity in your salvation work as head ministers.”
This was followed by two periods for section meetings. Focused around some of the basic teachings, the first of these periods, entitled “Faith and the Teachings on Salvation Work,” provided 11 topics to choose from, such as the Mikagura-uta, Oyasama’s Divine Model, the Ofudesaki, the Truth of Origin, the Divine Directions, and a church with a warm atmosphere. In the second period, entitled “Salvation Work in Modern Society,” the participants had an opportunity to gain practical knowledge by choosing from 12 section meetings on such topics as psychological disorders and salvation work; manic depression; refusal to go to school, social withdrawal, and NEET (young people who are Not in Employment, Education, or Training); modern healthcare and helping people overcome illness; and multiple debts. The participants showed a keen interest in the section meetings. “I used to be troubled about one thing or another after marrying into a family entrusted with a church, but this section meeting gave me lots of good tips and advice,” said a smiling Yu Joyama, 32, wife of Ueno Branch Church’s head minister, after attending the meeting on a church with a warm atmosphere. Head Minister Moritoshi Yoshida of Honnan Branch Church, 47, attended the section meeting on multiple debts. “Since the lectures were delivered by a specialist and two church head ministers who are actively involved in helping people with multiple debts, I was able to learn from both specialized and faith-based approaches,” he said.
Day three began with corridor-cleaning hinokishin before the morning service. The participants then saw a film entitled “Four Seasons in Oyasato” in South Right Wing 2’s theater. This was followed by a symposium, which, held in Yoki Hall, featured a panel discussion on “Tenrikyo Churches from Now On.” Specific topics covered were churches and their local communities, head ministers and their salvation work, and families living at churches. Also taking part in the discussion were three commentators. The panelists and commentators were all either head ministers or spouses of head ministers.
Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi then addressed the participants, speaking about his expectations of head ministers. He said that Tenrikyo churches should be able to provide people with a dependable guide and a family-like atmosphere and inspire a refreshing spirit of single-heartedness with God. Moreover, the churches should be places where anyone can listen to Oyasama’s teachings at any time; where the service, which is taught as the path of single-hearted salvation, is performed properly; where the Sazuke can be administered at any time; where hinokishin can be put into practice; and where activities to build virtue are always available.
The seminar was concluded with a thanksgiving service in the East Worship Hall.