Happy New Year, everyone.
I thank you very much for devoting yourselves to various tasks of the path despite the difficulties caused by COVID-19. I would like to ask for your continued support once again this year.
I was already staying at home all the time even before the outbreak of the virus, so the stay-at-home restrictions have not changed my situation much. I did not exercise much in the year after my hospital discharge and, for this reason, I lost some of the muscle mass that I had gained during my rehabilitation at the hospital. Since last year, I have been doing what I was advised to do in order to regain the muscles. I am gradually increasing my ability to move around.
Throughout last year, COVID-19 was always the center of attention. I hear that medical workers are having hard times as they have to deal with a tremendous amount of work, and many others are having hard times after losing their jobs. As for us, we are not able to hold the regular events that we had no trouble conducting before. We cannot perform the Monthly Services in the way we wish, and I also assume that some anniversary services and dedication services could not be performed as they had been originally planned.
Another thing that stands out in my mind is a set of two typhoons that approached Japan one after the other. The second typhoon, which made people panicky, was predicted to become as powerful as the Isewan Typhoon in 1959. I was also thinking that a catastrophe might be coming, but the typhoon unexpectedly failed to develop and, what is more, deviated from the predicted path. Some people subsequently explained the reasons behind what happened. Yet, everything, whether it is COVID-19 or a typhoon, is a manifestation of the enormous workings of God the Parent.
If it were not for the workings of God, we could not make any progress in our mission. From this point of view, I believe that it is of prime importance for us to firmly and straightforwardly settle the teachings in our minds in order to have God work for us.
We were forced to make various changes because of COVID-19. Regardless of this catalyst, however, there was something we had to undertake, namely the dissolution of the truth of church names. During the time of the former Shinbashira, we dissolved two or three church names. This time, however, we decided to return the truth of some 700 church names, to begin with. This refers to churches that exist only in name and have no chance of being rehabilitated. There will be more churches that we need to dissolve in the future. I truly feel sorry for this.
As you know well, it is taught that the truth of church names is to last for endless generations. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we can just leave their signboards untouched if doing so ends up tainting the truth of church names. That, we thought, would be inexcusable. Theoretically, we are in no way allowed to return the truth of church names, but considering the situation, we have no option but to do so. The responsibility is mine, since I was the one who made the final decision.
In the first place, permission to establish our churches was granted to us only because we made a request for it. Each church was established after permission for it was requested and granted, and God said that the truth would last for endless generations. The oldest of our churches were established over 130 years ago. This may seem very long to us but, from the point of view of endless generations, God the Parent may be wondering, “Are you already returning it, so soon after you yourself requested it?”
This is solely due to our lack of efforts in nurturing followers. Or perhaps, we should think of ourselves as having become unable to nurture them. That is to say, we might have fallen short in our efforts to pursue effective ways to nurture followers while the times and circumstances were changing.
Doing missionary work would not bring about any result if we fail to make such efforts. Nurturing followers requires persistent efforts, which should be implemented constantly in keeping with the times. However, we might have slackened our efforts before we knew it. We cannot go back in time to how things were before. Taking an honest look at the current state, we must move forward and endeavor to near the goal that all of us share.
In 1887, when our early predecessors requested permission to establish Church Headquarters, they made a resolution in front of Oyasama, saying “[W]e shall do as God directs” (The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, p. 230). It is of great importance for us to keep in mind that the resolution is still alive and to make efforts so that we can each accomplish our tasks.
Having shared my thoughts, I would like to conclude my remarks. I very much hope that you will continue to spiritedly carry out your tasks once again this year.