Sponsored by Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters in America, “SoulFire Virtual Tenrikyo Faith Conference” was held via Zoom on June 27. This conference drew nearly 300 participants from across the United States, Canada, and several other countries including Brazil and Japan. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual conference aimed to help English-speaking followers rekindle their spiritual flame and their social connections with one another.
The conference opened with a keynote address delivered by Honolulu-ko Church Head Minister Tad Iwata. He spoke about how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, his church members and various community partners came together to hold a variety of outreach events, starting with a safe drive-through food sale proposed by a church member, a restaurant manager, to support local farmers and frontline workers who are keeping the communities safe. He said, “With each subsequent event, our relationships with our community partners grew stronger.” Furthermore, Rev. Iwata noted that the series of events allowed other community groups and individuals with little or no previous exposure to Tenrikyo to visit his church, learn of the teachings, and join in efforts to spread the Joyous Life. Some of them began to visit the church regularly, bringing offerings, and even attended the monthly service. “The pandemic presented us with unprecedented changes but at the same time created valuable opportunities for us to engage in acts of hinokishin by getting out of our normal routines and taking on new challenges to help and bring joy to others while being safe. . . . Each of us may be only one person, but our sincere words and actions spread their influence, inducing others to join in, resulting in joyousness that is shared,” he said.
The keynote address was followed by a panel presentation with three Yoboku, two of them being medical professionals working on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 and one being a community organizer, who led efforts to provide food for the elderly population in Hawaii. They shared what they had experienced and felt during the pandemic. The second half of the conference included four concurrent workshops that provided participants with the opportunity to learn from one another by sharing their thoughts on the teachings with regard to current social issues. One participant said, “[This conference] has inspired me to reflect and evaluate my current situation at my church and how to create ways to spread the teachings throughout the community.” Another participant commented: “It was wonderful to see everyone. . . . I think this is a great platform to bring so many around the world together and should be utilized in the future! Being able to connect with so many internationally was amazing!”
One of the planning committee members of the conference, Pacific Valley Church Head Minister Koji Uesugi, said, “We look to build on the joyous experience from the conference and carry our spirited energy forward so that we can be useful instruments of God the Parent to make this world more joyous.”
Next year’s SoulFire Tenrikyo Faith Conference is scheduled to take place in-person in Palm Springs, California, between June 24 and 26, 2022.