Feature Article: Welcoming Visitors with the “Warmth of Wood”

Various improvements are currently being made in the Main Sanctuary and other parts of the Sanctuary precincts for the convenience of visitors. Recently, as part of the measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, new wooden foot-operated disinfection stands were installed in the Main Sanctuary and other areas. In addition, chairs placed throughout the Main Sanctuary are being used by many worshipers, including the elderly and the disabled. These stands and chairs were made by the staff members of the Carpentry and Woodworking Teams of the Construction and Maintenance Section of the Construction and Maintenance Department and the students of the Evening Course of Tenri High School who are doing hinokishin there. We interviewed the “behind-the-scenes workers” involved in woodworking projects aimed at enhancing Church Headquarters facilities.

Wooden Foot-Operated Disinfection Stands Unveiled
Wooden foot-operated disinfection stands were installed at eight locations, including at the bottom of the staircases to the Worship Halls. Many visitors use the foot-operated disinfection stands because they are safer than the hand-operated type that requires users to touch the dispenser with their hands.

The materials used are from cedar trees that were cut to thin the forest of Mt. Jatani (Mitsue, Nara). The wood was selected for its lack of knots and colored to blend in with the building materials inside the Main Sanctuary, giving the warmth of wood.

These wooden stands were made by the staff members of the Carpentry Team of the Construction and Maintenance Section. The team, which has its office and workshop in Nagahara Warehouse in Nagahara, Tenri, is responsible for repairing and maintaining the housing and other facilities of Church Headquarters. They recently worked on the refurbishment of the former Tea Service Center—which is now known as Visitors Lounge—and the renovation of the staircase in the Toyoda-sansha Columbarium.

Currently, there are 12 members on the team, including five staff members and seven students from Tenri High School’s Evening Course. Four of the staff members are graduates of the Evening Course, who used to do hinokishin with the team and have been working there since graduation. One of them is Mr. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (aged 40, lay minister of Tenrikyo Nishirokunomiya Branch Church), who is in charge of the team. The wooden stands were handmade mainly by the high school students under the direction of Mr. Hasegawa.

Mr. Hasegawa said: “When I was an evening course student, I tried very hard to learn from the master carpenter, who believed in the significance of ‘connecting oneself to Jiba and the church.’ I believe that the way to repay the debt of gratitude I feel for the nurture I received in Jiba is to pass on my admired mentor’s way of serving as much as I can to the younger generation. I want to nurture as many people as possible who can spontaneously contribute to their church when they return to their hometown.”

From the Users’ Perspective
Meanwhile, the Woodworking Team, which has its office and factory adjacent to the Carpentry Team’s office, is mainly engaged in woodworking related to the Main Sanctuary, the Foundress’ Sanctuary, and the Memorial Hall, as well as making ritual instruments such as hassoku stands. Currently, there are 14 members on the team, including seven staff members and seven students of Tenri High’s Evening Course.

The wooden chairs in the Worship Halls were made by the team five years ago. Mr. Hirotsugu Matsuda (aged 41, lay minister of Tenrikyo Hiromeri Branch Church) says that he designed the chair from the perspective of the users.

The original beige-based chair has a seat made of synthetic leather and padded with sponge to give good cushioning. The seat height is 35 centimeters (1.1 ft.), low enough for elderly users. The weight of the chair is also reduced to make it easier to carry.

The team also made the low wooden chairs installed in the ground-level area of the Worship Halls where visitors take off their shoes. The seat is made of waterproof material, and the chair is equipped with handles and cane rests on both sides to assist in standing up.

Mr. Matsuda said: “I encourage the members of the team to exchange opinions on a regular basis and work on their own initiative. The staff members and the high school students are all trying to be mindful of their daily duties and to contribute their true sincerity to God.”

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