LOCAL HOLINESS CHURCH ACTIVITIES
The Honolulu Church
In 1963, Fui Kuroda, one of the founders of the Honolulu Christian Church and the mother of Akira Kuroda, died. She had been a unique soul-winner and a dedicated prayer-warrior. In 1967, Bill Hara took charge of the English Department of the Honolulu Church. During his pastorate, a new sanctuary was built and dedicated on March 1, 1969. In the fall of 1969, David Hosomi was appointed to serve the Japanese Department. He began a radio ministry in 1970 on Station KOHO which was geared toward a Japanese listening audience. The ministry continued until his appointment to the Los Angeles Holiness Church at the beginning of 1981.
The year the Honolulu Holiness Church celebrated its fortieth anniversary, 1972, Kenneth Ashitomi was appointed to the English Department. Under his ministry, an outreach on the University of Hawaii, Manoa campus, produced tremendous growth for the church. As a result, a strong program for young adults was developed in the church, which was to bear fruit for years to come. Many of these young people who attended Mount Hermon in the summer of that year, dedicated their lives to the Lord. Daryl Ishihara and Raedeen Ashitomi helped the high school intermediate student group. Aileen Gilliland Oshiro and her husband served under Arctic Missions in Alaska. Ann Nakabayashi Young served the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, and then along with her husband Phil, went to serve as missionaries in the Philippines. Diana Sekido entered the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Pat Kuo served with Youth with a Mission in Fiji, Singapore and the Philippines. Russell and Judy Higa, Jerry and Arlene Higashi, Alfred and Iris Oya, and Calvin Chow also dedicated their lives to the Lord.
In 1981, David Hosomi, who had served the Japanese Department since 1969, was appointed to the Los Angeles Holiness Church; Yuichiro Nakano from the San Lorenzo Holiness Church replaced him. Also in 1.981, the church commenced work on a long-awaited dream of a new educational unit. The old sanctuary, which had served for many years as a parsonage, a worship center, a social hall, and a Sunday school, was in need of costly repairs. A new educational unit was designed to accommodate the growth and future needs of the church. A tremendous fund-raising and building campaign for the educational unit and social hall was spearheaded by Kenneth Ashitomi, Mark Watase, Dennise Oshiro and other trustees and members.
By the end of this period, both the English and Japanese divisions had grown to be among the largest congregations in the Conference. Yuichiro Nakano has continued to carry on a diversified ministry: appearing on a daily radio program, ministering to many visitors from Japan, teaching a special course at the University of Hawaii, as well as serving in a ministry in Japan.
The Los Angeles Church
The first potluck-style birthday luncheon held in 1964, became a traditional fellowship of the Japanese Department. Eventually, it evolved into an outreach program as many Japanese students were invited for a home-cooked Japanese meal. In the same year, the Church decided to purchase nearby land for an educational building. In 1966, the new educational building at 3660 South Gramercy Place was completed and a dedication service was held on September 18th of that year. Shortly thereafter, both the Japanese and English Departments began to rotate their use of the sanctuary and the educational building every quarter.
For the forty-eighth anniversary of the church in April 1969, Henry Sakuma was the special speaker. At the Thanksgiving luncheon following the service, thirteen members over eighty years of age were honored for their many years of dedication and sacrifice for the Lord.
In February 1971, an historic event took place: both the Japanese and the English-speaking Divisions met for a Joint Winter Conference at the Los Angeles Church. It was the first time in Conference history that such a meeting was held. In May of that same year, the church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with Sadaichi Kuzuhara as speaker. The title of his message at the service was The Year of Jubilee and Pentecost. At the anniversary banquet, Henry Sakuma preached, and Hatsu Yano gave her testimony. The following year the anniversary book called Fountain of Joy was published.
In 1975, James Suehiro retired from the church after twenty-nine years of diligent service. He had served briefly as Executive Secretary of the Japanese Division. In 1978, Arthur Tsuneishi was appointed to the Los Angeles Holiness Church. He succeeded Akira Kuroda, who had served twenty-nine fruitful years in the church. Kuroda was assigned to the West Los Angeles Holiness Church.
Also in 1978, the children’s choir, under the leadership of Rennie Mau and Mary Tabuchi, toured Hawaii, singing for churches and civic groups. In the summer of 1979, they toured the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento, holding concerts. The group also made three memorable trips to Japan in 1986, 1989 and 1992.
In 1979, Robert Tsujimoto was called to Japan as the national coordinator of the Billy Graham Crusade. David Hosomi came from Hawaii to become the new Nichigo pastor (Japanese-speaking pastor), beginning in January 1980. Also in 1980, four men nurtured at the Los Angeles Holiness Church over the years were ordained to the ministry of the Conference: Jim Sakurai, Takashi Furuyama, Shunji Mizoguchi and John Katagi.
In the early and mid-1980’s, the Los Angeles Church's English-speaking Department was served by several Sansei student interns and assistant pastorsJerry Higashi, David Shinoda, Robert Yonemoto, Jr., Dale Chin and Lester Yamashita. In July 1987, Shunji Mizoguchi succeeded David Hosomi as pastor of the Japanese Department. David Hosomi had served the Los Angeles Holiness Church for eight years.
On September 18, 1987, Tsuneko Hosomi, a faithful servant of the Lord and the wife of David Hosomi, succumbed to cancer in Osaka, Japan, where she had gone for further medical treatment. Memorial services were held both in Hawaii and in Los Angeles where the Hosomis had served earlier. After his wife’s death, Hosomi visited Japanese churches in Brazil for three months before beginning his service at the San Fernando Valley Holiness Church.
The Orange County Church
The Orange County Holiness Church started with a cottage prayer meeting on February 26, 1960, at the home of Kunijiro Okubo in Artesia. The meetings were held once-a-month as an outreach ministry of the Los Angeles Holiness Church, Japanese Department, for the members who had moved to the Orange County area. The group was ably led by James Suehiro. On February 1, 1970, monthly evangelistic meetings began on Sunday afternoons at the Okubo home. By this time, instead of a monthly meeting, weekly cottage meetings were held at different homes in the Orange County area: Westminster, Stanton, La Palma, and Artesia. That year a tenth-anniversary celebration of the first Artesia home meeting was held at the Okubo residence with over one hundred people in attendance.
On June 8, 1975, the first Sunday morning worship services and Sunday school were held in Stanton at the home of Tsunenori Uchino. Uchino supplied the sermon, while George Okubo organized the Sunday school. When the desire to form a church became stronger, their work was officially recognized as a Conference Mission Church at the General Conference in July 1975. Due to limited parking at the Uchino’s, the worship services were moved to the Okubo home in Artesia in September 1975.
Under the guidance of Robert Tsujimoto, successor to James Suehiro who had retired from the Los Angeles Holiness Church, the ministry continued to grow. At the request of the Los Angeles Church, Takashi Saito served as pulpit supply until his return to Japan in March 1976. After that, Yoshihiro Kishi and Gunsaku Kuwahara supplied the pulpit until July 1976. From August 1976, Shunji Mizoguchi supplied the pulpit until he was officially appointed as student pastor of the mission from September 1977.
During these formative years, Gunsaku Kuwahara and Tom Furuya of the Los Angeles Holiness Church, faithfully commuted to Orange County to assist in the work of the mission. A gradual demand for an English language ministry began to emerge. As a result, a weekly Bible study and prayer meeting in English began under the leadership of Akira Kuroda and John Katagi in October 1976.
Starting in January 1977, English worship services commenced with the help of sister churches. By this time the Japanese Department was actively working toward recognition as a Conference church. This dream came true at the 1977 General Conference when the delegates voted unanimously to recognize the Orange County Mission as a Conference church. Thus on September 18, 1977, the Orange County Holiness Church was officially organized with thirty-six charter members.
In February 1978, John Katagi was appointed as pulpit supply in the English work. After Katagi was transferred to the San Diego Church, Takashi Sakurai from the West Los Angeles Church was appointed to serve as English Department pastor. That same year Shunji Mizoguchi became the pastor of the Japanese Department.
The church continued to rent the Okubo home, but the desire for a larger permanent facility led to the establishment of a church building committee in January of 1979. Additional lots on Bishop Street in Cypress were purchased in September 1981 with a loan from the Conference Pension Fund. This purchase doubled the size of the initial Bishop property.
In 1982, Shunji Mizoguchi was assigned to the San Lorenzo Church, so Robert Tsujimoto, who had served at the Los Angeles Church for four years, replaced him. After much deliberation by the Building Committee, the Board of Deacons, and the congregation, Phase One of the building project was approved. This phase involved the placement of temporary modular units on the property. The conditional-use permit for this building plan was granted by the County of Orange on June 19, 1984. With the completion of the project, dedication services were held on October 13, 1985, with well-wishers from many of the Holiness churches gathered to celebrate the occasion. The next target was the Phase Two Project: to build a permanent building by the end of 1993.
After Robert Tsujimoto’s resignation in 1985 to align himself with Food for Hungry International in Japan, Yoshitsugu Nakamichi served as student pastor for two years. Then in 1987, Tsukasa Sugimura from the San Fernando Church was appointed as the Japanese-speaking minister of the church.
The Pearl City Highlands Church
When Bill Hara was assigned to Hawaii, he went with thoughts of starting a new church. One good prospect was the Pearl City area where several of the Honolulu members were establishing new homes. In 1972, Isoroku Sekiguchi and his wife Irene went to Hawaii to survey the area with the idea of possibly starting a church in Pearl City. At that time, the Pearl Ridge Shopping Center was under construction and undeveloped property was still available for purchase. Moreover, the general population was expanding toward the leeward side of the Island. The Sekiguchis recommended that work on a new church begin immediately.
After members of the Honolulu Holiness Church conducted surveys and visited the area, the church sponsored a Vacation Bible School in August 1974 with great success. So with great faith, the Pearl City members of the Honolulu Holiness Church started a Sunday school at the Pearl City Highlands Elementary School in the fall of 1974.
Because of the success of the Sunday school, the Pearl City members soon began holding worship services under the leadership of Kenji Yoshii. Under the auspices of its mother church, the mission was named Highlands Holiness Mission. The name Highlands, is used since the church is situated in that area of Pearl City. However, ever since its incorporation by the OMS Holiness Church of North America as a recognized member church in 1976, the church adopted the name OMS Pearl City Highlands Holiness Church.
Kenneth Ashitomi went from Honolulu to Pearl City once a month to minister, while on the remaining Sundays, laymen like Kenji Yoshii and Calvin Chow served. The mission experienced steady growth and the desire for a full-time pastor grew. On Sunday, August 17, 1975, the first Japanese-language service was held. David Hosomi, Japanese-speaking pastor of the Honolulu Holiness Church, led the first service with fifteen persons in attendance. The Japanese Division has continued to meet each Sunday, and since then, a weekly midweek cottage meeting has been added.
A little more than a year later, in December 1975, the Highlands Holiness Church Mission made a formal request for a full-time minister to begin his service with the new fiscal year of 1976. In compliance with the request, the 1976 General Conference appointed Isoroku Sekiguchi as the first full-time minister of the church. The church was duly incorporated in July of 1976.
David Hosomi and later Yuichiro Nakano, both Japanese-speaking ministers of the Honolulu Japanese Christian Church, supplied the pulpit on Sundays until 1983. In February 1983, Mitsuru Yamawaki from the Hokota Holiness Church in Japan arrived and began serving the Japanese-speaking Division as a full-time pastor of the church. In 1984, Isoroku Sekiguchi was transferred to the San Diego Church and Jerry Higashi, who was an assistant pastor of the Los Angeles Church, replaced him.
The San Diego Church
Upon George Yahiro’s death, Arthur Tsuneishi assumed the responsibility of ministering in both Japanese and English. For five years the church was again served by one bilingual pastor. In July 1966, the facilities at 19th and E Streets were purchased from the First Covenant Church. On August 7, 1966, the congregation gathered in thanksgiving and praise to dedicate the new church. The following year Arthur Tsuneishi was transferred to San Lorenzo and James Toda was appointed pastor. The church continued its zeal for the Lord’s work.
On September 13, 1970, the congregation gathered to dedicate the newly remodeled church, as well as to celebrate its fortieth anniversary. In 1972, the Mission Chapel portion of the church was completely remodeled and renamed the Issei Memorial Hall.
Adjoining property was purchased in 1976 with future expansion in mind. Five years later, the mortgage on the church was fully paid. The fledgling mission program, which began in 1967 under Arthur Tsuneishi’s leadership, continued to flourish under James Toda. Under Toda’s guidance, the number of organizations and persons supported, increased from six to a total of fifteen. The church assumed the challenge of expanding its vision for missions. As a result the church saw several young people make various length commitments as missionaries: Yukimi Shiromoto (Otani) to Japan, Sanaye (Otsuji) Nagami to Colombia, Joan Kaminaka (Goon) to Japan, and Nancy Mukai (Toma) to Hawaii.
After a constructive and fruitful ministry of eleven years, James Toda was transferred to the San Lorenzo Holiness Church in September of 1978. During that same month, John Katagi was appointed to replace him. As the Sansei approached maturity, the church saw an increasing need to develop a ministry for them. Just as the growth of the Nisei’s in 1950’s necessitated the development of the English-speaking Department, the need for a young people’s ministry became increasingly evident throughout the 1970’s.
In San Diego, the decade of the eighties began with John Katagi as pastor, assisted by Wade Hayashida and John Lee as youth directors. The highlight of the year was the celebration of the church’s fiftieth anniversary and the hosting of the General Conference at Point Loma College. John Katagi was ordained at the General Conference.
In 1981, the church’s official name was changed from San Diego Holiness Church to San Diego Japanese Christian Church. That September the Japanese-speaking pastor, Shinichi Fukiage, after serving eleven fruitful years, was transferred to the Santa Clara Holiness Church. Michio Okawa replaced him as the new pastor. In 1982, David Thompson was added as youth director and he assisted John Lee. The following year John Lee graduated from seminary and began work in new areas.
In August 1984, with the transfer of John Katagi to the San Gabriel Christian Church, the church welcomed Isoroku Sekiguchi, his wife Irene, and daughter Janet, from the Pearl City Church in Hawaii, to carry on pastoral duties. In 1980, David Thompson, who served as an assistant pastor under Isoroku Sekiguchi, resigned to work with World Impact in Fresno, California. Rick Chuman, a student at Bethel Seminary, was added to the pastoral staff.
March 26, 1987, will long be remembered, for it marked the passing of Isoroku Sekiguchi after a brief illness. The Conference had lost a gifted and beloved servant of God who was just fifty-one years of age. While awaiting the appointment of a new minister, Rick Chuman along with Hoard Chairman Guy Kiyoi and others, faithfully carried on the functions of the church. A few months later in September, the Conference appointed Brian Nakamura, who was at West Los Angeles, to assume the pastoral duties. He arrived in San Diego accompanied by his wife, Emiko, and their three children: Akemi, Matthew and Keiko.
The San Fernando Church
The San Fernando Church sanctuary was dedicated on April 26, 1964 with Sadaichi Kuzuhara as speaker. George Toda was the English Division pastor at that time, serving from 1962 to 1972. The year of the dedication also saw the Shuyokai (summer conference) held at San Fernando, due to the sudden cancellation of the original location of Westmont College. This was probably the first time that the Shuyokai was held at a local church.
In 1965, due to personal reasons, Tameichi Okimoto, who had served the Japanese-speaking Department for ten years, left the Conference. David Hosomi replaced him as the new pastor. Four years later, Shinichi Fukiage was appointed to the church, and David Hosomi went to the Honolulu Church.
Eiichi Suzuki was appointed to the San Fernando Church in 1971, serving the San Gabriel Church at the same time. In 1974, he became the first full-time, Japanese-speaking minister of the church in its fifty-year history. He served for ten years until his appointment to the West Los Angeles Church.
In 1972, the English-speaking Division received Isoroku Sekiguchi and his wife, Irene. During his ministry, the church experienced a steady growth in worship, as well as in Sunday school attendance. After the heart-rending death of his two-year-old daughter Carole, Sekiguchi returned to Hawaii to become the first full-time, English-speaking pastor of the Pearl City Highlands Church. Ren Kimura returned to once again pastor the church.
In 1977, with six or more families as a nucleus, the church started a satellite group in the West Valley, near Balboa and Devonshire, under the leadership of Ren Kimura. With the subsequent growth of the new group, it was organized as the Japanese Community Christian Church. Rather than becoming a mission of the San Fernando Valley Holiness Church, the congregation voted to become a separate, autonomous entity with Ren Kimura as their pastor. With Ren Kimura’s departure to pastor the new work. Akira Kuroda succeeded him as pastor of the San Fernando Holiness Church.
After Eiichi Suzuki’s ten years of ministry in San Fernando, Tsukasa Sugimura was appointed to the Japanese-speaking Department in 1981. Sugimura, a graduate of the Tokyo Biblical Seminary, served at San Fernando until 1987, when he was appointed to the Orange County Holiness Church. Yoshitsugu Nakamichi, a Fuller seminarian from Japan, briefly followed him, after which David Hosomi assumed the pastorship in 1987.
In 1985, Robert Yonemoto, Jr., a third-generation member of the Los Angeles Holiness Church and a graduate of Fuller Seminary, was appointed as an assistant pastor under Akira Kuroda. At the 1986 General Conference hosted by the church, Akira Kuroda, a faithful servant of God and the first Nisei pastor of our Conference, was also to become the first Nisei pastor to retire. He along with his wife, Michi, had served for forty-four arduous, but eventful years, in the Conference.
The church had long dreamt of having a multi-purpose hall where it could enjoy worship services as well as fellowship. Akira Kuroda, the English-speaking Department senior pastor, challenged the congregation to build a social hall by faith. Their dreams came true on July 25, 1987, when along with the celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, the newly constructed Fellowship Hall was dedicated. An anniversary book was published at the same time. The project was spearheaded by the diligent labors of long time member Jim Howe, assisted by fellow firemen as well as by other members of the church. In January 1990, the church lost one of its more faithful and dedicated layman, when Howe met a tragic death in the line of duty.
The San Gabriel Church
In September 1963, the church received its first full-time English Department pastor, Ren Kimura. He was accompanied by his wife, May, in a ministry for a small but growing congregation. In 1965, Robert Tsujimito was appointed as student pastor of the Japanese Department. He served concurrently at the West Los Angeles Holiness Church, while attending Fuller Theological Seminary.
The 1960’s were the building years of the English Department. The small group grew to a congregation of about forty people. As their numbers grew, the membership became concerned with the evangelization of the San Gabriel Valley. They realized that their present facilities were inadequate and they sought a central location that would be more conducive to growth. Much discussion resulted in targeting the East San Gabriel Valley, and the center of that target area was at Francisquito Avenue and the San Bernardino Freeway. Bill Akiyama inquired at the Trinity Church of Baldwin Park, which was near that center, and found the church leaders praying for the sale of their property. Andrew Yahiro ably handled the negotiations for its purchase. In 1967, the move was made to the present facilities at 3718 N. Baldwin Park Blvd.
In September 1972, after Ren Kimura’s fruitful nine year ministry, the English Department received a new pastor, Bill Hara, and his wife, Jean. Under the leadership of Bill Hara and Andrew Yahiro, the church refinanced its mortgage loan, and was able to retire the mortgage in 1977.
During January 1974, Yoshihiro “Bambi” Kishi was appointed to supply the pulpit for the Japanese Department. He also served as student pastor for two years while attending Fuller Seminary, before his return to Japan to work with the Sodoin Dendo.
Kishi’s replacement in 1976, Takashi Furuyama, arrived from Japan with his wife, Reiko, after three years of study at Tokyo Biblical Seminary. He served as student pastor while attending Azusa Pacific College to finish his seminary training. In September 1977, Furuyama was appointed as the first full-time pastor for the Japanese Department. Three years later, he was ordained.
After serving for more than twenty years in the Conference, Bill Hara resigned in 1984 to start the Inland Empire Japanese Christian Church in the San Bernardino area. In 1987, Takashi Furuyama, after a nine year ministry, was assigned to the San Lorenzo Holiness Church.
To assume Furuyama’s responsibilities, Takaaki Yamada, who came from the Brazil Evangelical Holiness Church, was officially recognized at the 1987 General Conference for his first assignment in the United States. Before coming to the States with his wife, Connie and four children, he had served churches in Curitiba, Presidente Prudente, Presidente Venceslau, and Rio De Janeiro. He had also managed an orphanage in Brazil for six years after graduating from seminary.
The San Lorenzo Church
In 1963, Henry Sakuma, who returned to the West Coast after pastoring the Chicago Holiness Church during the post-evacuation years, replaced Kichiro Fukuda. Sakuma’s welcome dinner coincided with the thirty-fourth anniversary of the San Lorenzo Church. After twenty-two fruitful years at San Lorenzo, Daniel Shinoda was appointed pastor of the Campbell Church in 1967. Throughout his service, Shinoda had never sought remuneration for his work as pastorhe headed the San Lorenzo Nursery. Consequently, when Arthur Tsuneishi came from San Diego to serve San Lorenzo, for the first time the English Department had to assume full financial responsibility for its pastor. The 1970 sanctuary remodeling project began with the renovation of the sanctuary and the installation of new pews.
During this same period, Issei pastors were beginning to retire, so young Nichigo pastors were called from Japan to replace them. This happened in August 1973, as Henry Sakuma, who had completed over fifty years of faithful ministry in the Conference, retired from the active pastoral ministry. He was succeeded by a young Nichigo pastor from the Japan Holiness Church, Yuichiro Nakano. Nakano had served as a pioneer worker in Saitama for ten years. He came to the United States with his wife, Meiko, and their three children. During his ministry, he started a special outreach work aimed at the many young Nichigo students in the San Francisco area. In 1974, Nakano organized the group called the Wakagi-Kai. Out of the group, Susumu Nagayama and Sunao Shimada dedicated themselves to the Lord and are presently ministers in the Japan Holiness Church. Many other young people became Christians and were baptized through the group activities. Nakano was also involved in a cooperative television ministry with other San Francisco Bay Area Japanese churches.
After Nakano was assigned to Honolulu in 1979, Kiyoshi Ishihara, who was studying while on leave from the Japan Holiness Church, came to serve on an interim basis. In James Toda was assigned as English Department pastor of the San Lorenzo Church, while Arthur Tsuneishi moved on to the Los Angeles Holiness Church. On October 14, the San Lorenzo Holiness Church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with 400 people attending.
At the annual business meeting in June 1981, the church membership voted to change the name of the church to the San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church. During 1981, Ishihara held a Thursday night Bible school to nurture discipleship. This ministry brought encouragement and good training to church members. After a two year ministry, Ishihara returned to Japan in early 1982, leaving the Japanese-speaking Division without a pastor. Until Shunji Mizoguchi from the Orange County Holiness Church was assigned in August 1982, neighboring ministers like Sadao Masuko of the United Methodist church and retired ministers supplied the pulpit. With Mizoguchi’s assignment to San Lorenzo, monthly evangelistic worship services, as well as testimonies by laymen, began.
In 1984, Rodney Yee began serving as youth minister, working with both the Lifeline and college-age groups. The fifty-fifth anniversary of the church was celebrated that year with the publication of an anniversary book. On July 18, 1985, Mitsu Fukuda, who had served faithfully for many years with her husband, Kichiro Fukuda, died. The funeral services were held at the church where she had regularly worshipped since her retirement. At the 1987 General Conference hosted by the church, Shunji Mizoguchi was appointed to the Los Angeles Holiness Church. Takashi Furuyama from the San Gabriel Holiness Church succeeded him and continues to serve there.
The Santa Clara Church
The Santa Clara Valley Holiness Church was formed officially on June 1, 1970, as a result of the merger of the Campbell Holiness Church and the Sunnyvale Holiness Church. Its history consequently must incorporate those of Campbell and Sunnyvale.
The Campbell Holiness Church:
In 1963, the Campbell Church purchased a quarter acre lot with a single dwelling house on it for 35,000 dollars. The building was remodeled to be used as a church and was dedicated on August 4, 1963. Bill Hara was appointed pastor and served both the Sunnyvale and Campbell Churches from 1964 until his transfer to Hawaii in 1967. Isoroku Sekiguchi succeeded him at both churches.
Also with the appointment of Daniel Shinoda to the Campbell Church in 1967, the church experienced a steady growth. Since Sunday school enrollment neared 100, and worship attendance was growing, a joint building campaign with Sunnyvale was launched. Nobumichi Murakami, who was on a study leave from the Japan Holiness Church, was invited by Shinoda to serve in both the Sunnyvale and Campbell churches.
The Sunnyvale Holiness Church:
In the mid 50’s the Wakatanis started a Sunday school in the Tri-City Hall in Mountain View. With the start of a Japanese language service, the mid-peninsula people split off from the Campbell Church to form a new church in Sunnyvale in April 1963 with Kichiro Fukuda as the first Japanese-speaking pastor. The following year, Bill Hara was assigned as the English-speaking minister of the church. After Fukuda’s retirement in 1966, Henry Sakuma was assigned to the church while serving at San Lorenzo as well.
In 1965, a fire destroyed almost fifty percent of the building, but it was rebuilt and rededicated on December 8, 1965. However, with a burden for a strong church in greater Santa Clara Valley, the two congregations were to eventually unite in 1969. Henry Sakuma continued to pastor until 1967, while the following year Isoroku Sekiguchi was ordained while serving at Sunnyvale.
The Santa Clara Valley Holiness Church:
On June 1, 1969, the Campbell and Sunnyvale Holiness Churches officially merged to become the Santa Clara Valley Holiness Church. They immediately launched a building program and began construction of a sanctuary and educational unit on the Campbell property. During the interim, services were held at both Sunnyvale and Campbell. The Sunnyvale property was later sold and the funds were used to pay for the new building in Campbell. Murakami, who was serving as the Japanese Department pastor for both churches, became the Nichigo pastor at Santa Clara Valley. Isoroku Sekiguchi who was at Sunnyvale, and Daniel Shinoda who was at Campbell, became co-pastors at Santa Clara. On November 9, 1969, the newly completed building was dedicated. A year later additional classrooms were added. God had used the three pastors to not only bring the churches together, but also to bring a new and viable ministry to the area.
From 1969 to 1973, the Japanese-speaking Department held regular evangelistic services on Sunday afternoons. After Nobumichi Murakami returned to Japan in September of 1972, Robert Tsujimoto was appointed to take his place as the Japanese-speaking pastor.
In 1972, Iso Sekiguchi was transferred to San Fernando and was succeeded by George Toda. Daniel Shinoda continued as co-pastor until 1974 when he left to minister at the Peninsula Free Methodist Church in Redwood City. In 1975, with the assignment of Michio Okawa from the Japan Holiness Church to the Nichigo Division, Robert Tsujimoto was transferred to the Los Angeles Holiness Church. In the summer of that same year, Tsukasa Sugimura was led to the church by a member of the English Department of the church. Sugimura later dedicated himself to the Lord and eventually become a minister in the Conference.
In the mid 1970’s, the church was active in youth ministries visiting Japanese students attending nearby San Jose State University. As a result of this type of ministry, Arimasa Kubo dedicated himself and attended the Tokyo Biblical Seminary, and is currently a Christian writer in the Tokyo area. At the time of Kubo’s dedication, Saeko Higashi and Chiemi Sano, members of the church, attended a one year laymen’s program at Tokyo Biblical Seminary. Since then, the church has sent seminarians to Japan for professional training almost every year.
In 1981, Michio Okawa was assigned to the San Diego Japanese Christian Church after a six year ministry at Santa Clara. Shinichi Fukiage was assigned after Okawa and he currently serves the Nichigo Department. A major remodeling project in 1983 included new pastors’ offices and additional Sunday school classrooms. In 1984, George Toda was appointed to the Honolulu Christian Church after twelve years of ministry at Santa Clara. Kenneth Ashitomi, who came from the Honolulu Church, currently serves as the English-speaking pastor.
The Walnut Creek Church
According to preliminary surveys taken in 1977 of area churches, very few Japanese families were attending a church. To initiate the work, all Japanese surnames were culled from area telephone books and sent letters of invitation to the first service. Assisting in the project were members of the Santa Clara and San Lorenzo Churches who attended the initial services as well. On October 2, 1977, Daniel and Yuri Shinoda, along with several families from the Contra Costa County community, held their first worship service at the Masonic Lodge in Walnut Creek. The church began operation under the San Lorenzo Church charter. The Sunday school program was started a year later.
In 1980, Walnut Creek Japanese Christian Church was formally incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of California. Following the church’s incorporation, the first Board of Trustees was elected. On August 30, 1981, the Property Committee was formed to search for a suitable church site. Their search culminated on May 17, 1983, with the purchase of a 2.25 acre plot of undeveloped land for 235,000 dollars at 1955 Geary Road in Walnut Creek. Because they had to vacate the Masonic Lodge, the church moved to the Veterans Memorial Hall on Locust Street on August 28, 1983. A Building Committee was formed with Stan Matsumoto as chairman, and their work was rewarded with the issuance of a building permit by the city’s Planning Commission on April 10, 1986. On June 7 of the following year, a ground-breaking ceremony was held at the Geary Road site.
The West Los Angeles Church
After Kumaji Yoshimoto’s retirement in July 1965 as a lay evangelist, Robert Tsujimoto was appointed to the Japanese-speaking Department. Tsujimoto also ministered at the San Gabriel Valley Church at the same time. In May of 1967, he was ordained at the San Gabriel Church. That same year, the church purchased an adjacent property for the Sunday school use. In July 1969, Robert was appointed to full-time ministry at the West Los Angeles Church.
In July 1972 with the transfer of Kenneth Ashitomi to Honolulu and Robert Tsujimoto to Santa Clara, Ren Kimura and Kenichi Dojo, a graduate of the American Baptist Seminary of the West succeeded them. During the following years, the surrounding area experienced a rapid growth in high-density construction; at the same time, the church building underwent heavy wear-and-tear from frequent use. The aged and inadequate facilities greatly hampered the church’s programs, especially the religious education and youth ministries.
In November 1972, the congregation voted to construct a completely new buildingon the same siteto enable the church to adequately minister to the spiritual and social needs of the community. In spite of rising costs, through faith the congregation embarked on this project with a budget of 24-5,000 dollars. The Japanese-speaking Department responded by pledging a cash contribution totaling 100,000 dollars. In addition, the church received a monthly commitment of 700 dollars in pledges for the 920 dollars needed each month.
While construction proceeded from 1973 to 1975, the congregation met at the local Westside YMCA. Columbus Day, 1975, was a most joyous day of triumph as the new church building was dedicated for His service. It was the culmination of three exciting years of prayer, expectations, planning and commitment. On that same day, Kenichi Dojo was ordained to the gospel ministry. In the Bicentennial Summer of 1976, West Los Angeles bid farewell to Ren Kimura who was appointed to the San Fernando Valley Holiness Church. Takashi Sakurai, after graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary, was welcomed as the minister to the English-speaking Department in September of that year. He served for two years and was replaced by Akira Kuroda in September 1980.
In July 1981, the church celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary and hosted the annual General Conference at the same time. That year, Kenichi Dojo resigned from the Conference after a ten year ministry to serve at the Ohmi Kyodaisha Gaguen in Shiga-ken. He is currently serving as the president of the school. Eiichi Suzuki succeeded Dojo and has served there since then. Also that same year, Kumaji Yoshimoto, who had served as the church’s lay pastor for many years, passed away. In 1981, Brian Nakamura, a member of the church and a Fuller Seminary student, was appointed as student pastor replacing Akira Kuroda. Nakamura was ordained in 1986 at the General Conference at San Fernando and served until 1987. He was succeeded by Yas Wada, who joined the Conference that year.
Other Japanese Christian Churches
The most significant event during this period among the Japanese Christian churches was the Centennial Celebration held in San Francisco in 1977. More than 1,500 Japanese Christians from throughout the United States, Canada, and South America, gathered on October 5 to 9, 1977, at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco to celebrate the 100th year of Christian work among the Japanese in North America. A banner on the wall heralded the theme, “Celebrate the Centennial, Commemorate the Legacy, and Affirm Our Commitment in Christ.”
During the Centennial Celebration, Rev. John Mizuki reported that there were 130 Japanese-American churches and 30,000 members in North America, with approximately forty of these churches located in Southern California as shown in Table 23.
The Centennial Celebration opened with a processional of the various Japanese Christian federations and denominations, representing over 160 churches in the United States and Canada. During the opening ceremony, Rev. Casper Horikoshi, the Chairperson of the Centennial Celebration Coordinating Council, said,
Though we have come from many places, we are together in the service of the Lord. Though we represent many denominations, we are one in Christ. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses whose pioneering work in the Japanese Christian ministries we are now commemorating. Let us all remember and cherish the legacy of dedication and faithful service from our forefathers, and lay an even firmer foundation for the second century of Japanese Christian ministries in North America (Horikoshi 1977:2).
The National Centennial Celebration comprised many events that were significant in themselves. It was the occasion for the first interdenominational Japanese Pastors’ Convocation, Lay Convocation, Women’s Convocation, and Nichigo Lay Conference and Youth Retreat. It also provided an opportunity for the second U.S.-Japan Christian Conference to take place. The following article was contributed to the Centennial Celebration report by Rev. Nobu Imaizumi, pastor of the Pine Methodist Church of San Francisco.
We stirringly affirmed the sense of autonomy and authenticity in our ministries with ethnic minority people: people who have been subjected to ecclesiastical and institutional racism took a significant stand not to continue to be regarded as peripheral Christians. Japanese ministries in America have a special place in God’s plan for his kingdom. The question, however, is how churches will interpret this theology into action to make significant differences in their churches and ministries.... The fact that we are no longer the recipients of mission, means, or should mean, that we are the actors of Christian mission. It further means that we understand Christian mission to be not something which has been done to us, but something we do for others (Imaizumi 1977:25).
Rev. Imaizumi’s report represents the spirit of our founding fathers, and most of all, the spirit of Christ. The Centennial ended, but its spirit lingers among Christians, inspiring them to continue another hundred years of God’s work among our people in North America.
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