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Historic week for the Church of the Nazarene in Japan
Japan is on the Asia-Pacific region.
The Japan District celebrated its Centennial anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene in Japan last week with a three day event that included the district’s 61st district assembly. Nazarenes met from March 9 to 11 in Kyoto–where the work of the Church in Japan began 100 years ago. Delegates at the assembly also made history when they elected Motoko Matsuda Japan’s first female district superintendent.
Matsuda has pastored the Kura Church of the Nazarene near Hiroshima for the past 15 years. A member of the District Advisory Board for the past four years, Matsuda has served as an ordained elder since 1997. Matsuda's late husband, Zenko Matsuda, also served as a Nazarene pastor. Upon her election, Matsuda told the delegates, "I am humbled by your confidence in me to lead this district."
Asia-Pacific Regional Director Vern Ward described Matsuda as a “strong, mentoring pastor” who “will bring her sincere, servant leadership to the office with many years of pastoral experience.”
General Superintendent Nina G. Gunter, who made history herself in 2005 by becoming the Church of the Nazarene’s first female general superintendent, served as keynote speaker for the Centennial.
Gunter challenged the hundreds of Nazarenes in attendance saying, “God has given us the resources, all we need to do is His mission … here in Japan and in the nations of the world”–a reference to the Church of the Nazarene’s statement of mission, “To make Christlike disciples in the nations.”
She also reminded delegates to remember His power, remember His purpose, remember His presence, and remember their participation.
Additionally, Gunter read a historical account of the Church of the Nazarene in Japan provided by Nazarene Archives. Gunter’s manuscript read:
“In 1907, Japan became the eighth nation of the world in which the people called “Nazarenes” proclaimed the message of Christian Holiness. The work was progressing with new holiness churches, missions, and preaching points in Canada, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, Scotland, and the United States.
“Thus, by 1908, the anniversary date which commemorates the union of our parent denomination, we were already a people with work in eight nations and among five languages. This is clear evidence of who the Nazarenes were at the beginning and who we are today: We are a people of God who believe with strong conviction that Christ opens His church to those of all ages, nations, and races.
“Nazarene beginnings in Japan were modest. At first there were just two women: Rev. Lillian Poole and Rev. Lulu Williams, ordained ministers of the gospel who were sent to Japan from the American Holiness Church affiliated with the Oriental Mission Society. Later the American Holiness Church joined the Church of the Nazarene. They settled first in Tokyo for language school. Then, in 1907, they took up residence in Kyoto. Soon others augmented their work, including some whose names are known throughout the Nazarene world: Rev. Minnie Staples, Rev. J. I. Nagamatshu, Rev. Hiroshi Kitagawa, Rev. Nobumi Isayama, and Rev. W. A. Eckel.”
One hundred years later in 2007, approximately 500 Japanese Nazarenes from the farthest northern and southern points of Japan gathered for the March 11 worship celebration. Nazarenes from Okinawa, an island 1,000 miles to the southwest of Tokyo, presented an Okinawan celebration dance dressed in historic costumes as part of the festivities.
Ward and his wife, Natalie, attended the events, along with representatives from Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, and Cambodia. In addition, several former Nazarene missionaries who had served in Japan joined the celebrations.
© Church of the Nazarene 2013 -