Today I wanted to share a picture of the pastor at my church, Pastor Sekine and his wife. Yesterday was Pastor Sekine's 79th birthday and we sang happy birthday to him after our Bible study. While we were singing a lovely flower arrangement arrived from his daughter-in-law so I pulled out my trusty camera!
Tetsu and I came to this church about 5 years ago after being members of a larger church in the neighboring city for many years (I still teach at the kindergarten there and that's where I'm going today.) Pastor Sekine had been in the ministry for nearly 50 years and when he "retired" he decided that he wanted to start a church out in the countryside where few Christians live. He chose the land that he bought (privately) very carefully along a "main" road between Nikko and the neighboring city (main meaning it still is only one lane each direction but it does have street lights few and far between). At first, he and his wife built their home with living space on the first floor and a large area on the second floor where folding chairs could be arranged, and that was about the time when Tetsu and I started coming. The church is a short walk through the forest for us and we decided if God had put a church nearly around the corner from us then we wanted to support it as much as possible!
After a couple of years with some member growth (but not much) Pastor Sekine felt God had arranged the place, time and funds to build a regular church building and the "church" was built on the same lot as his home. It is a lovely church with much thought given to it with a rounded ceiling and two home made stained glass windows (made by one of the members!) Not much in the way of decoration but it is very bright and cheery. There are three elders in the church, the pastor's wife and his daughter take turns playing the piano, the rest of the members take turns at greeting people and handing out the program for worship (printed out by the pastor). We also take turns cleaning the church weekly. One lady holds an informal Sunday School class during the worship service and she gathers the kids in an upstairs room and gives them Bible coloring books or supervises crafts. The kids range from age 1 to age 16 so you can see she has quite a job even though there are usually only 5 or 6 kids every week. The regular membership averages around 25 and I scramble around after every service serving tea to people.
For his age, Pastor Sekine is quite open-minded and has a very relaxed attitude about his congregation's faith development. I remember one time he encouraged his congregation to come to church and relax in the new cushioned pews (as opposed to the usual hard wooden ones found in most churches)
"The pews are great for taking a short nap and what better place to nap than at church!"
I'm not sure he'd appreciate that I remember his comment but it struck me as humorous especially since Tetsu occasionally nods off at church!
Anyway, we love the fatherly figure of Pastor Sekine and wish him many more years of serving the Lord.
Happy Birthday Sekine-sensei! (pastor)