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A HISTORICAL JOURNEY : 3rd and Central – 1995 – 1997 Centennial Celebration 

By Carolyn Tokunaga

With fundraising for the new sanctuary continuing and construction underway, Centenary was in its final phase of its building program on 3rd and Central. The Multi-purpose Building was serving the church well as church ministries and activities worked around the building going on. A new sanctuary was quickly becoming a reality.

On February 19, 1995, the Sanctuary and Chapel grand opening was celebrated. The pipe organ was installed on February 24, 1995. The organ pipes frame the beautiful prize-winning stained glass window created by Elizabeth Devareaux.

In the quiet enjoyment of the window, you find a symbolic story of Centenary. The circle represents God, eternity, and the central place of Centenary in the community of believers in the Japanese-American community. Partially shown, it symbolizes the hidden aspects of God which continually reveal themselves. The suggestion of a tree or branch represents the growth of Issei and Nisei generations of Japanese/Americans. The roots open into leaves at the top – the growth of a new generation and its integration into American life. The color also symbolizes the plum tree which blooms in the dead of winter – representing the synthesis of our Japanese roots with the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ. The gold cross pattern around the edges resembles antique Japanese scrolls which are bordered by a gold-woven pattern – a way to integrate the past with the present.

The stained glass window from 35th and Normandie, in its new home on 3rd and Central, is the visual center of the small chapel – a tribute to the journey and resiliency of Centenary. The chapel serves as a quiet place for prayer, meditation, and small worship gatherings.

Bishop Roy Sano presided over the Consecration of the New Sanctuary and Chapel Building on March 5, 1995. A month later, Susie Terasawa donated a Yamaha Grand Piano in memory of her husband, Tosh Terasawa, and son, Timothy.

With the sanctuary open and in use, Sunday Worship had a beautiful new space that was shared by the Japanese Language and English congregations worshipping at different times. The voices of the choirs rose above the melodies of organ or piano – sounds made richer by these new surroundings.

Contemporary Worship was introduced once a month. The creation of Praise Band with gifted musicians on guitar, piano, drums, keyboard and piano joining Praise singers to introduce new songs and music to Centenary.

In 1994, Tomoko Takasugi formed the Adult Handbell Choir using the bells donated many years before in memory of Bob Kodama, one of the co-founders of the Y program at Centenary. A Children’s Handbell Choir was created soon after. Both performed several times a year.

Sunday School and MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) continued fostering faith development, personal responsibility, friendship, and family and cultural appreciation. A Parent Fellowship was formed to meet the needs of Sunday School parents. It provided a relaxed atmosphere to get acquainted, to find out about church activities, and to vent about parenting issues.

On November 4, 1995, Coach John Wooden, kicked off Centenary’s Centennial Celebration before a huge Little Tokyo crowd. The year-long celebration had begun and was filled with special events interspersed with the normal busy Centenary calendar. Everything felt celebratory.

Rainbow Circle added a Centennial Express Bar to their annual Holiday Boutique. The Japanese Language section prepared and served a turkey lunch after the Sunday School Christmas Pageant. The New Year All-You-Can-Eat mochi lunch celebrated our pioneering Issei as it continued a cultural tradition with ozone and different mochi toppings. The birthdays of those turning 80 or 88, important milestones in Japanese culture, were honored at a potluck luncheon. A month-long Festival of the Dolls was organized. The Season of Lent included spiritual growth workshops, Seder meal, community Good Friday Service, Easter Sunrise Service, and Easter Worship. The Centennial Arigato Bazaar brought members and community together as did special concerts by concert pianist Jonathan Sakata (in dedication of the Yamaha piano donated by Susie Terasawa), 13 year old pianist June Asai playing many of her original pieces, and the Kobe YMCA Handbell Choir from Japan. The Japanese Language Clubs held a reunion. The Taiko with the goal of performing at the Centennial banquet. An Ondo group was formed and they represented Centenary in the Nisei Week Grand Parade. Notebooks and paper were collected for the 450 students of 9th Street Elementary School as a Centennial outreach project. The Language Division invited special guest speakers, Rev. Hiroo Inaba in June and Rev. Shinji Iwamura of Tokyo in August, to give lectures on Evangelism. Throughout September, a Centennial Art Show was held on Sundays. All groups came together for an All Church Clean-Up. The Language Division presented a magic show for the Sunday School classes. On a September weekend, All Church Camp was held – an intergenerational family gathering with “Going One Step Beyond” as the theme. The 3rd Annual Centenary Golf Tournament was held in October.

The Centennial activities and programming kept the Centenary organizations busy. As always, United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, Rainbow Circle and Fujinkai lent a hand but there were also many other groups participating and contributing in a variety of ways.

Friendship Circle offered fellowship to widows and widowers but also included some singles. Speakers addressed health concerns, cooking for singles, and shiatsu. Members extended support and help to those newly widowed.

Young Adults was a loosely knit group of 18-35 year olds. Most were active in the larger ministry of the church but this group gave them a chance to socialize and gather for spiritual growth.

AMI (All Methodists Invited) was a group of young and old, singles and marrieds who met for spiritual support, fun and fellowship.

Sports Program teams joined the Nisei Church League for basketball and volleyball (men’s, women’s, co-ed). Open to all, it was an enjoyable way to get some exercise.

Camera Club met once a month, often to view photos taken by members on their club outings. They worked to improve their photography skills and enjoyed the company of other camera buffs. Their photos were made into beautiful cards that were sold at the church bazaar.

Whether it was the church clean up, staffing the bazaar booths, organizing refreshments after the special concerts, setting up for the art show, or helping at Centenary’s Nisei Week booth, group members helped make the myriad of Centennial activities happen.

This busy centennial year closed with a Celebration Worship Service on October 20, 1996. Bishop Roy Sano of the California-Pacific Annual Conference brought a special message to the 800 people in attendance at this bilingual worship service.

The Centennial Celebration Banquet followed worship as 1000 members, family, and friends gathered at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on October 20, 1996.

The luncheon opened with the debut of Centenary’s new taiko group, Chikara. Formed only three months before the banquet, 32 members (20 adults and 12 children) practiced weekly at Senshin Buddhist Temple with teacher Johnny Mori and the help of the Kinnara Taiko members. With no time to purchase or build their own drums, Kinnara Taiko graciously lent theirs. Three pieces (Renshin, Gion, Shishi Mai) called everyone to lunch.

During the program, Centenary’s current and past ministers were honored, dignitaries were recognized and delivered words of congratulations, and resolutions were read. Entertainment was provided by the Nichigo Choir, Chikara, and Praise Band. Bishop Roy Sano shared some thoughts, and Rev. Dave Nieda and Rev. Dr. Grant Hagiya opened and closed the event with a prayer and the benediction. The singing of the centennial song, “Spirit Song” and “Go Now In Peace” concluded the event.

It was a festive afternoon as the Centenary family gathered to celebrate the church’s 100 years of ministry.

Our Ministers: 1995-1997

From the groundbreaking of the church at 3rd and Central through the building of the Sanctuary, these ministers fostered the spiritual lives of the congregations. They guided the growth and programming of the church and celebrated its 100 years of ministry.

Issei Ministers: Rev. Shiro Kato (1991) and Rev. Kana Shimasaki (1996)

Nisei Ministers: Rev. Dr. Grant Hagiya (1993)

Assisted by: Associate Minister Rev. David Nieda (1993)



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