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A HISTORICAL JOURNEY - 3rd and Central - 1998-2022 Part 1

By Carolyn Tokunaga

The Centennial Theme was “KAIROS – God’s Time for Us Now!” Kairos is the Greek term for time, in Christian usage, God’s time. “For us here at Centenary our time is now. The spirit of God is moving in and through our church and now is the time to move with that spirit. Our Centennial is a Kairos time, a time for us to commit all of ourselves to the mission and ministry of our church. It is a time for us to commit to our faith in growth and nurture, a spiritual moment where God is calling us toward God.” These centennial words of inspiration from Rev. Grant Hagiya began Centenary’s journey into its next 100 years.

This next period saw the strengthening of Centenary’s faith foundation. New ministries formed to meet special needs as they arose. The ebb and flow of Centenary life continued to nurture and support, expand and contract, innovate, evolve and change but always within the context of our mission and faith.

Faith building Bible studies and study groups allowed people to meet regionally - a total of 10 groups met the needs of the English and Japanese congregations. Sunday Bible studies continued and “Lift Up” was created – a booklet of studies to be used whenever and wherever two or more gathered.

Family Camp continued to inspire - bringing multi-generations and sometimes other churches together for fellowship, worship, workshops and fun.

Summer at Centenary was more topical and morphed into Breakfast at Centenary. Subjects ranged for spiritual growth (examples - Scripture in our Daily Lives, I Am God’s Beloved, Jesus - In Remembrance of Him) to the practicalities of daily life (sample topics - Car Maintenance, Disaster Preparedness, Resources for Aging). Wise Up! was the most recent version of this ministry. Women’s Retreats were full Saturday sessions involving worship, music, scripture, prayer, reflection, and a session on the topic of study (some titles - Heaven, Forgiveness, In His Hands).

Music continued to be an important ministry. The English Chancel Choir and Nihongo Choir voices filled the sanctuary. Praise Band added members and a youth praise team A4G (All for God) introduced a new blend of music to worship. A Children’s Choir met on Sundays and a Ukulele group was formed. Handbell Choir and Taiko continued their growth. Everyone was invited to join any of these groups. Practice was casual and all that was needed was a desire to participate and a willingness to learn. Music fellowships added joyful songs to worship.

MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) was involved in faith-building ministry and service experiences. They sorted and boxed food pantry supplies and toiletries, re-established natural habitats, restored a taro patch, staffed meal services in Skid Row, painted homes inside and out, built an amphitheater and deck as part of their yearly mission trips. Sometimes mission was local but they traveled to Native American Reservations, San Diego border cities, Hawaii, and worked with the Sierra Service Project in South Los Angeles and other locations.

The youth with the help of family and friends prepared 100 full course Thanksgiving dinners for the elderly residents living in the hotels and apartments of Little Tokyo.

Souper Bowl Sunday raised money to fight hunger in the community. Church members enjoyed the variety of soups prepared and donated by the MYF families and friends.

A special treat was the Easter Breakfast that was enjoyed by the worshippers before service. MYFers manned the food stations, cooked in the kitchen, and refilled trays.

The Chili Cook-Off was the fourth of the food and fellowship ministries begun by the youth that continue today.

The MYF continued to participate in Asian and Jr. High Camps to nurture faith and life journeys. For a few years, an exchange program bought students from Japan and sent MYF members abroad.

A very vibrant and active MYF guided teens into adulthood and developed a strong and deep understanding of God’s gifts and God’s grace.

A group of twenty Centenary members completed the Los Angeles District Crossroads training with the purpose of developing a plan for church growth. With input over months of time from the congregation in the form of surveys, small group meetings, and an all church Vision Quest, a Strategic Map was developed outlining strengths and needs. Once completed, it was left to the Vision Implementation Team (VIT) to develop the program/ministries to implement the plan.

Informal programs coalesced into targeted strategies. The Parking Lot Ministry became the first introduction of people to Centenary as cars were parked and keys collected. Greeters welcomed all and spent time with newcomers, introducing them to Centenary. Someone would guide guests through worship and lunch.

Expansion of senior ministries was part of the Strategic Map. The Checking In Ministry was formed for those living alone. Messages are left daily on the Checking In phone line. Shepherds review the messages and check up on anyone who has not called that day.

The Prayer Shawl Ministry offered comfort in times of distress. Shawls and lap blankets were crocheted and delivered to those who were ill, hospitalized, suffered a loss, or were in need of comfort during a crisis. Recipients could wrap themselves in God’s Love and feel the sense of caring put in by the crafters.

Centenary Cares Card Ministry offered cards to send those in need of a note of concern and love, often names heard in a prayer concern raised during worship. Birthday cards with personal messages were sent to church members and helped to maintain connections to those no longer able to attend church.

The church van was used to pick up Keiro Retirement Home residents for Sunday worship.

A bereavement ministry was formed to bring people together to talk about loss, share memories, or to just sit in the comforting presence of others.

Stewardship of the environment became another focus. “Welcome to Centenary” coffee mugs eliminated styrofoam cups. Blue recycle bins appeared around the church. Small hazardous waste like batteries and light bulbs were collected. A Green Table made recycling literature and environmental books for children were available.

Events sometimes created special needs and Centenary responded. After 9/11, interfaith dialogues were organized to help members put events in context and help us find faithful and loving ways to deal with the aftermath, often discovering parallels in the evacuations of WWII.

The suicide of one of the MYFers led to an on-going series on depression and suicide. Youth, parents, and church members were offered opportunities to talk, share and learn. Church members join Aiko’s Team to raise money for suicide prevention each year.

With all of the new programs, Centenary still had time for its traditional events: New Years Mochi Day, 80th and 88th Birthday Celebration and Potluck, Lenten services, Blessing of the Animals, Arigato Bazaar, All Church Picnic, Dodger Night, Christmas Crafts Day, Holiday Boutique, Advent activities, and Toshi Koshi Soba lunch.

A 2nd Edition of the Centenary Favorites Cookbook was published and sold out. Now in its third rendition, it is available on Amazon as it is published by sections. So far Oshogatsu (Japanese New Years) and Asian Dishes sections are available. The dessert book is to come shortly.

Centenary’s programs and ministries evolved to changes in needs. When UMM and UMW disbanded, Men’s Breakfast Club was formed to fill a void. The Covid Pandemic shut everything down. As the church closed its doors, all in-person programming stopped. Worship and meetings moved online.

Now after over 2 years, Centenary with Covid protocols in place, has reopened. Worship is hybrid – in person and online. Coffee fellowship is being offered after both worship services but lunch has yet to return. Taiko drums can again be heard on Sunday as they have resumed practice and performing. Praise Band and the English and Nihongo Choirs are again practicing in person.

The pulse that is Centenary is slowly increasing. Church life is moving into a new normal. As we ponder what that will look like, we know God will guide as He did for the original founders of Centenary and the generations past. We enjoy the slow unfolding of His plan as we walk this path.

Our Ministers: 1998-2022

Comfortably settled in Little Tokyo with the return to its historic roots, Centenary was guided through a period of growth and contraction, through difficult financial and societal times and even a pandemic shutdown with calm and caring leadership.

Japanese Language Ministers: Rev. Kana Shimasaki (1996), Rev. Dr. Richard Kuyama (2004), Rev. Ryohei Kawano (2018 Part time), Rev. Michio Okawa (2022 Part time)

English Ministers: Rev. Dr. Grant Hagiya (1993), Rev. Mark Nakagawa (2000), Rev. Sunyoung Lee (2016), Rev. Ki Tae Choi (2021)

Assisted by: Associate Minister Rev. David Nieda (1993), Associate Minister Rev. KarenFay Ramos-Young (1999)

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