Updated: Feb 15
By Carolyn Tokunaga
For the Issei immigrants settling in a foreign land, the church was not only a place to grow their faith, but a way to maintain cultural connections and to find community in the commonalities of adjustment. In scripture, they found comfort and support as they adapted to this new environment.
In June 1896, The Japanese Methodist Episcopal Mission of Los Angeles was organized by 15 members under the leadership of Rev. Tokutaro Nakamura in a small cottage at 252 Winston Street. It served as a place of safety and community in a world of prejudice and racial covenants.
The congregation grew quickly, moving to increasingly larger homes in 1902 (Broadway at 9th Street) and in 1906 (1120 Georgia Street). Sunday mornings began with Worship Service followed by Bible Class. Sunday School was held in the afternoon for the children of the growing families. In the evenings, members would go to Japanese town to hold open air services. Restricted geographically by racial covenants and land laws, Japanese town was a thriving area. These outdoor services helped spread the Word and drew people to Georgia Street.
These early years also saw the creation of an Epworth Baseball League for young men and the Ladies Aid Society for women to receive religious instruction, assist in various church activities, and cultivate social and domestic arts.
In 1911, once again, the Georgia Street Congregation needed more space. A lot was purchased at New Hampshire and 11th Street but the community would not allow the church to be built. Plans for housing this growing congregation were thwarted until 1925 when a lot on the corner of 35th Street and Normandie was purchased. A church was finally to be built!
Our First Ministers: 1896-1925
From 1896-1925, many ministers served the Japanese Methodist Episcopal Mission of Los Angeles. Through their vision, hopes, and dreams, each added new dimension to the evangelizing efforts that brought so many to Christianity. They served this new mission with faith, grace and love: Rev. Tokutaro Nakamura (1896) and Rev. Morizo Yoshida (1896) who organized the Sunday School and Epworth League for the men, Rev. Hiroshi Saijo (1902), Rev. H. Ukai (1904), Rev. Tokujiro Komuro (1906) who organized the Ladies Aid Society with the help of Miss Maine who came to the mission in 1900, Rev. S. Kawashima (1911), and Rev. Suematsu Saito (1924).
[Image above: Rev. Tokutaro Nakamura was the first pastor of the Japanese Methodist Episcopal Mission of Los Angeles]