Updated: Nov 10, 2022
By Carolyn Tokunaga
As church life unfolded over these 25 years, Centenary enjoyed a continuing relationship with the community - implementing its mission of being “a vital center for mission and ministry in the regional area with a special emphasis on Little Tokyo.”
Little Tokyo Service Center support groups for Alzheimer's, cancer, and young parents (Koala Club) met weekly at Centenary. Nisei Week used the facilities for meetings, the Baby Show, Obon practices, and as a staging area for the Grand Parade, and hosting the dignitaries participating. Vigilant Love’s Camp Musubi for middle school students was held at Centenary.
A Japanese Choral Arts group practiced at Centenary. Chi Gong and a Craft Class were open to church members and community. Karate and Japanese Dance classes found a welcoming reception at Centenary.
The church hosted Kid City high school and college student workshops and career nights. LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) held Christmas parties in the fellowship hall for their clients with Santa in attendance to hand out gifts. An Interfaith Iftar Dinner brought a diverse group of community and religious participants together to celebrate the end of Ramadan and learn about the celebration. Okaeri, an LGBTQ support group, met regularly at Centenary.
The Vision Implementation Team reached out to the community by organizing an art show for local artists and Centenary members and friends. Spoken Word was initiated as an open mike evening to share original poetry, stories and music.
Community members joined the annual Halloween Party for a day of festivities with our Sunday School children.
The Youth Ministry Expressions reached out to community children, many coming from the low-income housing project, Casa Heiwa. Following a dinner fellowship, children were given the opportunity to express themselves through activities like taiko drumming, karate, crafts, cooking, and singing praise songs. Discussion time would follow, focusing on life lessons and eventually moving into God and his word.
Centenary continued its outreach ministries. The United Methodist Women’s Brown Bag Project collected food staples to help alleviate hunger in the community. When Faith UMC Los Angeles needed help filling their food pantry, Centenary collected and delivered canned goods regularly. Homeless lunches were prepared monthly and distributed with water to those living in the tents around the church. Centenary also supported La Oportunidad, a storefront ministry near MacArthur Park, with donations of food and soup ingredients as they ministered to the mostly Central American and LGBTQ immigrants living in the area.
The collection of new socks and underwear was an ongoing project with the donations sent to the downtown homeless missions.
Notebooks, paper, and other school supplies were gathered for the 350 students of Ninth Street School with the help of local Buddhist Temples and churches under the umbrella organization Little Tokyo Cares. With the closure of Ninth Street School for remodeling, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) clients became recipients of pencil boxes of supplies that could be used to complete homework wherever the students found themselves living. Today, school supplies are donated to the college students of Kid City, who come from impoverished areas of the city and are often the first in their families to attend college.
Travel toiletries were originally collected to donate to the Downtown Women’s Center which provides shower facilities for the women of Skid Row. Toiletries continue to be donated to area homeless programs and are also put in the Kid City Bags. Some are organized into kits to be given to those who come to our doors for help.
When requested, toys were collected at Christmas for the LAHSA children’s party and for local churches (La Trinidad UMC and El Pueblo UMC).
The young adults CenYA group helped with the furnishing of an apartment at the Epworth Project for emancipated foster children. As 18-year-olds age out of the foster care system, they often find themselves on their own with few resources of support. Housing is a critical need. CenYA organized pizza gatherings for the project occupants with the hope of maintaining meaningful contact. They also hosted LGBTQ educational sessions, prepared homeless lunches, distributed water, and pushed Centenary to be more environmentally conscious.
Nihongo offered Sushi Chef Training to church and community members wanting to learn to prepare sushi but also as a social justice issue the Japanese division sponsored Homeboy members to learn a new trade (from gang member to sushi chef – a remarkable journey).
The Centenary community has always been generous in their efforts to help others, living a centennial mission statement, “We dedicate and commit our church and ourselves to the discipleship of serving, caring, loving, giving and missional outreach.”
With outreach ministry a vital part of church life, the pandemic shut all of it down. Kid City school supplies were delivered the day before the shutdown in panic mode for distribution. Everything came to a standstill for two years. Not only were we closed but so were our community partners.
Centenary is finally gradually reopening. Nisei Week returned to using Centenary as its Grand Parade staging area, and Okaeri is once again meeting. A spring Kid City School Supply project was successfully completed. 125th Anniversary events are taking place.
This is a time of awakening and a good time to reflect on our mission and vision as we celebrate 125 years of ministry.
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)