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A Look Back at Centenary’s 125th Anniversary Celebration

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Centenary celebrated its 125th Anniversary from October 2021 - October 2022…all in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The first part of the yearlong celebration was virtual and online. Then, with a leap of faith, the various committees that made up the 125th Anniversary Celebration began planning in-person events for 2022.


This list is by no way complete, but it will give you an idea of all of the parts that made up Centenary’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. Click on the links to the Chimes articles and YouTube videos that we created as we tried to record the history of Centenary’s 125 years of ministry.


Thanks to all of our Centenary family and friends who helped during the various events and to those who attended our online and in-person activities. A special thanks to Rev. Ki Choi whose first day at Centenary was on July 1, 2021. He took the time to get to know the congregation and gently guided us as we attempted to plan the anniversary’s activities, while at the same time, trying to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

The theme of Centenary’s 125th Anniversary Celebration was “Honor the past…Engage the present…Impact the future.” Carolyn Tokunaga wrote the introduction and Michele Nagata created the 125th Anniversary’s logo. Wendell Oyama designed the 125th Anniversary’s banner.

Bishop Roy Sano gave the special message during the 125th Anniversary Kick-Off Service on October 17, 2021. The service was in-person and online and featured Chikara Daiko, the Chancel Choir, and Praise Band. Rev. Ki Choi and Rev. Dr. Ryohei Kawano shared the pulpit with District Superintendent Rev. Mark Nakagawa.


Leslie Kitashima-Gray created the Memorial Tree and put the first leaf by the pew where her mother, Moonza Kitashima, used to sit on Sundays. On November 7, 2021 for All Saints Day, the rest of the congregation was invited to place leaves on the sanctuary walls to remember those who have been a part of Centenary’s 125 years of ministry, but who are no longer with us. The messages written on the Memorial Tree’s leaves have now encircled the sanctuary. These leaves will be placed in an album at the end of 2022 and will serve as a record of Centenary’s lost loved ones.


Centenary members were part of Aiko’s Team and participated in the “Alive Together: Uniting to Prevent Suicide” Walk on November 14, 2021. In addition to spreading awareness, Aiko’s Team raised $5,400 for suicide prevention.


Centenary and other churches painted handrails and cleared away dry brush that was a fire hazard for the Claremont School of Theology Restoration Project on December 4, 2021.


On December 11, 2021, Centenary had Christmas Crafts Day and our Handcraft Sale in the Fellowship Hall. Since we were not able to sing Christmas carols in the assisted-living facilities as in the past, we sang in the sanctuary and with others live over the Internet. The YouTube video of Centenary’s 2021 version of “Christmas Caroling” was then shared with others. The Nihongo congregation made their curry & rice dinners for the carolers, but had them in to-go containers to keep everyone safe.


“Star Trip - Our Faith Awakens” was the theme of the Christmas Program on December 19, 2021.


The Candlelight Christmas Eve Service was on December 24, 2021.


Manju, flowers, and beautiful cards made by Michele Nagata were hand-delivered to “Centenary’s Treasures” who were 80 years old and above on January 29, 2022. Thanks also to Sandee Furuta for organizing this event and to those who delivered the gifts.


In 2021, all ages of our Centenary family did an online reading of Leslie Kitashima-Gray’s book, The Pink Dress, to commemorate A Day of Remembrance. For the 125th Anniversary’s A Day of Remembrance, an encore production of the reading was on March 5, 2022 which also included people sharing their experiences in the Internment Camps. A second part of Centenary’s A Day of Remembrance showcased Eddy Kurushima’s Internment Camp Paintings in a video created by Eddy’s daughter, Denise Okamura.


The English and Nihongo congregations joined forces to clean up the church in time for Easter on March 26, 2022.


Carolyn Tokunaga and her dedicated volunteers once again assembled care packages on March 29, 2022 that were given to Kid City high school and college students.


Tim Yamamoto worked with Alan Miyatake of Toyo Miyatake Studio to have the family portraits taken at Centenary for our 125th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet. Family Photo Days were on April 24, June 5, and September 11th. The booklet also included the 125th Anniversary group photo and memorial pages of those who were a part of Centenary’s 125 years of ministry.


All of our Centenary favorites were back at the Arigato Bazaar on May 7, 2022. Special thanks to Ted Yamada and Michele Nagata for being the Co-Chairpersons of the Arigato Bazaar.


The 125th Anniversary t-shirts debuted during the Arigato Bazaar. There is a limited amount of remaining 125th Anniversary t-shirts and sweatshirts for sale at https://www.centenarydtla.org/store.


Our Centenary youth had the same transforming experiences that so many of our past Centenary youth had at Junior High Camp and Asian Camp. Camp Lodestar was the site of the Junior High Camp on June 26th - July 1st and Asian Camp on July 24th - 29th.


Cynthia Nishinaka, Madeline Chandler, and Susan Edwards were in charge of the Centenary Summer Hang Outs that were on July 7th, 14th, & 21st and August 4th. Participants learned new things about their cell phones, relaxed with art activities, and found out ways to manage stress.


Fun, fellowship, and food flourished during our Church Picnic on July 10, 2022 at Veterans Park in Culver City.


April Nishinaka gave our middle school and high school youth a tour of the University of Southern California on July 13, 2022. Pasadena City College was also a site they visited on College Tour Day.


Centenary was on hand to cheer the Dodgers on as they beat the Miami Marlins during United Methodist Night on August 20, 2022. Thanks to Lori Matsuno for chairing this event.


The Girls’ Clubs, Boys’ Y Clubs, and MYF Reunion combined the 35th & Normandie Centenary with the 3rd & Central Centenary in the Fellowship Hall on August 27, 2022.


The Rio Hondo Golf Club was the new site for the 2022 Centenary Golf Tournament on September 30, 2022.


Michele Nagata was the chairperson of Centenary’s 125th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon that was held at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel on October 15, 2022. Guests were given “125 Years of God’s Faithfulness,” a booklet made up of devotionals from the current congregation and those who were a part of Centenary’s 100th Anniversary. Thanks to Wendy Raksin, Terry Miyashiro-Sonoda, and Vicky Leon who were the editors of the devotional booklet and to Karin Hayashi for making the bookmarks.


Bishop Dr. Grant Hagiya official ended Centenary’s 125th Anniversary in a special worship service on October 16, 2022 that included Bishop Roy Sano, District Superintendent Rev. Mark Nakagawa, Rev. Ki Choi, Rev. Michio Okawa, Rev. Janet Cromwell, Rev. Ryohei Kawano, Rev. John Miyahara, Rev. Gary Oba, and Rev. Dr. Dale Smith. Yoshie Hagiya (wife of the late Rev. Paul Hagiya) and Haruko Kato (wife of the late Rev. Shiro Kato) were also acknowledged on this special day. The 125th Anniversary group photo was taken in the sanctuary and a thank you luncheon followed in the Fellowship Hall.


As Centenary continued to “Honor the Past” during the yearlong celebration, photos were collected of those who were a part of Centenary’s 125 years of ministry but who were no longer with us. These photos were made into the “2022 Memorial Tribute” video and premiered on All Saints Day on November 6, 2022. These same photos will be in the memorial section of the 125th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet.


Carolyn Tokunaga wrote Centenary’s most comprehensive documentation of the church’s 125 years of ministry in her Chimes series, A Historical Journey.



In our quest to record the history of Centenary, all of the donors who gave their hard-earned money to buy the land, building, and sanctuary at 3rd & Central were listed in the Chimes and will now have a permanent space on Centenary’s website.






In 1988, Kay Sugahara granted Centenary $25,000 to document the lives of our Issei, Nisei, and Sansei members. The Centenary DTLA Oral History Project now has a priceless treasure of 100+ videos. Thanks to Terry Kasuyama for transferring the old VHS videos to digital versions so that their stories about their spiritual journeys, memories of Centenary, and life in the Internment Camps during World War II will be remembered in film.


We need your help! Click on https://252c1b0f-f218-4919-99ba-367708fe10f0.usrfiles.com/ugd/252c1b_38d1bc463be34ef2848f6946dfb08fd8.pdf and see if your family members were interviewed for Centenary’s Oral History Project and then send in the permission form so that we may post the video on Centenary’s YouTube channel.


We are now attempting to record the oral histories of Centenary’s current congregation. Please email us at connect@centenarydtla.org or call the church at (213) 617-9097 for more information.



We have created other videos of Centenary’s ministries and special events. Go to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@centenaryunitedmethodistch8428 to see our growing video collection.








Centenary had always wanted to have an online version of the Sunday services. During the coronavirus pandemic, faithful members were able to make it a reality. On October 10, 2021, Centenary had our first in-person service which was just one week before the 125th Anniversary Kick-off Service on October 17, 2021. Thanks to Judy Asazawa, Martin Blagaich, Rev. Ki Tae Choi, Ron Hasegawa, Osamu Honjo, Rev. Eric Iki, Terry Kasuyama, Rev. Ryohei Kawano, Rev. Sunyoung Lee, Rev. John Miyahara, Akina Motoyama, District Superintendent Rev. Mark Nakagawa, Cynthia Nishinaka, Robert Nishinaka, Rev. Michio Okawa, Jane Oyama, Jonathan Oyama, Raj Samaroo, Tom Saruwatari, Heidi Sasaki, Todd Sasaki, Tomoko Takasugi, Praise Band, and the English & Nihongo Chancel Choirs for making our Hybrid Sunday Services possible online and at Centenary.


Thanks also to Sandee Furuta, Grant Hiramoto, Meg Imamoto, Lori Matsuno, Terry Miyashiro-Sonoda, Elaine Nakano, Caitlin O’Brien, Gloria O’Brien, Jane Oyama, Wendell Oyama, Patty Pena, and Vicky Uyemura for making the in-person Sunday Services and Fellowship Times feel like “home” again in our new normal.


Special thanks to our photographers and videographers; Alan Miyatake, Ayame Orlans, William Shepherd, and Tim Yamamoto; who helped us record the 125th Anniversary Celebration.

Finally, I would like to give a personal thank you to Centenary’s office staff. Sookee An, Brian Kurushima, Gail Nishinaka, Sho Nozawa, and Jane Rivera did A LOT of additional work because of the 125th Anniversary Celebration.


As you can see, it was quite a feat to produce Centenary’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. There were too many names to list in the various activities named above. Each of you know which part or MANY parts you did throughout the year to make the celebration such a success…thank you…


I kept telling Rev. Ki after each event that the real work will come after the 125th Anniversary Celebration is over. May we continue to work together to do God’s will as we lay the foundation for Centenary’s next 125 years of ministry…


In Christ,

Vicky Leon

Centenary’s 125th Anniversary Chairperson





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