The Mainichi Daily News (1961/5/29)

90 Years Of Kobe Union Church (IV):

Trial By Fire During War 1942 – 1956

Near the end of 1942, the Church took advantage of further opportunities to show its Christian integrity. From June 1942, those members who had been interned for the devotion of the cause had been receiving a regular allowance of \60 per month (about $150) to be used for benevolences by the Church.


In the expenditure of this money, Miss Mioko Kadota went to the ward office for the names of Japanese families living in the neighborhood of the Church, who had lost their family-heads in military service. To minister to such families was considered the only true Christian benevolence, although they were regarded as enemies from the military and political point of view. The ward officials could not believe that these church members could ever bring themselves to be so kind and charitable to an “enemy “ people. They had to be assured and reassured by Miss Kadota before they would supply the names. Once the names were supplied, each of thirty needy families received equal shares of the benevolence fund. One family kept the gift for a long time on its god-shelf before the money was used. They were all deeply grateful.


The following Easter, 1943, Kobe Union Church sent daffodils to the internees. Once more, it was Miss Kadoto who ran the risk of police persecution to deliver the flowers. At Christmas time, the internees painted cards for the Church members.


On December 21, 1942, the Church learned through Dr. Kagawa that its building was about to be sold over the heads of the members. At once, one of the church members, Mr. Taniguchi went to consult his nephew, who was Vice Minister of Finance. The German-born pastor, Rev. Hennig, and Mr. Carl Hans went to Tokyo to see what they could do. Rev. Hennig made it clear to the prospective Kobe purchasers that the German would also leave if the English-speaking worshippers were driven out. A compromise was effected, largely through the good offices of government officials, whereby Japanese, German, and English could share the building. Although a sale transfer was actually completed and the name “Sannomiya Kyokai” actually placed over the Church gate, the worship services continued for all. From a count of members at the 1944 Christmas service held in English it was discovered that 13 different nationalities were represented, as follows; 17 Japanese, 6 Russians, 2 Danes, 2 Americans, 2 Englishmen, and one each of Indian, Dutch, Turk, Finn, and Hungarian. Enemy had sat with enemy to celebrate the most wonderful of all birthdays.


In spite of vast tribulation, it seemed that the Church would safely outride the War. But systematic bombings by B 29’s hit Kobe on March 5, 1945. In a second raid on June 5 at 5.30 in the morning, the Kobe business district was wiped out, and the Church was hit by incendiary bombs. The caretaker was helpless: there was no water – the mains had been disrupted. When the fire was over, only smoking wells, charred wood work, and rubble remained. The end of the War was only 70 days away.


The congregation continued to worship in the roofless building and in the downstairs section of the manse, known as the kindergarten room, which was undamaged by the fire. Among its active post-War ministers was Rev. Frank Cary, a Kobe College missionary, who was deeply interested in the history and background of the Church. During the Occupation, regular services were held on Sundays at 3 p.m., with the help of Army chaplains. Rebuilding activities were begun in 1951. The first campaign, under the chairmanship of Dr. W.C. McLauchlin, raised $12,500 to restore the roof of the sanctuary and to refurnish the interior.


By 1954, a second building campaign had succeeded in restoring the Fellowship Hall, the kitchen (Mrs. Glen Brunner), a proper chancel, and pews.


During this mechanical reconstruction, the spiritual work also drove ahead. By 1947 a Women’s Auxiliary had been formed, and soon thereafter, a full Sunday School program; by 1952, a Men’s Brotherhood; by 1956, a Business and Professional Women’s Circle, a Saturday evening program for English-speaking Japanese and foreigners, and a professionally directed choir.


Once again, it had been proved that the idea which gave birth to Kobe Union Church was part of divine plan. The seed had been sowed in the best of ground. It bore fruit through all trials.


(To Be Continued)