Since 1956 the Kobe Union Protestant Church had been a full time church. Unlike former years it is now entirely self-supporting. In 1957 it acquired a full time minister, its first in many years. He was Dr. William L. Tucker, who from 1940 to 1956 has been pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey, a church where Woodrow Wilson had once been a member. For fifteen years before coming to Kobe he had also served on the State Labor Mediation Board of New Jersey. In 1918 he had been in Japan at foreign Language School and for sight-seeing, also having travelled extensively in Europe and in Siberia. Dr, Tucker stayed at the church for a year and a half; and in the fall of 1958 came the present pastoral couple, Rev. & Mrs. John C. Wiley. Mr. Wiley came to this post from the Second Congregational Church of New London, Connecticut. He is a graduate of Williams College and of Colgate Rochester Divinity School, has served for 18 years with the Northern Baptist Convention, and about the same number of years with the Congregational-Christian churches. A founder of the San Diego California Council of churches and at one time its President, he has always had a passion for inter-denominational activities and for Protestant Christian Unity. His three years at Kobe Union Church had demonstrated a talent to match this passion. Mrs. Wiley, is a graduate of Wellesley College, has been social case worker at the Connecticut Children’s Aid Society and at the Red Cross in New London, Connecticut, and like her husband, is deeply impressed by the international and interdenominational aspects of the church. She has used her gifts as teacher and counselor with Japanese students and with men and women in the church, much to the benefit of her growing list of friends.
The present membership of the church is close to 200. It is true that members are constantly coming and going; but the transiency of the church community is an advantage as well as a disadvantage, since it supplies a freshness and vivacity which some established congregation cannot claim. The officers of the church make every effort to utilize this advantage. The average Sunday schedule at the church is a busy one. At 9:45 in the morning there is a Sunday School with classes from pre-kindergarten to adult group. At 11 in the morning and 3:30 in the afternoon there are regular worship services. Occasionally there are baptisms, weddings, and other sacramental services. At periodic intervals a fellowship hour is held on Sunday after church. Visitors are earnestly and cordially welcome to the planning of a hospitality committee.
Some weekday activities have already been mentioned, --- the Men’s Brotherhood, the Women’s Fellowship, the Evening Circle for business and professional women, both Japanese and Caucasian. During the Occupation Servicemen’s Work was both extensive and intensive. It is still carried on wherever possible, and new activities in the area are even now in the process of formation. There are two regular choirs: an Adult Choir and a Young People’s Choir and occasionally a Junior Choir composed of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders from Canadian Academy, as we have already heard to our delight this afternoon.
A distinguished feature of the church program is its Saturday Evening Young People’s Fellowship, in which Japanese college, university, and employed young people are brought together for stimulating Christian companionship. Very recently this group had its 5th birthday banquet. It engages in debates, panel discussions, recreation, worship services, and other training for leadership. Members of the group are encouraged to go to their own church services on Sunday.
The German Congregation, composed of Germans and Swiss, is an integral part of Kobe Union Church, supplying two members of the Seven-Member-Board of Trustee. This congregation meets for regular services every second Sunday morning at 9: 45. It is under the leadership of Pastor Oehler, who is in charge of the German Community in Kanto and Kansai region.
One test of the vitality of a church in these challenging days is how much the building is used by non-member groups. Kobe Union Church passes this test creditably. The church is a shelter and center for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. The Kobe Missionary Fellowship Hour is held in the Church once a month, comprising a supper, and devotional hour, prayers, and a special speaker. For the past two or three years a group of Japanese singers called the Demos Chorus has rehearsed here every Wednesday. They are working people who practice diligently, and sing where they are deeply appreciated, for example at the tuberculosis sanatorium in …… Most exciting of all is Kobe Union Church’s list of benevolences which is placed upon our program of today. It reveals our sense of kinship and responsibility to the Japanese community of which we are a part.
Looking to the future the church has raised $6,100 for a new organ. This promise of new inspired music is but one of many projects by which Kobe Union Protestant Church aims to meet today’s growling sharp challenging to all things spiritual. That some of these projects are already eminently successful is a matter both of record and encouragement.
(To Be Continued)