90 Years Of Kobe Union Church (II):

The Church And Its Development 1872 – 1903

Despite its undeniable birth, the new church suffered greatly in its stages of infancy, puberty, and adolescence. In a special meeting of the American Board’s Japan Mission held in Kobe on October 17, 1872, the delegates refused to take formal action to organize the Church. Meanwhile, as services continued at the Masonic Hall, pending completion of the church building, serious objections were raised concerning the conduct of services. In spite of these disagreements, the original trustees and a group of faithful members, including the complainers, persevered.


The red brick structure of the new church, rising 18 feet, was completed in 1872. The building had cost $4,121; it was to be used for 57 years. On November 23-24, 1872, a group met and formally organized the Union Church of Christ in Kobe, comprising two Anglicans, a number of American Board people, and others. On May 28, 1875, the Annual Mission Meeting of the American Board adjourned to allow a meeting of the Union Church of Christ; at this time, nine new Missionaries were admitted.


It became more and more apparent that the Church should not restrict itself to a name embracing Kobe alone when its members and services were reaching out as far as Okayama, Miyazaki (in Kyushu), and Hokkaido. In 1879, therefore, its name was changed to Mission Church of Christ in Japan. Another policy change resulted from some dissatisfaction among members in calling pastors sight unseen from overseas. This friction was resolved through the decision to select pastors from the resident missionary community. These included representatives of the Methodist Church, the Southern Presbyterian Church, and the Methodist Church of Canada.


Up to 1903, the list of pastors had included, besides Rev. Greene, the following ministers: Rev. Orramel H. Gulick (who served on three separate occasions), Rev. Edward T. Doane, Rev. R. Henry Davis, Rev. A. D. Hail, Rev. Jerome D. Davis, and Rev. James H. Pattee (who served on two separate occasions). The average term of service was about three years; Rev. Pattee served for more than twelve years.


Between 1872 and 1903, there were 178 members on the roll. These included full members by letter, full members by profession, associate members, and statistical members (those who had not been full members of another Christian church). Some members had been lost by death, some by letters of dismissal or transfer to other churches, some by being dropped from the rolls. In 1897, when the Anglicans build their All Saints Church on Tor Road, the present site of St. Michael’s School, most of the Anglican-inclined members left the Mission Church, but a few remained. A full list of the 178 members, 1872-1903, including clerks and deacons, is available in the present records. The rules of the church, the covenant, the confession of faith, and the basis of the Society of Christian Endeavor are also available.


Early in the Twentieth Century, the Church resumed the name of Kobe Union Church, which it had held at brief periods earlier. Union continued to mean something varied and strong. It was the essence of consecration, of singing the songs of the Lord and doing his work in a strange land, but with joy and unfailing hope.


(To Be Continued)