We went to church this morning and what an awesome experience it was! Knowing that the service was at 10:30 but not knowing how long it would take us to get there, we left home early and arrived about half an hour before the service started which was great because a time of prayer and praise started about 10 minutes after we arrived and, though we didn’t understand a word of it, we enjoyed being there. Hope Church is definitely a place where God is present. We felt it the minute we entered.
The service itself was looong! The first hour was praise and worship and we learned that we could sing in Japanese! The words were projected on the wall in both Japanese characters and the Roman alphabet. As Japanese is an easy language to read and pronounce, we were able to join in even though we had no idea what we were saying. It was wonderful! After the announcements were made and the offering was taken, everyone greeted one another and then settled in for the sermon which also lasted about an hour. Headsets provide English translation of the announcements, the reading of scripture and the sermon. Following the sermon, there was another time of prayer before the service came to a close.
We estimated the congregation to be about 200 to 250 people and we were made to feel very welcome. All ages appeared to be represented except for teenagers and that’s only because the large youth group are presently on a trip to Seattle! People come from a long distance to worship together at Hope. Many bring their lunches and eat together in the fellowship hall/foyer after the service. We didn’t know this but in the future, we’ll join them. As all good Nazarene’s know, breaking bread together is a great way to get to know one another.
Hope Church is found in a very unusual location. It occupies one floor of a five storey building and is sandwiched between a bowling alley above and a pachinko parlour below. Pachinko, a pinball type game, is an extremely popular pastime in Japan and a pachinko parlour is basically a Japanese casino.
Following the service, we headed off by train to Narita. Wouldn’t you know it, it started to rain as soon as we got there! Fortunately, it was a light rain and we had our umbrellas in our daypack. We visited Narita-san Shinsho-ji, a huge Buddhist temple and enjoyed strolling through the beautiful park that surrounds it. Apparently the temple is one of the most visited ones in Japan, second only to those in the Kyoto area. It is dedicated to Fudo Myouou, the god of fire, and one of the buildings houses a huge and rather frightening looking figure, presumably Fudo Myouou himself. I couldn’t help but wonder how such a thing could inspire anyone to worship and was saddened to think that the world is full of people putting their hope in things like that. What a contrast from a morning spent with people who so clearly know and worship a living God!