Receiving international visitors is a longstanding tradition at CCS and its precursors. It’s a chance to see what is ordinary to us with new eyes.
This year we were blessed by a visit from Kuriko Fujiyoshi who spent two months in Winnipeg as part of her sabbatical from Dohoku Christian Centre on the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan. Kuriko is a leader there offering educational events, working with youth, and supporting area churches which tend to be quite small. Her denomination is facing trends familiar to us: declining congregations and little youth involvement. The members worry about how the church will survive. Kuriko is convinced that they need to do ministry differently in order to sustain a Christian faith community in her region.
Kuriko came with a question, “What kind of minister is needed in rural Hokkaido?” During her year in Canada, with support from her centre and the United Church of Canada, she is exploring various approaches to ministry, participating in lay ministry training, learning about specific ministries with youth, and examining the role of church learning centres in preparation for ministry. When she returns to Japan she hopes to visit churches to share what she’s learned and ask the members what kind of lay training they need. From there she will work with a team to develop new opportunities for lay training.
Kuriko studied at a rural ministry seminary but was not ordained because she felt she was called to ministry outside of congregational ministry. Being at CCS, where she met Anglican deacons and United Church diaconal ministers, allowed her to claim her ministry as diaconal. She liked the adult education model we use and the way students work in placements, then come back to the circle to reflect and integrate. But most of all, she was impressed by the deacons and diaconal ministers she met who work in what she called “a wide space”, that enlarge the place in which ministry happens beyond the limitations of church walls.
At CCS she saw learning for ministry that was embodied. “It’s kind of amazing. CCS is not so big but it has sent out many deacons and diaconal ministers into the world!” she observed. “It’s like that rainbow quilt on the wall at CCS—there are different kinds of ministry and they all work together. It provides a rich, abundant diversity in response to the many ways to express faith.”
Kuriko’s insights and participation in community life while she was with us helped us see what we do here with new eyes.