This is an excerpt from the book Times and Tides: BC Conference — an overview 1970–2017. The chapter “Building a More Diverse Family” was written by CCS Communications staff person, Kimiko Karpoff.
In some ways my family’s story, my story, is illustrative of the larger story of ethnic and intercultural ministries within the United Church. It is a story of immigration, multiculturalism, and integration.
In September 1963, my grandfather, Rev. Jun Kabayama, was called as the first full-time minister to the Fraser Valley Japanese United Church. In September of 2012, my friend Rev. Yoko Kihara presided at her final service at Fraser Valley Japanese. It was the annual O-Bon or Memorial Service, and it marked not only the end of her ministry there but the winding down of that congregation. They continued to worship for several months with a minister borrowed from the Vancouver Japanese Issei (Japanese speaking) congregation. Six months later, on Easter Sunday 2013, Fraser Valley Japanese officially amalgamated with Northwood United Church. They had shared a building for 50 years before Northwood was created through an earlier amalgamation, but they had only rarely even shared worship together.
My mother Lily is the youngest of Jun and Maki Kabayama’s eight children. She is the daughter of immigrants and a preacher’s kid. My mother was born at the cusp of the Second World War while her father served the Japanese United Church in Ocean Falls. Their family was interned during the war, first at Hastings Park in Vancouver and later in Raymond, Alberta. Like a large majority of Canadians of Japanese descent, she married outside of that culture. She remained active in the United Church her whole life.