Southern Alberta Japanese United Church marks 80th anniversary!

Rev. Jun Kabayma, appointed by The United Church of Canada’s Home Missions in 1942, used a bicycle to minister to the evacuees scattered across several Southern Alberta communities.

It’s 80 years since the Southern Alberta Japanese United Church (SAJUC) began — its roots in one of the most unfortunate points in our country’s history: the evacuation of Japanese Canadians from the West Coast in 1942.

The evacuees were scattered to many Southern Alberta communities including Coaldale, Raymond, Taber, Nobleford and Picture Butte. Some Christian evacuees began holding services. That same year, The United Church of Canada’s Board of Home Missions sent Rev. Jun Kabayama (at right) to minister to the evacuees. He used a bicycle to visit the evacuees in the various communities.

Today, that tenacious, faithful community of Southern Alberta Japanese United Church continues to minister and worship in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Southern Alberta Japanese United Church: Sharon Tamara, Audry Nishikawa, Kathy Yamashita, Lois Punton
Sharon Tamara (at right) is Southern Alberta Japanese United Church’s Board Chair; long-standing member Audry Nishikawa; Dr. Kathy Yamashita, Regional Executive member; and minister, Rev. Lois Punton. Arlene Parkinson is SAJUC’s Regional Representative.

Like many of our communities of faith, SAJUC moved online during COVID, returning to in-person activities in September 2021 with some people still choosing to worship online as well.

SAJUC’s Eight Decades in Word & Photos

Working with Dr Kathy Yamashita, we are pleased to offer a full history of the Southern Alberta Japanese United Church’s faithful eight decades for you to read on the Chinook Winds website. Much of this comes from the late George Takashima, a former SAJUC minister who wrote Nishiki: Nikkei Tapestry, A History of Southern Alberta Japanese Canadians (Lethbridge and District Japanese Canadian Association, 2001, pp. 104-106). George died in 2020. Other sources are indicated within the webpage. Leanne Templeton, Archivist for Chinook Winds and Northern Spirit Regions, pulled some photos from the provincial archives. Others photos came from SAJUC’s own careful history recording.

Finally, Sharon Tamara talked with current congregational members to pull together just a few snippets of SAJUC’s continuing ministry.

Mission Statement
Our church is a community of people called to love, honour and serve God.
Our church is called to provide pastoral care to those who need us, to nurture and care for one another and those in need.
Our church invites others to share our Christian journey as we strive to be effective in our community and the world.

Some ways we live out our Mission and Vision Statement
We strive to be sensitive and respond to the needs and concerns of individuals in our congregation through:
– visiting the sick and those who are confined to home, senior lodges and other care facilities
– keeping in touch through cards, phone calls, emails and newsletters
– provide transportation to those who need a ride to church
– have coffee and fellowship after the Sunday service
– social activities i.e. Dinner & games night, meetings/ gatherings for the women
– to be a welcoming church to visitors and newcomers.

Others with whom we partner to offer ministry:

• Mission and Service – our congregational support of M&S is almost the highest per capita in the church
• Ecumenical Campus Ministry – through monetary donations and care packages for the University of Lethbridge and College students
• Special donations to emergencies within the community and across the world
• Support of Canyon Church Camp
• Spanish Congregation shares space in our church.

Some things that we really like and cherish about ourselves as a community of faith are …
We are very fortunate to have many people in our small congregation volunteering to keep the church property in good condition i.e. weekly cleaning, and repairs as needed and those who volunteer to do the administrative work of the church.

A few Hymns our community of faith tends to return to: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, Morning has broken, This is the Day, Amazing Grace, Let us build a house, It’s a Song of Praise to our Maker

The usual benediction that sends out at the close of Sunday worship is…
“Our worship is over and now our service begins.”

Southern Alberta Japanese United Church
After Worship Photo: September 2022