since 1863

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History Of Yokohama Union Church

A NEW HOPE: Years of Renewal (1976 - 1992)



The upper level of the manse was rented to Ferris for two years to house American college students who were teaching English at Ferris. This helped the church to become self-supporting. In February of 1983 the Board began to have dreams of hiring a retired pastor and spouse to serve the developing congregation. Upon Rev. Karpa's resignation from the Board, Mrs. Eleanore Norden became chairperson, providing equally strong leadership. The Board continued to strive to meet the numerous qualifications required for shukyo hojin status. There was an effort to expand the church's program to include weekday activities. The Rev. Tina Pinnell, a resident of Japan, was hired on a part-time basis to coordinate these activities. She started a women's study program and a Thursday night Bible Study along with the Good News newsletter.


The dream of having a pastor, who had already reached retired status in his/her home country, continued and funds were requested from the Tokyo Union Church and the Reformed Church in America. Both agencies pledged three years funding, for 1987 to 1990. Susan Kendall, a Seminary student at Tokyo Union Seminary, replaced Rev. Pinnell as part-time minister in April, 1986. Susan started an Ecumenical Bible Study for women held weekly at the Union Church. She helped establish monthly Sunday School classes for children . In addition, she assisted the church in developing a job description for a part-time pastoral team and supervised the refurbishing of the manse for this proposed team.


Dr. John and Mrs. Ann Piet who were serving the Protestant Congregation of Kathmandu, Nepal accepted a call to serve as pastor and Christian Education Director of the Yokohama Union Church. Dr. Piet had previously served as a missionary in India and as a Professor of English Bible and Missions at the Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Ann had had a career in nursing and had done much volunteer work in local churches. The Piets began their ministry in Yokohama on September 6, 1987.


Several people who had been a part of the afternoon worshiping congregation were waiting to become members of the projected newly - organized church . However, it was necessary to also spread the word that the church existed and would be having regular morning worship. This was done through personal contacts and by canvassing the community. A new constitution was drafted and approved by the Board for the functioning of the church and the reception of members: by confession of faith or reaffirmation, by letter of transfer or by declaring affiliation with the church as associate members . The first official members were received on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1988.


Along with the existing women's programs, Ann Piet conducted a ministry to single women and their children. New Children's Church curriculum material was introduced on Sunday mornings.


A project which impacted the broader community was the compilation by the Thursday night Study group of an annotated text for the Japan International Volunteer Centerts annual benefit presentation of the Messiah.


The Piets concluded their ministry at the end of August 1989.


A call was extended to Rev. Del and Mrs. Trudy Vander Haar to continue the ministry that the Piets began. The Vander Haars came to Union Church after twelve years in pastorates and twenty-nine years in denominational ministry including youth work, family life ministry and stewardship and mission development. In addition to sharing some of these ministries, Trudy Vander Haar had worked in secular and religious education. Having worked as a team throughout much of their career prepared them for accepting the team contract offered to them by Union Church. The Vander Haars arrived in Yokohama at the end of September, 1989.


One of the early tasks under the new pastor was the writing of the following mission statement: "The mission of the Yokohama Union Church is to provide a church home for the 'expats' in the Yokohama area and to reach all the English-speaking community in Yokohama with the good news of the Gospel, to nurture them and disciple them so that they may be effective witnesses for Christ in their daily lives here and throughout the world."

A new logo in keeping with the mission statement was designed . The logo, with its simple lines, incorporates the cross superimposed on two concentric spheres. They can be interpreted as representing the church in Yokohama and in the world. The blue and white logo also contains a series of wave lines to symbolize water, an acknowledgment of the church's presence for more than 120 years in the port city. The logo has a very open feeling, a reminder that everyone is welcome at the cross of Christ. The ongoing and difficult task of seeking shukyo

WEDDING MINISTRYhttp://wedding.yokohamaunionchurch.org/Wedding_English/Welcome.html
SCHOOL MINISTRYYokohama Christian School

hojin status was strengthened through the Board's engagement of the Hayasaka Tax Accountants. In view of the fact that progress was being made, the Board voted unanimously to ask the Vander Haars to extend their contract for another year, which they did. Informal verbal approval of Yokohama Union Church's application was received on October 13, 1991. The good news of the approval of the formal application was received on April 2, 1992. Efforts were made to enable the congregation to become self-supporting. Previously, financial support had been solicited from other sources. After two very successful bazaars and because of some members commitment to tithing, the treasurer reported at the end of 1991 that the balance on hand had increased by approximately 500,000 yen.


The ministry to children and adolescents grew and served as a model for other churches in the community. Because of the mobility of foreigners to Japan, the Church School is always changing, but for part of this time there were three classes meeting. This greatly strained the church's facilities with classes meeting in every room of the Vander Haar's apartment.


The lower level of the manse has become a very attractive sanctuary with the addition of pulpit furnishings during the ministry of the Piets and later, during the Vander Haar's ministry, with paraments, draperies and other decorative touches. However, although there is seating space for about seventy - five persons, this space has been insufficient at times, particularly at Christmas and Easter when as many as 130 people have crowded into any available space including entry, kitchen, study and the stairway leading to the second floor.


With the movement of people in and out of Japan, Yokohama Union Church's ministry is directed towards the needs of persons rather than church structures. The church is a place of Christian fellowship for people from many different countries. It strives to meet their varied needs, whether they are lonely, perplexed, distressed or confused about their faith. The Women's Ecumenical Bible Study which meets weekly at the church has become a very strong support group for foreign women living in Japan.


All those who have been a part of the body of believers that make up Yokohama Union Chruch have helped it continue its long and sometimes perilous history into its 120th year. It is with a knowledge of this history and the strength that comes through the fellowship of believers past and present that the Yokohama Union Church looks to the challenges of the future with hope and faith in God's love and mercy.