since 1863

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History Of Yokohama Union Church

ASHES TO ASHES: The Years of Disaster (1923 - 1945)


At 11 a.m. on September l, 1923 Yokohama was settling into another bustling day as one of Japan's leading port cities. An hour later 78,646 houses and 26,623 human lives had been destroyed. Such was the ferocity of the Great Kanto Earthquake that struck Tokyo and Yokohama on that terrible day. Miss Jennie Kuyper, Principal of Ferris Seminary and Mrs. Edith Lacey, YWCA secretary, were killed. Also falling victim was George Ivison, secretary of the Sunday School for seven years. The church building had been devastated, the caretaker and his little son dying in its collapse. Thousands of refugees were taken to Kobe, but many returned quickly to begin rebuilding Yokohama and their lives.


The membership of Yokohama Union Church had been spread around the world by the earthquake. Gradually they returned, with nineteen people present at a February 19, 1924 reorganizational meeting. The church began to function again in the midst of the debris and held its first service on March 2, 1924 at the gutted YMCA building. Services were subsequently conducted at the Seamen's Club, again at the Kaigan Church and at the YWCA's temporary building.

Dr. Manchester, a former pastor, was working in America to secure funds for the church and in December 1925 returned with "much money". The lot at No. 49 Bluff was sold to Ferris Seminary and a new plot bought at No. 66-B where a "community house" was erected.

Eighty to one hundred and twenty people could be seated on the main level vith Sunday School and socia1 rooms below. A manse and a caretaker's house were also built. These facilities were dedicated December 18, 1927 with Dr. Manchester presiding. Soon thereafter Dr. Manchester retired with much appreciation expressed for all he had done to help the church recover from the quake. Yokohama Union Church had rebuilt from the rubble in three short years, as had the city of Yokohama. The church took an active role in helping Yokohama rebuild as members remained faithful to the various tasks for which they had come to Japan. Japan's appreciation is reflected in the fact that four members - D.H. Blake, Julia Crosby, Clara Converse and Gideon Draper were decorated by the Emperor for service in Japan.

The place of worship needed rebuilding, but so did the life of the congregation. The Rev. Harold Schenck and his wife spent nine years helping the church renew and continue its ministry to both the foreign and Japanese population of Yokohama. The peace and tranquillity that they may have felt vas soon interrupted as World War II approached. It

became evident that the World War I slogan,"the war to end all wars" was not an accurate one. The last Christian service vas held in Japan in 1940 and in the Summer of 1941 the Union Church was closed. It remained so throughout the war years but this did not spare it from the devastation of the war. On May 29, 1945, several hundred American B - 29 bombers leveled 42 percent of Yokohama. The Community House was shattered by a direct hit during this fire bombing. The caretaker's quick action to contain the blaze saved the manse, but the Community House was gone. Once more the yokohama Union Church's building lay in ruins, as did yokohama around it.

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