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Youth camps the secret to the future of Japan's Anglican Church

Posted on: October 2, 2013 5:07 PM
More young people are needed in NSKK
Photo Credit: Kure Shin-Ai Church, Anglican Church in Japan
Related Categories: Japan, youth

By ACNS staff

Having young Anglicans arrange and run their own camps could be the answer to an ageing Church population, according to a Japanese bishop.

Bishop of Kobe The Rt Revd Andrew Yatuka Nakamura, told ACNS that his diocese is seeing more young people going on to ordained ministry, which goes against the general trend in Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Communion in Japan).

“We’re likely facing the same problem as other provinces of the Anglican Communion; an age problem,” he said, “and a lack of young people and children in the church. The congregation is generally 60 to 70 years of age.”

ACNS_J_Bp NakamuraBishop Nakamura and Anglican Communion Office staff member Yoshimi Gregory [ACNS]

Bishop Nakamura explained that Christians in Japan are only one per cent of the population. He said that NSKK is caught in a vicious circle in which few young people are attracted to Anglican Churches because they see few young people already there.

One solution that's meeting with some success is youth camps. “Every year we have a youth camp that young people plan themselves,” he said. “The chaplain only oversees their plans and students help to run the camp. This year we had 100 young people attending between 12 to 18 years of age.”

The popularity of such gatherings is important not least because it appears to be attracting more young Anglicans to full-time ordained ministry.

“The shortage of clergy [in NSKK] is a serious issue. Young people don’t think that church work is not an attractive life choice. Fortunately in my diocese the number of ordinands is growing because we hold the youth camps every year. As a result many young people feel they want to share their faith with others, and some want to become priests.”

The absence of priests will be particularly felt in a country that is still struggling with the impact of the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster that befell the country in 2011.

Through its Let Us Walk Together projects, NSKK has been meeting the physical and spiritual needs of those affected by the disaster; including those too poor to move out of irradiated areas.

The Bishop said that, to assist NSKK clergy while the Church does both its post-disaster and its regular Church work, 20 priests from the Anglican Church of Korea have come over to Japan. 

These valued colleagues learned Japanese for a year before travelling to the island nation to assist NSKK. The hope is that, in time, sufficient new priests will be found locally.