Photo Credit: Hideaki Tsushima / NSKK
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK), the Anglican Church in Japan, has celebrated 20 years of women’s ordination to the priesthood with an overnight retreat and celebratory Eucharist. The retreat, at the Anglican Community of Nazareth in Tokyo, was led by Ajuko Ueda, a priest and theologian, before the Eucharist at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Tokyo. The Primate of the NSKK, Archbishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, joined several bishops in the congregation for the service, which was presided over by Atsuko Fumoto, the province’s most recently ordained female priest.
More than 200 people for all over Japan took part in the Service. Atsuko Fumoto was assisted by the cathedral’s Dean, Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori; and was surrounded in the sanctuary by provincial clergy and a number of visiting female priests from the Anglican Church of Korea.
The sermon was given by the Anglican Communion’s Director for Women in Church and Society, Canon Terrie Robinson. Quoting Isaiah’s exhortation “do not fear!”, she said: “we have come from a place of exile, but we still hear those words echoing through the Scriptures and across the centuries.
“‘Do not fear!’ This was Gabriel’s greeting to a bewildered Mary, before her life was changed forever. It was also the angel’s message to the grieving women at the empty tomb, before they hurried away to become the first evangelists. . . Do not fear! Dare to sing a new song to the Lord! Dare to let go, and dance to a different tune!”
The Women’s Desk Coordinator at the NSKK, Kaoru Yoshitani, said: “Canon Terrie’s message gave us courage to proceed forward and it touched many devoted ones and their hearts. Many women clergy were standing and serving as priests in the Eucharist alongside men clergy, and everybody felt a new lively movement of the Holy Spirit.”
After the Eucharist, Archbishop Uematsu spoke at a reception, and said: “I look forward to the time when we will not need to talk about ‘women clergy’ anymore; rather we can simply talk about ‘clergy’”.
The anniversary marked the milestone ordination of Margaret Yoshiko Shibukawa in December 1998, the first woman to be ordained in the NSKK.
“In these latter days, many women are actively committed to various areas of ministry”, Kaoru Yoshitani said. “However, there are problems and issues that we still have to face and prepare for, for example when women’s ordination is rejected or when women are excluded from decision-making processes.
“We stepped out towards a new day after the struggle of both joy and pain over 20 years. We look forward to building together more abundant partnerships and we pray for each talent lived out in diverse ministries – so that we do not fear and we hope everyone will sing a new song.”