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BCA’s NCM Celebrates Past, Present — and Future

Northern California District Hosts First In-Person Gathering Since 2020 in Sacramento

The first in-person BCA National Council Meeting (NCM) since the pandemic turned out to be an extraordinary celebration of the BCA’s 125th anniversary — paying homage to the countless ancestors who paved the Nembutsu way — while looking to a bright future.

The NCM in Sacramento from Feb. 22-25 not only lived up to its theme — “Embracing the Dharma with Hope and Joy” — the event was, well, joyous. The Northwest District hosted the previous in-person NCM in Renton, Washington, in 2020. 

Coming together in person after four years was like a homecoming. We did not realize how much we missed seeing each other and sharing our recent experiences,” said Peggy Okabayashi of Florin, the President of the Northern California District.

“I am so incredibly grateful to our planning committee, ministers, and Sangha who came together to provide a positive experience for the temple representatives attending this year’s National Council meeting,” added Allan Yamashiro of Placer, the 2024 BCA National Council Meeting Committee Chair.

The decision to have the NCM at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento, with an army of Northern California District volunteers who prepared the delicious meals, added to the community spirit and atmosphere.

Amid the positive nature of the NCM, the BCA tackled a number of key concerns and issues, led by the ratification of Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada to another four-year term and the installation of a new Executive Board. 

Incoming President Steven Terusaki replaces Terri Omori, who received a standing ovation from the crowd for her work during these past two years. Omori was a trailblazer, the first woman to head the organization in its 125 years. 

The new Executive Board members are: Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada; Ministers Association Chair (Gicho) Rev. Henry Adams of San Mateo; President Steven Terusaki of Oakland; President-elect Glenn Inanaga of Orange County; Vice President John Arima of Mountain View; Vice President Bradley Menda of Berkeley; BCA Treasurer Jeffery Matsuoka of San Francisco; and BCA Secretary Darlene Bagshaw of Stockton.

Rev. Harada listed his top three priorities during his next term as Bishop: reversing the BCA’s stagnant and flagging membership numbers, which showed a decline of 3% last year; seeing that Dharma Forward, the BCA’s national fundraising campaign, reaches its goal of $15 million; and increasing the pipeline of available Kaikyoshi ministers to fill the upcoming vacancies.

The BCA’s multipronged efforts to address its membership issues began with the NCM’s Feb. 17 online workshop titled “Growing Sanghas Program” by BCA Minister Emeritus Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, formerly of the Buddhist Temple of San Diego. 

Rev. Dr. Akahoshi shared his perspectives on the probable causes and challenges affecting the membership dilemma and presented a plan for churches and temples. Any interested temple can receive immediate help in formulating a plan. Rev. Dr. Akahoshi is making himself available to initially assist three to four BCA temples.

Omori encouraged BCA temples and churches to take advantage of Rev. Dr. Akahoshi’s expertise to address their membership concerns.

President-elect Glenn Inanaga addressed the issue with a summary of his presentation titled “The Right Time Is … Now! Preparing Temple Leaders for Today’s Challenges” at the Temple Leaders Workshop on Feb. 3 at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California. 

He said the focus this year, the BCA’s 125th anniversary, will be on:

  • Ministerial shortfall: Three ministers are set to retire in the next two years and there are two potential ministers in the pipeline for 58 current temples.

  • Sangha members: The BCA member census reported a 14% decrease from 11,822 members in 2019 to 10,146 members in 2023. The question is: How do we reverse the trend?

  • Building community: This includes temple infrastructure and membership databases such as demographics, emails, donations and fundraising, email and website outreach, and social media strategy and outreach. The question is: How is your temple keeping track of its most important resource — its members and prospective guests?

  • Sustainable financials: In fiscal year 2024, the total revenues for BCA was $2.84 million, and of that, 63.5% was dues assessment, or $1,976,190. Membership as the primary revenue source is a problem unless membership improves. 

“How do you create growth and value at the same time?” Inanaga said, emphasizing the need for value over cost savings. 

He likened the BCA’s concerns with Netflix, the popular streaming service ubiquitous in American households.

“Surveys show that the average U.S. resident pays $500 to $1,000 in streaming services each year,” he said. “Temples are like Netflix. Streaming company battles are not about reducing monthly fees. Subscribers don’t switch from Netflix to Hulu because it’s cheaper. 

“The key is content and community,” Inanaga said. “Even now, members will pay for value like content and community. They won’t stay for just cost savings. How do we create, highlight, and invest in content and community? Do you think that reducing assessment or membership by a few dollars will matter?”

In addition, Communications Chair Judy Kono reported on efforts to refresh BCA temple websites to appeal to visitors and encourage new individuals who may be interested in learning about Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and the BCA. 

Currently, both Vista Buddhist Temple and the Yakima Buddhist Temple have refreshed their websites. Kono said the committee has received nine inquiries about the program as of Jan. 10. Of that number, two have approved participating in the refresh program and three are still reviewing it.

Meanwhile, the BCA Endowment Foundation Development reported that it had a strong year of overall donations for BCA and IBS, realizing a 47% increase, or $614,210, over last year. 

The Dharma Forward campaign continues to make progress, currently reaching 63% of its $15 million goal. 

BCA Treasurer Jeffery Matsuoka reported that for fiscal year 2025 (April 1, 2024 to March 31, 2025), the total temple dues contribution to the BCA budget is $1,940,090. According to the BCA census, last year’s membership count is 10,586 members. The dues assessment is $183.27 per member, a 3.4% dues increase from last year. 

BCA revenues for fiscal year 2025 will be $3,000,597 while expenses for the same period will be $2,759,008, according to Matsuoka, leaving a net revenue of $241,588.

The NCM delegates heard from a number of other committees, including: 

  • Institute of Buddhist Studies: IBS President Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto and Dean of Students Dr. Scott Mitchell noted that there are currently a total of 16 Jodo Shinshu ministerial aspirants enrolled at IBS, and another seven IBS students who participated in the Tokudo ordination last fall. Several of the seven IBS students will be taking part in a Kyoshi training at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California, this fall. 

  • Vision and Strategic Planning Committee: Vice President John Arima said group discussions on a new mission and vision statement were discussed at the Feb. 3 Temple Leaders Workshop. During the NCM, Vice Chairperson Andrea Chapman distributed paper bodhi leaves in which the participants were urged to write their answers to the question: “What is your wish for BCA?” The next steps include collecting the statements and feedback from the NCM and formulating the framework for the new BCA mission and vision statements by the June National Board meeting.

  • BCA Music Committee: The committee reviewed its many accomplishments and showed a video of “Lantern Song” by the young Buddhist group Bonbu Stories and announced it was immediately available on Spotify. 

  • Social Welfare Committee: The SWC moved quickly to contribute to a number of pressing issues, including a grant of $50,000 to the Hompa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii (HHMH) for the Lahaina Hongwanji Mission, which was destroyed in the Maui wildfire on Aug. 8, 2023.

Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple Chairperson Tyler Moriguchi presented an update about the Seattle Betsuin’s ongoing efforts to repair and refurbish the temple after an arson fire on Dec. 31, 2023, destroyed thousands of archival documents in the basement and forced the temporary closure of the temple. 

Moriguchi thanked the BCA and Sangha members for donating to the temple’s Arson Restoration Fund, and also thanked the White River Buddhist Temple, Tacoma Buddhist Temple and nearby Densho organization for providing facilities for Sunday services, memorial services, Dharma School, and events in the interim.

An IBS symposium was held Feb. 24 in the Sacramento Betsuin Hondo featuring incoming IBS President Dr. Scott Mitchell’s critically acclaimed book, “The Making of American Buddhism,” with Rev. Dr. Takashi Miyaji serving as the interviewer. 

At the banquet that night, retired Midwest Buddhist Temple Resident Minister Rev. Ron Miyamura was recognized by Rev. Harada. 

Omori also presented the BCA Lifetime Service Award to San Jose Betsuin Buddhist Temple Minister’s Assistant Sumiye Tanabe. 

“The Lifetime Service Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the BCA,” Omori said, noting that Tanabe is the fifth recipient of the prestigious award. “It recognizes an individual who has dedicated their life of heartfelt service to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.” 

Tanabe has been a member of the San Jose Betsuin for 60 years, a board member for 30 years and President from 1993-94 and 1997. She was a BCA Vice President for three terms and was a longtime member of the BCA Endowment Foundation.

Soji Kashiwagi, executive director and playwright of the Grateful Crane Ensemble, wrote a spirited show titled “A Celebration of the BCA’s 125th Anniversary,” which was performed at the banquet. Musical selections were sung by Grateful Crane Ensemble performers Merv Maruyama, Keiko Kawashima, Haruye Ioka, and Ping Wu.

On Feb. 25, a ritual rarely seen in the United States was performed at the Eitaikyo Service — “Kanmuryojukyo Saho,” a series of six special chants — used for special occasions. It consisted of: “Shishinrai,” an excerpt from Master Shan-tao’s “Liturgical Hymns”; “Hanjusan Zenjo,” an excerpt from Master Shan-tao’s “Praise of the Samadhi Wherein All Buddhas Are Present”; two recitations of the Nembutsu; “Kanmuryojukyo,” an excerpt from “The Contemplation Sutra”; and “Ekoku,” an excerpt from Master Shan-tao’s “The Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra.”

The request to perform the “Kanmuryojukyo Saho” was made by the Northern District ministers, who wanted “to express our appreciation to Amida Buddha, our teachers, and our predecessors who transmitted the Nembutsu teaching to us,” said Rev. Michael Endo, chairperson for the Eitaikyo Service.

The Sacramento Betsuin Choir also prepared and presented the premiere of “Amida’s Light” by Shinji Eshima. Gayle M. Kono, a member of the Sacramento Betsuin, was the lyricist. She was the organist for the Eitaikyo Service.

NCM guests included Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii President Dr. Warren Tamamoto and his wife Claire Tamamoto, and Business Manager Derrick Inouye. The Canada Kyodan representatives were Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada Treasurer Gregory Chor and his wife Gina Chor. 

The 2024 BCA National Council Meeting Committee would like to thank the following: Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada; BCA executives; BCA Ministers Association; Northern California Ministers Association; Northern California District temples; Northern California Buddhist Women’s Association; 2024 BCA National Council Meeting Planning Committee; and all the volunteers whose hard work made the NCM successful and memorable.

A special thank you go to the following: Allan Yamashiro, 2024 BCA National Council Meeting Committee Chair; Peggy Okabayashi, Northern California District President; Karen Adachi, Koichi Mizushima, Gordon Nitta, Audrey Seo, and Marty Sakata; and the ministers of the Northern California District: Rimban Rev. Yuki Sugahara, Rev. Matt Hamasaki, Rev. Candice Shibata, and Rev. Noritaka Imada.

The 2025 NCM will be hosted by the BCA’s Bay District. It will be 100% virtual with the theme “A Promise Shared.” 

The scheduled dates are as follows: Feb. 21-22, 2025, for the Ministers Association Meeting; Feb. 22, 2025, for the Town Hall and workshops; Feb. 28, 2025 to March 1, 2025, for the NCM; and March 2, 2025, for the BCA Eitaikyo Service.


1 Comment

The commitment to addressing important issues facing the organization, from membership concerns to strategic planning, shows a dedication to ensuring a strong and vibrant future. Congratulations!

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