It is hard to believe that Rev. Marvin Harada will be completing his first four-year term as our BCA Bishop at the end of March 2024.
The time has gone by fast. Perhaps not for Rev. Harada. However, I am amazed how much Rev. Harada has accomplished during his first term, especially in light of circumstances beyond his control.
In April 2020, at the beginning of Rev. Harada’s term as Bishop, we were in the midst of a global pandemic. The entire world shut down. We were introduced to a virus called COVID-19 with new terms in our everyday language like “shelter in place,” “work from home,” and “social distancing.” Masks became part of our attire and the temples were forced to close their doors.
This did not stop Rev. Harada. With his positive attitude, he made sure the Dharma continued to be accessible. He supported our BCA ministers and members as they switched to online platforms to keep their Sanghas connected and shared the Dharma. He worked together with the BCA Executive Committee as they reached out to temples in sharing innovative ways to keep their Sanghas engaged.
Rev. Harada supported the “Dial the Dharma” idea by past BCA President Dr. Kent Matsuda. This was created especially for those members who did not have the technological bandwidth to be online. This program continues today with Rev. Harada providing a Dharma message each week.
Rev. Harada began to meet each month with members in the BCA Individual Membership program who have been introduced to our Jodo Shinshu tradition, but who do not live near a temple. They are grateful for receiving the Dharma through the BCA Center for Buddhist Education programs, the Wheel of Dharma and Rev. Harada’s services. Currently, there are 55 members.
Rev. Harada has also represented the BCA not only within our own BCA family, but also the greater Buddhist community, which included participating in a special Vesak ceremony at the White House and as a presenter for an event by Naropa University. There is so much more Rev. Harada has accomplished, but I am limited to space for this message.
It came as no surprise when Rev. Harry Bridge, chairperson of the BCA Ministers’ Association (Gicho), informed me that Rev. Harada was the only nominee submitted to run as the next BCA Bishop. This was confirmed by the Ministers’ Association at the annual seminar (Fuken) in August.
To continue the process of selecting the BCA Bishop, the Bishop’s Selection Committee was formed. The committee is comprised of a minister and lay representative from each of the BCA eight districts (Bay, Central California, Coast, Eastern, Northern California, Northwest, Mountain States and Southern).
On Sept. 30, the Bishop’s Selection Committee was held online. I had the privilege of serving as the committee chairperson with the assistance of Rev. Harry Bridge as the vice chairperson and Darlene Bagshaw as the secretary.
Rev. Harada’s platform statement was shared with the committee, which consisted of the following: “It is an honor and privilege to have been nominated by the ministers in our Buddhist Churches of America to serve for a second term as their Bishop. I take this opportunity very seriously and with a renewed sense of determination to complete some things that were started during my first term.”
Rev. Harada hopes to continue working toward the following: growing our membership, completing the Dharma Forward campaign, ministerial staffing, and a practical approach to Buddhism.
After an impressive Q&A session between the committee members and Rev. Harada, a vote was taken. It is with great honor to announce that Rev. Harada has been re-elected unanimously to serve a second term as our BCA Bishop. Four more years! Thank you, Rev. Harada! The next process, according to the BCA Bishop’s Selection Guidelines, is to have this decision ratified at the upcoming BCA National Board Meeting on Dec. 2 and at the BCA National Council Meeting in February.
Following the meeting, later that evening, it was back to business as Rev. Harada, Rev. Michael Endo and I attended the 41st World Jodo Shinshu Coordinating Council Meeting.
The virtual meeting was attended by the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-Ha Board of Governors, the International Department Staff, Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara on behalf of the Jodo Shinshu International Office, as well as representatives from the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temple’s of Canada, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and Sul-Americana Da Seita Jodo Shinshu Honpa Hongwanji (South America). Reports were shared from all four districts (Kyodans). In the report presented by Hongwanji-ha, an acknowledgement was made to all who attended the Joint Celebration in honor of Shinran Shonin’s birthday and the anniversary of Jodo Shinshu teaching, and the World Buddhist Women’s Convention in May.
Currently, as of this writing, many committees are meeting as they are preparing for the upcoming National Board meeting as well as the 2024 Ministers’ Association and National Council Meeting for the February events. There are also committees preparing for next year’s celebration of BCA’s 125th anniversary. I also realize many are also taking care of preparations at your temples. Thank you to all for your time and dedication. I am deeply grateful.