It's been over two years since the sound of laughing students could be heard in the halls of the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California.
It's been over two years since Judy Kono and her team of helpers have gathered together to prepare three meals a day for students and the staff members at a retreat.
But the wonderful, joyous sounds of students, as well as the meals, and the valued work of the helpers returned to the JSC for the Fifth Annual Buddhist Youth Retreat (BYR) from June 29 to July 3.
In all, 13 students participated in the first in-person event at the JSC since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The CBE staff worked closely with the BCA Executive Committee and Facilities Manager Bob Matsueda to establish safe protocols in order to host a successful and safe in-person event — and everything went amazingly well.
The students were: Manami Alspach, Kona Hongwanji; Alison Aochi, San Jose Betsuin; Halle Fukawa, Senshin; Takato Kuwahara, Berkeley; Molly Maseba, Sacramento Betsuin; Ellie Mizushima, Sacramento Betsuin; Kianna Nakaoka, Florin; Tomoya Ryan, Fresno Betsuin; Nicholas Tanaka, Tri-State/Denver; Naho Umitani, Moiliili Hongwanji; Zora Uyeda-Hale, Berkeley; Ava Yamamoto, OCBC; and Kai Yamamoto, OCBC.
It was a wonderful event filled with lectures from BCA ministers and past YAC Members.
We have all done a wonderful job with integrating technology into our temple lives, but nothing compares to being with real people in a real space. And no one had any problems wearing masks and following the safety protocols for the entire event. We enjoyed all of our meals outdoors and made sure everyone was safe and healthy for the entire event.
I cannot express how important the BYR program has been for our BCA youth. It is an amazing opportunity for participants to meet other YBA students from different areas.
And I am grateful to have the Jodo Shinshu Center to be able to host events like this. The memories that are created here will last a lifetime, and so will the friendships. The Three Treasures teaches us about the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. And being back in person certainly helps us to reconnect with our Sangha family.
I wish to express my deepest appreciation to everyone who supports the youth programs, and to the BCA staff for working so hard to maintain this center of learning.
Please encourage your temple students to participate in our BCA BYR programs. It is a great experience and I look forward to meeting all of the students!