Some of our earliest memories are of our Sundays in Stockton. When we were little, church was a place where we made beaded nenjus, learned how to dance Obon odoris, constructed our own Obutsudans and made lifelong friends.
While there were Buddhist churches that were closer, our family made the hour-long drive each week because our grandparents were active members of the Buddhist Church of Stockton (BCS).
Our Obaachan, Aiko Yagi, and late Ojiichan, Peter Yagi, had always been active at church. Our Ojiichan was Stockton’s president for a few years and in his year-end speeches, he would always include the Japanese sentiment “okagesama de,” or “thanks to you.”
After leaving for college, we were not able to attend weekly services in Stockton, and only returned for the summer Obon and bazaar and the New Year services. While Dharma messages were no longer a part of our weekly routines, Buddhism remained an integral part of our lives.
The beauty of Buddhism, for us, is that its teachings are omnipresent; they are intrinsically a part of us no matter how far we are from church or how long it’s been since the last service we attended. We carry the lessons and teachings of the Buddha-Dharma with us.
As adults, we have come to realize the profound impact that the countless teachings and doings of the BCS and BCA have had on our lives — “okagesama de.” Growing up in a community that instilled the compassionate teachings of the Buddha has made all the difference in how we process and interact with the world around us.
In the fall of 2021, Darlene Bagshaw and Rev. Candice Shibata encouraged us to help out with the BCS virtual end-of-year fundraiser and New Year’s celebration. Like our grandparents, we, too, aspire to contribute to the growth of our temple and the future of the BCA.
The Golden Chain reminds us of our interdependence. As links in Amida’s Golden Chain, we see that it is now our responsibility to give back. As children, we were members because of our familial ties, but Dana (selfless giving) and Sangha have drawn us back as adults.
For us, returning to the BCS has felt like a homecoming in many ways — a return to a community that we grew up in. And while many aspects feel nostalgic, impermanence reminds us that the only constant is change.
The pandemic has changed a lot for all of us, but the BCS shift to virtual and hybrid services and events has enabled the three of us to once again rejoin as members from different states. We no longer have to live near a church to feel like we can be a part of the BCS and larger BCA community.
Like the theme of the upcoming Federation of Buddhist Women’s Association (FBWA) Conference recognizes, “winds of change” are upon us.
We would be remiss if we ignored the threat of membership decline. Data (Pew Research) and market trends (the popularity of meditation apps and mindfulness being indoctrinated in startup culture) point to an increased interest in Buddhist teachings, and yet the BCA’s membership numbers tell a different story. As business development and marketing professionals, we instinctively seek to bridge the gap between the BCA’s value and the market.
When we were asked to participate in the upcoming FBWA conference, we thought about how we might meld our professional and personal experiences to inspire growth. Through our involvement with recruitment for Dae Kim’s study on the BCA’s membership, and our own conversations with FBWA members, BCS members and our own Obaachan, we have heard countless stories that bring the BCA to life.
Buddhism is not just the Eightfold Path, the Three Treasures or meditation; it is also Rev. Charles Hasegawa’s messages on impermanence, basketball games, Obon odoris and summer bazaars. Through the workshop, we hope to help you articulate your stories and find impactful channels to amplify your voices.
So much of who we are and how we see ourselves contributing to the world around us is thanks to Buddhism. As members, we endeavor to do our part to sustain the Sangha that has made all the difference in our own lives.
Information about the BCA Membership Study: The study aims to understand people’s experiences related to religion. We are interested in understanding: first, what motivates people, particularly those under 35, to stay within or leave the religion they grew up with, and secondly, what motivates people to join a religion.
If you or someone you know who has previously been or is currently a member of the BCA and would be willing to participate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org