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‘The Right Time Is Now’ for the BCA

Writing for the Wheel of Dharma offers the opportunity to acknowledge and convey the exciting efforts that are happening around the BCA. Being in the President’s position also gives me a unique perspective on how all these efforts are interrelated and working to make a difference for each and every one of us. I hope to bring these efforts to the forefront in this and future articles of the President’s message.


This year began with the theme, “The Right Time Is Now.” It is now halfway through the year and the message rings even more loudly. In less than three months, the BCA will formally celebrate our 125th anniversary with events on Sept. 1. 


The right time is now to express our gratitude to Rev. Dr. Shuye Sonoda and Rev. Kakuryo Nishijima, who arrived in San Francisco on Sept. 1, 1899, responding to Issei immigrants who sought to hear the Dharma in their new home. The time is now to also honor our Issei and Nisei pioneers, who created the network of our 60 temples and fellowships across the United States. 


The day begins with the Founding Day Service to be held at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco and streamed live for everyone to enjoy. The service will be officiated by Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada and the ministers of the Bay District. A video production by our new Film and Video Committee led by Glenn Tao (Los Angeles Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple) will spotlight each of our 60-plus temples and fellowships that have been part of BCA’s history. 


The new gatha, “Storms and Peace,” composed by Francis Wong with lyrics by Skylar Lam, will also debut at the service. “Storms and Peace” and “In Amida’s Light,” composed by Shinji Eshima with lyrics by Gayle Kono (Sacramento Betsuin) that were debuted at the 2024 National Council Meeting Eitaikyo service are musical compositions created especially for the 125th anniversary by the BCA Music Committee’s efforts under the leadership of Kemi Nakabayashi (Seattle Betsuin).


Directly following the Founding Day Service will be the BCA 125th Anniversary Telethon. Hosted and streamed from the Jodo Shinshu Center by Michiko Inanaga (Orange County/BCA Endowment Foundation Development Director) and Koichi Mizushima (Sacramento/CBE Youth Coordinator), the program will knit together the many pieces that show the richness of BCA today and the promise of BCA for the future.


Terri Omori (Vista/past BCA President) and Darlene Bagshaw (Stockton/FDSTL President and BCA Secretary) lead a team who are responsible for the Founding Day activities as well as organizing many other events that celebrate BCA’s 125th anniversary. Stay tuned for more information on anniversary activities, including Bonbu Stories’ new Obon dance, “Lantern Song,” at your temple Obon festivals this summer.


The “Right Time Is Now” is not only a time to reflect on the past, but also a time to make a commitment to the future of Shin Buddhism. Through the Dharma Forward campaign, we have the opportunity to contribute to a future that focuses on the campaign’s Four Pillars: 


  • Buddhist Education

  • Outreach and Technology

  • Ministerial Support and Scholarships; and

  • Facilities investments

Dharma Forward donations have supported and continue to support BCA initiatives such as travel subsidies for participants to the recent Tokudo ordination in Kyoto; a program for website upgrades for local temples; new music compositions; waterproofing of the parking deck at the Jodo Shinshu Center (JSC); air filtration system upgrades at the JSC to new building standards; renovation of the elevator at the BCA Headquarters building in San Francisco; and renovation and upgrades to the Bishop’s parsonage in Belmont, California, that now provides lease income to the BCA.


IBS donations have increased the endowments for the legacy professorial chairs; provided support for faculty salaries and new positions; scholarships; and renovation and improvements to the IBS dormitory building in Berkeley, among many others.


Through April 30, the Dharma Forward campaign has received nearly $10.4 million — 70% of the goal. We are looking to fulfill the remaining 30% in the next 18 months. Your contributions have already made a difference and your continued contributions will make future programs and initiatives possible. Pledges, recurring contributions, legacy giving and donations made “in memory of” are a few ways to ensure that our future is secured. 


For those who can take advantage of tax-efficient charitable giving, the Endowment Foundation can work with you to make that happen. Please contact Michiko Inanaga for more information at: minanaga@bcahq.org


“The Right Time Is Now” also means that with June upon us, we have entered our summer festival season with temple bazaars and Obon festivals around the BCA. 


It is time to reinvigorate our local sanghas and work on member engagement to support these important events. Coming out of the pandemic, many temples are innovating with new ways to orchestrate these events. 


Since 2019, when we were last able to have summer festivals without restrictions, many members have passed, others find it difficult to sustain the level of energy required to put in 12-to-15-hour days, and the five years that have passed have precluded the mentorship of a new generation of younger members to take on critical organizing tasks. 


I look forward to hearing the innovations that are happening across the BCA as we explore new ways of holding these events, enlisting new younger leaders to take ownership and broadly engaging our Sangha members to make these festivals a success. 


As we celebrate this summer festival season, let us share in the new Obon music and dances that have been created for BCA’s 125th anniversary and remember that the “Right Time Is Now” to keep moving forward.


Finally, the “Right Time Is Now” also helps me keep the focus on BCA leadership issues. In my previous articles, I wrote about governance as a key leadership issue. Organizational changes to place responsibility and authority where it is best effective continue to happen. 


Furthermore, the Vision and Strategic Planning Committee under the leadership of John Arima (Mountain View/BCA Vice President) and Andrea Chapman (Ekoji/Vice Chair) have been making great strides into the updates to BCA’s 2006 Strategic Plan. 


Recent efforts to solicit “A Wish for BCA” through the Bodhi Leaf outreach at both the National Council Meeting and the recent Federation of Dharma School Teachers League conference have provided valuable data to inform a new vision statement for the BCA. 


Our target to have an updated plan for approval at the 2025 National Council Meeting is aggressive, but so important to the future of BCA. For as the theme of this article states, “The Right Time Is Now.”


Thank you for your input and comments. My inbox is always available at: sterusaki@bcahq.org  I look forward to hearing from you.


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