On May 17, the 40th World Jodo Shinshu Coordinating Council Meeting was hosted by the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha Temple Affairs International Department.
The annual meeting was held via Zoom. Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada, Rev. Michael Endo, the Executive Assistant to the Bishop, and myself represented BCA. Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara represented the Jodo Shinshu International Office (JSIO).
Representatives from the overseas districts of The Jodo Shinshu Temples of Canada, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and Sul-Americana Da Seita Jodo Shinshu Honpa Hongwanji (South America) were also in attendance. According to the WJSCC bylaws, the purpose of this council is to meet annually to communicate and exchange information, ideas, and programs amongst its members in order to coordinate activities so to mutually assist in the spreading of the teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism throughout the world.
After an opening service, the business portion began. Each Bishop presented a report on the status of their respective district. There were many commonalities amongst the districts.
All have had to navigate through the global COVID-19 pandemic, trying to figure out ways to stay connected with their Sangha and sharing the Dharma as temples were closed. All have turned to an online presence.
And recently, many of their temples are beginning to reopen with in-person services, following safety protocols, and adapting to a hybrid format. All districts have also been addressing concerns of declining membership and Kaikyoshi minister shortages.
Rev. Harada expressed the importance of the mental and physical health of our ministers. With the added stress of the pandemic in their lives and extra work of supporting multiple temples, our ministers must take care of their well-being. Rev. Harada emphasizes to our BCA Ministers they must take their personal days off, despite their busy schedules, and to use their vacation time. We must all support and take care of our ministers.
Some discussions from last year’s meeting carried over into this year’s meeting. The English Kyoshi Training program had been put on hold due to the pandemic. At last year’s meeting, Rev. Harada asked if the training could be done online.
After considerations and with Japan’s Pandemic Border Controls, it was announced that Honzan (main temple in Kyoto) has agreed to have the English Kyoshi Training program take place in August at the Jodo Shinshu Center (JSC) in Berkeley.
All participants will attend in person with lectures and classes in a hybrid format. Some of our BCA ministers will be asked to assist. This was great news! The Kyoshi aspirants have patiently been waiting and with this finally taking place, it will add more support for our BCA ministry.
Honzan also reported the preparations for the joint celebration of the 850th anniversary of Shinran Shonin's birth and the 800th anniversary of the establishment of the Jodo Shinshu Teaching. Restoration of the lnner Altar of the Hall of Amida Buddha (Amidado), which began in August 2017, was successfully completed at the end of March 2022. Many overseas temples and groups are planning to attend the services on May 10, 2023, due to those attending the 17th World Buddhist Women's Convention Scheduled for May 11-12, 2023. Those who plan to attend have a lot to look forward to.
I found the World Coordinating Council Meeting interesting and educating. Having the Bishops of each district share their concerns and innovative ways connects us all. The common message shared was the importance of sharing the Dharma to all. We have a rich tradition to be grateful for and it is up to us to sustain our Jodo Shinshu tradition. Namo Amida Butsu