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History and Timeline
By January of 1870, missionaries of various denominations had begun having Sunday afternoon worship services which they called 'Union Church services'. Two years later in Tsukiji, the first Tokyo Union Church building was completed; funds of its construction were donated by diplomats, missionaries and businessmen. This building served the TUC congregation as well as Japanese and German-speaking congregations until 1902.
At that time, Japan finally allowed foreigners to reside outside Tsukiji, and the church moved out with them. Until 1930 Tokyo Union Church had no fixed home; services were held in various churches, such as Ginza Methodist Church, before deciding to buy land for a new church in Toranomon. The 1923 earthquake which devastated most of Tokyo halted all building plans. After that the TUC congregation worshipped first in St. Andrews Episcopal Church and then at Aoyama Gakuin. TUC eventually sold the Toranomon lot and bought the present site on Omote-Sando. The architect J.Van Wie Bergamini designed the first church on this site, which was dedicate in 1930.
During World War II, Tokyo Union Church entrusted the church to a Japanese pastor, Ugo Nakada, a member of the congregation who struggled throughout the war to keep the church from being taken over for secular purposes. On May 25, 1945, during a fierce bombing raid, Tokyo Union Church was hit by a firebomb that completely gutted the building. By 1947, however, worship services had begun again for the TUC congregation at Aoyama Gakuin, and in November 1951, the rebuilt church, restored to the Bergamini design, was rededicated.
After the war, the composition and character of the TUC congregation changed as the foreign community gradually expanded; the congregation began to include more business and professional people and fewer missionaries. Up to this point, ordained pastors from among the missionary community had always volunteered to lead worship services. In 1952, however, the church decided to call the first full-time pastor for the congregation.
In 1979, after almost thirty years of constant use, the church building on Omote-Sando needed drastic repairs and expansion. The congregation, after much consideration, decided to tear down and rebuild on the same site. The new building, designed and built by Nishimatsu Construction Co., was dedicated on November 16, 1980. Former members of the church who are scattered all over the world provided the furnishing for the building.
Tokyo Union Church is well into its second century of ministry to Christians from many nationalities, races and denominations. We can celebrate the past and look forward to the future of this extraordinary family of God.
For more information on the fascinating history of TUC, please see Robert Hemphill's A Church for All Seasons, a complete history of TUC. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print.
Tokyo officially opened to Westerners who are restricted to residing in the reclaimed land district of Tsukiji.
Five missionary families begin holding informal afternoon worship services in English following their Sunday morning services for their Japanese congregations.
One of the families, the Greenes, move to Kansai.
Kobe Union Church is founded by the Greenes and others.
Plans are approved to erect a church building, complete with steeple, to house "Union Church" services in Tsukiji on Lot Number 17 - later to be referred as late as 1932 as "the old Presbyterian Meeting House in Tsukiji."
This is the date conservatively regarded as the date of dedication of Union Church - but other records suggest as early as late July 1872. Records state the congregation consisted of 43 persons: 22 foreign men, 18 foreign women, and 13 Japanese. Initial collection of $1300 paid off remaining building debt of $900.
Reverend David Thompson "married two native couples in the Christian way" and unwittingly help launch what would become a new Japanese industry: marriages in Christian chapels.
1875 - 1900
Union Church is used by various congregations including Shinsakaye-bashi (Presbyterian) Church and a German congregation. The church building is also used as a school for foreign children.
Foreigners are allowed to hold land and reside outside of the Tsukiji District in Tokyo.
Union Church congregation follows exodus of foreigners from the unhealthy mud flats surrounded Tsukiji to largely what is now Ginza. The congregation meets in various Japanese churches and halls.
Tokyo School for Foreign Children, forerunner of the American School in Japan (ASIJ), leases the Tsukiji Union Church building for 5 years.
Union Church congregation moves to the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Sukiyabashi.
Union Church congregation moves again to Ginza Methodist Church, now the site of Sukiyabashi Arcade and Shopping Center. Still without their own pastor, Union Church pulpit is shared by various missionaries including by Dr. A.K. Reischauer, father of future Harvard professor and US Ambassador to Japan, Edwin O. Reischauer.
Tsukiji Lot Number 14 is sold and the Union Church building is torn down.
Congregation adopts a new constitution formally declaring itself to be "Tokyo Union Church" - later regarded simply as "TUC."
TUC congregation consists of 193 members from 20 different communities and 8 nationalities comprised of 113 women and 80 men with worship attendance average between 125 and 200 people. Many worshipers traveling "long distances" of 3 miles or more. A Site and Building Fund is established and end the year in raising a total of $8,500 - a tenth of the long-term goal.
While music must have been very important before, this year provides the earliest surviving record of the unique importance of music in TUC’s worship.
Land is purchased in Toranomon and construction begins for a new church building.
Great Kanto Earthquake occurs - further building work is postponed indefinitely. Ginza Methodist Church, TUC’s current home, is destroyed in the quake. TUC briefly worships at the US Embassy and later in the auditorium of St. Andrew's Episcopol Church in Shiba, Tokyo.
TUC moves to the Community Center near Roppongi in Azabu. On average 200 people
attend the morning and afternoon services.
Emperor Taisho dies. TUC reads instead of sings hymns since music is not considered appropriate during the time of official morning.
TUC meets on the campus of Aoyama Gakuin University in Shibuya, walking distance from the current TUC site.
Dr. A.K. Reischauer’s Building Committee receives an acceptable offer of purchase of the Toranomon property and recommends establishing a zaidan hojin, a legal holding body, with the intent to use the money from sale of the property to buy a building lot on Meiji Jingu Boulevard (later known as "Yoyogi Street," then "Jingu Doori," and finally as "Omote-Sando").
TUC signs a contract with Okura Construction Company and employs the services of architect J. Van Wie Bergamani. The Building Committee funds exceed its goal and has the resources to either finance TUC’s own pastor or to buy an organ. Dr. A. K. Reischauer points out if they opt for an organ, it would be many years before TUC hires a pastor. Yet he makes the historic statement, "If we must choose between a pipe organ and a minister, let’s choose a pipe organ." The secret ballot is nearly unanimous for the pipe organ. First regular pastor is not hired until 1952.
TUC church building is dedicated at its current site.
Pipe organ is installed after several delays and is dedicated.
The TUC World Day of Prayer service is cancelled due to the chaos created by the Ni-Ni-Roku Japanese Army uprising.
First surviving recorded mention of "American-born Japanese" at TUC. TUC Board has a discussion of the "desirability of inviting second-generation Japanese." Minutes of that meeting conclude that anyone who cares to attend "should be made to feel very welcome."
ASIJ graduation banquet is held in TUC’s Community Hall.
Emperor of Manchukuo, Japan’s Manchurian puppet state, visits Japan. The state occasion calls for the flying of Japanese and Manchukuo flags. The TUC House Committee Chairman casually allows both flags to be flown at TUC but quickly takes them down in face of protests from the TUC congregation.
TUC Board authorizes a worship service for second-generation group. Mr. Sen Nishiyama, a TUC member, is one of the leaders of this group.
Special second-generation Japanese evening service held with 70 people in attendance. This group quickly expands to organizing a monthly service with 170 people attending the November 1937 service. By 1941, a number of this Nisei group have become regular TUC members. Afterwards there would no longer be a separate Nisei group, in spite of unsuccessful attempts to reinstate this group during the 1950’s.
TUC membership shrinks to 165 people as a result of deteriorating international relations.
TUC Constitution is amended to conform with regulations of the recently enacted Religions Control Law.
TUC Board instructs the zaidan hojin to consider care of the church in the event of evacuation of foreigners from the congregation. The zaidan hojin reports back in March it is considering placing a Japanese national on the zaidan board, or committing the church property to the jurisdiction of
a trust company.
TUC holds a prayer meeting for peace as part of the Tokyo and Washington, DC prayer vigil.
Professor Ugo Nakada, the choir director and the only Japanese pastor-member, takes on responsibility for the church and its property. Dr. Nakada broadens TUC’s services to include monthly godo reihai, open-to-all union services, as a precautionary measure against feared Japanese Government action.
The War Years
TUC hosts the lectures by Japanese Christians and the singing of hymns. Plan clothes police are in regular attendance. Police orders the Salvation Army to vacate its Shibuya training school in favor of the Japanese Army, and to move into TUC which is technically in the custody of the United Church of Christ in Japan, or Kyodan. This action closes Nakada-san’s ministry at TUC.
Nakada-san later comes across a policeman who says, "You didn’t say anything that interferes,
that you should be arrested, but sometimes you are very close to the point." Nakada-san later sums it up: "We Christians had a very hard time. It is beyond imagination."
TUC church building is decimated by a fire bomb from a B-29 that goes through the roof and
sanctuary floor near the front of the building before exploding in the basement. Except for two damaged side rooms, the church is totally destroyed.
Former TUC members return as part of the US Occupation Forces.
Ugo Nakada directs a choir of GIs at Hibiya Hall in performing Handel’s "The Messiah."
TUC reopens services at the Seminary Chapel at near-by Aoyama Gakuin University.
Paul Mayer, returning pastor-member, preaches at the first fully documented post-war TUC service. Congregation later moves from Aoyama Chapel to Yoyogi.
Church Building Committee draws up rough plans and estimates.
TUC formally receives ownership papers to the church property from US Occupation authorities.
Communion service is held in the open air TUC basement.
Japanese Ministry of Finance pledges $7,000 to pay for the complete exterior repairs of the church. Several donations are made including a $5,000 donation from a US businessman. TUC Women’s Society (TUCWS) pledges $11,600. TUCWS establishes the Women’s Exchange at two of the US Army’s downtown billets, the Dai Ichi Hotel and the Old Kaijo Building. They resell all kinds of household goods. In addition, TUCWS runs a gift shop out of the two surviving rooms of the bombed church.
TUC conducts a public worship service at the Imperial Palace Plaza. 5,000 people attend - possibly the largest Christian meeting to date since the end of the war.
The newly completed, rebuilt church building is dedicated during a Sunday afternoon service.
Sunday school classes are held at 9:30 am and 10:30 am with worship at 4:00 pm. Many members are pastors who conduct morning services for their own congregations.
Rev. Galen E. Russell, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, is installed as TUC’s first own pastor.
TUC accepts a generous offer from the United Church of Canada Mission to sell a house at an old market value to serve as the TUC pastor’s manse. The Ichigaya "Bott house" serves as TUC’s manse until it is sold in 1961 and the present manse in Hachiyama-cho, Shibuya is purchased.
TUC membership numbers 47 people but grows steadily with 60 people new members joining in just one month alone, November 1953. By December 1959, membership grows to 321 persons.
TUCWS publishes the first edition of Buy It ‘n Try It: Hints on Cooking and Living in Japan, to be updated in 1961 and 1971.
First assistant pastor, Albert Huston, is installed and serves for about a year.
American School in Japan (ASIJ) relocates to Chofu, on the western edge of Tokyo.
TUC Church Council gives approval for the purchase of church property in the general vicinity of ASIJ.
A week of commemoration of TUC’s first 90 years begins with events and notables - including diplomats such as US Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer who delivers the address, "The Old Union Church: A Parishoner’s View." TUC membership rises to 358 people.
TUC begins holding Sunday morning worship services at 9:00, 10:30 and 12:00 noon under the care of Howard Haines, a Presbyterian minister, who serves from 1957 to 1964. Membership is now 416 persons.
John Gingerich, a Methodist, replaces Pastor Haines and serves until 1967.
The West Tokyo Church congregation, an outgrowth of TUC, begins meeting in private homes.
The old regular Sunday afternoon worship service is retired from TUC.
The TUC newsletter, Family & Life, begins. Much later it is renamed, Koinonia.
West Tokyo Union Church’s English language worships services begin to be held at the International Christian University (ICU) on Sunday mornings from 9:00. By the late 1960’s, worship attendance varies between 75 and 100 people.
Maclyn N. Turnage, a Southern Presbyterian minister, is installed and serves until 1971.
Erwin Ruklic, a United Presbyterian, is installed with membership at 460 people. Pastor Ruklic serves until 1976.
TUC Centennial worship service held with Dr. Takaki Aikawa, vice-moderator of the National Christian Council of Japan, participating. TUC membership holds at 430 persons.
David McDowell, Presbyterian, replaces Pastor Ruklic as TUC Pastor until 1981.
Barbara Jenkins, a Methodist, is installed as the first in a line of women associate pastors. She serves until 1982.
Recognizing the problems in maintaining the current and cramped building, TUC congregation affirms by almost unanimous voice vote TUC Council's recommendation to rebuild the church building on its present site.
Shinobu Nishiyama is recognized for 25 years of service as TUC’s Administrative Assistant.
TUC congregation approves recommendation of basic design concept for rebuilding the church building by Nishimatsu Construction Company.
Over 1,000 neighborhood residents sign a partition begging TUC not to tear down "this little white church" since it is a "strong landmark on Omote-Sando" that "gives peace of mind and comfort to anyone who passes by."
Demolition of the old church building begins. TUC moves temporarily back to Aoyama Gakuin University Chapel.
Kuwaire-shiki, ground breaking ceremony, takes places shortly after the Sunday worship service.
First worship service held in the new TUC church building with a formal dedication during a week of activities beginning on Sunday, November 16.
Associate Pastor Barbara Lund, Lutheran, is installed replacing Pastor Laura King who returned to New York City to rejoin her husband, Ben King.
TUC Internet Web site consisting of a single page is established by former TUC member, Robert Connelly, as part of an overall effort to get the Tokyo international churches on the Net. Property & Use Elder Tom Coyner, with the assistance of Dave Neufer, immediately take over the site. Pastors and Office staff begin using e-mail.
Pastor Bruce Sloan, an ordained Baptist clergyman serves as Pastor of TUC. He is joined by Associate Pastor Craig Hunter who served between fall of 2003 and fall of 2005.
Shortly before the departure of Pastor Bruce Sloan, Associate Pastor Colin Eversmann is installed and takes the responsibility of leading TUC during a difficult time until Pastor Barry Dawson is installed.
Pastor Barry Dawson and his wife Shelly make a welcome return to Tokyo. Pastor Barry was formerly the Pastor of TUC between 1997-2001.
TUC has an overhaul for the first time in 14 years. The pulpit, lobby, toilets and front doors are renovated and modernized.
TUC goes global with the launch of weekly podcasts to enable current members, ex-members, and friends of TUC to listen to sermons on the internet or on iPods.