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ICOMB: Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan 

The Japan MB Conference is involved in training and sending workers to other parts of the world. Photo: Multiply

COVID-19 has had far-reaching effects on the ministries of Japan’s 28 Mennonite Brethren churches, says Takao Sugi, president of the Japanese MB Conference (Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan), in a December email to the CL. Each time over the past three years when the government issued states of emergency and other restrictions, most Christian churches canceled Sunday services and other activities.

Even though most churches have resumed in-person meetings—with some restrictions in place—restoring previous habits has not been easy.

“It hasn’t been easy to get back to the former way of doing things,” Sugi says. “Gathering at church for Sunday services was a priority for Christians. In a pagan society like Japan, going to church is often done at great cost. Still, faithful Christians cherished doing so.

“Most Christians are eager to return (to in-person gatherings), but some seem satisfied with remote worship and meetings. It is certainly convenient, but it’s not comparable to face-to-face fellowship.”

Due to COVID-19 the Japanese MB Conference celebrated its 70th anniversary with an online event

Sugi continues, “Even now, some churches refrain from singing praises out loud. Some churches have not yet held the Lord’s Supper and have increased the number of worship services to two or three to avoid crowding.”

As a result of the restrictions on church activities, churches’ financial situations have been deeply impacted. More than 70 percent of the Japanese MB churches are finding it difficult to support their pastors. The seminary is also in a difficult situation. There were no students enrolled in 2022, and as of December 2022 there are no applicants for admission in 2023. Half of the current pastors will reach retirement age in the next 10 years. New leaders to lead the next generation are needed.

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Tokyo’s Shinjuku building and Mt. Fuji. Photo: Getty Images
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