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Byline: BETTIE RENCORET Senior columnist

LANCASTER - There were silk kimonos, obi sashes, fancy hair combs and respectful bows at the Lancaster United Methodist Church as east met west in friendly communication.

The occasion was the 25th anniversary of Megumi Kai, the Japanese-language fellowship of the church and more than 200 people turned out to celebrate in both languages.

Hymns were printed in both Japanese and English: the words were mixed, but the music was melodious and everybody stayed on tune.

The fellowship was the dream of Chiyoko Talbot and is believed to be the only Japanese-language Christian worship service in the Antelope Valley. Its Sunday services, now led by Pastor Aki Urakawa, are open to all ethnicities whether or not they're fluent in Japanese.

Guest speaker for the anniversary was the Rev. Nobuko Miyake, who led Megumi Kai services from 1980 to 1983 and now superintendent of the Denver Metropolitan District, Rocky Mountain Conference, of the United Methodist Church.

She said she is proud of the accomplishments by the Lancaster congregation.

``Fifty-some years ago our peoples were enemies,'' she said. ``Now we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I am happy knowing that.

``My father, during (World War II) was a kamikaze pilot,'' she added. ``He was never able to complete what he felt was his mission in life and so he remains bitter to this day.''

Miyake said she has had to bear the burden of his bitterness and the fact he no longer wants contact with her because she came to the United States to make a new life.

Lancaster United Methodist's former pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Heflin, said Megumi Kai started after Talbot came to the Antelope Valley from Tokyo with her husband, Howard, in the early 1970s. She soon found out there were a few other Japanese immigrants in the Lancaster United Methodist congregation who were not comfortable trying to understand the English worship service.

She approached the pastor, who had learned a little of the Japanese language and culture when he was assigned to a Hawaiian church just before coming to Lancaster.

``When Chiyoko approached me with the question - what did I think about starting a Japanese language worship service - the idea intrigued me,'' he said. ``I thought it was such a good idea that I took it to the administrative board and they gave their OK.''

Talbot assembled a handful of her friends and their spouses and the group began to hold services one Sunday afternoon a month in the church Fireside Room. They followed the service with a potluck meal.

The first service was led by the Rev. Timothy Boyle, from Christ United Methodist Church of Santa Maria. Boyle was a former missionary to Japan and was fluent in Japanese.

Since Pastor Aki took over the leadership in 2002, Megumi Kai has grown. In January the group graduated to the main sanctuary, where services are held each Sunday immediately following the English rites.

Its members support all projects of the mother church. They help in the kitchen when the church feeds the community's homeless on Mondays and Thursdays, make major contributions to the church building-fund drive and help with all special church programs.

The recent celebration featured the participation of special guests from the Los Angeles area in addition to Miyake.

Included were: the Rev. Kana Shimasaki, West Los Angeles UMC; the Rev. Y. Richard Kuyama, Nichigo pastor, Centenary UMC; and the Rev. Hidemi Ito, Nozomi Mission University UMC.

Master of ceremonies was Frank Hirata and the Rev. James Ledgerwood, current pastor of LUMC, offered words of welcome. He was followed by Lay Leader Talbot, who introduced the guests. Donna Morell, music and dance instructor at the Palmdale Senior Center, provided a melodic interlude. Narrating a slide show of the group's ministry highlights of the past 25 years was attorney William C. Clark.

As each guest departed, he or she was given a special plate to commemorate the event.

Menus for the week at the senior life nutrition sites in Lancaster and Palmdale have been announced. All meals include bread and margarine and coffee, tea or milk for a suggested donation of $2.

Monday: Hearty beef stew, corn Niblets, marinated salad, corn bread, grape juice, pears.

Tuesday: Barbecued pork or fish fillet, au gratin potatoes, green beans, juice, fiesta coleslaw, Jell-O with pineapple.

Wednesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, cooked cabbage, carrot salad, cranberry juice, cake.

Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs, mixed vegetables, tossed salad, apple juice, ice cream.

Friday: Oven-fried chicken, baked potato, winter squash, lettuce and tomato salad, banana.


2 photos


(1 -- 2) Rev. Nobuko Miyake, above, who led Megumi Kai services at Lancaster United Methodist Church from 1980 to 1983, serves communion during the 25th anniversary service. At left are Chiyoko Talbot, center, the initiator of Megumi Kai, the Japanese language fellowship at the church, with Mako Roberts, left, and Etsuko Ogawa.

Bettie Rencoret/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 16, 2004

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