August 2014 President’s Message by Kent Matsuda
Our Canadian Friends
In late April of this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada’s Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. This meeting is the Canadian counterpart to the BCA’s National Council Meeting. I was attending the meeting as a guest of the Canadian kyodan’s president, Greg Chor.
The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada (JSBTC) consists of twelve temples and eight ministers. One of their ministers, Rev. Tomofumi Fujii, was getting ready to return to his family’s temple in Japan. His father passed away in January, 2014.
The Canadian kyodan had over 1,660 members at the end of 2013. Projections for 2014 indicated that their membership would decrease by about 100 members. At the meeting that I attended, it was decided that the dues per member would go up to $70.
Four of the Canadian ministers serve more than one temple. The Bishop of the JSBTC is Rev. Tatsuya Aoki. He is also the resident minister for Fraser Valley Buddhist Temple in Adlergrove, British Columbia, and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple. The Canadian Bishop can only work part-time as the Bishop and must also serve as a resident minister due to the shortage of ministers. Even though the Bishop is elected by attendees of the annual meeting, the temple that the bishop candidate serves must also give its consent to having their minister become the Bishop.
During the evening before their annual meeting, Greg Chor chaired a meeting where attendees went over the agenda and discussed topics that needed further discussion. In this informal meeting, temple representatives have the opportunity to ask questions and go over complex issues so that the annual meeting does not take so long.
One of the issues that the Canadian kyodan faced was a change in their bylaws to comply with a recently passed Canadian law known as the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. The Act requires that all members of a membership class have to have a chance to vote on any issue that affects any interest in that membership class. For that reason, the attendees of the annual meeting voted to eliminate the “individual members” membership class and changed their bylaws so that JSBTC members were just the temples.
During the meeting, we had a presentation by members of the Calgary Buddhist Temple. Their current temple building was built in 1912 as a Ukrainian Catholic Church. It was damaged by a fire in 1942 and repaired. It became the Calgary Buddhist Temple in 1981. The building does not have much insulation, which is a serious problem in that part of the country. It will cost about $2 Million Canadian to renovate the building. Temple members have been raising funds since 2002 and now have over $1.4 Million Canadian raised. Anyone wishing to donate can contact me or visit www.calgarybuddhist. ab.ca. The Calgary members are currently using another site while their temple is being renovated. The members hope to have construction completed by the time of the 2015 World Buddhist Women’s Convention in Calgary next May.
I do not mean any disrespect for any BCA temple that is currently undergoing renovation or construction, such as the Fresno Betsuin. I can understand that they need funds to complete their building projects and would like BCA members to join them.
I bring up the Calgary Buddhist Temple’s situation because events in Calgary were discussed at the Canadian annual meeting. As mentioned above, Calgary is getting ready to host the 2015 World Buddhist Women’s Convention next May and the World Convention organizing committee is also raising money. I saw evidence of their fundraising efforts while I was in Vancouver. If anyone would like to help the Canadian women, you can go to www.wbwconvention.com or contact me. I am hoping that our Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations will be able to donate.
One day before I arrived in Vancouver, the former minister for the Calgary Buddhist Temple, Rev. Kyojo Ikuta, passed away. He is Rev. Grant Ikuta’s father. Rev. Grant Ikuta is the resident minister for Steveston Buddhist Temple. There were many items of remembrance visible during the time I was at the meeting.
After the Canadian annual meeting was completed, I joined the members of the Vancouver Buddhist Temple in celebrating their 110th Anniversary. They were also celebrating 35 years at their present location. The guest speaker for the anniversary service was recently retired Rev. Frederick Ulrich from the Manitoba Buddhist Temple.
Many of the issues that we face in the BCA are similar to the issues that the Canadians face. They, too, see decreasing memberships and have a minister shortage. Members of the Canadian kyodan have joined BCA members for events that take place in the Northwest and Eastern Districts. Some of the Canadian members have visited the JSC to take classes or attend seminars.
I would like to thank Bishop Aoki, JSBTC President Greg Chor and his wife, Gina, the JSBTC Board of Directors, and the members of the Vancouver Buddhist Temple for their hospitality and friendship. I hope to see many of them at next year’s Annual General Meeting at the Steveston Buddhist Temple in Richmond, British Columbia.