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History of Yakima Buddhist Church

History of Yakima Buddhist Church
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Our Beginnings

Living a Spiritually Awakened Life

The early Japanese pioneers played a major role in the history of the Yakima Valley by clearing sagebrush from this vast virgin land and planting nurseries, orchards and row crops.

Among these early pioneers, Jinzaburo Mizuta became very concerned with the moral well-being of these early Japanese settlers who had concentrated in a sizable number in this area. About 1920, the Seattle Buddhist Church embarked upon a missionary program and sent two ministers for periodic visits to the Yakima Valley.

In 1929, these pioneers decided to organize a Buddhist Sangha (congregation) and a building committee was formed. A three-year pledge plan was adopted with a goal of $5,000. The altar and a statue of Amida Buddha were donated by two dedicated Buddhists. With much pride and joy the dedication service for the completion of the church was observed on March 15, 1930. Rev. Ryujo Nagoya was assigned as the first resident minister from the Honpa Hongwanji (the Jodo Shinshu sect's mother church) in Kyoto, Japan.

A Sunday School program was started in 1930. The first proposal to organize a Young Buddhist Association (YBA) was made on December 20, 1931.

The immediate need for facilities to accommodate the youth activities became more evident as the YBA became better organized and active. In 1939, the YBA Auditorium building project was started. But by December 7, 1941, when World War II started, only the outer brick veneer wall, kitchen, maple gym floor and lavoratories were completed.

Executive Order 9066 forced all members from their homes in June of 1942 and subsequently to a relocation center at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. After the war, many of the former members did not return to the Yakima Valley because all ties had been severed when they were forced to leave their homes.

Between the years 1950 and 1965, the interior completion project of the auditorium was carried on almost continuously as time and funds permitted. A major repair and remodeling of the church and minister's residence was completed. During this interim period, even without a resident minister, the church activities were observed and a Sunday School program was continued.

In 1968, the Columbia Basin Buddhist Sangha, affiliated to the Yakima Buddhist Church, was organized and the first service in Moses Lake was conducted.

 

Among the many activities of the Church, a highlight that enjoys an important date on the community calendar is the Annual Sukiyaki Dinner. The uniquenss of this dinner is that non-Japanese guests of upwards of 1,500 persons drive as much as 100 miles from throughout the greater Yakima Valley to attend.

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