I thought that I would take some time to reflect on the wonderful memorial service for Doreen, here at St Andrews Church in Tokyo. The first thing that struck me was what an important role the Church plays in providing a ‘home’ for ex-pats living abroad. In a country which is so different culturally, the Church offers Christians from all over the world an opportunity to come to together, share their faith and have a space in which to share their experiences, perspectives and understanding of what, at first, must be a very confusing and different environment.
The second thing which I found quite startling is that there are two Anglican churches on the same site. St Albans is a small wooden church and next door, St Andrews is a more modern and larger building. St Albans is the ‘English speaking’ church and St Andrews conducts its services in Japanese. Both attract sizeable congregations. Doreen’s service took place in the larger of the two churches, St Andrews, which was completely full on the occasion of the memorial service.
We often think about the way people work within large organisations as ‘silo working’. This term captures the idea that people work in departments within big companies that operate in isolation from others. People do this too in their personal lives. They all have people whom they meet through their hobbies, interests and relationships which seldom overlap, and it is not until one of the big transition points or ‘rites of passage’ that they come together. This was the case with Doreen. There was much written in the media about her amazing life but the journalists all captured one or two aspects of Doreen’s life and particularly the Sumo wrestling. It was not until we all came together that we saw the whole person. One of the things within the service which illustrated this was the diversity of the individuals providing the eulogies. I represented her family however eulogies were also given by Murray Johnson who is an NHK commentator for Sumo wrestling and Dewanoumi Akikazu, the Nohon Sumo Kyokai Director, (done in Japanese). I also met people from:
- The Foreign Press Centre
- The Welsh Society
- The Head of the Japanese wing of the Welsh Government
- The DIET Library
- Doreen’s Folk music club
- The College Women’s Society
- The British and Japanese Society
- The British Embassy Choir
- People from Doreen’s neighbour hood
One of the aspects of the service which was different (and I had not been expecting) was that after the Christian service, all members of the congregation were invited to place a white carnation in a tray in front of Doreen’s ashes and to say a personal prayer of thanks giving. This is a very Japanese tradition, I was told, and one I think linked to Shintoism. I went first and then stood to the side to greet and thank each congregation member individually. This provided me with an opportunity to meet many of her friends and people who had been touched by her life in many ways.
The service was one of celebration for a remarkable woman’s life. I was privileged to be there and grateful to know that Doreen had such an extensive network of friends who loved her and held her in such high esteem.