Yours truly came to the Centenary site of One Main Street United Church in the summer of 2009. One of the first of the uniquely Centenary things in which I became immersed was the connection Centenary has with an all-girls elementary, high school and university in Tokyo.
Toyo Eiwa (the name for all the divisions of the school) was begun in the 1880s as an elementary school by the first Canadian Methodist woman missionary to Japan. Martha Cartmell was sent by the newly formed Methodist Women’s Missionary Society of Canada.
In another first, the Canadian WMS’s organizing meeting was held at Centenary just a few years prior.
Martha Cartmell was a member of Centenary Methodist, and later, Centenary United Church.
Rev. Seiichi Ariga, a United Church friend of Centenary’s and of Toyo Eiwa, told me soon after I came to Centenary that one of the forms of respect for ancestors that is so deeply rooted in Japanese culture is for respect to be shown at the grave of an important founding individual.
Thus, for many years, groups of Toyo Eiwa students, alumni and faculty have made their way to Centenary for a Sunday service and then on to the Hamilton Cemetery to visit Martha Cartmell’s headstone.
And this brings me to the latest visit — the annual visit of eleven students and one faculty member of the Early Childhood Education program at the Toyo Eiwa University that occurred on Sunday, September 15, 2013.
As usual, they came for service. Afterward, One Main St. United made them and shared in a luncheon with them. The Toyo Eiwa group then led those gathered in a sing-song. A couple of songs were in Japanese, but they also chose a children’s hymn — Jesus Loves Me — that we heartily joined them in.
Then it was on to the bus for me and for them and a quick trip out the cemetery. It was a lovely day and we paused there to show the respect that Martha has earned in Toyo Eiwa for her founding this girls schools — one of the first for girls in Japan. We ended with a prayer.
Then they were off to Niagara Falls and to complete, in the days after, the educational activities that had been built into their itinerary in Canada.