Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | July 17, 2023

Congregation Update: Bon Odori and the Communion of Saints

Blog|The Rev. Canon Dr. Greg Kimura, Ph. D.

Dear Friends,

One of the joys of summer in the Japanese American community is the season of festivals. Lately, we’ve been in Obon season. Every weekend there are Obon celebrations around the Bay and state.

Obon is a Buddhist-Shinto observance, but is welcome to everyone. It is a religious commemoration of the ancestors and includes services, prayers, singing, and dancing — Bon Odori. These are choreographed dances en masse in the street. Folks wear kimonos and hapi coats. We sing, clap, and wave fans in unison.

I love to see how it brings current generations of JA’s together to reflect on what we owe to those who passed before and to honor them. In the US, we especially remember they endured for their descendants to make this country a better place, during the WWII incarceration. We remember them with joy and pride. We hope to live up to their legacy and dreams.

Every community has much to learn from the perseverance of their forebears. We even have a name for them in the church: the communion of saints.

One time, as a college student, I dropped in late to a midday Holy Communion service. It was a traditional church. The high altar was at the east wall, and the priest prayed the Eucharistic prayer with his back to the congregation. I was the only person in attendance.

I asked the priest about doing communion with no one present, as he started with no one in the pews. “We are always surrounded by the souls who have passed before,” he said. “I’m not praying alone. I’m praying with the holy communion of saints.”

I’ve thought a lot about those words. They express a deep truth about our connection to those who came before. We, as individuals, are part of a great spiritual community. We become especially aware of that when we gather at the altar rail every Sunday. Those who have passed before join us. We feel a real sense of their presence. We are connected by the sacraments in Christ Jesus.

Like dancing Bon Odori, our Holy Communion is a group act. It is a joyful remembrance that those who have passed. We commemorate, and we thank God for them, for their building up of God’s kingdom. We honor them, and we give thanks.

The youth group left Tuesday on their racial justice pilgrimage. They are visiting historic sites in the Deep South and learning about the history of slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. Please keep them and their chaperones in your prayers.

Deacon Miguel Bustos is in Baltimore helping with the “It’s All About Love” gathering there. This is the first national event that he has helped to organize for the Episcopal Church in his new role as Manager for Racial Justice and Reconciliation. Folks are attending from around the country and the world.

We continue to work on the IT bugs as we move the Grace Cathedral server to the cloud and upgrade the phone system. We are aware that some phones are not working and others cannot access voicemail (the system is internet-based) at both the Cathedral and Diocese House. If you cannot contact a priest or staff person, please reach out via email. Our emails follow this format: first name and first initial of last name (e.g. I am gregk@gracecathedral). We hope to have these problems resolved soon!



The Rev. Greg Kimura, Ph.D. (Cantab.)
Vice Dean

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