|Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church|
In 1914, a devout group of immigrants from Japan formed the Seattle Nichiren Sect Brotherhood Group. This was the seed of the organization which became the Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church. In July 1916 Nichiren Headquarters in Japan assigned Rev Ryucho Oka to be the first minister of the church. The current minister, Rev Kanjin Cederman, is the 15th resident minister. To see a list of all resident ministers, click here.
The first church, located on South Washington Street, was officially opened on July 16, 1916. On October 13 of the following year, the church was moved to a new location on 8th Avenue South to accommodate its growing membership. In 1920 the church began a Sunday school with a membership of approximately 20 children. Shortly thereafter, the fujinkai was started.
In May of 1926, the board of directors and members unanimously agreed to start a new church. They purchased 2 lots on South Weller Street and began working night and day to clear the land. On June 15, 1928, a ground-breaking ceremony was held, and on May 10 and 11, 1929, an elaborate 2-day inaugural ceremony was held, attended by approximately 300 people.
The great world depression which occurred shortly after the opening of the new building severely tested the ability of the members to maintain the church. Yet despite the hardships, the church thrived during the 1930's. In 1931 in celebration of the 650th anniversary of the birth of Nichiren, a monument with the Odaimoku was dedicated at Lakeview Cemetary. In 1936, for the 20th anniversary of the church, a fujinkai hall was added to the church.
Following the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, church activities had to be curtailed because of ill will between America and Japan. When the US and Japan went to war on December 7, 1941 following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, all meetings by Japanese people were forbidden and some Japanese churches discontinued services. The Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church, however, continued to hold services until April of 1942 when Japanese Americans living on the west coast were evacuated and sent to internment centers.
The church re-opened in August 1945 after the war had ended. It was initially difficult to maintain the church because many members had lost their homes and jobs during the war. During that time, the church occasionally served as a shelter for those who had no place else to go.
The church gradually recovered and soon began to prosper. The 1950's and 1960's were exciting years for the church. Membership was high and there was a lot going on. Damage to the church was repaired, and living quarters for the minister were added. Members engaged in various projects to raise funds, youth activities expanded, and a monthly newsletter was started.
In the ensuing years, new programs were started to propagate Nichiren Buddhism. To attract younger members, singing and taiko groups were started. In 1973, 1977 and 2001, members made pilgrimages to Japan. In 1977 the church purchased property at Sunset Hill Memorial Cemetary in Bellevue. In 1979 major renovations were made to the building and in 2001 repairs were made to the building to fix earthquake damage. In September 1990, the church held a special service for its 75 anniversary, and the 90th anniversary celebration was held in October 2006.
In the 21st century, the church is facing new challenges, including an aging membership. But we believe that we, like the pioneers who founded the church, will succeed in our efforts to maintain a strong church and spread the wonderful teachings of the Lotus Sutra.