Author Archives: Cindy S-F

April 22 – Toyohiko Kagawa

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Toyohiko Kagawa, renewer of society

Kagawa – evangelist, social reformer, author and mystic

Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960) lived in a turbulent period of Japanese history – the time of rising militarism and deepening xenophobia.

Born to a mistress of an unsuccessful politician businessman and orphaned at four, he learnt resilience through a difficult childhood. He was brought up by the austere and resentful widow of his father in his ancestral village in Shikoku.

At sixteen he became a pacifist, influenced by Tolstoy’s writings; this coincided with Japan’s war against Russia. Toyohiko was beaten as a traitor by his fellow students and teachers alike. Christianity too was regarded with suspicion; he was disowned by his remaining family when baptized in the same year.

Kagawa became an evangelist, preaching on street corners. He focused on those forgotten by society and neglected by the churches – the urban poor. At twenty-one, at death’s door with tuberculosis, he had a mystical experience of healing, of “being enveloped by bright light”. This was a formative experience and his life took on a great sense of urgency.

He left his seminary for the Shinkawa slums in Kobe, living there for the next 14 years surrounded by disease, vermin, and overwhelming stench, harassed day and night by drunks and criminals demanding money. He was threatened with the sword and beaten, yet persisted with his pacifist stance, kneeling before his abusers in the posture of prayer – not a ministry for the faint hearted.

Kagawa was impatient with those who saw the faith as a mere collection of correct doctrines: the Kingdom of God is to be lived in every dimension of life. He became an entrepreneur for the poor, starting clinics, low-cost food outlets and cooperative factories in the slums. He organised trade unions, and led strikes in the Mitsubishi and Kawasaki Shipyards in 1921. He preached “Brotherhood Economics”, peaceful cooperation between capital and labour, based on the Cross of Christ. He later organised unions for share farmers and farm workers, as well as consumer cooperatives throughout Japan.

He was the author of 150 books, often drafted on toilet paper; in a five-year period from 1929 he held 1,859 evangelistic meetings. He made twelve overseas speaking tours, to Australia, the USA, Canada, Europe, China, India and the Philippines. He studied for two years at Princeton University, obtaining Master’s degrees in theology and Experimental Psychology.

Kagawa was jailed several times for his role in the union movement, yet during the Depression the Mayor of Tokyo invited him to head the city’s Social Welfare Bureau. He was jailed in 1940 for his apology to China for Japan’s attack, and in mid- 1941 led an unsuccessful peace mission to the USA.

During his Australian tour (1935), Fletcher Jones (an iconic Australian clothing brand) invited Kagawa to address workers at his Warrnambool factory.  Jones, a Methodist, believed that “spiritual growth was achieved through productive and satisfying work, and the object of business should be social advancement rather than individual profit”. He visited Kagawa’s cooperatives the following year and proceeded to turn his business into a cooperative. By the 1970s, over 70% of shares were owned by the staff.

Kagawa remains a transnational inspiration for all who seek to live the Kingdom on earth.

by Rev Atsushi Shibouka

April 22 – Trevor Huddleston

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Trevor Huddleston, renewer of society

Born in 1913 into a privileged background and later an Oxford education, Trevor Huddleston sought Anglican ordination in 1937, then joined the Community of the Resurrection in 1939. This religious order had been founded by Charles Gore, Bishop of Oxford, with the apostolic community depicted in the Acts in mind. Gore had also helped found the Christian Social Union, which focussed the energies of High Church Anglicans on questions of social justice.

The Community sent Huddleston to South Africa in 1943 for what were to be 13 fruitful and tumultuous years. Apartheid became official policy in 1948, although racial segregation practices were much older. Working as parish priest in the slum area of Sophiatown, Huddleston became one of the fiercest opponents of Apartheid. His opposition to the regime and his association with leaders of the African National Congress earned negative attention from the South African police and government.

For blacks, however, he was a marvel. Desmond Tutu remembers meeting him when aged nine, and the way Huddleston treated his mother, who was cook, at a women’s hostel:

“I was standing with her on the hostel veranda when this tall white man, in a flowing black cassock, swept past. He doffed his hat to my mother in greeting. I was quite taken aback; a white man raising his hat to a black woman! Such things did not happen in real life. I learned much later that the man was Father Trevor Huddleston”.

The Community recalled him to England in 1956, and although he had become a South African citizen, he was refused re-entry to his adopted homeland as long as Apartheid reigned.

The publication of his book Naught for Your Comfort, also in 1956, was instrumental in the world’s discovery of the scandal of Apartheid. Desmond Tutu (whose son, Trevor, was named after Huddleston) stated: “If you could say that anybody single-handedly made Apartheid a world issue then that person was Trevor Huddleston”.

For Huddleston, this scandal was a Gospel matter. He was utterly convinced that the God who had taken on human flesh in Jesus Christ, and offered his own life for the life of the world, demanded nothing less of him as a Christian and a priest than immersion in the struggle to assert the dignity of all persons.

Huddleston was drawn back to the African continent. He became Bishop of Masasi in Tanganyika (later Tanzania) in 1960, and served there for eight years before returning to England as Bishop of Stepney in London. Ten years there were followed by his election as Bishop of Mauritius, and concurrently Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean.

He retired in 1983 and returned to England, where his energies were thrown into the Anti-Apartheid Movement, of which he became President. He was eventually to return to South Africa and had the joy of seeing his friend Nelson Mandela elected President of a democratic nation in 1994. Mandela has said that no white person had done more for South Africa. Trevor Huddleston died in 1998.

In Naught for Your Comfort Huddleston wrote:

“I trust in the mercy of God for my forgiveness. For He too is a Person. And it is His Person that I have found in Africa, in the poverty of her homes, in the beauty and splendour of her children, in the patience and courtesy of her people. But above all, I have found Him where every Christian should expect to find Him: in the darkness, in the fear, in the blinding weariness of Calvary. And Calvary is but one step from the empty Tomb”.

Rev Dr Andrew McGowan

April 4 – Leonard Kentish

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.


Leonard Noel Kentish, Christian martyr (1907-1943)

Leonard Noel Kentish BA BD AFIA, was born in Richmond, Victoria, to Cecil and Alice (nee Jackson) Kentish in August 1907. When he was three years old his father led a group of 200 Victorians as pioneer farmers to “The Gums” in southern Queensland to take up pastoral selections. Len’s father, a Methodist local preacher, conducted weekly services in their log house, assisted occasionally by clergy from Dalby or Tara. When the family left “The Gums” for Ipswich, Len had successfully completed his primary schooling and two years at Dalby High School. In the Ipswich Methodist churches, he became a local preacher, leader and Sunday School teacher. While working as a State public servant in Brisbane he began accountancy studies and volunteered for Home Mission service.

After serving as Home Missionary at Mitchell, Len moved to Woodford as a candidate for ordination. There, in 1928, he met Violet Simpson, LTCL, AMusA, a qualified teacher of piano. The couple were engaged within 4 months. During the next four years Len resided in King’s College while studying Arts and Divinity at The University of Queensland. His fourth college year was marked by significant social, sporting and academic achievement and elected President of the college club. He served in Indooroopilly Circuit, assisting Rev Richard Pope in 1932 and 1933. After ordination in 1934, he and Vi married in Maryborough and transferred to the Townsville Circuit. In 1935 he was invited to fill an Overseas Missions ministerial vacancy in Darwin, the most cosmopolitan town in Australia, its population including many indigenous people. In Darwin he oversaw the building of a new parsonage and worked with Presbyterian minister, Chris Goy, to create the Inter-Church Club which, at the outbreak of war became an important recreational canteen for servicemen.

In 1939 his interest in Aboriginal work accelerated with his transfer to the Goulburn Island mission as District Chairman. There he gained rapport with the indigenous people and began translating the New Testament into Maung. He volunteered as a Coastwatcher, in regular radio contact with the long-range transmitter HMAS Coonawarra. Under imminent threat of invasion following the bombing of Darwin, Len planned the evacuation of the wives and children of his staff on five isolated stations in March 1942. In April he led to safety about 100 part-descent children, now numbered among the Stolen Generation.

As Chairman, Len Kentish planned to visit his remaining staff on their stations in 1943. When fuel rationing grounded the mission ketch, the navy maintained the transport of stores and personnel. Len embarked at Goulburn on HMAS Patricia Cam. He visited Milingimbi and Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island) and was on the way to Yirrkala when the ship was bombed by a Japanese floatplane, sinking it almost immediately. After a second bomb was dropped among survivors in the water, they were machine gunned for 30 minutes. The floatplane landed and captured Len at gunpoint. Those who made it to shore and survived were rescued and taken to Darwin.

After the war, it was learned that Len was imprisoned at Dobo in the Aru Islands, where he suffered beatings and starvation in futile enemy attempts to elicit information. When Allied aircraft targeted Dobo heavily for several consecutive days, in an act of frustration and possibly revenge, on 5 February, three Japanese officers took him to the edge of a bomb crater and beheaded him.

After the war, Vi learned of his fate by her persistent appeals through the press. Australian war graves and war crimes teams investigated, located his grave and arraigned three former Japanese officers for war crimes. Len’s body was reinterred at the Ambon Australian War Cemetery. The three Japanese officers were convicted by a war crimes court in Hong Kong. One was sentenced to death and two to life imprisonment. The Australian Government recognised Vi as a War Widow. Len was but one of many civilian victims of the inhumane brutality of war, unique as the only Australian captured by enemy forces in Australia during World War 2.

Kentish Court in Sinnamon Village and King’s College at St Lucia commemorate the name and service of Leonard Kentish, as does the Rabaul Coastwatchers’ Memorial. His name is listed as a missionary martyr in the UCA Centre for Ministry at North Paramatta and in the calendar of commemorations in Uniting in Worship 2. His story is graphically told in Eagle and Lamb (2017), written and published by his son, the Reverend Dr Noel Kentish, a Minister in Association at Indooroopilly Uniting Church, Brisbane.

 written by Noel Kentish

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