Church celebrates natural beauty and still reels from terrible tragedy

Mysterious and secretive normally, the gates were opened on April 19

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the lady of the gate at Shinji Shumeikai Church of Divine Guidance wasn’t budging. Through the steel bars, this exchange:
“May I see the boss?”
“No, no no, no.”
“Why not?”
“No, no, no, no.”
“Can I become a member?”
“No, no, no, no.”
Are you Japanese?”
“No, no, no, no.” 

We move to the other gate on Chuk Yeung Road and are surprised to find it open. Inside three men are gardening. It’s a big site and the grounds are beautifully tended. Flower beds abloom, artful array of bushes, volcanic rocks jutting. All very Japanese. church2

Terry in a purple t-shirt and carrying a rake is friendly. What is this church all about, Terry? Is it Christian? “No.” Is it Buddhist? “Yes, it’s kind of Buddhist.” 

The squat cavernous building, originally an Australian owned convalescent hospital, has opaque, ground to roof windows. Entry is forbidden normally. On April 19, the church held a “kids’ festival” and open day. Some outsiders were invited.

Shinji Shumeikai was founded in 1970 by Mihoko Koyama in Japan. She was influenced by Mokichi Okada, who taught that beauty and spiritual healing can be attained through art, nature appreciation and organic farming. He believed in “johrei”, a healing ritual where a giver reaches out to the receiver and divine light passes between them.

The Shumei Church in Sai Kung has a terrible scar on its record, in no way its fault.  In 2008 a bus laden with 61 elderly churchgoers on their way there “went out of control” descending on New Hiram’s Highway to Ho Chung. Eighteen died and 44 were injured. Two hundred fire and ambulance men attended the scene with 139 police officers, 14 fire engines and 33 ambulances. It may have been the worst disaster in Sai Kung since WWII.

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