Our History

The history of San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church

Fasten your Seatbelts


The San Lorenzo Holiness Church traces its beginnings to a band of Isseis including Mr. and Mrs. Tomitaka Shinoda and Mr. and Mrs. Toku Nishimura, who began meeting in homes in 1929. Rev. George Yahiro was assigned as the first pastor. Mr. and Mrs. Kumaichiro Shinoda offered to the Lord a parcel of their nursery property for church use, thus fulfilling their prayers upon coming to America. On that property stood a two-story building, once a well-known roadside inn, and which was to serve as the church and parsonage for over 30 years.

Rev. Juji Nakada, Bishop of the Japan Holiness Church who was visiting America that year, was called on to conduct the dedication service of the San Lorenzo Holiness Church on October 13, 1929. About 80 people were present at the solemn and inspiring ceremony as the church was founded with hope. Organized with only a few believers, the new church, through earnest evangelism by the pastor, became recognized and established

In January 1930, Sunday School classes were started in two places; one at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Manabu Nemoto in Mt.Eden, and the other at the home of Mrs. Kei Shimizu's uncle in Centerville. The first baptismal service was held on Easter Sunday April 20,1930, for Mrs. Hatsu Yamazaki. In July a women's prayer group (later to become the Fujin-Kai) was organized.

In 1934, after four years of ministry and getting the church started, Rev. Yahiro moved on to Modesto; and Rev. Henry T.Sakuma was welcomed as the new pastor. During his ministry here, he helped young Niseis and led many of them to Christ. After 4? years he was transferred to San Fernando. Rev. James E. Suehiro, who was bilingual, followed as pastor in 1938. The church progressed and continued with cottage meetings and evangelistic meetings. Many young people were baptized.

Following the outbreak of World War II, the church was closed in the spring of 1942 because of the evacuation of all the Japanese people living on the West Coast.

When the war ended in 1945, Rev. Suehiro returned briefly to San Lorenzo before assuming the responsibilities as pastor of the Los Angeles Holiness Church and Bishop of the Holiness Churches of North America. He replaced Rev. Sadaichi Kuzuhara who went to Chicago to establish a church. Rev. Tameichi Okimoto came as pastor. He began the rebuilding of the congregation through cottage meetings and special meetings. At this time the Nisei work began in earnest as Rev. Daniel Shinoda returned to California in the fall of 1945 to assume responsibilities in the family nursery and to serve as the first full-time Nisei pastor. He prepared for the ministry by studying at Gordon Theological Seminary in Boston during the war years.

In December 1945, Rev. Shinoda started young people's services on Sunday evenings. Soon there were 30 people attending the evening services and 11 at prayer meetings. In March 1947, Sunday School was initiated. A Vacation Bible School was started in July 1947 with four teachers. That December, 150 people crowded into the old house for the Christmas program.

During these early years, Rev. Shinoda also ministered on Sunday mornings at the Berkeley Free Methodist Church at the invitation of Rev. M. Nishimura, his brother and Nichigo pastor, and also at the Berkeley Christian Layman Church.

In 1948, the first women's missionary meeting was held with 16 women, which later was called the Christian Friendship Service Circle. They have faithfully served the church in many areas, helping at annual banquets and other special occasions, participating in lay services, and sponsoring the Pioneer Girls and the musicales.

The first Men's Fellowship meeting was also held that year. Later, they began meeting once every month with a potluck dinner and fellowship. Also, work nights were held to take care of different projects.

The church grew rapidly in the post-war years, and in 1949, the present sanctuary was built. A goal of $5,000 was set by the building committee. The sanctuary was dedicated on March 27, 1949. With $2,000 in offerings received that day, it was dedicated free of any encumbrances! Praise God!

In 1950, the Sunday School enrollment reached over 80. In the following year, a Sunday School was started on Saturday mornings in Irvington.

The Northern California youth conference at Redwood Camp at Mt. Hermon was held in June. In 1951 the JEMS Mt. Hermon Conference began with 30 young people attending from this church. The annual JEMS Conference has grown, and over 1,700 were registered last year from many different denominations. God has truly blessed this ministry.

In 1951, the high school students formed "Lifeliners†and began meeting weekly. College age young people also met. Through the years, the Lifeline group has ministered to the youth with the help of many faithful advisors.

In 1952, the first Holiness Midwinter Conference was held at the Los Angeles Holiness Church. In the years following, the conference has been held at many different places--including San Lorenzo in 1954, 1961, 1964 and 1975.

Rev. and Mrs.Dexter Edwards served for one year in the church in 1952. Rev. Edwards conducted the morning worship service, and Rev. Shinoda started an adult Bible class.

The annual Sunday School attendance contests began in the fall of 1952 and continued through 1968. Because of the effectiveness of these contests, there was steady growth in the Sunday School. Through the years, the church has been blessed with a dedicated and enthusiastic teaching staff.

In 1953, a $11,600 combination classroom and social hall was built and dedicated. A church bus was purchased for $500 to bring children from the Alvarado and Irvington areas for a few years.

Starting in 1954, Rev. Akira Hatori, Japan missionary, was given $100 monthly support. That October the church observed its 25th Anniversary. A 25-member choir was organized under the direction of Harold Takahashi. They presented special cantatas at Easter and Christmas.

Rev. Okimoto was transferred to San Fernando in 1954 and Rev. Kichiro Fukuda came from a long ministry at the Honolulu Holiness Church to assume the pastorate of the Japanese speaking congregation. During his nine years of ministry here, he conducted pioneer evangelism in Campbell and Mt. View. Both Rev. and Mrs. Fukuda were enthusiastic for evangelism, prayed earnestly, and encouraged believers in their faith.

Rev. Sakuma returned to the West Coast in 1963 after pastoring the Chicago Holiness Church during the post-evacuation years to begin his second term of ministry in this church.

Sky Pilots, a ministry to young boys ages 9-14 was organized in June 1955. Christian Service Brigade replaced it in the fall of 1965. The weekly meetings include fellowship, sports, crafts, and Bible devotion time.

The evening lay service contests began in February 1956 with the different groups participating and concluding with a potluck dinner at the end of the month: These lay series have continued through the years into the morning worship service. It has given many people an opportunity to share their testimony and faith in Jesus Christ.

Dick Nishioka, while a student at Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, served the Lord by helping with the youth work of the church for two years.

A group was formed by the college-age/young adult calling themselves, "Mariners." They met monthly with varied activities. The group spent many hours organizing the church library.

Visitation teams were started in August,1957,and continued through 1970 on a regular monthly basis on Wednesday nights. Numerous visits were made to encourage and invite friends in the community.

In 1958 the Billy Graham Evangelistic meetings were held at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Because of the prayers of many, the Crusade was a blessing to the church and there were 29 decisions for Christ.

Joseph Akahoshi was added to the staff as assistant pastor in 1960. Serving for over two years, he helped Rev. Shinoda with many responsibilities here and at the Campbell Church. Mr. Akahoshi was assigned to pastor the Campbell Church in September 1962.

In 1960 a building plan to enlarge the sanctuary and the kitchen and give us more classrooms and a library room, was completed and dedicated.

The Pioneer Girls, youth work for girls (4th through the 8th grades), was started in September 1964, with 18 girls and 5 guides. Each girl is assigned a Prayer Pal, a Christian woman, who prays for her.

After 22 fruitful years at San Lorenzo, Rev. Dan Shinoda was appointed pastor at the Campbell Church in 1967.

Rev.Arthur Tsuneishi came from San Diego to serve the church. For the first time, the English speaking Department had to assume the full financial responsiblity for its pastor.

During this period, as our Issei pastors were beginning to retire, young Nichigo pastors were called from Japan to replace them. This happened in San Lorenzo in 1973 as Rev. Sakuma completed over fifty years of faithful ministry in our Conference, and was succeeded by a young Nichigo pastor from the Japan Holiness Conference, Rev. Yuichiro Nakano. During his ministry, he reached many young Nichigo students from Japan, and also started a television ministry on a cooperative basis among Bay Area Japanese churches. Rev. Nakano was later assigned to Honolulu, and Rev. Kiyoshi Ishihara, who was studying in the Bay Area and on leave from the Japan Holiness Conference, came to serve on an interim basis. He served for two years before returning to Japan. Rev. Shunji Mizoguchi began his Nichigo pastorate in 1982.

In 1978, Rev. James Toda was assigned as the English-speaking Department pastor, and Rev. Tsuneishi moved to the Los Angeles Holiness Church.

Through the years, home mission work was carried on in the Centerville area, as well as in Campbell (now the Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church). In 1977 a new outreach in the Walnut Creek area was initiated by Rev. Shinoda and became another extension work assisted by both the San Lorenzo and Santa Clara churches. In addition, the church has maintained a strong missionary vision primarily through the JEMS, and through missionaries and workers of various organizations. Several young people from the church have served on the JEMS Scrum Dendo teams in Japan during the past summers.

At the annual business meeting in June 1981, the church membership voted to change the name of the church to San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church.

The Navigator 2:7, a two-year discipleship program, was conducted and ten people completed the course in 1983. This program helps to develop discipline in the Christian.

In 1983, the San Lorenzo Nursery, which surrounds the church on three sides, closed down production here, and sold its property to developers who plan to build a shopping center around the church. The church chose Mr. Ed Sue, AIA, as its architect, and plans to have a building expansion program started soon.

In January 1984, Rev. Rodney Yee began serving the church as youth minister, helping the Lifeline and college-age groups.

On this 55th Anniversary, the church sees new challenges with a new staff worker, new surroundings, new building plans, and a new generation of people to be reached for Christ. Praise God for 55 years of blessings on this church; pray God for a fresh out-pouring of His Spirit in blessing.