The memorial service for Rev. Harry Murakami was held last Friday (Dec. 27) at the Faith United Methodist Church in Torrance. As expected, the church was filled with the many who came to say goodbye to this well-respected Nisei pastor.
The program proclaimed Harry as “Our Teacher, Our Preacher, Our Father.” His five children and three of his grandchildren gave eloquent testament to all of these roles. I was especially touched by what was said about how he lovingly cared for his wife, Miri, in her final days.
Participating in the ceremony were many JA and other United Methodist clergy, including Bishop Roy Sano, former United Methodist bishop for the California Pacific Annual Conference, and Bishop Grant Hagiya, who served in Southern California before assuming his present position as bishop in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. Their comments spoke of the lasting impact Rev. Harry had on the churches he served and the many lives he touched. I was one of those lives.
I first met Rev. Harry in the late ’70s when he was in his final years as pastor of the West LA United Methodist Church. Paul Tsuneishi and I had organized EO 9066 Inc., the first redress organization in Southern California, and Rev. Harry invited us to speak about our work to a few of his church members.
In those early days, the idea of seeking some sort of reckoning from our government was hardly imaginable to most in our community, even our churches. But here was Rev. Harry, who early on envisioned the possibility of justice for our community.
In the late 1980s our church in the San Fernando Valley became United Methodist, and Rev. Harry, who had just retired from his ministry at the WLA Church, served as our pastor for one year. This introduction to him was one I have come to treasure.
As Rev. Harry was a genuine person, open to new possibilities such as redress, so too was he ever-striving to examine and understand the foundation of his faith.
His willingness to open himself up to new theological possibilities was something I found helpful and appealing. He regularly sent me, as well as others, pamphlets describing his latest insights. As a new United Methodist, I was enabled to open my heart and mind to become enlightened and renewed.
Rev. Harry, I thank God for all you have meant to your family, all the souls you have served, and lastly, to me.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.